Reviewer: Jesse Baker
Story Title: “Justice For All”/”Uneasy Allies”/”The Soviets Strike Back”/”Day of Judgment”
Written by: Roger Stern (#1-3), Tom DeFalco/Jim Shooter (#4)
Penciled by: Marc Silvestri (#1-3), Keith Pollard (#4)
Inked by: Josef Rubenstein
Colored by: Christie Scheele (#1-3), Max Scheele (#4)
Lettered by: Joe Rosen
Editor: Mark Gruenwald/Ann Nocenti
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Published in 1987, “The X-Men Vs Avengers” basically is one of two “X-Men” mini-series released that year for the purpose of resolving loose ends for the X-Men, as Claremont’s ability to keep a coherent grip on the numerous storylines running through the series was slipping by the minute. This mini-series in particular was set to resolve the fact that Magneto skipped town after his “crimes against humanity” trial was interrupted by an attack by the evil Fernis Twins and no one seemed to care. Enter this mini-series which was supposed to resolve that plot point. But “X-Men Vs Avengers” is mostly known for its infamous final issue, which was written by Tom DeFalco and Jim Shooter after Roger Stern’s original script was rejected.
Despite the notoriety, this story remains unread by most comic fans who probably don’t know of its existence. So that’s where I come in by giving you guys a review with all of the dirt on the controversy about the mini-series.
Taking place in-between the events of Uncanny X-Men #219 and 220 (and before the events of Uncanny X-Men Annual #11 and the Fantastic Four Vs the X-Men mini-series, which also takes place between those two issues) and Avengers #279 and 281, the mini-series has Magneto rushing to get to a portion of his former headquarters Asteroid M, that has crashed into the Earth. This leads to the evil armored Russian Crimson Dynamo recruit Russia’s assorted super-heroes into a plot to capture Magneto so he can be put on trial and executed for destroying a Russian sub and its crew.
While Magneto looks for his wreckage, the Avengers (Captain America, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, Dr. Druid, Black Knight, and Thor) and the X-Men (Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Havok, and Dazzler) meet up in a clash over what to do with Magneto before joining forces to stop the Russians. This only bides the X-Men time to flee with Magneto and soon enough there is a full scale hunt as Magneto leaves the X-Men high and dry as he flees to Singapore for reasons unknown with one of his old helmets in hand.
And here is where things get tricky; the powers that be rejected Roger Stern’s original script for the fourth and final issue of the mini-series, which heavily featured the X-Men and Avengers having it out while Magneto willingly goes on trial again, where he uses the MacGuffin that he’s been searching for during this mini-series: a version of his helmet that can let Magneto have the power to telepathically alter a person’s mind. As we would learn, Magneto can use the device only once and uses the helmet on the judges to get acquitted of all charges. Magneto would walk away a free man but find his victory a hollow one: the X-Men would sever all ties with Magneto as they confront him with doing something to get acquitted of all charges and Magneto would find that rather than rally around the now legitimate figure of power in the mutant world, Magneto would find out that the average mutant still sees him as a monster that they won’t follow, and leave Magneto alone and on the cusp of reverting back to his evil ways.
DeFalco’s replacement script (with art by Keith Pollard instead of Mark Silvestri, who drew #1-3 of the story) downplays the X-Men and the Avengers to concentrate mainly on Magneto and his followers in Asia (who were the ones who most likely helped him with the “Xorn” scheme in the Morrison run. And while DeFalco keeps the basic plot of Stern’s original ending, he goes in the complete opposite direction theme wise: Magneto’s helmet can be used multiple times and is even used to make Captain America admit that he doesn’t hate mutants, a revelation that shocks Magneto. Meanwhile Magneto only contemplates using the helmet for sinister uses after using his powers over magnetism to have an out of body experience where he follows Captain Marvel and discovers: 1. That a young female mutant he befriended early that issue was killed by an anti-mutant mob and 2. That the chief judge deciding his case hates mutants and wants to use Magneto’s conviction and death as justification to wipe out all mutantkind.
So Magneto uses his Magic MacGuffin Helmet to change the verdict to not guilty. In the end, the X-Men say nothing about Magneto rigging the verdict (and Dazzler even kisses Magneto in congratulations) and the X-Men leave the court house to find a large anti-mutant mob protesting the verdict. As Magneto looks onward, he suddenly goes “Oh f*ck! I made things worse by putting the psychic whammy on the chief judge….” as the comic ends.
In the end, the DeFalco version is a perfectly acceptable ending to the series though the sudden ending and it’s implications that Magneto just sped up the time-table for a human/mutant war by manipulating his acquittal is an extreme letdown given that Claremont never followed up on it in the pages of the X-Men. As for the artwork, Marc Silvestri’s artwork is flawed due to the fact that his early artwork doesn’t work well when published on the slick direct market printing format that was used for the mini-series. As for Pollard, his art is also competent though horribly colored by colorist Max Scheele, who did the coloring for the final issue.