X-Men Unlimited #37 (2002)

First and foremost: Excellent cover.

Second: This is EXACTLY the kind of story that belongs in an anthology.  It has an unusual creative team—including several who don’t usually work with X-Men—and an unusually LARGE creative team, with Kaare Andrews writing it and half a dozen artists drawing it.  It is not clearly placed in continuity and doesn’t “matter.” 

And it’s fantastic.

Kitty Pryde misses Illyana, and the power of her longing finds a local farmer who is in the process of a Pinocchio-type spell that animates a scarecrow into a real boy who can walk across realities.  The conjurer’s own child was killed by a mutant, and so he sold his soul to Mephisto to create the scarecrow, who he names Hutch, that will go across realities to kill mutants. 

Mutants from all kinds of timelines emerge to help the X-Men stop Hutch.  The other-reality characters are each drawn by a different artist with a distinctive, very un-marvel style.  Guys like Mike Kunkel, Eisner-winning creator of Herobear and the Kid, and the always wonderful Skottie Young.

Then comes the twist: An alternate Illyana appears and wants to keep Hutch alive because he is HER son—and she is willing to allow other worlds to be destroyed to save his life.

That’s the basic story. There are more details, but above is the core of it.  It’s funny and poignant and even lets us see some characters from the classic Kitty’s Fairy Tale, another callback to her relationship with Illyana.

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