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Thursday, July 25, 2019

X-amining Gambit & the X-Ternals #3

"To the Limits of Infinity"
May 1995

In a Nutshell
Gambit retrieves a shard of the M'Kraan Crystal.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Salvador Larroca
Inkers: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Color Art: Javins, Rosa, Webb & Thomas
Separations: Electric Crayon
As the Beaver: Bob Harras

Arriving in orbit around the M'Kraan Crystal's planet, the Starjammers engage the waiting Shi'ar fleet while Deathbird leads the X-Ternals to the planet's surface. As Guido, Sunspot, and Jubilee hold off the Shi'ar forces on the ground, Gambit, Lila & Deathbird approach the crystal. When Lila is drawn inside the crystal, Gambit & Deathbird follow, and the trio meet Jahf, the crystal's guardian. Outside, the Imperial Guard arrive on the planet, with Rictor in tow. Inside the crystal, Jahf explains how the gem is a nexus point of all realities, and tasks Gambit with saving not just his reality, but all of them: without Charles Xavier to help train Jean Grey, the unrestrained energy of the crystal threatens all of existence. Therefore, Gambit must get a piece of the crystal back to Earth and send Bishop back in time. But to gain a shard, he must give something up. Outside, Gladiator attacks Sunspot, but when the crystal triggers another reality blink, Sunspot is able to absorb the energy & turn it against Gladiator. He then leads the rest of the X-Ternals & Rictor into the crystal to escape the increasing blinks. Inside, they see Gambit whisper Rogue's name, then receive a crystal shard. The mission complete, Lila prepares to teleport the group back to Earth, but Sunspot, having absorbed too much of the crystal's energy, is forced to stay behind. Lila promises not to let Sunspot's sacrifice be in vain as she triggers her power to send the team home.

Firsts and Other Notables
Gambit acquires a shard of the M'Kraan crystal in this issue, which concludes with Lila attempting to teleport the group back to Earth, completing their heist.

In order to get the shard, Gambit goes inside the crystal, where he finds the diminutive Jahf, first Guardian of the crystal who was defeated by Banshee in the original Phoenix Saga and returned in "Legion Quest" to warn Lilandra about Legion's threat to reality.

Jahf is, notably, not an "Age of Apocalypse" version of the character; rather, Jahf (and, presumably, the rest of the guardians) is unique to all realities, as the M'Kraan crystal is nexus point of all realities and therefore, the same crystal exists in all realities.

As a result, the lack of Xavier in the prime reality (and, by extension, the lack of the sequence of events which led to Phoenix repairing the crystal in the prime reality) is a threat to all realities. Just as the unrepaired crystal spread to consume all of the prime reality (as seen in "Legion Quest"), it is all spreading through the galaxies of all other realities, including the "Age of Apocalypse".

Future X-Men penciler Salvador Larroca draws this issue, and his presence marks the departure of Tony Daniel as the book's regular artist (something I should have called out last issue, but I completely forgot Daniel didn't finish out this series). Larroca, whose work here is vastly different from his current photo-realistic style, will draw next issue as well, before giving way to the new X-Force penciler, Adam Pollina, following the return to the prime reality.

A Work in Progress
D’ken has built an apparatus around the planet the M’Kraan crystal is on in order to harness its power.

Deathbird conveniently says that a shard of the M’Kraan crystal is the same as the whole thing, so Gambit doesn’t have to steal the entire three-story-tall crystal.

Sunspot is able to absorb the energy of the crystal when reality blinks out, which ultimately results in him being left behind.

Young Love
Sunspot references Guido’s crush on Lila.

Gambit is able to attain a shard of the crystal by leaving behind his love for Rogue.

Austin's Analysis
This is an interesting issue, not just because it raises the stakes for the entire Age of Apocalypse reality - regardless of whether the impending nuclear strike on America succeeds or not, all of existence is slated to be wiped out by the M'Kraan crystal - but because of the way that stake-raising ties back in with the events of "Legion Quest" and the genesis of this reality. By establishing the threat of the crystal across all realities, Nicieza is effectively widening the impact of the prime reality and Xavier himself on all of existence: not only does Xavier's premature death cause *his* world to be wiped out, it risks wiping out all realities everywhere. Therefore, Magneto & Bishop's plan, to use the crystal, Illyana, Destiny, etc. to restore the prime reality, gains an extra level of import & irony. If it succeeds, their reality will cease to exist. But if it fails, *all* realities will cease to exist. The Age of Apocalypse, therefore, is doomed, no matter what. Now it's just a question of how much that doom can be used for good: do they die in vain, or do they die saving all reality? This is, of course, some pretty heady stuff; that's it's all unfolding in the pages of the street-level mutant thieves book is, like sending the X-Ternals into space in the first place, the core juxtaposition at the heart of this series.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Nightcrawler lands in Avalon in X-Calibre #1. Next week, X-Universe #1!

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  1. Oh Tony Daniel, how I'll miss that guy on X-Force. We get back to reality and the book doesn't follow-up on the cliffhanger for a couple of years. I hated the new direction and X-Force goes from my favorite X-book to my least favorite. Adam's work is probably my least favorite art in a mainstream comic series. It's just so terrible from what X-Force was known for art wise.

  2. What happened to Tony Daniel? Did he leave to draw Spawn or that happened much later? I find his departure I the middle of the event quite odd and I can only imagine that it occurred because he couldn’t respect the deadline.

    1. My guess is his contract was up. This cover date is May 1995 and his Spawn Blood Fued was cover dated June 1995. He did a few single issues of Spawn and then his The Tenth series came out March 1997. He finally got to show all the thonged butts that he wanted to show in X-Force with that series.

  3. Is this Salvador Larroca's first X-men related comic work at Marvel?


  4. // Gambit is able to attain a shard of the crystal by leaving behind his love for Rogue. //

    That was not made explicit, but apparently was supposed to have been, I guess. A simple utterance of Rogue’s name in small letters would’ve been more definitive and carried more emotion than him dedicating “this” — whatever that was — to her. Maybe I’m just being thick.

    1. I totally agree. It wasn't clear what he was sacrificing.

  5. Here is something that has bothered me about in this issue, but maybe someone here can help make sense of it for me:
    Throughout the series, Richter/Rictor has been the X-Ternals nemesis - pursuing them, fighting them, and ratting them out to the Sh'iar Imperial Guard. So why does Jubilee, Sunspot & Guido pull him into the M'Kraan crystal with them, then later, teleport him back to Earth with them? Wouldn't the logical thing for the X-Ternals to do is leave him behind?


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