I've previously mentioned that one metric for assessing "Secret Wars" tie-in series is whether they portray a realistic future of a previous event. Burnham and Culver definitely accomplish that here. Even better, they also satisfy another metric, using the "Secret Wars" setting as an excuse to kill off some major characters, maximizing the issue's impact.
We learn that Cassandra and Jean were both reading Professor X's mind when he shot himself all those years ago. As a result, Jean "died" and formed the Phoenix Egg that we've already seen in previous issues. However, it also meant that Cassandra and Charles' consciousnesses joined hers in the Egg. The twins battled for control for years of Jean's mind for years until Cassandra finally won. As we saw last issue, Charles then took control of Quentin's dead body to try to warn the X-Men.
In this issue, Cassandra has taken over some of Magento's students, and the X-Men and the remaining students have to hold off her army while Charles tries to defeat her. However, as we've seen, the X-Men aren't as strong as they used to be, and Burnham and Culver use some of the Professor's cheesiest lines to show that he's not really in touch with this reality. ("Hold the line, my X-Men, while I fight this battle on the psychic plane!") "Jean" kills Scott when he tries to connect with her telepathically, Martha quickly takes out Glob Herman, Emma allows Sooraya to kill her as she grieves for Scott, Angela and Beak's kids are implied to have killed them (since they can't muster the will to fight them), the Stepford Cuckoos kill Hank, and Basilisk kills himself when he tries to kill Ernst. It's a pretty efficient slaughter.
In the end, Logan convinces Charles to possess him, creating Weapon X. It's Logan that gets to Jean's consciousness (since, unlike Scott, he still loved her), and they kill each other, ending Cassandra and Charles' lives as well. In the end, it's seemingly revealed that the entire sequence of events was part of Xorn's plans to balance the cosmic scales. (We seem him not wearing his helmet, with the Phoenix effect serving as his head.)
For me, the best part of this issue was the trolling of Charles' self-centered recklessness and Scott's eye-rolling earnestness. It makes you realize just how better off the X-Men are without them. (Sacrilege, I know.) The ending is a little ambiguous, but, in a way, the authors are (good-naturedly) trolling Morrison in leaving it that way. After all, does anyone really know anything about Xorn? Is it surprising that he (and his origin and powers) are again an enigma here?
If I were Grant Morrison, I'd be really happy with this story. I wasn't into the original version of it and this series took me a while to like. But, the slow burn was worth it, because I think it's one of the more solid "Secret Wars" tie-in series by the end.
**** (four of five stars)