Took place in: Uncanny X-men 294-296, X-factor 84-86, X-men 14-16, X-force 16-18
Written by: Peter David (X-Factor), Scott Lobdell (Uncanny X-Men), Fabian Nicieza (X-Men, X-Force)
Art By: Jae Lee (X-factor), Brandon Peterson (Uncanny X-men), Andy Kubert (X-men), Greg Capullo (X-force)
Characters Involved: Havok, Polaris, Multiple Man, Wolfsbane, Quicksilver, Strong Guy (X-Factor), Cannonball, Sunspot, Boom Boom, Rictor, Shatterstar, Feral, Warpath (X-Force), Storm, Iceman, Archangel, Jean Grey, Bishop, Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Jubilee, Gambit, Rogue, Psylocke (X-Men), Cable, Apocalypse, Sinister, Stryfe
Story: Hoo boy. This story is 1990’s X-Men at its peak, for better or worse. If, like me, you were reading all 4 of the titles involved in this crossover, then this was awesome. But if you were a causal fan, or just reading one or two of the books, this was a damn disaster. The story begins in Central Park, at a free concert by mutant musician Lila Cheney. At one point in the concert there is a break, and Professor X gives a speech about tolerance and how mutants are just like normal people, blah blah. Attending the concert are Storm, Bishop, Rogue, and a disguised Archangel. So a woman that can control the weather with her thoughts, a time-displaced militant mutant with the ability to shoot lazers from his hands, a woman that can kill you with a touch, and a flying cutlery drawer. Yeah, they’re just like us, Charles.
Sadly for the Professor, he is suddenly shot in the chest by what appears to be Cable! Before the X-Men can react he teleports out, leaving Charles for dead. This stuns the mutant world, as Cable has been affiliated with X-Force and before that the New Mutants, and is part of the X-family, albeit not directly. This ESPECIALLY stuns X-Force, who have not seen Cable in months and a) can’t believe what he’s done, and b) know that they’re going to be everyone’s first stop on the ass beating train.
The rest of the X-Men and X-Factor quickly gather to find out why Cable did this and to track down X-Force. Meanwhile, Cyclops and Phoenix are having lunch and talking through some problems they’ve been having. About two seconds after they clear the air and make out in public they are ambushed by their former X-Factor ally Caliban, now Apocalypse’s horseman Death, and are kidnapped, despite Iceman and Colossus trying to intervene. So just like that the X-Men are down their mentor, their leader, and the heart of their team in a matter of minutes.
The X-Men and X-Factor gather at the hospital where it is discovered that not only was Charles shot in the head, but it wasn’t with any ordinary bullet, but rather a techno-organic virus bullet, much like the virus that was implanted in Cable when he was a child, and it’s going to be impossible to remove! Havok, leader of X-Factor, sends Strong Guy, Wolfsbane, and Quicksilver to track down X-Force, which doesn’t go as well as they had hoped when X-Force beats a hasty retreat. They are then joined by Wolverine, Beast, Psylocke, Rogue, and Gambit.
Meanwhile, it is revealed that Apocalypse’s horsemen have delivered Cyclops and Phoenix, but not to Apocalypse, as they thought they were, but rather a disguised Stryfe!
Suddenly the pieces fall into place, as Stryfe is the clone of Cable (or vice versa). It turns out he was the one who, disguised as Cable, shot Xavier to set his plan into motion. He has turned the X-teams against each other and captured or incapacitated their most threatening members, and turned all of the X-Men against his greatest enemy.
From here the X-teams attack and capture X-Force, and begin hunting for Apocalypse. It’s not until they are assisted by Sinister, of all people, that they realize that they have been duped. Meanwhile, Stryfe himself attacks Apocalypse for wrongs done to him that haven’t happened yet and wont’ happen for centuries, but you know how time travelers are.
This base happens to be where the original X-Men/X-Factor had their last battle with the big A, when little Nathan Christopher Summers was infected with the t-o virus and sent to the future… this leads many of the X-Men to think that Stryfe may, in fact, be little Nathan all grown up, but it’s Cyclops that realizes that his real son is Cable, not Stryfe. The fight ends with Cable and Stryfe going one on one, and the overmatched Cable pulling off one hell of a tricky move/sacrifice play to save the day.
By the end of the story X-Force has really come into their own without Cable, Rogue has been temporarily blinded, Gambit incapacitated, Boom Boom has a broken jaw, and Xavier begins his long road to recovery. Archangel finally comes to terms with what Apocalypse did to him, and begins his own road to recovery. Cyclops begins to revisit and question his decisions with his son. Most importantly, Sinister realizes that Stryfe has screwed him. He was promised that, in return for helping get Cyclops and Phoenix captured he would be provided with DNA samples form the both of them, but instead he is given what appears to be an empty canister. What he didn’t know was that the canister contains Stryfe’s legacy virus, which soon will begin killing mutants right and left.
While a bit over the top, and with very bombastic and overly dramatic dialogue, I love this story. I was at the right age for it, and was at the peak of my X-Men fandom, and it pressed all the right buttons for me.
I highly recommend it if you really love the X-Men, and can tolerate 90’s comics.