Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chronological X-Men - The Dark Phoenix Saga Part 2 Review

The Dark Phoenix Saga!

The Uncanny X-Men #136 Child of Light and Darkness!
Classic X-Men #42 When Dreams Are Dust

There are so few back stories left for this set so I’ll just start with this one and get it out of the way. We have the continuing adventures of Scott in the orphanage – Scott, Robyn Hanover and Mr. Sinister (as himself, Administrator Pearson and Nate) are all back and we meet two of Robyn’s friends: Rick and Trish Bogart. Robyn takes Scott to a nearby airfield to watch a show only it ends badly when Scott starts to have flashes of what happened to him as a young child. Rick and Trish want to adopt Scott, but they also want to have him find any living family connections he might have – naturally Mr. Sinister has them killed – which leads Scott to believe that they just abandoned him. After a confrontation with Sinister Robyn begins to act differently; the same night Scott has a nightmare and sort of runs into Charles and Jean. This is just a continuation of the retcon where Charles met Jean as a young child and bound her telepathic powers because she couldn’t control them. So with this we get to see Charles try to teach Jean how to use her powers. The main story shows Lilandra and her council trying to decide what they will do about Phoenix now that she has turned evil. Jean returns to Earth and to her childhood home where she struggles with what she has done and how difficult it is for her to feel her parents’ emotions. We meet Jean’s sister Sarah Grey and learn that she has two children. Beast creates a device that he thinks can contain Jean’s powers long enough for them to stop her. A battle on the Grey’s lawn leads to Logan almost killing Jean after she destroys Hank’s device but he falters. Charles shows up (thanks to Warren) and battles Jean on the astral plane – with Jean’s help the two of them are able to separate Jean’s mind from The Phoenix Force and leave her depowered to her Marvel Girl level of abilities. Just as the battle ends the X-Men vanish in a cloud of light, leaving Jean’s family to wonder if their daughter is even alive. The only real problem I had with this issue was the fact that Warren just suddenly appeared, granted Charles had to be there but Warren was kind of pointless.

The Uncanny X-Men #137 The Fate of The Phoenix!
Classic X-Men #43 Flights of Angels

Umm there’s a whole lot going on here and for the first time we meet The Watcher, The Recorder, R’kill (Skrull Empress) and The Supreme Intelligence of the Kree. Since Lilandra has become ruler the Imperial Guard’s line up has changed a bit, it now consists of: Earthquake, Gladiator, Hussar, Manta, Oracle, Smasher, Starbolt, and WarStar (C’cll and B’nee.) But given the fact that there was so much going on the last time we saw the Imperial Guard it’s possible that they were always members and the ‘new’ people are just now being featured. Charles requests a duel between the Shi-ar and the X-Men to determine the fate of Jean Grey. If the X-Men win Jean goes free, if the Imperial Guard win Jean belongs to the Shi-ar and her fate is up to them. The team is allowed one night to rest before their battle and all are left to wonder if fighting for Jean’s life is the right thing to do. The next day the X-Men (Hank and Warren included) and the Imperial Guard are transported to the moon for their battle. One by one the X-Men fall until Jean and Scott are the only ones left. Scott is wounded and Jean freaks out once again unleashing the Phoenix Force. Ultimately Jean ends up using the X-Men to battle her enough to keep her power from increasing and when there’s just a fraction of it left she triggers an ancient weapon on the moon which shoots and kills her effectively allowing Jean to commit suicide. I like this issue but it just feels off – Jean had this planned out all along? So she knew exactly how the X-Men would break up, that all of them would fall, that Scott would get hurt, that Phoenix would rise again, that the X-Men would then reappear and successfully fight her off long enough to use up all of her newly returned and weakened powers, beat her back enough so that she can’t kill them, yet is strong enough to use her powers to set off a weapon that was placed on the moon long ago – that no one knew was there – and that the weapon would be strong enough to kill her? Umm… since when can Jean predict the future? The back up feature shows Jean and a construction worker that turns out to be none other than Death himself. He tells her that everything happened was pre-ordained and that Jean and The Phoenix Force (this is the first time it’s called that) were always one and the same and that Jean always was and always will be both life and death. Jean reflects on her life and relives the death of her childhood friend Annie Richardson – witnessing that is what triggered her powers to begin with, but that hasn’t officially been established as of yet. We see Jean in a white version of the Phoenix costume – which isn’t something that’s dealt with again until well into the 2000s. And we also see The Phoenix Force returning to Earth looking for Jean, and instead finding something else – Madelyne Pryor in a container in Mr. Sinister’s lab and breathes life into her. I love the back up story because it ties in Madelyne and she’s always been in my top three favorite X-Men related characters of all time.

The Uncanny X-Men #138 Elegy
Classic X-Men #44 Her First and Last

Well okay, a few things to note here…. Jean’s tombstone shows that she was born in 1956 – she’s 24 when she died but other than that it’s hard to figure things out because she’s died and come back so many times it’s almost impossible to tell how old she is. The story is basically a giant recap of every issue of the X-Men so far – all told through Scott’s perspective while everyone is at Jean’s funeral. They did leave out White Queen’s image from the flash backs but we get a new character in the way of Sara’s husband Paul Bailey. The issue ends with Scott leaving the X-Men and Kitty sitting on the doorsteps of the mansion ready to start her new life. The back up feature in Classic is actually the very last back up story within the series. This time they focus on Rogue growing up and Mystique and Destiny raising her. Rogue is going through all of her teenage angst and desperately wanting to be normal and wanting to kiss somebody. The feature was alright for what it was, but to close out the features with that story it doesn’t seem appropriate especially when it follows the issue with Jean having conversations with Death.

Phoenix: The Untold Story #1 The Fate Of The Phoenix!

Remember when I said that the end of The Dark Phoenix Saga didn’t really make that much sense? Well it turns out there’s a reason why, Jean was never supposed to die! Originally the plan was to have the X-Men be defeated by the Imperial Guard only instead of the extra battle between Jean and the X-Men and jean’s suicide Lilandra returns everyone to her ship and uses her scientists to lobotomize Jean and completely alter her brain functions so she can no longer even access her powers at all. Jean was then going to stay with the X-Men and deal with the fact that she can no longer use any of her powers and has to live with the fact that she murdered over five billion people. Jean would eventually be taken by Magneto who would offer to restore her powers and Jean would once again be tempted by The Phoenix Force. There were other ideas too but none of them ever got more established than this one. The editors thought it was too easy to have Jean not have to suffer any consequences for her actions so instead they opted to let her die a hero rather than live as a victim. I don’t know where I stand with this one because I’ve always liked Madelyne a lot more than Jean so I wouldn’t have liked the idea of Jean living because everything that would have happened with her (Inferno, becoming the Goblin Queen, having Nate … etc) would have been used for Jean once she became corrupted once more by The Phoenix Force. However I don’t like the idea of Jean dying because she keeps coming back, it gets used as a plot device too frequently. They write themselves into a corner, Jean dies, they mess up a storyline, Jean dies, they can completely and utterly trash her character… well it’s okay Jean dies.

The Uncanny X-Men #136 Child of Light and Darkness!: A
Classic X-Men #42 When Dreams Are Dust: C
The Uncanny X-Men #137 The Fate of The Phoenix!: B
Classic X-Men #43 Flights of Angels: A
The Uncanny X-Men #138 Elegy: B
Classic X-Men #44 Her First and Last: D
Phoenix: The Untold Story #1 The Fate Of The Phoenix!: A

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