Like the rest of this (TWELVE PARTS!! Wow!) storyline, the finale to The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire felt a bit disjointed and oddly paced. That being said, I think that this issue, combined with the previous issue (which was a strong action-packed issue), gave a reasonably appealing conclusion to this storyline.
One of the biggest things that jumped out at me upon reading this issue was how strange it was to see the resolution to a twelve-part story be that, well, there was no resolution. There is no "ending," but rather just a new status quo that will presumably show up in future stories. There is nothing wrong with that, per se, but it does seem a bit odd when you devote that many issues to a story and get basically, for more than half of the cast of the story, "To Be Continued...eventually."
Writer Ed Brubaker does a great job, though, of picking WHICH part of the cast actually has a sort of resolution. It is rare to see a writer have an approach of "Okay, I want to keep these five and get rid of those five" and have it turn out in the comic as though the idea was a natural aspect of the story, rather than the writer deciding who he wanted to write. In the age of editorially driven stories, it is often quite a pain to explain why certain things occur (To wit, Ron Marz having Donna Troy taken from Green Lantern during Byrne's Wonder Woman run, so he suddenly had to write her out of the book out of nowhere) without it appearing so blatant that it is happening for a reason OUTSIDE the story. I even have a term for it (coincidentally enough, the term is "outside writing"). Here, Brubaker manages to give the appearance as though it was simply a twist of fate that the X-Men were separated the way they got separated in the comic. It was really clever work on Brubaker's part.
The artwork by Billy Tan certainly wasn't GOOD, but it got the job done, more or less (okay, some times it just flat out didn't even "get the job done," like in a few of the many action scenes). Still, this book will be better off with the change in art team starting next issue.
The choice of character death in the issue was one of the stronger choices, in that it is one of those picks where, after it occurs, you think back, "Wow, yeah, that's the only logical choice." Except, of course, for big sword Shi'ar guy. He is ALWAYS the logical choice to kill off, but since he is such a recent creation, I can't begrudge Brubaker allowing him to live for awhile (at least let a FUTURE writer kill him off).
Speaking of editorially driven stuff, it is amusing to note that Brubaker is technically reversing his OWN story with his Professor X bit, but of course, it most likely was not in Brubaker's hands to remove Professor X's powers, but simply something he was told happened. Still, it's amusing to see him basically reverse HIMSELF in this issue.
The Vulcan/Havok stuff was odd - at first, it appeared as though we got the usual "the brothers powers don't work against each other" routine (which is lame), but then it seemed like they DID work against each other - or something like that. Anyone care to explain that?
In any event, I enjoy the characters that Brubaker decided to bring back with him and I think the new status quo for the characters left in space is a strong one. The last sentence from the book is also an effective sound bite.
Overall, though, middling artwork by Billy Tan and a story that seemed more designed to give this storyline a decent ending than to tell an actual story combines to form an issue that I do not recommend. It is a decent issue, and it gives the story a decent ending, but I don't think "decent" is good enough.
I do have hope that the next storyline is better. This IS Ed Brubaker we're talking about here, the guy can obviously write!!