Tribute the Third by Peter David
If there’s one thing that Marvel writers absolutely love to do, it’s write stories about people with super-human abilities dealing with the one thing even they cannot fight: death. It’s the plot of Jeph Loeb’s entire “Colors” series he did with artist Tim Sales (Spider-Man: Blue, Hulk: Gray and Daredevil: Yellow) as well as the plot to Wolverine/Gambit: Victims, which may as well have been called Wolverine: Brown.
In the early 90s annuals Peter David also did this with a series of short, ten-page vignettes that have been retroactively labelled “The Tribute Trilogy” (at least by me) that really acts as an early testing ground for this concept. Each story focused on an X-Man or X-Men secondary character as they deal with the loss of a loved one that they were close to.
“Tribute the Third” focuses on Mystique, whose close friend (and possible lover) Destiny was recently killed at the hands of Legion. Mystique is distraught and angry over the death of her friend, even more so when she realizes that Destiny herself had foreseen it and chosen not to tell her, instead choosing to leave a note telling Mystique to bring her aches to a certain place in the ocean, sprinkle them, and laugh.
Mystique doesn’t see what’s funny about this and is swallowed by bitterness as she waits on a ship to reach the right spot. When she releases the ashes as per Destiny’s request, a sudden breeze picks up and splashes them back into her face: one last prank from the woman she shared her life with, and she finally laughs for the first time since the untimely death.
Peter David is an amazing writer. This story not only has emotional weight and significance, it also pairs nicely with the short-story “The Killing Stroke” by Fabian Niceza in showing what happened to the members of Freedom Force that caused them to disband as the government’s super-team, paving the way for Havok, Polaris, and the rest of the second-generation X-Factor to take over in that role under David’s witty pen.