After great effort (and a lot of help from the Marvel Chronology Project) I put together a reading order of my archive of X-Men back issues and got to reading, starting at the 1991 launch of the second X-Men book (now called X-Men: Legacy). Not too far in, I came upon the 12-part, 4-title crossover, the X-Cutioner’s Song. I’ve had the trade paperback of this for a while, but it always seemed to convoluted to really get into – but as I didn’t want to read only half of the story, I dusted it off and got to it.
It was a laborious read, I’ll have you know. To get into, you need to have some knowledge about past X-Force/New Mutants history as well as X-Factor knowledge. The basics are thus:
- Stryfe, who leads a bunch of generic villains known as the Mutant Liberation Front, looks exactly like X-Force leader Cable when not wearing his helmet.
- Apocalypse has two (rather redundant) groups of followers: the Four Horsemen and the Dark Riders. Neither should be in action without Apocalypse, who has been MIA since a battle with the original X-Factor.
- Mr. Sinister has a thing for Scott Summers and his juicy DNA (ewwww).
- The New Mutants left the X-Mansion to become X-Force, and none of the X-Teams particularly enjoy that.
- No one has much love for Cable.
- Cyclops was forced to send his son into the future after the baby was infected (by Apocalypse) with the techno-organic virus.
Once you have that down, we can get underway. Apparently, Cable shoots Professor X at a Lila Cheney concert, the Dark Riders (not working for Mr. Sinister instead of Apocalypse) kidnap Cyclops and Jean Grey, who are then traded to Stryfe for Summers DNA, which is a ruse – the container actually unleashes the Legacy Virus. The X-Men and X-Factor go after X-Force to get Cable, jail them, go around fighting for a while, then end up on the moon when Stryfe and Cable duke it out until Cyclops detonates a time portal. Ending comes, la la la. Oh yeah, Stryfe is apparently Cyclops’ son who happens to be a little bitter about what happened to him. You can understand that, right?
The story, while about four parts too long, wasn’t anything terrible. It got all the teams together, tied up a couple loose plot threads (for a while) and put a lot of focus on Wolverine, Cable and Bishop – the overly popular characters in the huge muscles, huge guns era of the early 90s. Looking back, with over 15 years having passed between then and now, the story doesn’t really hold up too well.
- Down the line, someone decided the son should be the good guy, so it was revealed that Cable was actually Cyclops’ son, not Stryfe.
- The crossover was a prominent reason that Peter David left X-Factor. The book would continue on with sub-par storylines for years, then sink into drivel before being retooled into the even worse Mutant X.
- Shortly therafter, a character was introduced actually called the X-Cutioner (a name so ridiculous, you’d think they went back in time to the Silver Age to make it) that had absolutely nothing to do with this story. Later readers would be confused by the two.
- Apocalypse had yet another death scene, this time in front of Archangel. That would have meant something had he not been revived when someone else needed a benevolent villain to stand around and holler nonsense.
- The story’s epilogue released the Legacy Virus, which was a really big deal at first with characters worrying about the quickly-spreading disease infecting “hundreds” of mutants, and killing off big names like Magik, Mastermind and…uh…Revanche. Eventually, the Legacy Virus hit the background when (I suppose) creators didn’t want to kill off major characters for the hell of it and the “hundreds” turned out to mostly be Genoshan mutates. No one seemed to notice when Moira MacTaggert and Pyro held on for years with the disease when everyone else died in like five days. Eventually, the virus was done away with at the cost of Colossus.
And thus you have the legacy of the X-Cutioner’s Song. If you’re aching to dive in, check out the trade. Actually, I managed to find all twelve individual issues for 50 cents each in a bargain bin, some even in the original bag complete with card! How X-Citing!