This begins the tragic tale of a young woman’s fall from grace- Phoenix Rising.
Classic X-Men #5 Prison of the Heart
(The Uncanny)X-Men #97 My Brother, My Enemy!
I’m going to start with the back up story here since it’s really just a filler thing and doesn’t serve any real point in the whole overall Phoenix arch. It’s basically just the story of what Piotr does on his ‘day off’ while he’s missing Russia. He ends up running into some men who are trying to kidnap a young woman and he saves her from them, the two of them end up growing close due to their connections to Russia and both of them being artists (Anya is a ballerina and Pitor is an artist.) The men, who are working for Anya’s father in an attempt to bring her back to Russia attack Anya and Pitor again and he is forced to use his powers in front of her. Anya doesn’t take it well at all and the pair of them end up going their separate ways. Now for the main story, a whole lot is going on here…. Charles is suffering from nightmares of a war in space and has visions of people in bug-like space suits; Eric the Red is back, only it’s a different Eric he attacks and brainwashes Alex and Lorna (who is now going by the codename Polaris, and has learned how to use her powers to fly,) and is using them to attack Charles before his plane takes off. The issue ends with Dr. Lang having watched all of the events unfold on his video screen, only to further show us that someone is watching Lang watch the X-Men. So not only do we have the first appearances of the Shi-ar Empire but we also have Lorna being brainwashed by someone she thought was Scott, so this chips away yet one more piece of Lorna’s soon to be fragile mental state.
Classic X-Men #6 A Love Story
(The Uncanny)X-Men #98 Merry Christmas, X-Men…
Starting yet again with the backup feature in Classic X-Men but this time it will be quick since the story contains barely more than 40 words, if that much. The whole thing is just Jean going about her normal routine as she prepares for a night out with her friends that will end (if all goes according to plan) with a romantic date with Scott. We see the return of the Sentinels, this time Steven Lang designed them, Logan calls Jean ‘Red’ for the first time and the X-Men learn that Logan’s claws come out of his body and are attached to him. We see the first appearance of Amanda Sefton (one step closer to Magik!!! Woot!) and Elizabeth “Betsy” Wilford (I’ll bet anything she’ll be long gone by the time we get to the much more recognizable Betsy.) We see Charles go to Dr. Peter Corbeau, an old friend of his who has had experience with space travel to see if he can be of any help in identifying the images from Charles’ dreams. The additional pages – which I wouldn’t exactly consider them to be a retcon since the original issues and the ‘reprint’ with additional stories and pages were both written by Chris Claremont, so I guess they’re almost like ‘deleted scenes’ more than a retcon… anyway… We get our first peek at The Hellfire Club and a few of its members: Edward “Ned” Buckman, Sebastian Shaw and Tessa. The story itself was good, and all huge epics like The Phoenix Saga have their high and low points so as pat of the big picture the story was alright, but it would have been a lot better if it were more self contained. The little cameos by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and even Nick Fury and Contessa Valentina were nice but not needed.
(The Uncanny)X-Men #99 Deathstar, Rising!
Classic X-Men #7 Out with the Old
The X-Men go off into space to save Charles, Jean, Logan and Sean from Steven Lang’s Sentinel space platform. We see the first appearance of Black Tom Cassidy and we get an interesting little scene with Ororo when she feels that she has ‘killed’ a Sentinel, it almost makes you think that she’s killed someone before. I did find it a little odd that while she was drifting through space she’s thinking about if she should go back to Africa in order to avoid the potential of having to kill someone or if she should stay with the X-Men. I just think it’s weird because it’s not what you think would be running through someone’s mind in that situation. The extra pages show us that Steven has been working with The Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle to use Project Armaggedon to isolate the X-Factor that turns people into mutants in order to give out mutant powers to whoever they see fit. In reality Steven and Lang are secretly using this as a way to systematically exterminate all mutants (Inner Circle members included.) The back up feature takes place right in the middle of the main story. Ned sends the Sentinels after Harry Leland and Emma Frost who have found and taken in the severely injured Mike Rossi and have learned the truth of Ned and Steven’s plans. We meet Lourdes Chantel, but she is quickly killed by a Sentinel which leads Sebestian, Tessa, Harry and Emma into action. Emma uses her powers to force Ned to kill all of the members of the Inner Circle, including Ned’s own ‘White Queen’ Paris Seville before he himself dies. Emma shows a rare moment of compassion (well rare at the time, much more common later on down the line) where she shuts off the portion of Lourdes mind that can feel pain so she can pass peacefully. With the Inner Circle and Lourdes dead Sebestian, Harry, Tessa and Emma step up and take control becoming the new Inner Circle and vowing that the Hellfire Club will make sure no other mutants become victims.
(The Uncanny)X-Men #100 Greater Love Hath No X-Man…
Classic X-Men #8 Phoenix
The X-Men’s epic battle in space concludes (for now) with the new breed of Sentinels – that actually look like the original X-Men destroyed and the whole crew try desperately to return to Earth in a damaged space ship in the middle of the largest solar flare to ever have occurred. The additional pages clear up the possibility that Jean might have murdered Steven by showing her pull him from the wreckage. I wish they would have used the extra pages to show how Scott was captured by Steven though, that was kind of odd to show him suddenly captured but no explanation as to why or how that had happened. The back up feature is where it’s at though and it’s a bit of a let down only because it takes away the surprise that Jean wasn’t really ‘Phoenix’ but put into a cocoon to heal. But other than that it was great to see Jean and The Phoenix Force come face to face for the first time and Jean’s actions to save the X-Men and willing to let herself die in the process. One thing I really liked was that as outlandish as it was event wise there was this moment just before Jean takes in the Phoenix Force where she’s talking about how she’ll die to save the X-Men and how important they are to the world and how much she loves Scott and then all of a sudden there’s this brief moment of selfishness where Jean whispers that she wants to live. That really rang true and I’m glad that they threw that in there, and as much as I hate the retcon of Jean not being Phoenix in my mind I like this idea I have where The Phoenix Force being both good and evil knew that it would corrupt Jean and a part of it wanted to spare her therefore it separated her. I don’t know, it makes sense in my head at least. The art though, wow that was creepy to go from page to page watching Jean’s body be slowly destroyed by the exposure to the radiation and it end with her body actually dead but Jean holding on with her mind refusing to leave the body until she knows her friends are safe.
Classic X-Men #5 Prison of the Heart: D
(The Uncanny)X-Men #97 My Brother, My Enemy!: A
Classic X-Men #6 A Love Story: D
(The Uncanny)X-Men #98 Merry Christmas, X-Men…: C
(The Uncanny)X-Men #99 Deathstar, Rising!: B
Classic X-Men #7 Out with the Old: A
(The Uncanny)X-Men #100 Greater Love Hath No X-Man…: A
Classic X-Men #8 Phoenix: A