The Definitive Dark Phoenix Reading Guide: Part Two -- Enter the Dark Phoenix
Before 'X-Men: Dark Phoenix' hits theaters, read the story of Jean Grey!
In episode #395 of This Week in Marvel, Lorraine Cink, James Monroe Iglehart, and I dove into the history of Jean Grey as the Phoenix. And that’s very specific—not the Phoenix and its many hosts, not Jean’s life overall, but the stories specifically around the cosmic entity and one of the X-Men’s founding members.
And now that we’re just a few days away from X-Men: Dark Phoenix hitting theaters on June 7, it’s a great time to look back at the comic origins of the Phoenix. But there's sooooo much history and great storytelling behind Jean Grey and the Dark Phoenix that we had to divvy this up into three parts! Today, read Part Two of our reading guide and tune in to Marvel.com for the third part. You can read Part One -- The Beginning by clicking here.
Let’s dive in!
Part 2: Enter the Dark Phoenix
UNCANNY X-MEN #129-137 (October 1979-June 1980)
The “Dark Phoenix Saga” begins. A perfect jumping in point if you didn’t read the previous 20 issues.
By this point, Jason Wyngarde AKA Mastermind has been twisting Jean’s vision of reality, making her see, think and feel as though she’s in the 18th century. And in UNCANNY X-MEN #129, we see he wasn’t alone—he was working with the Hellfire Club, who also tapped Cerebro and were attempting to destroy the X-Men from within and without.
In issue #130, skeevy Wyngarde psychically attacked Jean in a disco, making Jean see an 18th century vision of herself marrying Jason and becoming the Black Queen. Little by little, Mastermind kept chipping away at Jean’s reality.
In issue #131, Jean and Cyclops, along with Nightcrawler and the newly introduced Dazzler, rescued Kitty Pryde from Hellfire Club goons and then reunited the team at Emma Frost’s compound. Jean unleashed the Phoenix’s powers against Emma. Jean used her power forcibly once more by the end of the issue, leaving Cyclops and Storm to think about the darkness hovering around Jean and her power.
Issue #132 opened with a nice respite from the chaos. Scott and Jean got it on at a romantic, secluded spot in New Mexico. Her power was so great, she could focus on amore while also holding Scott’s immense power back so she could see his face in full. It all fell apart some time later when Scott and Jean tried to infiltrate the Hellfire Club. Mastermind asserted full control over Jean, and the Hellfire Club captured the X-Men. Well… aside from Wolverine.
While Wolverine slashed his way through Hellfire Club goons in issue #133, Scott Summers fought for his life and Jean’s very being against Jason Wyngarde. It didn’t go well for Scott… or so it seemed.
All hell broke loose in issue #134 when Jean finally gained control of her senses. She freed the X-Men in a huge, awesome fight – and then, the lights went out, leaving Jean and Wyngarde alone, in the dark. Jean just let loose, getting answers, ignoring Jason’s cries for mercy, giving him a glimpse into the infiniteness of the reality she understands… and destroying his mind. It’s one of my favorite sequences in comics. He deserved it, and worse. But all of Wyngarde’s invasions and Jean’s rage unleashed the Dark Phoenix. The ending of issue #134 mirrored Jean’s rebirth in issue #108. Fire and life incarnate, she is Phoenix.
Issue #135 opened with Jean destroying the X-Men’s plane and sending the team careening across Central Park. She picked them apart easily, casting them down, scraping that part of herself away. Jean was pretty much gone, and she blazed into a massive firebird, engulfing the sky, and Dark Phoenix flew off into space. She opened a space-time gateway, screaming through the cosmos. SHE CONSUMED A STAR FOR POWER. That action destroyed a planet, and killed five billion people.
Issue #136 opened with one of the most iconic Phoenix Images by Byrne, Austin, and colorist Glynis Wein—a cosmic Phoenix about to consume a star. The alien Shi’ar declared that they must destroy the Phoenix for the safety of the universe. But Jean had returned to Earth, and regretted her decision as she struggled with the Dark Phoenix. The X-Men showed up to try and help/subdue her. Wolverine came closest – with his claws popped, she asked him to kill her… but he was too slow. Cyclops used the power of love to battle Dark Phoenix and may have succeeded, but Professor X showed up and nearly screwed the pooch! It’s an epic psychic battle between Xavier (secretly helped by Jean) and the Dark Phoenix with a happy ending that was immediately dashed when the X-Men were zapped away from Earth.
Issue #137 was the beginning of the end, as the X-Men found themselves at the mercy of the Shi’ar. The Phoenix, now just Jean Grey, was to be punished for her interstellar crimes, so the Professor threw one last monkey wrench into things—he forced the team to fight a duel of honor for Jean, against the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. It went poorly for the X-Men; they were up against overwhelming odds. Hand in hand, Cyclops and Jean Grey fought together, but when Cyclops was momentarily struck down, the Phoenix rose again. It was then that Jean realized she had gone too far, hurt too many, and needed to be stopped. She took care of it herself and said goodbye to Scott.
PHOENIX: THE UNTOLD STORY (January 1984)
In this story, the X-Men were defeated by the Imperial Guard, and thus they lost the duel and surrendered Jean. Jean was then stripped of all her powers, and maybe more, by the Shi’ar. It’s brutal… but she would have lived.
FANTASTIC FOUR #286 (October 1985)
The Avengers found a pod in the waters around New York City, and the Fantastic Four arrived to help figure out what’s what. It opened, and out popped… Jean Grey! In an outfit she had not worn since those early Phoenix stories!
After some struggle, Jean realized who she was, where she was, and when she was. But how she got there took a bit of explaining.
It seems that in the original UNCANNY X-MEN #100-101 story, Jean called out for help and her call was answered by the cosmic Phoenix Force. The Phoenix created a duplicate body of Jean’s that it inhabited and believed itself to be the real Jean. OG Jean was put into a healing cocoon and sank to the bottom of the bay when the ship crashed. This cocoon was then found, and here we are!
This story led right into X-FACTOR #1, in which Jean reunited with the original X-Men.
X-FACTOR #38 (November 1988)
In the course of their struggle, it was revealed that a small portion of the Phoenix found its way to Madelyne, sparking her to life. That same bit of Phoenix was reabsorbed by Jean at the end of the fight.
CLASSIC X-MEN #8 (January 1987)
CLASSIC X-MEN provided reprints of old X-Men stories combined with new tales often connected to them. With great new covers, as well.
This issue featured a story about what happened to Jean during those last moments between UNCANNY X-MEN #100 and #101 as the cosmic radiation tore her apart and she saved the X-Men. It showed what she had gone through and how the Phoenix saved her body with the cocoon and rose as life incarnate.
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