Credits: Written by Fabian Nicieza, pencilled by Salvador Larroca, inks by Al Milgrom and edited by Bob Harras.
Cast: Remy ‘Gambit’ Lebeau, Guido Carosella, Jubilation ‘Jubilee’ Lee, Roberto ‘Sunspot’ DaCosta, Lila Chaney, Cal’syee ‘Deathbird’ Neramani, Ch’od, Raza Longknife, Hepzibah, Julian Esteban Richter, Gladiator & Jahf.
Plot: Aboard the Starjammer, Gambit and his team learn that they have arrived at the planet which holds the M’Kraan Crystal there are there for. Also there is the amassed Shi’ar fleet. Under Deathbird’s orders the X-Ternals teleport down to the surface. The surface is covered in Shi’ar soldiers all there to protect the crystal, currently under the power of the Man Emperor D’Ken.
Gambit, Lila and Deathbird head for the M’Kraan Crystal, leaving Guido, Jubilee and Sunspot to clear a path through the soldiers. Once they reach the Crystal, Lila is pulled inside. When Gambit and Deathbird follow them, they are met with the M’Kraan Crystal’s guardian Jahf.
Jahf shows Deathbird and Gambit Lila and The Mad Emperor D’Ken (sorry, but you have to use that full title) who are transfixed by the M’Kraan Crystal. Jahf explains that reality is breaking down because the repair done to it, on Earth 616, during the original Phoenix Saga has been undone as that reality has been overwritten by this new unnatural timeline. Without Professor Xavier to train Jean there was no Phoenix and as such no repair to the M’Kraan Crystal which without repair would collapse all realities. It dawns on Gambit, Bishop was right and its not just their world that needs help, not even the universe, but all universes.
Normally resistant to others having access to the M’Kraan, Jahf tells Gambit to take a shard as it will possess all of the properties of the whole, but it needs a trade, to give up something. Gambit has little to offer, but he had clearly given it something as he has a shard.
Outside the Crystal, Gladiator arrives along with Richter. Sunspot notices he is drawing power from the M’Kraan as if it were a sun and his ‘sunspot’ form goes from jet black to glowing white. As this is going on, the universe blinks in and out of reality and more and more people are being crystallised.
The exchange made, Gambit takes the shard and Lila and make ready to leave. Lila recovers from her experience enough to teleport them all back to Earth, all except Sunspot, who has absorbed so much power that he is danger to all around him. He stays behind to cover their retreat. Determined to make that sacrifice not in vain, Gambit, Lila, Guido and Jubilee teleport to Earth along with the M’Kraan Crystal, the last hope to restore not just their world, but all worlds.
Notes: Its the third act and we get some action, some character work and some plot. There is the attempt to make parallels between this issue and the original Phoenix Saga and some of that works, including Jahf in the story as well as the Mad Emperor D’Ken are nice touches. Jahf is clearly familiar with the timeline as it was, putting forward the idea that in the multiverse, there is only one M’Kraan and as a result, only one Jahf. He remembers meeting the all-new, all-different era X-Men and like Bishop wants that reality restored.
The idea that Gambit has to offer something of himself is a bit of a tried and tested trope by this point, but it was novel enough here to be affecting. A man who always takes, yet has little himself, has to give something. Readers can already guess what he has given up, but there is a beauty to this moment and I really did enjoy that. It was also nice to see Jahf again, a character whose charm and humour seem more out of place in this issue than it did back when he was first introduced, but that makes him more welcome. After a couple of issues that have yet to enrapture me, this one gets me on board to see where all this goes.
Writing: 2 out of 5 – There is the attempt at characterisation here, albeit only with Gambit. Most of the X-Ternals lack any character that wasn’t imported from the 616 timeline. They all seem watered down versions of their usual selves and left in the background whilst all of the story is happening to Gambit. The best example of this is Roberto’s sacrifice. This should be a huge moment, but as he has had so little page time of note, it has little to no impact on you that he has to stay behind.
Art: 3 out of 5 – I‘ll be honest, the art is an improvement. Larocca’s pencils are less stylised and Milgrom’s lighter touch on inks allows the art to shine a little bit more. The overall effect is gentler and more pleasing to the eye, even with the heavy colours and it pulls you into the story in a way that the previous issues art did not. Also Jahf is clearly inspired by Byrne’s design and he’s always nice to see.
Overall: 5 out of 10 – The pacing of what is essentially a 2 issue tale into 3 comics notwithstanding, there is a lot to enjoy about this comic actually beginning to head towards the series’ conclusion. With the M’Kraan Crystal in their possession, I don’t know what’ll happen next as there is another issue before we get to the finale of the Age of Apocalypse. At least this issue made me curious enough to want to know what that is.
Next Time: Clone Saga time and there is now even more clones.