In the forward, Fabian Nicieza described how exciting, but also difficult, it was to produce this 12-Issue Crossover event -- all in the wake of the departure of Jim Lee and other Image Co-Founders. This is pretty much a road-map for what the X-Men became for the next decade or so - with seeds of ideas lasting for a long, long time. Nicieza doesn't sound completely elated with the results; he likes it -- but, given the pressures of such a large project in such a short amount of time, he also looks back at things he didn't like about the series.
For me, I'm looking back at the series through they eyes of my younger self - probably around age 10 or 11. The X-Men Cartoon show helped introduce me to Marvel's Merry Mutants - but the comics, besides helping me learn to read better, also introduced me to the much wider world of the X-Men. The cast was much bigger, spanning 3 different teams of mutants -- X-Men, X-Factor, and X-Force. I didn't know who half of these characters where - but that unknown element always urged me on to read more, discover more - to this day, when I re-read this series, I'll always see something new that I previously didn't understand before.
More importantly, the series was just EPIC! It begins with nothing short of an assassination attempt, seemingly, by X-Force leader Cable! Cable, the enigmatic soldier, was actually center stage in this series - as we slowly learn that he's the time-lost child of Scott Summers and Jean Grey. To confuse matters even further - Cable had a cloned twin, named Stryfe, who bore the same face and powers of Cable. It's in the guise of his better half that Stryfe shot Xavier - leading to a massive manhunt for members of X-Force.
So many wonderful things where portrayed in this series. Besides Xavier's life hanging in the balance - the mix-up of all the different teams, characters, and even villains really wowed my young mind.
The art, also, was something I absolutely adored -- the likes of Brandon Peterson, Jae Lee, Andy Kubert, and Greg Capullo made each issue unique and special. Jim Lee and the other Image co-founders might have taken away much of Marvel's talent roster, at the time; but these other artist more than stepped in to fill their shoes. (All of them going on to have tremendous success in the intervening years.)
Archangel got a lot of attention, because of Apocalypse's appearance in the title. Archangel had a lot to be angry about, but it really showed during the series - seeing as he had to restrain himself, because Apocalypse turned into an unlikely ally, in the quest to save Xavier's life.
What I liked about Cable's story, during the course of this mini-series, is that it wasn't ever stated plainly, who or what he is. Some of that confusion is intentional -- Stryfe, for example, believes he's the original son of Scott Summers and Jean Grey, and not a clone like he turned out to be. Its not spelled out, which left a lot of mystery for the X-Titles afterwords, and made the crossover very re-readable.
Cable, also, became quite famous for piling up the artillery.
Scott and Jean Grey are kidnapped by Stryfe, and have to fight to save themselves from him. This was before the characters got married - so it was good to see them paired up like this. (They eventually got married in X-Men issue #30) They manage to be able to fight alongside their son, against Stryfe, in the final battle as well.
Stryfe's defining act, though, was releasing the Legacy Virus on the world - a storyline that lasted for nearly a decade. The Legacy Virus is basically mutant AIDs, and kills some prominent mutant characters. This is another element that isn't clearly spelled out, in the ending of the series, but it became a defining storyline for the X-Men to deal with.
The series epilogue had a wonderful issue where Xavier, as a side effect of the cure he received, regains the ability to walk for a day. Jubilee shows him how to roller-blade, before once again loosing the ability to walk.
I don't want to forget to mention the trading cards - included with each issue - that really made collecting the mini series a little bit more fun!
You can find the book on sale, on Amazon, for $35. It's well worth it; though I'm really happy to have run into it for $15. (Sorry; it's a non-internet, local deal I ran into)