In a Nutshell
Xavier & Lilandra's relationship struggles as the Shi'ar formally annex the devatstated & defeated Kree Empire.
Writer: John Francis Moore
Penciler: Liam Sharpe
Inkers: Kevin Conrad, Steve Moncuse, Robin Riggs, Matthew Ryan
Colorist: Marie Javins
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
Late one evening, Professor X, Storm, Forge & Jubilee are taken by a Shi'ar ship to Hala, former capital of the Kree homeworld, in order to attend a ceremony led by Lilandra in which the Shi'ar will formally join Kree territory to their empire. During the ceremony, Jubilee befriends a young Kree girl named Shym'r, whose brother tries to assassinate Deathbird. Later that night, Shym'r takes Jubilee to a rebel cell led by a Kree named Malakii. Jubilee later convinces Professor X to meet with Malakii, and they are joined by Forge, Storm & Lilandra. Though Lilandra & Malakii makes some headway in developing a relationship that will address some of the Kree's grievances, two of the more zealous members of his resistance group take a ship in order to detonate the stargate near Hala, which runs the risk of destroying the whole planet. Working together, Lilandra, Malakii and the X-Men manage to stave off disaster, but in the aftermath, Lilandra allows Deathbird to arrest Malakii. She insists that while he did help stop the destruction of the stargate and that she will consider his words about how the Shi'ar treat the Kree, he is still the head of a terrorist cell and must be punished accordingly. Realizing once and for all that their respective duties will always keep them apart, Xavier turns from Lilandra and returns home with the X-Men, his heart empty & cold.
Firsts and Other Notables
The inciting incident of this issue is a Shi'ar ceremony in which the remnants of the Kree Empire are formally annexed, making it an epilogue of sorts to "Operation: Galactic Storm", the 1992 linewide Avengers crossover which saw Earth caught in the middle between the warring Shi'ar & Kree empires, which concluded with the decimation of the Kree by a bomb triggered by their own leader, the Supreme Intelligence, in the belief that the stagnant evolutionary development of the Kree would be jumpstarted in the survivors. In the wake of the bomb's detonation, a rogue faction of Avengers executed the Supreme Intelligence, after which Lilandra declared the remaining Kree subjects of the Shi'ar.
The political drama in this issue serves as a backdrop of sorts for an examination of Professor X & Lilandra's relationship. It ultimately ends with Xavier & Lilandra reaching the same conclusion they always do: that each is more devoted to their respective causes (running a galactic empire, improving human/mutant relations) than each other, but for the most part, that "revelation" this time around mostly sticks, making this issue more or less the end of the long-running (if frequently long-distance) Xavier/Lilandra relationship. While Lilandra will continue to make periodic appearances (mostly whenever the X-Men venture into space), and the "marriage" between her & Xavier won't be officially ended until Grant Morrison's run, this effectively ends the whole "we love each other but can't be together" facet of the Xavier/Lilandra relationship.
Previously established at the end of "Operation: Galactic Storm", this issue reveals for any X-only readers that Deathbird is now the governor of the Kree Empire, ruling the conquered territory in Lilandra's name.
John Francis Moore, who was writing X-Men 2099 at this point, writes this issue, his first work on the contemporary X-Men. He will soon take over X-Factor from J.M. DeMatteis for a short stint (including the series' Age of Apocalypse counterpart, Factor X), and later, will have a lengthy run on X-Force, including the acclaimed "Road Trip" arc with artist Adam Pollina.
Art comes from Marvel UK artist Liam Sharp, in some of his earliest work for Marvel stateside. After this issue he'll work on Incredible Hulk with Peter David, as well as a relaunched Man-Thing series. My main point of reference for him is the Vertigo series Testament, a weird (even by Vertigo-standards) cyberpunk quasi-retelling of the Bible.
This issue concludes with three pinups, most of which featuring some combination of Forge, Storm & Jubilee wearing the X-Men training uniforms.
A Work in Progress
The issue begins with the X-Men (or four of them, at least) getting taken with little initial explanation by the Shi'ar, and while they are rightly indignant about the lack of warning, they ultimately more or less go along with it. Which, I mean, I guess it's a good thing this Shi'ar ceremony wasn't happening in the middle of a battle with Magneto or whatever, huh?
Xavier recaps his relationship with Lilandra for readers, though there's a few "um, actually" moments there: for one, it's said that Professor X left earth (circa Uncanny #200) to be with Lilandra. In actuality, he left because of severe injuries, and then got stuck unable to return to Earth, with the added side benefit being that he also got to spend that time with Lilandra. Also, Deathbird's role in the story which ultimately led Xavier back to the X-Men (when he was captured and impersonated by a Warskrull) is misrepresented. She's painted as a the villain here; while she initially seemed the villain of the story, she ultimately turned out to be working to rid the Shi'ar from the infiltration by the Warskrulls and helped free Xavier.
One of the initial incidents that led to the Avengers' involvement in the events of "Operation: Galactic Storm" was the use by both the Shi'ar and Kree of a stargate located near Earth, which was triggering solar flares that threatened to destroy the planet. In the wake of the Shi'ar defeat of the Kree, Lilandra pledged to Captain America that the Earth stargate would no longer be used. Yet in this issue, the Shi'ar use it to transport the X-Men to Hala without comment.
The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
I don't even know what's happening to Storm's boobs in this panel.
Early in the issue, Xavier notes that, of late, his relationship with Lilandra has mostly involved holograms. Which is true: the last time they interacted was in Uncanny #304, when Lilandra appeared in hologram form to comfort him after Illyana's death.
Boy, is this issue kind of a slog to get through. Its initial premise - examine the fallout of the Shi'ar annexation of the Kree Empire in the wake of "Operation: Galactic Storm" through the lens of Professor X and Lilandra's relationship - isn't a bad one, nor is it a bad fit for this series - it probably doesn't warrant it's own story arc, but deserves more space than a single regular-sized issue - but in execution, it just falls flat. Love it or hate it, the Shi'ar have been part of the X-narrative for decades, with the X-Men personally responsible for some pretty serious political upheaval within the empire. While "Galactic Storm" wrought similar havoc on the galactic stage while mostly leaving out the X-Men, getting the X-Men's take on things makes sense (even if it is happening a bit belatedly). And given what a big deal the Xavier/Lilandra relationship was once upon a time, and how much it's threaded into the history of the series, returning to it in the wake of significant upheaval in both characters' lives seems like a no-brainer.
But the end result is overly-long and kind of pointless. The cast at times feels both too big (what, exactly, do Forge & Storm add to this story beyond serving as a sort of corollary to Xavier & Lilandra?), and too small (four X-Men - one of whom is technically a member of X-Factor - are the only ones involved in witnessing this massive shift in power for the Shi'ar Empire), and it takes roughly half the issue to even get to the immediate plot involving the Kree rebels. And while the story, to its credit, avoids providing a pat resolution to a complicated situation (with Malakii helping save the day, but still getting arrested because, you know, terrorism, and Lilandra more open to discussing the relationship between the Shi'ar and the conquered Kree, but things not noticeably different because regime changes are hard & ugly), it still creates a feeling of pointlessness upon completion.
Even the big "revelation" involving Xavier & Lilandra - that each are more committed to their respective causes/roles than each other, to the detriment of their relationship - is the exact same conclusion reached at the end of every story involving Xavier & Lilandra that doesn't also feature Xavier running off into space with her, even if, in hindsight, this particular break turns out to be a bit more permanent than previous ones. So while this issue merits points for using its format well to address a little bit of overlooked narrative development while also furthering/endinf the Xavier/Lilandra relationship, it does so in the most lugubrious, bland, and ultimately pointless way possible, making the whole thing feel like a waste of time.
Tomorrow, Cable #12. Next week, Retro X-aminations return with Fantastic Four #28.