November 21, 2009

Ye Olde School Cafe’: The Dark Phoenix Saga pt 1

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Written by: Billy
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Welcome back everybody to the weekly look at a trade or graphic novel from yester-year (pre-1990). This week’s column is going to mark the beginning of a run on my favorite X-Men stories that I own. Starting with, The Dark Phoenix Saga. This is one of those  stories that stands the test of time and every X-fan remembers to this day.

DarkPhoenixSagaThis story was first published in 1980 and was written by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. It was penciled by John Byrne as well. This epic tale ran from Uncanny X-Men #129-137. It was also the first appearance of Kitty Pryde (Sprite, Shadowcat), Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw and Alison Blaire (Dazzler).

Our story begins with the X-Men and Muir Island recovering from a hard fought battle against Proteus. He is the son of Professor Xavier’s one time love Moira MacTaggert and her ex-husband Joe. Banshee, who has fallen in love with Moira, decides to stay behind and help her at the research lab. The team is left pretty much exhausted and Colossus is left wondering if the team did the right thing in destroying Proteus. Unbeknownst to them, The Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club has secretly infiltrated the computer system at the mansion. During this time, the Inner Circle has been laying back and watching, studying if you will, all the strengths and weaknesses of the X-Men so they can exploit them to their own devious ends.

We switch to a scene where we see Jason Wyngarde with the help of Emma Frost, slowly creep into Jean’s mind so they can manipulate her and therefore the Phoenix as well. They don’t get too far because Cyclops intervenes to tell her that he still loves her and is having trouble getting close to her since her apparent death awhile back (UX-Men #113). She reciprocates the feelings and then they make out and all’s well, or is it?

Next we see the team shocked to hear the intruder alarm and rush to discover what is going on; Professor X has returned after his romp around the far reaches of space with Lilandra. He seems to be himself at first but then he gets very agitated when Cyclops doesn’t see things his way. Wolverine also gets sick of Xavier’s prodding and walks out right in the middle of a Danger Room exercise. We also get a peek inside the Hellfire Club to see Emma and Wyngarde talking to Sebastian Shaw about their imminent plans.

At this point in the story we get introduced to a young girl named Kitty Pryde who is just now discovering her mutant powers. The X-Men, with the help of Cerebro, locate her but so does the Inner Circle, so they dispatch Emma to go and recruit her. Right as she is leaving, the Professor and his team show up to make Kitty an offer to attend The School for Gifted Youngsters. As the Professor starts to talk to her parents, she goes to the local malt shop with the X-Men. While talking to Storm about being a mutant, these psychedelic robots come smashing into the shop and start to whoop on the X-Men! Wolverine figures out that they are programmed to use their individual powers against them so they switch fighters and trash them. As The Professor, Wolverine, Colossus and Storm gloat about their victory, they are hit with a tremendous psychic bolt that KO’s them. The X-Men are loaded onto a ship and taken prisoner, but not before Kitty stowes away on the ship to help her new friends.

In the next issue we see Cyclops, Phoenix, and Nightcrawler going to Chicago to check on another mutant that the Professor found. This turns out to be Dazzler; she’s a mutant that can project different forms of light. The Inner Circle knows just where they are going and just as they see Dazzler, Shaw tells Wyngarde to use his powers of illusion to persuade Jean to “marry him.” Right when Jean’s kissing her husband Scott, he sees what is going on and he doesn’t like it one bit. Meanwhile, Kitty has found Storm and the others but gets caught trying to free them, as the guards chase her until they run into the Phoenix head on.


Kitty, who has been on the run practically this whole story, gets a much needed break while Phoenix interrogates one of the goons who tried to grab Dazzler. After finding out the location of the club, we see Kitty phase through a wall to try and help Logan get out. She gets him free but is zapped in the back for her trouble. Scott then enacts his plans to try and stop the Inner Circle and free his team. The Phoenix actually goes one on one with Emma and gets the better of her quite easily. We then see the X-Men taking Kitty home after this ordeal and her father starts freaking out, so Phoenix uses her powerful mind to simply change his to think that everything is OK.

The X-Men next go to visit an old friend, Warren Worthington to be exact, and they tell him of their adventures. He actually makes out with Jean right in front of Cyclops and doesn’t seem to want to stop until his girlfriend, Candy Southern, interjects. Cyclops and Angel then argue over The Hellfire Club’s illegal activities and Angel takes off leaving Cyke and Jean to apparently make sweet love. Wolverine and Nightcrawler are sent to investigate the club but from below them in the sewers, while Scott, Jean, Storm and Colossus go in through the front door, having been given invitations by Worthington. Once inside Wyngarde turns up the heat on Phoenix’ mind until she finally relents and becomes “The Black Queen”; The newest member of The Inner Circle. She actually knocks Cyke out and then the rest of the X-Men arrive to fight The Inner Circle. Colossus finds out quickly that brute force doesn’t seem to affect Sebastian Shaw, but only make him stronger. Then we see Harry Leland using his power of mass addition to increase Wolverines so bad that he crashes right through the floor into the sewer. After Shaw whips the rest of the X-Men, the Inner Circle raises a glass to toast their new queen, Phoenix!

The Inner Circle thinks that Wolverine is dead but doesn’t want any loose ends so they send some goons down to find the body. They find a whole lot of trouble instead because Wolverine has survived and is slowly making his way back up to free his friends. The guards soon learn that they are no match for this kind of  firepower, so after a little bit of resistence Wolverine is very close to his companions. At this juncture, Wyngarde engages Scott’s mind, and with the Phoenix watching he and Cyclops have a duel to see who has the right to be Mr. Phoenix. As Logan gets from level to level, he creates more and more havoc, to the point where the Inner Circle sees him coming from a mile away. Inside Scotts mind, Wyngarde is dueling him, and we see Cyke get “stabbed” and fall to the ground lifeless in front of his friends.

That is going to do it for part one, but tune in next week for The Phoenix gone mad, a visit from the Shi’ar, and the startling conclusion of The Dark Phoenix Saga!

Billy Dunleavy



  1. Dude, I’ve been patiently waiting for you to cover an X-book with this Column, and you picked a great one to start! This is one of my favorite X-stories as it’s the FA of Emma Frost, a fave of mine.

    Man, if Claremont still spun a tale today like he did back then, X-Men Forever would be flying off the shelves!

  2. I got the collected storyline back around 1989 or so. I had a few of the original issues way back when I was a wee lad. This really is the high point for the X-Men, no doubt! Claremont and Byrne (and Austin, the unsing hero) were really firing on all thrusters at this time.

  3. Jeff Jackson

    This is a classic. John Byrne at his absolute best. I go back and just look at the art.

  4. Billy

    @Andy-well hold on to your hat dude, because I’m going all out X-men for a while. I’m going to go in chronological order too!
    @Bill-Yeah, this is top shelf X-men for sure.
    @Jeff-I love his work here and with Cap too. The Cap for president run was classic.

  5. infinite speech

    Claremont and Byrne could do NO WRONG back then!! This is one of my all time favs as well…issue 129 is the one that actually got me to STAY with the X-Men after I found it in a back issue bin back in 84 or 85!

  6. billy

    @Speech-I totally agree. This is why Claremonts more recent stuff not doing well saddens me. It seems his legacy in some peoples eyes might be getting tarnished to a point of no return.

  7. I also noticed that back then there were’nt 50 ads per marvel book hyping the Dark Phoenix Saga! we were allowed to just read and enjoy as the issues came out not knowing what to expect.

  8. I’m re-reading this now and on page 16 where Storm and Kitty are talking in the soda shop, in the background of the panel you can see Wolverine and Colossus. Wolvie is reading a “Hustler” with a huge grin on his face and Colossus is making a surprised face. Hilarious!

  9. Billy

    @Andy-Wolvie does seem like a “Hustler” kinda guy.

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