The Dark Phoenix Saga!
The Uncanny X-Men #132 And Hellfire Is Their Name!
Classic X-Men #38 Strangers On A Lift
The back up story is passable but one I could have done without. It’s trying to hard to be Hitchcockian, Alison making her way in an elevator with flickering power, and then through a parking garage all the while she’s afraid for her life because of a rather large and creepy man (who looks a bit like Alfred Hitchcock) poses as the elevator operator but in reality he turns out to be a filmmaker who is using this idea of terrorizing women as a way of studying the process of fear for a film that he’s making. The main issue has the X-Men going after The Hellfire Club in full force. First the team visits Angel (who is still dating Candy Southern) to learn what they can about the Hellfire Club since both Warren and Candy are members. Charles is left behind at Angel’s home and he doesn’t like it, especially considering he can’t create a psychic link between himself and the X-Men like he used to. Kurt and Logan take to the sewers underneath the Hellfire Club in an attempt to sneak into the building as well as create a future distraction if it is needed. Piotr, Ororo, Jean and Scott go in through the front posing as party guests. It doesn’t take Jean long to fall under Jason Wyngarde’s sway and get drawn even further into this alternate past life that he has created for her. Jean has now fully fallen under his power and takes the title The Black Queen and joins The Inner Circle to take down the X-Men. For the first time we see the Inner Circle (almost) in full force with Harry Leland as the Black Bishop, Donald Pierce as the White Bishop, Sebastian Shaw as the Black King and Jason Wyngarde who officially doesn’t have a title. We also see Shaw’s personal aide and while she’s not named in this issue it is wildly accepted that this is the first canonical appearance of Tessa. Kitty is nowhere to be seen so I assume that she was left at her parents until they officially say that she can join the school. One thing I did find odd was despite the fact that the Inner Circle knows all of the X-Men’s secret identities it is a little odd that they didn’t go with Warren (who had already publically revealed that he is Angel) and Candy considering they are both legacy members even though they aren’t active participants.
The Uncanny X-Men #133 Wolverine: Alone!
Classic X-Men #39 Brigg’s Revenge
The back up story clearly takes place before the whole Dark Phoenix Saga because Ororo says that Jean is at the mansion. The whole story was kind of out of character Ororo is in the city and runs into a man who is also a mutant (although at the time she doesn’t know that.) He tries to make contact with her but she blows him off for a better looking man, this sets off Billy – the man following her, and he goes back to the mansion with her and fights Ororo, Logan and Piotr forcing Ororo to choose which one of them dies. She does struggle with this but ultimately she chooses Logan because she thinks he has a better chance of survival than Piotr. Ororo being shallow is out of character and it feels like they did that on purpose to force the aspect of her learning her lesson not to judge people on everyone. Umm… where to start with the main issue here… basically Kurt, Scott, Ororo have all been kidnapped, Jean has been corrupted and is now the Black Queen (I still have no idea why ‘evil’ Jean has a mole on her face;) and Logan is the only one left and he begins to battle his way to his friends. Scott uses his psychic bond with Jean (that was established off panel last issue) to travel to the astral plane to try to reach Jean. Mastermind/Wyngarde is waiting for him though and the two of them quickly enter into an old fashioned sword fight. Scott holds his own for a while but is ultimately defeated by Wyngarde and his astral form is killed. The issue ends with Logan still trying to reach the X-Men, Jean is still evil and Scott is laying on the floor not breathing. We do see a little bit of Moira and Sean on Muir Isle and Moira is none too happy with the results of the tests Jean recently took turned out, and we also see Charles struggle with the fact that he still cannot connect with the X-Men.
The Uncanny X-Men #134 Too Late, The Heroes!
Classic X-Men #40 Fundamental Imbalance
We have yet another back up story that basically isn’t required at all. There is no clear timeframe this story fits in – it could be before The Dark Phoenix Saga or it could happen afterwards. Kurt is out in the city and his mini Cerebro device leads him to a crippled young girl who Kurt believes has mutant abilities similar to his own (only without the fur and teleportation.) Kurt is drawn in by street performers because it reminds him of his time in the circus. This is a little out of place because he speaks of his foster brother’s death caused a rift between himself and his foster mother which led to him leaving the circus. This is odd because it has been established that Kurt left because the new owner forced him to work in the freak show and pulled him off of his high wire act. It’s odd because this story references a retcon that hasn’t even happened yet (but it will soon.) The main issue shows us the final showdown between the X-Men and The Inner Circle. Scott has survived his death on the astral plane and Jean watching Scott die ended up having the opposite effect than what Wyngarde wanted. He intended for Scott’s death to sever the last tie to humanity that Jean had, instead it only broke the bond he had developed with her. Scott frees the other X-Men and they all have at it. Jean faces off against Wyngarde and shows him the full power of The Phoenix Force which leaves him shattered (possibly beyond repair) but that is unknown to the team at the time. The X-Men escape and on the return back to Angel’s home Jean ends up losing total control of The Phoenix Force and becomes Dark Phoenix – uttering the same words she did when she first became Phoenix. Beast is in the Avengers mansion and gets a police call saying that the X-Men have attacked the Hellfire Club, he decides to delete that message and take care of the situation himself.
The Uncanny X-Men #135 Dark Phoenix
Classic X-Men #41 Little Boy, Lost!
Well I did all the other issues starting with the back up story so I might as well do it for this issue too. We get to see a bit of Scott’s history in the orphanage he grew up in. We see Scott struggle with nightmares of his parents ‘death’ and we meet Dr. Robyn Hanover who is desperately trying to reach out to Scott. We meet the orphanage’s bully Toby who is picking on a young kid named Nate. Scott steps in several times to save Nate and after the last time we see Toby at night visited by Mr. Sinister (so yet another first appearance before the actual first appearance.) The next day Toby is on the roof of the orphanage and Nate is down below telling Scott that it would be a big deal if Toby jumps and dies. This doesn’t go over well with Scott and he tries and fails to save Toby. Dr. Hanover tries to comfort Scott but is distracted by this frightening feeling she gets when Nate stares her down at the end of the issue. The main issue… man it’s getting real. We see Silver Surfer for the first time in these pages, he feels drawn to Dark Phoenix when they briefly encounter each other. Mr. Fantastic, the Thing, Spider-Man and Dr. Strange all briefly show up, we see the first appearance of Senator Robert Kelly (which is kind of odd that it took this long to see him considering that the party at the Hellfire Club in the past few issues was for him, he had been named before but this is the first time we actually see him.) We see Dr. Corbeau, Lilandra, Araki all again, and we see Sebastian Shaw suggest to Senator Kelly that he bring back the Sentinel program. The X-Men, and Hank try their best to calm Jean down but she takes them out one by one before taking off deep into space. She creates a stargate of her very own which shunts her closer to the Shi-ar Empire, only it takes more of her energy than she expected and she replenishes it by devouring an entire star which leads to the death and destruction of over five billion people and the entire D’Bari planet. Lilandra reveals that she had always feared that something like this would happen with The Phoenix and now she has to figure out a way to deal with it, while back on Earth Scott can feel Jean’s joy at the destruction of D’Bari and how ‘hungry’ she is. So much is going on with this whole storyline it’s hard to comment on the individual issues but man this was probably my favorite storyline I’ve read so far, and I’m not even halfway through the arch!
The Uncanny X-Men #132 And Hellfire Is Their Name!: A
Classic X-Men #38 Strangers On A Lift: D
The Uncanny X-Men #133 Wolverine: Alone!: A
Classic X-Men #39 Brigg’s Revenge: D
The Uncanny X-Men #134 Too Late, The Heroes!: A
Classic X-Men #40 Fundamental Imbalance: F
The Uncanny X-Men #135 Dark Phoenix: A
Classic X-Men #41 Little Boy, Lost!: C