In a Nutshell
Magneto officially returns, and Colossus joins his Acolytes.
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencilers: John Romita Jr., Jae Lee, Chris Sprouse, Brandon Peterson, Paul Smith
Inks: Dan Green, Dan Panosian, Terry Austin, Tom Palmer, Keith Williams
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Mike Thomas
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
Exodus visits the Acolytes, revealing to them how Cortez betrayed and murdered Magneto, before turning his power on Cortez. Meanwhile, Xavier prepares for Illyana's funeral, while Magneto thinks back on his past before declaring that mutants need to be awoken from Xavier's dream before more innocents die. At the X-Mansion, Kitty & Storm are shocked to see a stone-faced Colossus burning his paintings, and in the wake of Illyana's funeral, he angrily lays into Xavier for failing him. Just then, Magneto and his Acolytes arrive. Magnetically holding the X-Men in check, he executes Senyaka for acting without his explicit permission, then offers everyone assembled sanctuary aboard Avalon, declaring that from this point forward, anyone who isn't with him will be considered an enemy. He then calls Avalon down from orbit, and the Acolytes board it. Just then, Bishop, who had been absorbing Magneto's energy, is able to break free and blast him, loosening his control. Rogue tries to take Magneto out, and when she fails, Bishop, charged up by his fellow teammates, attacks again. But Colossus strikes Bishop from behind, and agrees to join Magneto aboard Avalon. Devastated, Xavier telepathically takes control of Magneto's power, and though he can't bring himself to kill Magneto, he does hurl him and Avalon back into space, knowing full well it's only a matter of time before Magneto will return and threaten the world once again.
Firsts and Other Notables
Though much of the latter half of 1993 is devoted to an overall, linewide celebration of the X-Men's 30th anniversary (including two separate anniversary inspired crossovers, assorted limited series, and one-shots), this is the "official" 30th aniversary issue, and it features a cover date exactly thirty years after the cover date on X-Men #1 (this issue was notoriously late, so I don't believe it was actually on stands exactly thirty years after the first issue, and of course, the series doesn't have exactly thirty years-worth of published issues, due to variances in shipping schedules through the years, and that chunk of time in the late 60s and early 70s when it wasn't being published).
The centerpiece of the celebration is Magneto, who officially returns in this issue (despite already quietly appearing in X-Force #25 and, thanks to scheduling issues, X-Men Unlimited #2). Whereas in his X-Force appearance he received only a third-page panel, here, he gets a pull double page sideways splash reveal.
This is also the issue where Colossus leaves the X-Men and joins Magneto's Acolytes, the culmination of "shit all over Colossus" plotline that saw the character lose his brother, his parents, and his sister, as well as the ability to transform back into human form. His anger at Xavier in this issue is somewhat unfounded (in that Xavier wasn't directly responsible for all that happening, even if he did take Colossus off his family farm way back when), and it's hard to reconcile him throwing in with a group of mass murderers in the Acolytes, but his "screw this noise, I'm out of here" attitude and desire to do something different is certainly understandable. Though he'll continue to appear semi-regularly as one of the Acolytes, and eventually leave them to join Excalibur in a regular capacity, this marks the beginning of his longest absence yet from this series; he'll not return as a member of the X-Men until issue #360.
It's established that Magneto survived his apparent death in X-Men #3 thanks to the Acolyte Chrome, who encased him in a protective metal coating.
The Acolytes finally learn about Cortez's complicity in Magento's death, as Exodus arrives to tell them and bring them to the revived Magneto, effectively ending Cortez's tenure as the leader of the group.
Exodus then turns his power on Cortez, and though the art makes it look pretty harmful, Exodus notes that Magneto wants Cortez left alive, the victim of someone else's legacy. The word "legacy" seems to imply that Cortez is or will shortly be infected with the Legacy Virus, but that never comes about. He'll next pop up as the architect of the X-Men/Avengers crossover "Bloodties", which is more or less the last hurrah for the character.
Banshee, making his first appearance since X-Men #7 (though chronologically, he appears in X-Men #24 prior to this issue) is on hand for the funeral, and Bishop refers to him as the custodian of the next generation of mutants, one of the earliest bits of track laid for his upcoming role in Generation X.
Illyana's funeral is held this issue, with the vast majority of the various X-characters depicted at the grave site or elsewhere in the issue, with a few exceptions: in terms of characters who actually appear in the issue, Psylocke & Warpath appear on the cover but not in the issue (and Revanche is nowhere to be found), and only Shadowcat & Nightcrawler are there from Excalibur. All of X-Factor is present, save, curiously, Wolfsbane (Polaris is wearing gold "risque" costume), and along with Warpath, neither Cable nor Siryn appear in the issue. There's also an African-American woman in the crowd who goes unnamed, presumably either Stevie Hunter or Charlotte Jones (I'd assume the former).
Professor X refers to Magneto as "Erik" for the first time in this issue, suggesting he's always known Magneto's real name despite never using it before (Lobdell will attempt to address this odd name usage in issue #309). And while anyone reading this after reading X-Men Unlimited #2 would know this to be Magneto's name, this issue was meant to come out (and be read) before that one, which probably would have been somewhat confusing.
Senyaka, the Acolyte member of Cortez's personal guard, is seemingly killed this issue by Magneto, as a demonstration to the other Acolytes to not act without his permission (which is kind of a dick move given they didn't know he was alive). But Senyaka will return shortly, alive and well, over in Cable.
The issue ends with Xavier co-opting Magneto's power to hurl Avalon into outer space. It's not clear if he hurled it far, or just back into orbit, but it and Magneto will be back in the next chapter of the crossover, so presumably he didn't throw it far.
The "Fatal Attractions" hologram on this issue's cover features Magneto.
The credits for this issue get their own page, gussied up for the anniversary in the same font/design as used for the various X-Men/Avengers 30th anniversary house ads.
Stan Lee also pens a note in the letter column, reflecting on the X-Men's thirty year history (it is fairly bland and non-specific in its praise).
A Work in Progress
As the issue opens, the Acolytes are still using the remains of the Leningrad sub as their base, as seen in X-Factor #92.
While preparing for Illyana's funeral, Xavier reviews the Magneto Protocols (previously mentioned in X-Factor). We also see he has a Kirbytech desk in his bedroom.
During a flashback, it's mentioned that Magneto's mutant power first manifested itself when his daughter was killed, which is a slight retcon. It's also said that a childhood bought of hepatitis suppressed the manifestation of his powers, presumably as a way to explain why he didn't magnet himself out of the concentration camp.
Storm and Kitty have a heart-to-heart in the skies above the mansion, possibly a nod to their similar discussion in issue #180.
They are interrupted by the smoke from Colossus burning all his paintings, his most emo move yet.
Dialogue in this issue suggests that X-Force hasn't told anyone they encountered Magneto and that Magneto grieviously wounded Cable.
In the Magneto-power-usage department, he is able to prevent all the gathered mutants from using their powers (save those, like Bishop, whose power works unconsciously), and more or less freezes them in place via the iron in their blood.
Cyclops also makes a point of telling Wolverine to stay out of the fight, more foreshadowing for their encounter in X-Men #25.
Magneto says his near-death in the Earth's EM field has left him more powerful than ever.
It is confirmed here that it was Magneto who rescued Xavier in X-Men Unlimited #1.
Professor X notes that Avalon is tricked out with Shi'ar technology and weaponry that Magneto could only have acquired while serving as headmaster of the school.
In one of the more poignant (and effective) arguments made by Magneto to Xavier in this issue, he reminds Xavier that Magneto tried Xavier's approach to human/mutant co-existence, and it didn't work. So perhaps now Xavier should return the gesture and try Magneto's way.
Magneto cites the Legacy Virus as another human attack on mutants, and Cyclops rightly points out that Stryfe was a mutant, and Magneto can't very well hold his disease against humanity.
Lilandra drops by via hologram to offer her condolences on Illyana's death.
One of the first ad's for A Nightmare Before Christmas appears in this issue.
There's also a double page, Joe Madureira-drawn ad for Pizza Hut, presumably a precursor to the later animated series promotional tie-in.
This issue has something of a bum rap among fans, and that reputation is not entirely unfounded. On the surface, it works fairly well as a celebration of the X-Men's 30th anniversary: members of the franchise's now-sprawling cast put in an appearance, the franchise's biggest villain makes a big, flashy return (despite making a few quieter returns already), making this the culmination of months of build-up, which allows the X-Men to square off with their central antagonist, their first foe lo those thirty years ago. But the presentation is sloppy; plagued by lateness, the multitude of artists on the double-sized issue come across feeling less like a celebratory jam than the result of the Dreaded Deadline Doom, with pages seemingly assigned at random in places while the artists involved hardly feel "celebratory": a case could be made for Paul Smith, and Jae Lee's style is appropriate for the section he draws, but Chris Sprouse is an artist with no significant past connection to the series or characters.
Even the actual fight with the Magneto, meant to be the centerpiece of the issue, is unexciting. His philosophical argument with Xavier is fine, but the conventions of the genre (and, really, the time) pepper those with lots of shots of character posing at each other while energy crackles around them. Backgrounds are sparse or non-existence, with figures usually arrayed across a color backdrop, and it's hard to place the figures in space relative to each other and their surroundings (and, to be fair, some of these failings could also be caused by the deadline issues).
But where this issue really falters, and what it routinely gets dinged for, is its presentation of Magneto, a Magneto far more akin to his earlier Silver Age appearances than in his last appearance, where he was essentially a bitter isolationist or, even, to the depictions of the character elsewhere in "Fatal Attractions": the Magneto of both X-Force #25 and X-Men #25 is much closer in spirit to Claremont's final take on the character than the near-ranting loon presented here. The general idea behind Magneto's overall plan in this crossover is a decent one: offering mutants sanctuary on Avalon, taking their fate out of the realms of human interference, is both a logical extension of his previous isolationist stance and entirely reasonable yet still at odds with Xavier's approach. But while the desire for a big X-Men/Magneto fight for the 30th anniversary is understandable, and that requires a less-measured Magneto willing to pick a fight with the X-Men, the way its triggered here seems both widely out of character for Magneto, and disconnected from his overall goal of creating an isolated mutant sanctuary. And it would have been very easy to present a Magneto more consistent with his past (and future) characterization without completely re-writing this issue.
For example, when Magneto first arrives at Illyana's funeral, a former student of his (and with whom he had a closer bond than some of the other New Mutants, as they shared a mutual struggle with their dark sides), he's rightly called on the impropriety of the act. He responds with some boilerplate ranting about how he's more concerned about the potential deaths of mutants in the future. Why not have the character simply say he's there to genuinely pay his respects to Illyana, and let the situation devolve from there (with some of the X-Men not believing him and/or starting the fight)? Later, he kills Senyaka, saying he approved of the genetic cleansing Senyaka led but not that he acted without explicit instructions from Magneto. Why not have Magneto kill Senyaka because of the cleansing, saying he went too far by targeting helpless humans instead of more direct enemies of mutantkind (or something)? We'd still see that this returned Magneto is EXTREME!, but he'd be more in keeping with the character's past presentations. Finally, the big threat Magneto poses in this issue is from Avalon, which he draws into Earth's atmosphere, bristling with Shi'ar weaponry. Why even bother with this? Just have Magneto make his offer of sanctuary to the X-Men, have them assume the worst and fight back, escalating the situation with the Acolytes and leading to the big brawl the editors and/or marketing so desperately wanted? The Avalon bit reeks of Silver Age "destroy the world" lunacy, and it serves no greater thematic purpose to the story.
I have a lot of nostalgic affection for this issue; reading it when it was first published, it was a big deal and it felt like one, the X-Men's #1 villain finally, for real, returning (he'd barely been gone two years, but at the time, it felt like forver) and engaging in a big, loud, noisy battle with the X-Men while arguing with Xavier. It was the first time I'd experienced that sort of thing in real time, and it only marked the halfway point of the crossover! I was so sucked in by the hype that Magneto's over-the-top villainy didn't really even stick out to me; I think I just sort of glossed over it, using the more measured characterization that precedes and follows this story to sand down the rough edges here. It's hard not to see that roughness now, even for as well as I remember the excitement this issue generated in me as a kid. Whether due to deadline pressure, or editorial interference, or a simple misunderstanding of how the character works best, Lobdell just doesn't write a good Magneto here. And with that failing, the rest of the issue's inability to rise above it's triple role as a marketing-driven 90s comic, an anniversary issue, and a chapter in an ongoing crossover, becomes more pronounced and harder to ignore.
Tomorrow, Wolfsbane goes to Muir Island in X-Factor #94. Friday, Wolverine fights Sentinels in Wolverine #73. Next week, Rogue & Gambit go on a date in X-Men #24.