November 28, 2009

Ye Olde School Cafe’: The Dark Phoenix Saga pt. 2



Welcome back to this week’s edition of Ye Olde School Cafe’. This week will be part 2 and the conclusion to The Dark Phoenix Saga!

uncanny135Last week we left off with Cyclops lying motionless in front of his captured companions and believed to be dead. The Inner Circle of The Hellfire Club with their newest recruit, The Phoenix (a.k.a. Jean Grey), standing around watching and celebrating their victory. Seconds into their celebration though, Wolverine, also thought dead, bursts through the door with the club’s lackeys draped all over him. Jean appears to toss Wolvie to the side, but she really just makes the Inner Circle think she has hurt him so the X-Men can gain an advantage. She also helps Cyclops get free, and he uses his optic blast to free the rest of the team and the battle royale is on. We see Colossus take on Pierce, Wolverine looking for a rematch with Leland, Storm and Nightcrawler double team Shaw; all the while Mastermind is trying to regain control over The Phoenix.

Next we see the battle not going the way the Inner Circle would like, so they make a hasty retreat; all but Mastermind that is. He is searching for Jean, and he finds her searching for him too. She is starting to let the Phoenix control her more and more, and for Wyngarde that isn’t a good thing. She nearly kills him, but relents after realizing he is basically brain dead. Scott then catches up to her, but as they get outside of the club, we see Jean has fully changed into her Dark Phoenix persona and is looking for more blood to spill. She easily crushes the Blackbird like a tin can while it is in mid-air, then the X-Men are left to try and stop their good friend who doesn’t seem to care if they live or die. First she uses her new-found powers to take out Colossus and Wolverine by changing a tree Colossus has uprooted to solid gold and then reverts Petey back to human form. As Wolvie tries to help, they are both crushed underneath the awesome weight of the tree.

Phoenix next turns her attention to Storm, who is trying to zap her with lightning. She sends the bolt back at Storm, and as Cyclops and Nightcrawler try to help, they get zapped for their trouble as well. We turn back to the Hellfire Club as Senator Kelly is talking with Shaw about how to stop the X-Men, since Shaw has made it appear that the X-Men were at fault for the brawl at the club. Shaw suggests Kelly activate the Sentinels to stop the outburst. Beast shows up, just as Phoenix flies away, to help his old friends try and regroup.

We then see Phoenix flying into the deep reaches of space, where she destroys a star that ultimately incinerates a nearby planet and all its inhabitants. There happens to be a Shi’ar ship monitoring this area that sees the atrocity and tries to help, but Phoenix just slices off part of the ship when they try. Immediately a distress call goes out to Lilandra, the Shi’ar queen, to give a warning of what is happening. She and her highest officials recognize who it is they are up against, so she says to gather the troops because this threat must be stopped at any cost.

After some activity at the mansion, we turn our attention to Jean’s childhood home, where she is making an unexpected visit. She is greeted by her father who has no idea about what she has become and what terrible fate lies ahead for her. She starts to fight with her mother and father so she leaves, but as she does, she is assaulted by Nightcrawler who puts a headband on her designed by Beast to try and limit her powers. She starts tossing them around like rag dolls, but then Wolverine catches Phoenix by surprise and actually has a chance to deliver the killing blow, but cannot due to the fact that he loves Jean. She shrugs him off and tosses Beast’s mind scrambler aside, and continues her thrashing of her friends. Just as it appears as though she is going to kill Colossus, Cyclops steps out of the shadows to confront his friend and lover. As the two talk, Xavier creeps in behind Jean and delivers a psychic blast to her mind. It only momentarily stops her, and quick as a cat, she knocks Cyke down and challenges Professor X to a mental duel. Phoenix eventually falls to the ground, and the Professor states that she would have won if not for Jean still struggling to regain control of her mind.

The final issue of this story shows the X-Men transported to the Shi’ar ship that is hovering above Earth. Lilandra explains to the X-Men that the leaders of the Kree, Skrull, and Shi’ar have all agreed that to keep the universe safe, the Phoenix must be destroyed. Upon hearing this, Professor Xavier, who had been spending a lot of time with Lilandra, remembers an old Shi’ar law that states you can challenge them to a duel of honor to save your life. Lilandra talks to the other leaders, and then tells Charles they will have one day to rest up and then it’s on.

The next day we see the X-Men waking up after a good night’s sleep; well everybody except Beast, who had his own private “masseuse.” All he can say about that is “Oh my stars and garters.” Scott and Jean, along with Xavier, give the team a pep talk, and then are whisked away to the infamous Blue Area of the Moon for their confrontation with the Shi’ar Imperial guard. It doesn’t take long for Gladiator and his band of warriors to start the attack against the X-Men. Starbolt immediately tries to fry Scott and Jean, while Angel takes to the air to try and fight Smasher. Meanwhile underground, Wolverine, Beast, Storm, and Colossus are trying to use stealth to give them an edge, but Warstar is waiting along with Gladiator and Hussar. They take out Storm fairly easily. We turn our attention back to the surface, where Warren is getting his tail handed to him by Smasher, and Jean is holding off Manta; all the while Cyclops is fighting Starbolt. We see Wolverine, who got tossed down a hole by Gladiator, get a peek inside the Watchers’ headquarters, only to be tossed out on his head.

uncanny137One by one, the X-Men are taken down by the more powerful Imperial Guard until none are left standing except Jean and Scott. As the lone pair of X-Men try to fight on, they see it’s useless against these odds. Just as the Shi’ar Imperial Guard are about to deliver a fatal blow, the Phoenix resurfaces and seems ready to go back to her ravenous ways. Professor X and Lilandra have been monitoring this, and are seen cringing in fear. The Professor tells his X-Men that they need to take down Phoenix before she gains all her strength back. They try their best to stop her, but to no avail; so Jean, who is in and out of control, decides to do the one thing she knows will stop this madness. She runs into a cavern where we see an ancient device from another civilization that Jean intends on using to kill herself. After a brief conversation with the man she loves, Jean, who has become weakened by the battle, turns the weapon on herself and seemingly commits suicide to save the universe. The final scene of this story shows Uatu The Watcher and The Recorder (a robot created for the sole purpose of recording and observing cataclysmic events) having a conversation about how Jean did what she did to save people, even though it was an incredibly hard thing to do.

My final thoughts about this story are simple. Jean, as we all know, has “died” and come back several times just like quite a few other characters in the Marvel U. This time actually felt like it really meant something though, for me anyway. It was different because she killed herself. I also don’t think this was one of those telegraphed stories where you could see this coming a mile away.¬†I for one don’t agree with suicide, but it’s definitely not too hard to see why some people choose to do it. This will always be one of my favorite X-Men stories for all the great action and drama, Jean’s sacrifice, and seeing the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle for the first time too. The first appearances of Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, and Sebastian Shaw were also great ¬†additions to this story. This is definitely Claremont’s best work, in my opinion. Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll be back next week with more of Marvel’s merry mutants! See you then.

Billy Dunleavy



  1. I remember getting some of these issues when they were coming out. I was probably only 5 or 6, so a lot of it was over my head at the time. The cover of issue 135 “Defeated By Dark Phoenix”, scared me because I thought Jeans eyes looked evil.

    I had such a big crush on Jean, so I always wanted her to be safe. It was all pretty jarring to see her become evil and to witness her ultimate sacrifice at the end of the storyline. I was a pretty depressed kid at the time, believe me!

    Still, I don’t think of the situation as so much being suicide, as much as Jean was sacrificing herself to keep everyone else safe. That’s a pretty darn heroic thing to do! I think it said a lot about her character, certainly.

    The one thing that always bothered me about the final issues, was how Beast didn’t notify the rest of the Avengers as to what was going on! Also, John Byrne mentioned on his website that the reason why Iceman wasn’t present for the events for this story, was because Byrne wasn’t comfortable drawing him! Byrne said that he drew a lousy Iceman, so he had Claremont drop him from the story.

    Anyway, it is a great storyline. Definitely the high water mark for the X-Men!

  2. Billy

    @Bill-Your right, this story is definitely top of the heap for the X-Men.

  3. Great coverage Billy! I love this story, and I’m sure we’re not alone when we state it’s our favorite work of Claremont.

    … and Beast had his own masseuse!?

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