Thursday, May 23, 2013

Now and Forever--Phoenix

Here's another interesting back-up story that I came across, which appeared in an issue of Classic X-Men, a series which recycled prior X-Men stories with bits and pieces of new artwork and story material. Eventually, the series got around to the Dark Phoenix storyline, and reprinted the finale in its entirety--along with a story that catches Jean/Phoenix the instant after she's disintegrated by the alien weapon on the moon.

"Flights of Angels," written by Chris Claremont, is both epilogue and prologue--the former being obvious, as Jean is trying to find answers as to where she is and what exactly has happened to her. And it's a curious tale, indeed. Written well after Jean joined X-Factor and the truth revealed that the Phoenix entity made itself to be a replica of Jean while the original was kept in stasis, the story nevertheless plays out as if this person were the real Jean Grey and had indeed sacrificed her life to save her friends as well as the universe, as readers initially were led to believe. But while she's getting her bearings (or trying to), she's distracted by a construction worker who enlists her help in erecting a building in the middle of space.

Instead, she makes a small-scale replica of the finished building, which takes her through a recap of her time as Dark Phoenix--only this time, she exists in the form of victims of her rampage. First, as one of the people of D'Bari:

And then as an ensign about the Shi'ar ship that she decimated:

It's then she reasons that her builder/companion is Death itself, who speaks of the Phoenix as a separate force that Jean called out for and willingly bonded with, because it was a force she herself gave form to:

And once Jean accepts her lot, she fully embraces her status as Phoenix and begins life anew.

It's a confusing resolution, given that the last page of the story acknowledges the existence of Jean's underwater cocoon as well as the events of Inferno. Frankly, I don't know what to make of it. If we're to believe Death, then this is indeed Jean, not Phoenix taking on Jean's form--and Jean has embraced the force she was apparently meant to join with, and cast herself out into the universe. The other assumption to make would be that the Phoenix force still believes itself to be Jean, and Death is playing along with that illusion because this young life form (Death even calls it a "baby Phoenix" at one point) has to find its own way and learn the truth in its own time; but if so, it's done the Phoenix no favors in that respect, since it's made such an effort to perpetuate the false impression that the Phoenix is under. One might assume that Death is self-serving enough to lead this ultimate incarnation of Life down a trail of falsity in order to negate its influence and power--yet the tone of the story seems to imply that Death is simply guiding the Phoenix into the next phase of its existence, and nothing more.

I suppose at some point I'll have to re-read the "Phoenix Endsong" and "Phoenix Warsong" stories and see if they help to connect the dots--but the story of the Phoenix has become so convoluted over time that I honestly don't believe there's any sense to be made of it vis-à-vis Jean Grey, or Madelyne Pryor, or Rachel Summers, or Cyclops (have I missed anyone?). Show of hands: how many of you believe that Marvel should have left well enough alone, with Jean/Phoenix sacrificing herself on the moon? Because whenever the Phoenix finds its way into a story nowadays, don't you find yourself at this point making a massive eye-roll?

1 comment:

dbutler16 said...

Oh yes, Marvel definitely should have left well enough alone. While it was cool (for a while) to have the original X-Men back together again in X-Factor, in the long run, it's not worth all this convoluted nonsense. Jean Grey dying and coming back has become a bit of a joke. Lazarus has nothing on her!