I'm just guessing here, but I think the average person probably knows more about the end result of the Fatal Attractions storyline than they do the name of the crossover or what actually happened within. It certainly had ramifications for the X-men's world for years afterward. If you're aware that at one point and time Wolverine lost his adamantium, it happened during this storyline. While that is certainly noteworthy, that's only half of what makes this arc my absolute favorite X-men crossover. The other half is all about Professor X and Magneto.
Much like my Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book review, this multi-issue review will be long and full of pictures. Get comfy!
This crossover happened over all the X-books going at the time, but it was not absolutely necessary to own every issue to get the story. I know this for a fact because I do not have the X-Factor or X-force issues that are part of this series but I didn't feel like anything was missing.
The X-Factor issue was primarily about the Acolytes, Magneto's followers, becoming more aggressive in attacking humans, and also asking Quicksilver, Magneto's son and member of X-Factor, to join them. He refuses and they leave. The X-Force issue is a little more convoluted, but not really important to the rest of the story. Just know that Avalon, Magneto's new base, used to be Cable's old base. It's basically just a way to explain how Magneto could have this highly advanced structure at his disposal. He also basically tears Cable's metal arm off, hinting the lengths he is currently willing to go through to succeed and also foreshadowing his clash with Wolverine.
In Uncanny X-men #304, the X-men are gathering for Illyana's funeral. Magneto crashes the party to invite the X-men to join him on Avalon, warning that if they stay behind, they will die. He also kills one of the Acolytes that organized the attack on the humans - not because he murdered innocents, but because he committed actions in Magneto's name without his approval first. Magneto blames humanity for the legacy virus and all the other mutant vs mutant conflicts, and has decided that the earth is no longer worth staying on.
The X-men work together to overpower Magneto, with the exception of Colossus who has faced so much grief that he has now decided that he perhaps joined the wrong side, and goes up to Avalon. The X-men soon realize that Avalon is under Magneto's control, and knocking him out would force the ship to crash into Earth. So the professor takes control of Magneto's mind and launches him and the ship far into space, because he doesn't have it in him to completely destroy them. The professor is feeling extremely weakened in general, facing the fact that he feels he failed Illyana completely and now having watched Peter walk away from him.
In X-men #25, the world as one agrees to enact the Magneto Protocols - a protective measure that is supposed to prevent Magneto from using his powers on Earth. Since he is currently outside of the earth, and his powers have been heightened much further than normal - the defense is useless. Magneto sees it as a threat, and sends a major Electro-Magnetic-Pulse across the earth which basically shuts down all technology. The biggest failing of this moment is that we see a montage of various heroes around the world feeling the effects - but then are only told by the Professor that thousands of people have probably died because of it. Instead of showing us The Thing angrily jumping out of a suddenly cold shower, I think it would have been much more effective to see a plane fall from the sky, or perhaps see hospital workers despairing because they couldn't get their generators online to save the lives of the people inside. However it does work effectively in showing us the doubt the Professor is experiencing, and the new lengths he is willing to go through to put an end to this.
That last panel brought a tear to my eye when I first read it. I'm not sure I can entirely explain why anymore, partially because it doesn't upset me anywhere near as much now as it did then. But I guess it's because as a more faithful reader at the time, Xavier's dream meant a lot to me, and the idea that he was now questioning himself so fiercely was upsetting to me.
The reason why Magneto is the X-men's main villain is because his vision is the exact opposite of Xavier's, and the stories almost always shine when they are up against him. Fatal Attractions is a perfect example of this conflict and how Xavier and Magneto often alternate between trying to find peace with each other, and ultimately giving up and trying to destroy each other to eliminate their main opposition. Usually, the professor tries to find a peaceful resolution, but here, he uses Jean's help to torture Magneto with painful memories in the hope of making him give up. They are not entirely successful, and Magneto is ready to kill Quicksilver simply because he would not agree to follow him. Wolverine steps in to intervene, attacking him physically while the Professor and Jean continue the mental assault - and Logan pays for it, in the most painful way possible.
This was the second time I cried reading this issue. This horrible act only serves to strengthen the Professor's resolve, and make him remember what it is he fights for:
And finally to put an end to the struggle once and for all:
Peter stays behind on Avalon to take care of a catatonic Magneto while the X-men take a barely alive Wolverine back home.
The story continues in Wolverine #75. Re-reading this issue, I was surprised at how silly I found most of it. But there are some great lines and some interesting artwork to be found.
This opening line was another that brought tears to my eyes, and has stuck in my memory after all this time.
After the stress of having his adamantium removed, Logan's healing factor can't keep up and he is on the brink of death. The professor and Jean try to help both his body and mind at once, while the rest of the X-men are struggling to keep the improperly equipped for space travel Blackbird from crashing.
I say it's silly because the professor keeps explaining everything we are seeing to Jean, and none of it really makes sense. Think back to the last time you were in extreme pain. Were you also thinking about every other bad thing that ever happened to you in your life? I know from my own personal experience, when I am in intense pain, the only thing I am thinking of is how badly it hurts, and trying to cope with that. But according to the professor Wolverine is reliving all his former bad experiences.
So, with all the pain and negativity, Logan is ready to head for the light. Xavier doesn't want to let him go, but he's too far gone to care.
I understand that this is the astral plane and therefore things can be distorted, but this art is awful.
This, on the other hand, is gorgeous.
Illyana, having recently gone into the light herself, stops Logan from doing so. He reaches out because he hears Jean calling him, and actually physically moves to stop Jean from being sucked out of the hatch of the plane. So it's this nice, sweet moment where they both save each other.
A couple weeks later Logan is anxious to get back to being an X-man and requests a danger room session.
This is just a one off panel showing the other X-men in the danger room before he arrives, but it was too cute to not post.
While fighting the robots, Logan's instincts take over and apparently he tries to pop out the claws he shouldn't technically have anymore.
But he does.
After dealing with this pain and confusion, he ultimately decides to leave the X-men for awhile. He writes a really sweet note to Jubilee, and apparently to many of the other X-men too. He also makes them coffee and leaves it with the letters, because that's just the kind of stand up guy he is.
I would consider both the Wolverine issue and Excaliber #71 to both be epilogues to the tale. For Excaliber, we get a follow up of what happens to Colossus. The professor, continuing to do things he would never have done before, asks Kitty to lie and claim that she wants to join the Acolytes as a way to get Peter back on Earth so they can heal an injury he incurred before this crossover. I'm pretty sure it prevented him from changing out of his metal form, but I could be wrong on that, I don't have the issues.
So Excaliber, which is really just Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, and Phoenix (Rachel) at this point, along with Cyclops and Jean Grey, fight some of the Acolytes that come down with Colossus. They manage to trap Peter and heal him, but he's not so grateful after being lied to and goes back with the Acolytes. Cable also shows up to get revenge on the Acolytes, but Phoenix stops him, and this is the first time the two of them get a hint that they are related to each other. Jean also tells Rachel that she plans to marry Scott, and basically apologizes for being a bitch to her back when they first met. Since Excaliber has seen a recent severe decrease in members, Nightcrawler is uncertain what to do with his team, but ultimately they decide to stay on Muir Island and help out Moira McTaggert. While the issue is barely related to the crossover and not really essential to the story, it was a great way to get people like me to jump on to this series.
The professor wiping Magneto's mind clean had later ramifications in all the Marvel universe because it created Onslaught. It also created Joseph, a character everyone believed to be a mind-wiped Magneto for awhile. Both of these are lowlights in the career of the X-men, and the less said about them the better.
Wolverine remained without his adamantium until six years later, which is a pretty long time when you consider it as 72 months worth of issues in multiple comics. They teased it coming back at least once, and he went through some issues with his healing factor and becoming more feral during this period, but once again I can't really recommend any of these later issues as good reading material.
Despite its legacy, I still think this is a great crossover. Unfortunately, the trade paperback of this is ridiculously expensive now. However if you do happen to spot it somewhere for a much more reasonable price, I recommend picking it up.
From here on out, we'll be discussing X-men films. We'll start with the one most of you have probably never seen, Generation X.