A few years back, around the time “Messiah CompleX” was hitting its stride, my LCS owner, Robert, asked me why I thought X-Men crossovers sold so consistently. No other line of books could get the fans so excited over a crossover, but X-fans, even lapsed X-fans, showed up in droves if the books were tying together.
I’ve given it a lot of thought since then, and I still don’t have an answer that satisfies me. But I have spent a lot of time pondering what made past X-Men crossovers work or fall apart. And, of course, because ranking the things we love in the order we love them is imprinted in a geek’s DNA, I ended up making a list of the best ones. Today’s entry looks back at the nineties for a story that, in all honesty, is far, far better than it has any right to be.
Story crosses through: X-Factor, X-Force, Uncanny, X-Men, Wolverine, Excalibur
Synopsis: Magneto is back from the dead, and has decided to open his home on Cable's old turf, the Graymalkin space station - rechristened "Avalon" - as a haven for all mutants. The X-Men, suspicious of Magneto's sudden altruism, not to mention his decision to crash (literally) Illyana's funeral, confront him in space. Hijinks ensue.
Love it or hate it, Big Things of Consequence happen in this story (SPOILER ALERT, for those who care). X-Factor discovers that the U.S. government is now officially in charge of Sentinel production under Project: Wideawake. Colossus defects to Magneto's side, joining him on Avalon in the wake of his sister's death. And of course, Professor X mindwipes Magneto into a vegetative state after the man completely rips Wolverine's adamantium from his skeleton – an event which leads directly to possibly the most intense, adrenaline-filled comic I've ever read, Wolverine #75.
Seriously, check this out: the X-Men are fleeing in the Blackbird with Bishop and Gambit at the controls, while Professor Xavier and Jean are in the cargo bay with Logan, trying to keep his psyche alive even as his body shuts down in an attempt to heal the multiple injuries he just received. The Blackbird, which wasn't really designed for re-entry, is crashing - we cut from scenes of the X-Men desperately trying to control their decent to the Prof and Jean struggling against Logan's rapidly approaching death. It's a hell of a read - dramatic without being overdramatic, high tension caused both by Wolverine's impending death and the Blackbird's crashing, and a real sense of anxiety that someone might not make it out of this alive. It’s amazing stuff, and it leads to a story point that is practically unimaginable in today's comics industry. After all, this is the story where Wolverine leaves the X-Men.
Still recovering from his injuries and lacking an adamantium backbone, Logan abandons the X-Men for some recovery time & soul searching. Which means that, outside an occasional guest appearance in another Marvel comic, Wolverine headlined only one title a month - his own - for nearly two years. Such a feat would be unthinkable in this day and age, and watching the X-Men cope with the absence of one of their key members made for some pretty amazing stories.
Chromium cardstock covers! Embedded hologram cards!! Splash pages that desperately tried to emulate what those Image kids were doing down the block, and more angst than you could shake a stick at!!! Yes, these comics party like its 1994, and their look and feel would easily put off a number of modern audiences - which is too bad, because if you can tolerate an overabundance of Cable, there's really a good story. You just have to dig beneath the glitter. Oh, and by the way: who decided to shoehorn in that issue of Excalibur there at the end? Colossus being forcibly transported to Muir Isle so the team can use "science" to give him back his ability to change form (because that's totally what's been eating him, his sister dying has nothing to do with it), does not have nearly the emotional impact of Wolverine's departure in the previous issue. It's the first and only issue of this x-over that smells like a cash grab, one that’s not an integral part of the story.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Fatal Attractions is totally worth a read if you can hunt it down - the trade collection has been out of print for years, but you can pick up the back issues for a song (or use the handy link above). It has its flaws, but the big moments hang around a lot longer than the mistakes.