In a Nutshell
The Phalanx Covenant begins!
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencils: Joe Madureira
Inks: Terry Austin & Dan Green
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Chiefs: Tom DeFalco
In Monaco, the mute Monet St. Croix & her guardian are attacked by the Phalanx. Meanwhile, Banshee returns to the mansion after a trip to Massachusetts to find the X-Men acting strangely: Archangel acts accusatory after Banshee takes a call from Scott & Jean, Psylocke fails to sense him telepathically, and Gambit & Bishop don't bat an eye when he tests them by saying that Professor X is walking again. Fearing the worst, he checks on Sabretooth, and when Rogue tries to stop him, he attacks, revealing her to be one of the Phalanx. Releasing Sabretooth, Banshee tasks him with freeing Jubilee & the White Queen while he sees to exterminating the Phalanx. But when he discovers the Phalanx have breached the X-Men's computer and are planning on capturing the next generation of young mutants, he sets the system to explode, then rendezvous with Sabretooth, White Queen & Jubilee in the tunnels under the mansion, telling them they need to find the young mutants before the Phalanx do!
Firsts and Other Notables
The "Phalanx Covenant", the X-line's annual crossover for 1994, begins with this issue. It is the last of the more formally-structured X-crossovers of the late 80s/90s (like "X-Tinction Agenda" and "X-Cutioner's Song"), with both "Age of Apocalypse" & "Onslaught" operating at a much bigger, more sprawling level (and "Operation: Zero Tolerance" doing more of the "Fall of the Mutants", multiple stories-under-one-narrative-umbrella approach), though it too has elements of "Fall of the Mutants" and "Inferno" in its structure, as the overall story is divided into thirds, with Uncanny X-Men & X-Men tackling "Generation Next", X-Factor, X-Force & Excalibur featuring "Life Signs", and the two solo books, Wolverine & Cable, handling "Final Sanction". All three deal with the threat of the Phalanx and the X-teams' response to it, but each tells its own contained story (within its sub-crossover) to that effect.
"Generation Next", the sub-story which unfolds in the two main X-books, is chiefly concerned with setting up the upcoming Generation X series, as it deals with the Phalanx targeting young mutants unaffiliated with any of the X-teams. To that end, a number of future Generation X cast members will debut in this story, and it features an ad hoc X-Men team consisting of future Generation X headmasters Banshee & White Queen, as well as Jubilee, who will leave the X-Men to join Generation X. And Sabretooth (because the 90s).
One of those new mutants/future Generation X cast members appears for the first time in this issue, Monet St. Croix aka M, a mutant with vast powers, including psionic abilities (both telepathy & telekinesis), flight, invulnerability, and super-strength (as well as overall superhuman physical abilities, like agility, dexterity, etc). She will be a mainstay of Generation X, and will follow that up with a lengthy turn in the second Peter David X-Factor run, after which she'll join the X-Men for a spell, and, most recently, an iteration of X-Force.
Monet has a deeply convoluted history (even by X-Men standards; I had to look it up to make sure I had it all straight before writing this review), and that begins (to be teased, at least) here, with M's guardian in this issue mentioning the trouble with Monet’s brother & the twins. Her brother will eventually be revealed to be Emplate, the first villain Generation X will face, while the twins will turn out to be Monet herself (at this point in time), with the real Monet trapped in the body of the mysterious Penance (who will appear for the first time in Generation X #1). The story goes that Emplate, the older brother of Monet and the younger twins Nicole & Claudette, turned evil, then tried to convert Monet to his side. When she refused, he transformed her into Penance, and the twins, thinking he'd killed Monet, banished him to another dimension (with Penance following), then merged together to replace Monet (leaving their family to believe Emplate had killed the twins). It is this "merged" Monet who is appearing in this issue, and will appear in Generation X for roughly half that series' run (with the mystery surrounding her, Penance, Emplate & the twins a recurring plotline in the book during that time).
Because Caludette is Autistic, the merged Monet will periodically become mute (as she is in this issue) and slip into catatonic states in which she is unresponsive to outside stimuli.
Joe Madureira returns to the series with this issue, and it is considered the start of his run as the series' regular penciler, which will run up through issue #350 (albeit with many, many fill-ins along the way). Much like his earlier guest turn, he'll draw two issues of the series, then give way to guest artists for a few issues.
Banshee learns that the Phalanx have downloaded Xavier’s list of mutant teens, which are referred to by the Phalanx as Generation Next (the title of this part of the “Phalanx Covenant”). It’s not clear what, if anything, Xavier was going to do with that information (ie he already knows they’re mutants so presumably Cerebro detected them, but he simply hasn’t invited them to join the school - which suggests that while we haven’t seen Cerebro detect a new mutant recently, it has been, and Xavier has simply been keeping track of them, rather than recruiting them), but the Phalanx plan to abduct or kill them. Banshee, for his part, simply says at the end of the issue that the X-Men might have contacted them eventually.
The names listed include the future M, as well as Synch, Skin & Blink, who will all appear shortly.
Banshee manages to destroy the mansion’s computer systems before the Phalanx download all the stored data, but he expresses sorrow at the loss of the information. Ultimately, we don’t really see the loss of that data impact the X-Men all that much (as opposed to when Mr. Sinister blew up the mansion at the end of "Inferno" and it wasn't rebuilt for 40 issues).
Banshee tells Sabretooth that they’re going to track down the kids being targeted by the Phalanx, but that he sent a message to Xavier on Muir Island alerting him to the situation as well so he & Excalibur can rescue the X-Men. Instead, we’ll see Xavier punt that task as well, leaving it to Cyclops, Phoenix, Cable & Wolverine in the “Final Sanction” portion of the crossover to free the X-Men and take out the Phalanx once and for all.
Banshee intercepts a call from Cyclops & Phoenix, hoping to share vital information they’ve learned about curing the Legacy Virus with him (which is, I guess, that Cable is important to it...?). When they learn he’s on Muir Island, they decide to head there directly, setting up their presence in Wolverine #85 and the “Final Sanctions” portion of the crossover.
This issue (and all "Phalanx Covenant" issues) has a cardstock wraparound cover with a strip of metallic foil running down the far right side (with a character image, separate from the events of the cover, next to it), a somewhat more subdued gimmick than "Fatal Attractions'" hologram covers. Each issues was also published in a "standard" variant, without the foil.
There’s an ad for the Generation X Collectors Preview issue, with the ashcan included if the coupon is postmarked early enough.
There's also an eight page Generation X/"Phalanx Covenant" preview which includes a two page promo Gen X piece from series artist Chris Bachalo and a four page timeline of Cyclops’ history (which, of course, makes note of the creation of Generation X as if it’s personally significant to Cyclops, but also extends into the future to include his time raising Cable).
A Work in Progress
The Phalanx believe Monet could be the most powerful of the next generation of mutants.
Emma is back in her own body, having been swapped with Iceman between issues by Professor X.
Banshee points out that both Storm & Iceman have a history of body-swapping with Emma, making them less than ideal X-Men to be dealing with her (they are of course Phalanx simulacrum).
We're reminded that Banshee left the X-Men (in adjectiveless #4) to go after Moira, who ended up back at the mansion (in "X-Cutioner’s Song") before him.
Banshee recounts the various turns his life has taken, which underlines just how odd some of the bits of his backstory are when all laid out next to each other (ie Interpol agent to NY cop to reluctant villain in Tennessee).
It's noted that it’s only been a week or two since the events of issues #312-313, when Storm & Gambit first encountered the Phalanx.
Banshee leverages Sabretooth to help him via a detonator that can blow up his muzzle (the idea being that Sabretooth couldn’t survive having his head blown off).
It’s said here that the Phalanx are unable to assimilate mutants, so they’re examining Cerebro to try and figure out how, so they can assimilate the captive X-Men. This is a change from their earlier appearance, in which no such limitation seemed to exist.
It’s never made clear why Jubilee remains at the mansion (a captive of the Phalanx) rather than having been taken away with the rest of the X-Men, aside from the fact that she’s needed to be on hand to round out Banshee’s ad hoc team.
The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Beast has created a Heather Locklear Danger Room program.
There’s an ad for Street Fighter II in this issue, one of the great arcade fighter-turned-home-console games of all time.
There’s also an ad for the Maximum Carnage video game adaptation, which I understand is considered by many to be superior to the story itself.
The letters page claims plans are in the works for Longshot & Dazzler; this is a frequent claim of the letters page, but nothing ever really comes of it.
"Phalanx Covenant" is a bit of weird crossover, structurally, in that it's neatly divided into thirds, with each third of the story largely self-contained, and only one of those thirds ("Generation Next") involving more than one issue of the respective series' contributing to it. It's also odd in that the bulk of the X-Men themselves aren't in it much at all, having been captured by the Phalanx off-panel, and only pop up briefly at the very end of the crossover (in Cable #16, off all places). This leaves an ad hoc team of X-Men to star in the portion of the crossover taking place in Uncanny & Adjectiveless X-Men, because, at its heart, this whole story is all really just a protracted setup for Generation X (which is another example of how it's something of a weird crossover
As a result of taking the X-Men off the board (and doing it behind the scenes) to allow this temp team to form and go about laying the seeds for a new series, this first part of the crossover reads very much like a horror story: Banshee returns home to find his friends acting odd, because it turns out they've been replaced by monsters, so he has to fight his way out with the help of some unlikely allies. It's easy enough to imagine the techno-organic doppelgangers as alien body snatchers or vampires, with Banshee's team representative of the kind of makeshift alliances that form in these kinds of stories when the protagonist's usual allies have been subverted by the evil forces.
It's a fun hook for the start of the crossover, one which reflects the more narrow focus of this portion of the story, as this issue is told almost entirely from Banshee's perspective. While the other two-thirds of "Phalanx Covenant" will cover the story on a more macro level (to varying degrees of success), "Generation Next" will remain, like this issue, more focused and concerned with the micro-story of rescuing young mutants from the Phalanx than finding a way to defeat the villains overall. With its horror trappings and limited perspective, this issue effectively sets the stage for that focus & perspective, in the process creating an engaging start to the crossover.
"Life Signs" begins in X-Factor #106, and "Final Saction" in Wolverine #85, as "Phalanx Covenant" continues. Next week, Banshee's X-Men team hits the road in X-Men (vol. 2) #36.