In a Nutshell
Crusader X investigates the arrival of Excalibur to his world, while the Shadow King attempts to corrupt Jean Grey.
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Chris Wozniak
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Brad Vancata
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Lord of All He Surveys: Tom DeFalco
Creators: Chris Claremont & Alan Davis
Crusader X, along with WHO, investigates the sudden appearance of a strange train. He is more curious than anything, but Inspector Thomas becomes concerned when they discover a picture of Nightcrawler, one of Imperial Prussia's top agents, in the train, so Crusader X agrees to use his power to track down Nightcrawler. On a different Earth, Kitty Pryde wakes up in Captain Britain's home to find Courtney Ross tending to her, and Kitty laments having lost another set of teammates. Back on the other Earth, Jean Grey experiences a vision created by Mastermind of herself becoming the Hellfire Club's Shadow Queen, which is detected by Phoenix, preventing Mastermind's corruption of Jean. At the Hellfire Club, Amahl Farouk, the club's Shadow King, punishes Mastermind for his failure, then meets with Tony Stark.
On Excalibur's Earth, the crime lord Vixen meets with Nigel Frobisher and Jamie Braddock, who transforms Vixen into a fox and Nigel into Vixen. On the other Earth, Jean Grey meets with Professor X just as Shadow King attempts to corrupt her. But Jean fights back, endangering her life, and Phoenix senses her struggle, telling Nightcrawler they need to help her just as Crusader X locates the pair. As Phoenix, caught up in her emotions, flies off, Nightcrawler battles Crusader X, but is knocked out and taken away. Later, Meggan, Captain Britain and Alistair come across the scene of the battle. Meggan is able to track their teammates, and insists they go after Nightcrawler, as Phoenix can take care of herself. Elsewhere, Phoenix comforts the dying Jean Grey, and after she passes, Phoenix declares there will be a reckoning for what the Hellfire Club as done to her, life for a life.
Firsts and Other Notables
On the latest world Excalibur visits, the Shadow King is shown to be the real power behind the Hellfire Club's Inner Circle (hence his name), an idea Claremont was presumably going to explore further by establishing the same thing holds true in Excalibur's home reality, though he'll only ever get around to hinting at the idea, here and in a few other places.
Vixen, the crime lord who appeared previously in Captain Britain's solo series and briefly in issues #2 and #3 of this series, pops up again. She is targeted by Sat-yr-9 via Nigel Frobisher and Jamie Braddock, who uses his power to transform Nigel into Vixen and Vixen into a fox. Fox Vixen will appear once more, then never again, and is presumably still a fox.
Kitty casually mentions that her parents are in the Witness Protection Program in this issue, the first mention of that fact as far as I know. Presumably, this is a result of her father's decision to work against the Yakuza at the end of the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine limited series.
In a nice moment of accidental foreshadowing, one of the teachers of the New Mutants on this alternate world is Banshee, who will eventually become the headmaster of Xavier's school and lead the first group of post-New Mutants students, Generation X, in Generation X.
Chris Claremont is back this issue, making this the first X-Book he's written to feature a fill-in writer at some point. He's joined by the latest in the revolving door of artists, Chris Wozniak. The cover is an homage to the first issue of this series.
A Work in Progress
Even though it's an alternate reality WHO, this issue presents a straight-forward explanation for what WHO is and what it does.
Crusader X has the ability to track people via their auras; I don't believe this is a power our Captain Britain has ever exhibited, but maybe it's a nod to something in his solo series.
Tony Stark is an evil member of the Hellfire Club in this reality.
Faced with Crusader X, Nightcrawler ponders if things like individual basic looks and combat styles are universal constants.
A footnote refers to the events of issue #19 as having happened last issue; presumably, last issue's fill-in was very last minute. Another references the events of issue #6 as having occurred in issue #7.
The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
As we've often joked when characters fall unconscious in one scene, then wake up dressed in different clothes in another, when Kitty awakens to find Fake Courtney Ross attending to her wearing different clothes than she fell asleep in, she realizes Fake Courtney must have undressed and dressed her.
Even Alt-Cannonball feels the need to remind everyone he's "nigh-invulnerable" while blasting.
Shadow King attempts to take control of Jean Grey, "body and soul".
Like a Phoenix, From the Ashes
The Jean Grey of this alternate world is being corrupted by Mastermind as well, only he intends to make her the Shadow Queen of the Hellfire Club, rather than it's Black Queen.
Chris Claremont returns, bringing with him the resumption of the "Cross-Time Caper" and a modicum of quality to the book. In terms of the story, this isn't half bad: the Cross-Time elements are handled well, unfolding the plot at first from the perspective of the alternate characters who are suddenly dealing with a random train and strange doppelgangers showing up on their turf, which is a refreshing take on the usual "Excalibur lands on a new world, tries to make sense of it, shenanigans ensue" routine. Meanwhile, the Jamie Braddock/Nigel Frobisher/Fake Courtney Ross/Vixen material, the closest thing the series has to an ongoing subplot at this point, gets advanced a bit, and there's some interesting stuff to be minded from the idea of Kitty believing she's lost another group of teammates for good (even if we know full well that's not the case). Of course, all of this is undercut pretty severely by the lack of Alan Davis or, really, even a halfway decent artist. Chris Wozniak is far from the worst artist that's worked on the series yet (his biggest problem in this issue is inconsistency, his work sometimes awful, sometimes a passable Art Adams impersonation, even sometimes a seeming JRjr impersonation), but he's also far from the best, so as with issue #18, an otherwise promising chapter in this neverending story is once again undercut by some really lackluster art.
Tomorrow, Wolverine battles Spore in Wolverine #23. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #261 and New Mutants #89.