It is in this issue that the Shi’ar send their first squad of Death Commandos to eliminate the Grey bloodline, based on their belief that as long as descendants or blood relatives of Jean Grey are alive, the universe will always be in danger from the Phoenix Force.
Rachel Grey (or Summers, whichever you prefer, but this is after she took the Grey name) is at a family reunion with most (all?) of the living members of the Grey family, including other non-blood family and friends when the Death Commandos arrive. Immediately, Rachel sends a psychic message for help, which is received by Kitty Pryde, Psylocke and Nightcrawler. As the X-Men arrive to help their friend, they encounter the Shi’ar already in the process of killing the entire Grey family.
This issue is titled ’24 Seconds’, and is reminiscent of movies like ‘Nick of Time’, where all of the action takes place in real-time. Essentially, almost all of the Grey bloodline is wiped out in a 24-second span of time. This issue is fast and furious, and reads very quickly. While the action is the centerpiece, the story is powerful and lasting. This issue closes with Rachel being branded by the Shi’ar with a giant Phoenix 'deathmark’ on her back so that she will never be able to hide from them again if they should fail to eliminate her this time.
If you are a fan of Rachel, this is a powerful arc that forever changes her character and the trajectory that her personality will take in the years to follow, and this issue is the key part of the story.
It is fitting that as the writer that created Rachel way back during Days of Future Past, Claremont would end his run (his run ended a mere six issues after this one) with such a powerful, life-changing story for Rachel. While Claremont’s later stints on X-Men titles are often overlooked, this particular arc showcases that he still has many great X-Men tales to tell.
It is also interesting to go back and see how Chris Bachalo’s art has evolved over the years since this run on Uncanny, a book he is currently the artist on once again. Bachalo has always had a distinctive style, but it is much less developed here, and the line work is more muddled than it has become in more recent years. The stylistic tendencies are still very much identifiable, but with less grace and detail than you see in his current work.
The lasting effect of this arc was recently seen in ‘The Trial of Jean Grey’, a crossover between the All-New X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy, in which the Shi’ar kidnap the “original” Jean Grey from the All-New Charles Xavier School and put her on trial back on the Shi’ar homeworld for crimes against humanity. The crimes in question were that she would one day become the Phoenix and destroy billions of lives across the universe, a very ‘Minority Report’ way of viewing someone’s not-yet-committed actions as a crime.
If you enjoyed the recent ‘Trial of Jean Grey’, I would highly recommend going back and picking up this issue (along with Uncanny X-Men 466 and 468), as it is somewhat of a pre-cursor for the events that took place during the trial.