X-Men and Alpha Flight #2 (1986, January)
Summer’s here. It’s getting hot. Ugh. By Claremont and Smith, “The Gift: Part 2.”
Talisman is wandering the catacombs, looking for Kitty and Rachel, wishing she was wearing jeans and hiking boots rather than her costume. Sorry, Talisman, but the idea of practical costumes hadn’t been invented yet. She finds Paul’s sketchbook. His work gets worse and worse, with the final sketches looking like a child drew them. Kitty pops out of a wall and startles her. Kitty leads her to a buried Viking settlement, perfectly preserved. Lockheed brings them to Rachel, and Kitty tries to comfort her. Rachel says her past is a lie, and Kitty says her past kinda sucks anyway. She has a point. Talisman reflects that what Rachel wants more than anything is a family, while Talisman turned her back on her own father.
The cave starts to collapse, and Kitty leads Talisman to the Firefountain pit, then goes back for Rachel. They manage to make it back to Talisman, though they’re both exhausted. Rachel recovers enough to fly up with Talisman, but Talisman brushes the fountain, and it explodes and blinks out for a moment, with Rachel and Talisman being knocked into the wall. Kitty becomes suspicious of where the magic comes from.
In the banquet hall, Maddie feels bad, and wonders why she can’t help Shaman. She sees that the geologist, Jeanne Chretien, looks tired, and goes to help her. Jeanne tells her something, and Maddie goes to take care of it. Kitty finds Maddie in Wolverine’s room, “healing” him. After Maddie leaves, Kitty talks to him, and he says the Berserker side’s been removed. She asks if he found Snowbird, and he says he can’t remember. Kitty guesses that Pathfinder used his animal control on Wolverine’s beastly side. He and Aurora fly out to where Shaman’s pouch was dropped. He follows Snowbird’s scent into a cave. She’s weaker than ever. Pathfinder and Beastmaster show up, and say there’s no place for her in the world any more, and to let them kill her. Wolverine and Lockheed are ready to defend her.
Back at the palace, Rogue is wearing a very nice dress, and asks Northstar for a dance. Puck mentions feeling weird now that he doesn’t have the pain of dwarfism any more, and Heather also says she doesn’t feel right. She wonders if she’s lost something. Talisman brings the rune she found to am Ross, who says it’s a dedication stone, dedicated to Loki. Loki watches what’s happening, and gets angry at them for not just accepting his gift without question. Rogue and Northstar admire the night, and Northstar says he doesn’t believe in something for nothing, and wants to know the price.
Wolverine busts into the banquet, carrying Beastmaster. Pathfinder’s dead. And Snowbird’s almost there. The Firefountain is disrupting magic. Sam says that eventually, the Firefountain’s spread will kill everyone connected to magic. Rachel thinks maybe the sacrifice is worth it. Shaman agrees, and is willing to die for the sake of a better world. Colossus also agrees. Kitty argues, and say the needs of the many can’t justify the sacrifices of the few. Battle lines are drawn up: One one side, Xavier, Scott, Wolverine, Kitty, Northstar, Nightcrawler, Talisman and Rogue. On the other side, everyone else. Fight!
Northstar brings Talisman to the fountain, but Paul traps them. But Aurora finds his sketchbook, left behind on the bridge by Talisman earlier. Paul gets angry and throws it away. Talisman wonders why he’s so ashamed, and hits on a realization: The fountain doesn’t just drain the world’s magic, it drains an individual’s personal magic, too. The ability to dream and imagine.
The fight has moved outside, but Aurora and Talisman interrupt it to let everyone in on the truth. Then Loki steps in. He says the cost is worth the benefits. Scott points out that in the new world, powered people will be the only ones left with imagination, which will make everyone resent them again, and make more trouble. Loki summons some Frost Giants to force everyone to accept his gift. Scott says gifts can’t be forced, they have to be accepted freely. Then he blasts Loki. As the citadel crumbles, Beastmaster helps Shaman and Snowbird to escape. Rogue attacks Loki, trying to absorb his power, but she fails.
Talisman tries to get the others touched by the fountain to help out, and Maddie decides to reject Loki’s gift. Sam gets smacked by a Frost Giant, and Maddie’s healing power cuts out, preventing her from saving him. Loki reminds her she rejected his gift, and that Sam will die as a result. She begs him to let her save Sam, and Loki agrees and restores her. On condition that she swear to help him carry out his will.
They Who Live Above In Shadow step in, and tell Loki his petition is rejected. By trying to force his gift on them, he proved himself unworthy of the boon he wanted. And before Loki can even have his vengeance, he’s ordered to let them go, and swear to never harm them. He has no choice but to agree. He takes back the gift, as well as the benefits everyone enjoyed from it. Everyone who Maddie helped returns to normal. He makes one last bid for them to change their minds, but Puck tells him to bugger off.
Everyone gets on the plane to leave, with Northstar leaving under his own power, and quitting Alpha Flight . . . which didn’t stick at all. Xavier doesn’t sense Rachel on the plane, so Scott goes to retrieve her. He finds her in the Firefountain chamber. She considers telling him who she really is. She decides against it, not wanting to open his old wounds about Jean’s death. She does admit to being from a future. He says she reminds him of Jean.
After the plane leaves, a flower is seen in the Citadel.
A good conclusion to the two-parter. The secret behind the fountain is interesting. It’s essentially a deal with the devil: You get great power, but at the cost of your soul. Your heart’s desire, if you’re willing to lose your heart. The fight is OK. Could’ve used more space, I think, but what’s shown is really good. Rachel gets some nice character focus. So does Talisman. Both great characters. One thing I find odd is Rachel freaking out about the realization that she’s not in her own world. She’s known that for a while. Her scene with Scott was nice, though. It’s hinted here that he may have guessed who she is, but that got dropped quickly in favour of him not knowing.
The story has some nice moments, but it’s actually not all that special. It’s good, but it’s not one of the better X-Men stories of the time. It is the best Alpha Flight story for a long time. The art’s good. A few bits here and there that didn’t really work for me, but whatever. All in all, this story was enjoyable, but not overly memorable.