The Dark Phoenix Saga!
Uncanny X-Men Annual #4 Nightcrawler’s Inferno
Well this issue borrows heavily from La Divina Commedia, so it’s basically Dante’s Inferno X-Men style. We do get some things cleared up here – not that they needed being cleared up, because by this point things that I’m aware of haven’t yet happened. Kurt celebrates his 21st birthday which is odd because the new team is supposed to be older age wise than the first team and Jean was 24, yet Kurt is 21? Anyway this issue takes place directly after Scott leaves the team so it’s still part of The Dark Phoenix Saga. Kitty is struggling to find her place at the Institute – so that only helps to ‘date’ this story. We see Margali Szardos for the first time and learn of ‘The Winding Way’ both of which play larger roles much farther down the line. We learn that Margali had a biological son Stefan and daughter Jimaine in addition to taking in Kurt as a baby. Stefan had become corrupt and in a heated battle with Kurt Stefan ended up breaking his neck and Kurt takes the blame for his death. We find out that all of this happens prior to Charles finding Kurt, and that’s why the villagers were chasing Kurt. It turns out that Jimaine is actually Amanda Sefton – the girl Kurt has been dating. They explain the reason why Kurt couldn’t recognize her was because she had used a spell to mask her identity. One thing that isn’t explained though is why Charles couldn’t sense that Amanda wasn’t who she had claimed to be. Granted he didn’t have much interaction with her (or any on panel at all) but Jean did, she should have been able to tell even without the additional power of Phoenix. Another thing that seems odd is that Margali mentions finding a newborn Kurt who was laying next to his dying biological mother.. granted this gets retconned out when they reveal that Mystique is Kurt’s mother.
What If? #27 What If The Phoenix Had Not Died?
Well this is interesting, mostly because part of this ‘What If’ stems from the original end to The Dark Phoenix Saga in which Jean doesn’t commit suicide but instead is basically lobotomized by the Shi-ar. Jean stays with the X-Men, struggling with her place within the team (so is Kitty, who since Jean is alive Ororo has a friendship with her instead of her friendship with Kitty) eventually becoming the person who runs the danger room programs and sort of acts as the teams pilot. The team goes off to battle Galactus and his herald Terrax the Tamer. Jean witnesses Scott get hurt and that unleashes Phoenix yet again. She depowers Terrax and is offered the position of Gelactus’ new herald she turns him down and the team returns to Earth. Jean struggles with her power and eventually ventures out into space and starts feeding off of asteroids eventually working her way up to a small star. Meanwhile Kitty has been spending all her time with Charles and the two form a close bond – especially when Charles begins to suffer bouts of illness, during a monitoring exercise Kitty and Charles watch Jean feed off of the star and kitty confronts Phoenix when she returns to Earth. This is where it all goes to hell… Phoenix quickly turns to Dark Phoenix when confronted with what just happened and incinerates Kitty in front of the X-Men’s eyes. Next Dark Phoenix destroys Charles’ mind leaving his body nothing but a vegetable, she telekinetically crushes Warren’s skull, buries Ororo alive, crushes Bobby, sets Kurt on fire, uses Logan’s claws to puncture Piotr’s heart and then burns Logan to death, she also incinerates Lorna, she uses Scott’s powers to kill Alex. Finally she uses her powers to kill Scott but that proves too much for Jean and she regains control over Phoenix and in her grief destroys the entire world.
What If? #33 What If The Phoenix Had Not Died?
This ‘what if’ also comes from the original plot of Phoenix not committing suicide but instead had been lobotomized. However unlike the story before this one we see yet another scenario. This time Scott stays with the X-Men, only he divides his time with his new wife Jean. Jean hasn’t been doing well at all, she feels as if part of her soul had been ripped from her and relives the time she ate a star leading to the deaths of over five billion people. This leads Jean to a suicide attempt that fails, partly because Scott stops her and partly because Magneto crashes their honeymoon and takes Jean to Asteroid M. He tempts Jean with the offer to bring back her powers as Phoenix. While the X-Men battle Magneto Jean almost gives in to temptation but destroys his machine. Later back on Earth Jean returns to the mansion only to find it empty, and shortly after she is confronted by Mastermind who wants his revenge on Jean. Only it’s not Mastermind it is in fact the Shadow King who has sensed that The Phoenix Force will be more than enough to sustain him. He kills Jean and takes her newborn daughter Rachel. The physical death of Jean’s body leads her to discover that she isn’t Jean at all; she is in fact Phoenix and always has been. She goes to the underwater location where she had stored the real Jean’s body. Afraid that Phoenix will lose Scott forever she simply wishes that she didn’t exist and Jean dies.
What If? #34 What If Phoenix Rose Again?
While this story basically picks up right where the last issue left off it could also stand as a singular issue given the basis of this series. Phoenix battles Shadow King who now possesses an aged version of her daughter Rachel who also contains the Phoenix Force. Phoenix finds that her own ability cannot work against her daughter because she is a ‘chosen heir.’ Phoenix changes her tactics and focuses strictly on Shadow King and expels him from Rachel’s body. After de-aging Rachel Phoenix finds that Mastermind has killed himself rather than have to fight Phoenix again. Phoenix and Rachel return to the mansion only to be surprised by all the X-Men, she lies to Scott about what happened. Phoenix struggles to be as human as possible; Robert Kelly is elected president and begins his anti-mutant hysteria. Phoenix mind wipes the president and forces him to take a pro-mutant stance. Shortly after Kelly is assassinated on live TV, this leads to the reinstatement of the Sentinels who have been programmed to kill all super heroes – mutant or not. While the super powered population shrinks Rachel begins to have memories of what happened when she was possessed by the Shadow King and had to fight her mother and tells Logan about it. Logan goes to confront ‘Jean’ and after becoming enraged Phoenix reveals her true self. It turns out this was all a set up between Scott and Logan and after being ‘outted’ Phoenix leaves seemingly for good. The mansion becomes a haven for all mutants while the world is falling apart. The Sentinels soon ambush the mansion and kill several mutants in the process, after going on the run Phoenix arrives yet again and works out a plan where she will destroy all of the Sentinels with the X-Men’s help. Once destroyed Phoenix asks Destiny what her possible futures hold, once Destiny reveals that all of the paths of Phoenix’s future lead to death and destruction Phoenix leaves for the deep end of space wondering if it would be best if she had just allowed Jean to die.
Marvel Treasury Edition #27 Joyride Into Jeopardy!
The final leg of this journey is a brief back up feature in the Marvel Treasury Edition showing Warren just before he rejoins the X-Men. This isn’t really anything major, and it’s not supposed to be. He’s flying around and is attacked by a man who lost everything he had once Warren’s father shut down his company. It’s just a quick battle, there’s not room for much of anything considering it is only six pages long so before you can even get really into it the story is over. While I probably never will read this particular story again I wouldn’t be opposed to them going back and telling an extended version of this tale. With it being as short as it is it suffers from of a case of ‘what it lacks in plot it makes up for in lack of plot;’ this could easily be fixed by fleshing it out and making it a bit longer. Personally I wouldn't have chosen to close out this storyline with this particular story, but it is the final time we see Warren before he rejoins the X-Men so this is the only place that it would have fit.
Uncanny X-Men Annual #4 Nightcrawler’s Inferno: B
What If? #27 What If The Phoenix Had Not Died?: A
What If? #33 What If The Phoenix Had Not Died?: A
What If? #34 What If Phoenix Rose Again?: A
Marvel Treasury Edition #27 Joyride Into Jeopardy!: C