("To seek out new life and new civilisations... and then cockpunch the shit out of them!")
I'd forgotten that this story came to a head so quickly. No sooner have the X-Men jumped through the stargate than they find themselves in front of the M'Kraan Crystal, along with D'Ken, Lilandra, Shakari and the Imperial Guard, led by Gladiator (my Claremont Originals meter has buried its needle in my ceiling).
Of course, on reflection, this was probably by far the most likely course to take. Having endowed Phoenix with such power, the story has to wrap up (or at least get close to wrapping up and require her eleventh hour intervention) whilst she's still weak from operating the stargate. This is always the problem with creating nigh-unstoppable characters (or letting previously more balanced characters to level up to the same state); you find that you stop thinking about how your heroes can overcome adversity, and instead devote your thinking to how your godlike creation can be inconvenienced enough to prevent them overcoming that adversity instantly. That's why after two seasons of constantly ramping up the Tenth Doctor's smug near-omnipotence, RTD started writing or presiding over Doctor Who stories  in which the entirety of the dramatic tension in the Doctor's actions revolved around whether or not he could get to the place he needed to be to immediately solve everything by waving his screwdriver around.
In any event, the X-Men are here now, deep in enemy territory and surrounded on all sides by aliens hellbent on their destruction. It's time for fisticuffs! An entire issue of them!
Once again, there's really precious little to be said about the battle scenes. It's all just an endlessly shifting mass of colour and smack-talking, a catalogue of one-one-one permutations as every combatant seemingly takes it in turns to try and knock out every combatant from the other side (though there's still time for a flashback, of course; also, reality briefly blinking out of existence). In amongst all of this we learn that Nightcrawler has never before tried teleporting with another person (I'd been wondering about that), and the fact that Wolverine can be set aflame with no ill effects beyond the loss of his wardrobe is the first real clue we've had regarding his healing factor (I've actually never come across anyone stating at what point that was decided upon as being his mutant power).
It's interesting to see the original Imperial Guard in action once again, though. I understand they were originally an homage to/obvious rip-off of DC's Legion of Superheroes: a team of interstellar heroes in the far future. I always liked the Imperial Guard, mainly because the high rate of attrition (the only job more dangerous than being a comic bit-part player is being a comic bit-part player from another world) meant there was always someone new and interesting in the ranks, and also that their battles against the X-Men became less and less about following orders and more and more about just being thoroughly goddamn sick of these upstart Terran apes throwing their weight around on the galactic stage.
As is traditional, the Guard spend most of this issue getting pummelled, but that's all part of the fun. They're the interstellar Alpha Flight, basically. They get the upper hand at one point, but that's when the Starjammers turn up (ding!). Somewhere in Bethesda, an eleven year old Ed Brubaker was taking notes.
This issue takes place in approximately real time.
Wednesday 13th January, 1982.
1 Marvel year = 3.81 standard years.
(Storm is 34 years old.)
|"We'll have a better chance in the air!"|
Gods of earth and air, will we never escape this wretched day? This must be how Bill Murray must have felt in Groundhog Day, only he never had to see Wolverine all but naked (he did have to pretend to be interested in Andie MacDowell, though, so let's call it even).
Is there anything left that happened on this date? It was exactly eleven months before my little sister was born, does that count? Probably not. Umm... Reagan nominates Anthony Cecil Eden Quainton to be the US Ambassador to Nicaragua. That had to be a pretty sticky situation, huh? "My boss is giving guns to the rebels to have you all killed; do I still get diplomatic immunity?"
"Man, ol' fuzz-face didn't wanna part with his threads, but I guess I convinced him." Wolverine gets a change of clothes. I absolutely don't want to think about exactly how.
 See "Gridlock", "The Doctor's Daughter" and "Voyage of the Damned" for three examples.