X-Men’s ‘Dark Phoenix Saga’ comics, explained

With X-Men: Dark Phoenix on the way, it’s time to revisit the source material. Written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by John Byrne, the Dark Phoenix saga remains one of the most iconic storylines in X-Men canon. We visualized a version of it in the much-maligned X-Men: The Last-place Stand in 2006, but Dark Phoenix looks like it may be closer to the comics, featuring an foreigner antagonist and a expedition into space.

Split into two parts, the story covers Jean Grey’s metamorphosi into the super-powerful Phoenix, and then her downfall once that ability becomes too strong to control.

The Phoenix Saga( Part 1)

If you only have time to read one half of the tale, you’re better off with part two, Dark Phoenix( 1980 ). The first half( Uncanny X-Men # 101 -1 08, 1976 -7 7) aspects a lot of dense, dialogue-heavy battle incidents that feel more out-of-date than the character-driven storytelling of later issues–although it still supports an important introduction to Jean Grey’s new powers.

These issues recognize Jean transform from one of the more “normal” X-Men into someone who could destroy the entire planet, reimagined with a vibrant new garb and flaming mane. John Byrne depicts the original Jean like she’s the sweet-hearted heroine of a 1970 s romance comic, while Phoenix exudes raw power, her face cast in darknes while her eyes glow blankly out of the page.

Uncanny X-Men #105/ Marvel

Partly thanks to the first X-Men movie trilogy, Jean Grey is now seen as one of Marvel’s most powerful mutants. Nonetheless, that wasn’t always the case. In her original iteration as Marvel Girl, she was the only female member of the X-Men–and writers didn’t ever know what to do with her. The Phoenix Saga changed that role forever, temporarily killing her off( twice) while presenting her strengths on a completely different scale. Uncanny X-Men # 101 kicks things off with Jean Grey sacrificing herself to save the rest of the team, assimilating the Phoenix Force in the process.

While Jean recovers from her quasi-death, we’re introduced to an foreigner culture called the Shi’ar, whose princess Lilandra forms a clairvoyant bail with Professor X. Fleeing to Earth to escape her tyrannical friend, she mires the X-Men in an foreigner civil war, inspiring Jean to embrace the full extent of her clairvoyant and telekinetic abilities. After an epic battle between the X-Men and various aliens, the team returns home in peace–although things can’t amply go back to normal, because Jean is now a figure of godlike power.

Uncanny X-Men #108/ Marvel

The Dark Phoenix Saga( Part 2)

As well as being a pivotal moment for Jean, the second half of this history( Uncanny X-Men #129-137) is a turning point for the X-Men in general. When the first comic was initiated in 1963, the core team were teenagers and Professor X was their teach. By Uncanny X-Men # 129 in 1980, they’re suffered adults, with Cyclops producing a new team including Storm, Wolverine, and Banshee. The Dark Phoenix Saga defines up a generational conflict where Cyclops craves responsibility and Jean attempts freedom, while Professor X still basically insures them as kids. We likewise gratify a couple of key personas for the first time: 13 -year-old Kitty Pryde, and Emma Frost, the telepathic White Queen of the Hellfire Club.

Uncanny X-Men #129/ Marvel

Dark Phoenix may seem like a response to Jean’s early persona as the token female hero of the X-Men comics. She’s often inhibited or defined by her relationship to powerful men–her mentor Professor X and her boyfriend Cyclops–and she’s fundamentally isolated from her human parents. The Phoenix Force commits her strength and independence she never had before, but that influence separates her from her friends and leaves her open to attack from a new angle.

Our brand-new rascals are the secret society known as the Hellfire Club, is presided over by Sebastian Shaw( Kevin Bacon’s character in X-Men: First Class ), Emma Frost, and the illusionist Mastermind, who masquerades himself as a seductive figure called Jason Wyngarde. As Wyngarde, he manipulates Jean into a clairvoyant love affair that takes place in a facsimile of the 18 th century. Basically, it’s a cross between a schlocky historical intrigue fiction and Kylo Ren trying to bring Rey over to the Dark Side in The Last-place Jedi.

Uncanny X-Men #130/ Marvel

As Jean embraces her Phoenix powers she gleans away from Cyclops and the other X-Men, and ultimately falls for Mastermind’s illusions, becoming the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club.

This allegiance is only temporary, as Mastermind is nowhere near powerful enough to control Phoenix for long. But in the end, this conflict was just another stepping stone in Jean’s journey to becoming the Dark Phoenix. No longer invested in her relations among the other X-Men, Jean evolves into a being of pure energy and leaves Earth. As the Phoenix, she kills through room and devours an entire star system as fuel for her powers, massacring a planet of defenseless aliens. At this degree, Lilandra and the Shi’ar Empire step in.

Uncanny X-Men #135/ Marvel

Jean’s activities show the Shi’ar faith that Phoenix is an apocalyptic force, and alongside commanders from the Kree and Skrull Empires, Lilandra convicts Jean to demise. Meanwhile, Xavier manages to threw self-restraints on Jean’s abilities, and after a bitter confrontation with her parents, she returns to her former ego. Appealing to the aliens’ warrior cultures, Xavier indicates a duel to save Jean from execution. Lilandra accepts, but the ruse is doomed to failure. The Phoenix Force can’t be tamed for long, and as Jean feels herself begin to lose control again, she accepts that she must die.

In later comics, Marvel revealed that the Phoenix Force was a completely separate entity from Jean Grey, and at various phases, it takes different hosts including Emma Frost and Cyclops. Still, Phoenix remains a key element of Jean’s story, solidifying her region at the center of the X-Men universe. The brand-new movie is a riff on this arc, combining the Xavier/ Magneto feud of earlier movies with Jean Grey’s transformation into Dark Phoenix, encouraged by a mysterious foreigner shapeshifter played by Jessica Chastain.

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