Chris Claremont’s initial run on the X-Men ended with the death of Magneto in X-Men #3. It stuck for a couple years until the second post-Claremont crossover event, Fatal Attractions, which dealt with his return. And that’s what we’ll be looking at this month.
Issues: X-Factor #92, X-Force #25, Uncanny X-Men #304, X-Men #25, Wolverine #75, Excalibur #71
Writers: Scott Lobdell (X-Factor co-plotter, Uncanny, Excalibur), Joe Quesada (X-Factor co-plotter), J.M. DeMatteis (X-Factor scripter), Fabian Nicieza (X-Force, X-Men), Larry Hama (Wolverine)
Pencilers: Joe Quesada (X-Factor), Greg Capullo (X-Force), John Romita, Jr., Jae Lee, Chris Sprouse, Brandon Peterson, Paul Smith (Uncanny), Andy Kubert (X-Men), Adam Kubert (Wolverine), Ken Lashley, Darick Robertson, Matthew Ryan (Excalibur)
The early 90’s is a period in which the X-Men had a strange juxtaposition of phenomenal popularity and god-awful quality. It started with the changing of the line with X-Men #1 featuring some of the hottest creators in the business (Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, Rob Liefeld) only for them to jump ship and leave the line with practically nothing. The changeover had booted Chris Claremont and without him, no one at Marvel seemed to know what to do with his toys. Larry Hama was doing fine over in Wolverine, Fabian Nicieza had found his pacing with X-Force (simply deal with the pre-Liefeld stuff) and X-Factor had been doing quality work until the demand for crossovers (like this one) caused Peter David to flee. Even Excalibur had once more lost its direction with the departure of Alan Davis.
This is a crossover that best signifies that loss of direction. It’s main point – the return of Magneto – is brushed aside in favor of dealing with its most memorable moments – the defection of Colossus and the removal of Wolverine’s adamantium from his skeleton. Magneto himself actually only appears in three of the event’s six issues. It’s as if the creative minds got so involved on the neat little points that they completely ignored what the story was supposed to be about.
X-Factor deals with Magneto’s Acolytes being interested in the apparent heir to the legacy, his son Quicksilver. Well, it sort of deals with that I guess, but this issue deals more with tying up Peter David’s loose ends, most notably a scene at the end of X-Factor #87 in which government liaison Val Cooper was seemingly kidnapped. Here it’s revealed that she was captured by the Acolytes and forced to bring Quicksilver and the others to…well, I don’t know. There’s some dealings with Senator Kelly and Sentinels, but nothing here really goes anywhere. You could say that it just serves to get Cooper out as liaison so she could be replaced by Forge, and the Quicksilver/Acolytes stuff (as well as a dialogue-free cameo by Exodus, in his first appearance) is just tossed in to tie it into the crossover.
You can see why Peter David had had enough.
As far as Magneto goes, the real crossover begins with X-Force in which Exodus comes to X-Force to recruit Cannonball and Sunspot to join them on the Acolyte’s new orbiting station of Avalon – a new form of Asteroid M. The two former New Mutants are specifically chosen because they were amongst the students present when Magneto served as headmaster of Professor X’s school when Xavier was lost in space, which has long been considered one of Magneto’s greatest failures. The story even takes a moment to mention why other former students, like Mirage and Karma, weren’t present, though it doesn’t make any mention of Wolfsbane or Magma. The other three – Cypher, Warlock and Magik – were currently deceased.
Though Fatal Attractions itself can be considered a lackluster event (and that’s sugarcoating it, X-Force #25 is actually the shining part of it. X-Force #25 is an example of using the crossover to further a book’s own storylines. Along with being the actual on-panel return of Magneto, the issue also brings Cable back to X-Force for the first time since his apparent demise at the finale on X-Cutioner’s Song, and shows the fate of his time-travelling spacecraft Graymalkin. It also continues the development of Cannonball when Cable realizes that his young protege has become the leader that he, Xavier and even Magneto worked so hard to train him to be.
Just after Cable returns to his team, Exodus shows up and invites Cannonball and Sunspot to join him amongst Magneto’s clan. Cannonball agrees, but tells him Boom Boom, Rictor, Rusty and Skids must also come as they too were New Mutants (they were not invited as they joined after the team abandoned Magneto). Exodus agrees and teleports them all away, but not before Cannonball gives Cable a tracker so the other half of the team (Cannonball, Shatterstar, Warpath, Feral and Siryn) can follow. There, Cable learns that Avalon has been built out of the scavenged Graymalkin, which means he can no longer travel through time. His mission becomes not only pulling out Cannonball’s group, but also removing the station’s AI “Professor” which is an advanced form of the AI from X-Factor’s old base “Ship”.
Long story short, X-Force escapes, but not before Cable attacks Magneto for stealing Graymalkin and is literally torn apart before X-Force pulls him out and heads back to Earth. Though Exodus says Cable has lost, Magneto says his foe has won as his former students have chosen Cable’s lead over his own. It’s good stuff.
Not so good is Uncanny’s tribute to the event in which all four X-Teams gather for the funeral of Illyana Rasputin, who recently succumbed to the Legacy Virus. In an old review, Paul O’Brien once referred to this issue as the issue that destroyed Magneto, and it’s really hard to dispute. Gone is the willingness to understand his opponents, as well as the respect for mutant life. In this issue, Magneto attacks all the assembled X-Teams in the middle of his former student’s funeral.
As he delivers his speech, Magneto takes a moment to slaughter his own Acolyte, Senyaka, for no particular reason. He says that had he been there to give the order to attack the hospital in the issue of X-Factor, he would have been all for it. But since he wasn’t, he decides to kill Senyaka (not the other Acolytes present for the attack), which completely goes against his whole “saving the mutants” thing. There is absolutely no point to this act.
While most of the assembled X-Men stand around doing nothing, the heavy energy people charge up Bishop and he attacks full on, only to be stopped by Colossus, who betrays the X-Men and joins the Acolytes thinking that Magneto could have protected them (meaning his sister) where Xavier could not. Nevermind that Magneto JUST MURDERED HIS OWN ACOLYTE AFTER GIVING HIM HIS BLESSING FOR SLAUGHTERING HUMANS. Anyway, Professor X and Magneto yell at each other their philosophical differences and then the battle ends, as pointlessly as it began.
But it gets worse.
Magneto retreats back to Avalon with a message to the human people that if they are left alone, they will not bother anyone else. That of course, doesn’t last long as X-Men #25 opens with Nick Fury and Forge setting up an electro-magnetic defense system around the planet. Exactly what that was supposed to do is lost as Magneto unleashes a huge EM pulse across the world, killing thousands of people.
Do you remember back in Uncanny #200 when the world’s nations put Magneto on trial but the only thing they could really get him on was killing a Russian submarine crew? Yeah, no one ever did anything about this. Magneto flat out killed THOUSANDS and no one ever dealt with it.
So with all this power displayed by Magneto, Xavier launches his final, desperate scheme in which he sends SIX people up to Avalon (via a convenient teleporter that hasn’t been used since) including Quicksilver (who has the family connection to him), Rogue (who has an emotional connection to him), and Wolverine (whose SKELETON IS COVERED IN METAL). Also accompanying them is Professor X who is using a METAL exoskeleton that allows him to walk, though under great telepathic strain. Because there’s nothing better in a desperate fight than a crippled telepath who is walking only by greatly handicapping his mental abilities. I wonder why this amazing walking device hasn’t been used since.
Cyclops tries to play the team selection buffoonery by saying high-energy wielders won’t be good on a space station, but of the four teams Magneto just single-handedly defeated an issue earlier, I can think of the following people who would be better suited to fight here.
- Phoenix (Rachel Summers)
- Multiple Man
- Strong Guy
So yeah. Anyway, the mission gets underway, but fortunately the recently defected Colossus gets a concience and decides to hide the X-Men’s arrival from the Acolyte’s allowing Xavier to tap into the station’s teleporters and lock out all the Acoyltes in orbiting satellites. What would have happened had Colossus not decided to help his former teammates? Quiet, you.
So as the X-Men get knocked around by the attacking Magneto, Professor X decides to begin his psychic onslaught with the help of Jean Grey, despite Magneto wearing his helmet, which as we all know BLOCKS TELEPATHY especially when one of the telepaths is busy keeping his legs working. Anyway, fight, fight, fight, and then Wolverine attacks. And we all know what happens next.
Now you may be wondering why Magneto didn’t just rip out Wolverine’s skeleton ages ago (pretending for a moment that Magneto didn’t spend most of Claremont’s run as a highly interesting ally). That’s actually a question that Peter David asked during an X-Office meeting to plan this story, and thus why it happened. In David’s defense, he tried to convince them it was a terrible idea, but we all see how that worked.
Finally having been pushed too far, Professor X unleashes a massive psychic attack (despite still using his “great effort” leg-things) and wipes Magneto’s mind clean. And thus just three issues back from the dead, Magneto has been left in a vegetative state. Those of you paying attention might see this as the origin point of Onslaught, but that’s a story best left for another day. Colossus decides to stay on Avalon and care for Magneto, while the X-Men decide to leave, not through convenient teleportation, but rather via a Bishop-flown Blackbird specially fitted for space travel.
Wolverine #75 picks up on the trip home where we find that the specially fitted Blackbird wasn’t specially fitted very well and has a tough time with reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. During the horribly bumpy ride, Professor X and Jean try to keep Wolverine from dying, as the massive damage done by the removal of his adamantium has overtaxed his healing factor to the point where its reknitting of his body comes apart almost as soon as it heals.
You see, kids, Wolverine wasn’t always so ridiculously powerful that he could be burned down to the skeleton only to be just fine a few minutes later. It used to be that Wolverine would have to rest while he healed, less he overtax his healing factor to the point where he’d be far more vulnerable. It’s one of those things used to add a human factor that has long since been abandoned in favor of putting him everywhere at all times and doing whatever because he’s FUCKING WOLVERINE!!!!
Long story short, Wolverine survives the plane ride home and begins the long healing process. But the events have left a lasting impression on him, where his first session in the Danger Room shows actual fear, since he no longer has unbreakable bones and his healing factor has been severely weakened. It’s during this beating that he pops his claws and reveals for the very first time that they weren’t metal extras placed in him by Weapon X, but rather a normal mutation to his skeleton that he had always had. At the time, that was a really big deal.
So still injured and needing time to heal physically and mentally, Wolverine decides to leave the X-Men for the first time since he joined in 1975 and heal himself. Amazing – today if he needed to do that, he’d need to leave three teams of X-Men and two teams of Avengers.
Let’s see – we have Wolverine crippled, Magneto a vegetable…what am I forgetting? Oh yeah! Colossus!
Excalibur #71 ties up one more loose end left over from Uncanny with Xavier, Cyclops and Jean Grey joining Excalibur on Muir Island with a plan to heal a head injury suffered by Colossus which they’re hoping is the cause of his defection to the Acolytes. In a recent Uncanny Annual, Colossus took a blow to the side of the head by the X-Cutioner so powerful that it dented the side of his metal dome. This was easy to miss, as aside from John Romita Jr., no artist bothered to draw the injury on Colossus, and even in the issue used to repair the damage no one seemed to know exactly what it was.
There’s also the side note of Cable running around deciding to get some revenge on the Acolytes, only to have him encounter his kind-of sister Phoenix which may have been a prelude to her identity as Mother Askani which has become so ridiculously convoluted that I myself don’t even know the details of it. Anywho, Shadowcat lures Colossus to Muir Island by saying she wishes to join him amongst the Acolytes, only to unleash a trap and heal his injured dome. Nightcrawler takes the time to fend off the Acolytes Unuscione, Voght and Katu, but you don’t really care.
The operation is a success, but Colossus still decides to remain amongst the Acolytes, but to sh0w them that Magneto was not about blood, violence and death, but rather a mirror of Xavier’s own dream. Forgetting for a moment, that Magneto himself approved the slaughter of humans and then pulped his own Acolyte. But that was a really bad issue, so let’s go with this one. They were both written by the same guy, if you can believe that.
So there you have it. The mess of Fatal Attractions, which would take some time to fix. The lasting remnants of this crossover played out as such:
- Val Cooper would return as X-Factor’s government liaison while Forge would become leader of the team.
- Quicksilver would leave the team shortly after and return to the Avengers.
- Fabian Cortez, ousted leader of the Acolytes would be killed about three times before finally staying dead.
- Avalon would be destroyed in a battle between Exodus and Holocaust, with several Acolytes including Rusty Collins being killed.
- Colossus would wander around for a while before eventually joining Excalibur before returning to the X-Men.
- Wolverine healed up, returned to the X-Men and eventually got his adamantium back, care of Apocalypse.
- Magneto would get his mind back (though I have no idea how) but not before a clone of his named Joseph would join the X-Men.
- Excalibur relocated to Muir Island, where they would stay for the rest of the series.
See you next month!