With the various players in place following Guardians of the Galaxy #12, this issue lights the fuse on the storyline, as the characters spring into action. It opens as the titular trial continues, only to be interrupted by J-Son, king of Spartax and father of Guardian leader Star-Lord, who wisely makes the observation plenty of readers already have: that the Jean Grey on trial in this story hasn’t yet committed the crimes of which she’s accused. While seemingly a benevolent action, as it calls a temporary halt to the trial, there are hints that J-Son’s motivations are less than genuine. Meanwhile, the combined X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy and Starjammers land on the planet to rescue Jean (following a pretty great sequence featuring Guardian member Angela), only to come face-to-face with the Shi’ar Imperial Guard.
Two things help elevate this issue above standard “penultimate issue of the crossover” fare. First, Bendis and Immonen do a remarkable job of giving each of the many characters spread across the two main teams at least a moment or two to stand out, either through a line of dialogue, their body language, or action. The way X-23 casually confirms she can track Jean and doesn’t need a bodyguard, Gamora’s appreciation of Angela’s skills, Cyclops’ steely determination in the face of the immensely-powerful Gladiator, everyone gets a moment, however brief or subtle, to shine, which is remarkable for a single issue crammed with so many characters (the Starjammers, granted, don’t get the same treatment – Corsair aside – but then, this is a Guardians of the Galaxy/X-Men crossover – the Starjammers are firmly in guest star territory).
Secondly, this chapter of the crossover finally allows the title character some level of agency. Jean Grey has spent most of this storyline a captive of the Shi’ar, forced to watch in mounting horror and sadness as the actions of her future self are shown and discussed in front of her. This issue, spurned on by some of J-Son’s comments, she acts on her own behalf, and, in the process, sets up a relatively quiet but nonetheless effective cliffhanger for the story’s final chapter.
Bendis, Immonen, and Pichelli have one more issue to stick the landing on this crossover, but after this fun and action-packed issue that both progresses the plot and allows for characterization, they’re in a good position to finish the story off well.
In his “defense” of Jean, J-Son mentions the Shi’ar having wiped out the entire Grey genetic line (in an effort to prevent the Phoenix Force from bonding with any Grey), which occurred in the 2006 storyline “End of Greys” that ran in Uncanny X-Men #466-471. It’s a relatively deep cut from X-Men history, as stories from that era aren’t referenced too often, but definitely something worth mentioning here in this story. Kudos to Bendis for remembering it, though a footnote to those issues would have been nice. But of course, comics these days don’t use footnotes anymore.