The Phoenix Five numbers thin as AvX spirals towards it's presumably dramatic conclusion! Avengers vs. X-Men #9! X-Men #'s 137 & 138!
This week: Spidey proves his worth as an Avenger! The Dark Phoenix Saga concludes! Cyclops takes a break from the X-Men!
If you're a first time Super Reader, welcome aboard! Let me tell you what you've just stumbled into. I read every AvX comic and then I break them down. The nutshell gives you a quick, short sentence summary. The bullet points... are probably self explanatory. With the summarizing all done, I go insane and write up a detailed report on just what happened in an issue and try to relate why it's important. I might also go off on any continuity or story incongruities. It's what I do.
This ain't my first rodeo. I've been covering Marvel events since Secret Invasion, back when I was a wide-eyed young fanboy with hope for the future. :) When this site gets everything back in order, you might be able to look at all of this work by checking out the Super Reads section. For now, a quick Google search can reveal a LOT of past work.
Let me tell you some vital information.
We've talked about the Phoenix Five. We've talked about Absolute Power and its tendency to Corrupt Absolutely. We've gone into depth about pretty much everything you could possibly imagine pertaining to the PhoeniX-Men.
But have I mentioned that when one of the Phoenix-powered X-Men is defeated in battle, their power leaves them and is split between the remaining Phoenix Five? That's how it works, I guess.
In AvX #9, Namor got a royal beating by the Avengers and he lost his Phoenix abilities. The remaining Phoenix Five picked them up. That means the Phoenix Four are even more infinitely powered and I suppose they're also that much more corrupted by that infinite power.
We've seen the cracks forming in every one of the PhoeniX-Men. They're going nuts. It took the original Jean Grey-styled Phoenix a good thirty issues to finally fall off the deep end. If we calculate for decompression... carry the four... these X-Men— with the Phoenix's powers split between them, mind you— are all going crazy in MAYBE two late seventies/early eighties Marvel issues.
So that's kind of interesting.
And over on the Avengers side of things, Spider-Man is doing what a Spider Can.
Spidey's been a pretty dedicated Avengers since joining the team during the super-villain break-out that followed Avengers: Disassembled. Other than providing some humor and a sales bump, many fans believed that Spider-Man was being under-utilized as an Avenger. Peter Parker is a smart guy, after all, and his genius isn't showing up. His indomitable will rarely breaks to the surface.
Now, all I have to say to this is: Dark Reign. THAT was when Spider-Man stood up and said "hey, you Avengers are being treated like I have all of my life and this is the time when your character is forged. This is when you choose not to murder the bad guy because you're a hero and heroes don't kill goons just because they're pushed to the edge." Spider-Man might not be giving everyone their own web-shooters but he has provided his own voice in the Avengers team and had some hilarious one-liners.
But, hey, if you're looking for Spider-Man to have his "moment," AvX #9 will probably provide it for you.
Avengers vs. X-Men #9
Writers: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, & Jonathan Hickman
Script: Jason Aaron
Penciler: Adam Kubert
Inker: John Dell
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Click HERE to see Super Read Avengers vs. X-Men #8!
The issue in a nutshell:
The Phoenix Four continue to lose their minds to the overwhelming power of the Phoenix Force. The Avengers attempt a jail break on the X-Men's Limbo Prison. Spider-Man gets Magik and Colossus to knock each other out and their Phoenix abilities transfer over to the two remaining PhoeniX-Men just as Cyclops breaks into the Avengers' temporary K'un Lun headquarters.
This issue by bullet points:
• Seventeen hours in the future, Colossus is kicking the crap out of Spider-Man.
• In... I guess the present, a team of Avengers returns to K'un Lun after losing Thor to Colossus and Magik.
• Thor is thrown into the X-Men's Prison for Wayward Avengers, located in the beautiful downtown Verkhoyansk Mountains. Storm, Gambit, Pixie, and Armor witness from a distance and decide that they've chosen the wrong side.
• In Ethopia, Cyclops visits Emma who is trying her best to avoid other people's thoughts. Scott asks her to come home but it's clear that she wants his help in the whole "not going crazy" business.
• Later on, Emma kills a dude who was involved in a hit and run accident with a mutant.
• In what is left of the African nation of Wakanda, Storm asks her husband to trust her with the location of the X-Men's Avengers Prison.
• A team of Avengers plans a jail break, meeting up with Professor Xavier for the attempt.
• In response, Colossus and Magik teleport in to kick some Avengers ass.
• Spider-Man tells everyone to make a getaway while HE distracts the Phoenix-powered X-Men.
• After getting beaten up for a couple pages, Spidey manages to coax Piotr and Illyana in to beating up each OTHER.
• The Avengers return to K'un Lun. Cyclops breaks through the fabric of reality to join them.
This issue in EXTREME detail:
If I have learned anything about modern comic book storytelling, it's that telling a story in chronological order is apparently the most boring thing you can ever do. Also: Pulp Fiction is the model to copy as MUCH AS POSSIBLE. These are the same lessons.
Thus, we begin our story seventeen hours in the future with Spider-Man getting his butt handed to him by a Phoenix-Enhanced Colossus.
But how would we ever GET to such a state where an Avenger was getting beaten up by an X-Man? I know! It's mind boggling!
For that story, we zip back to the present and tell a tale that from this point on, will be told sequentially. Jason Aaron says "you're welcome."
So, it's the present and our location is K'un Lun. It's been eight stinking days since the Avengers escaped the destroyed Wakanda for this mystical land of kung fu. As our narrator, Peter Parker, explains, they have been pretty crappy days. The Avengers have left K'un Lun on missions, trying to locate their captured comrades. They have had no success. In fact, they've had some pretty serious injuries.
This time, the team returns with one of their number missing. In Egypt, Thor was captured by Colossus and Magik. Captain America tells an abbreviated version of Thor's fight and capture to Spider-Man (who has been staying behind since he's in charge of training Hope Summers for... the endgame of this event). With that done, Cap demands to know what Tony Stark has been up to.
We get a quick look at Iron Man in his chamber, poring over books and looking at his laptop. You get the feeling that he hasn't left this room for the entire eight days that the Avengers have called K'un Lun their temporary home. He has a bunch of "clues" involving the Phoenix. Wanda's hexes register along the same frequency as the Phoenix powers and they are the only thing that has hurt the Phoenix Five. Hope Summers was supposed to be the intended Phoenix Host right up until the time Tony shot the Phoenix Force with his megabuster. In the past, an Iron Fist successfully channeled the power of the Phoenix and didn't end up going mad.
Now, he just has to put all of this together and figure out how to save the world from the PhoeniX-Men.
Hope joins Spider-Man and asks what happened to Thor but Peter just tells her to get back to the training. Hope has been in non-stop training mode from about five minutes after she got here not counting her entire life of training at the hands of Cable. She's kind of tired of it and ready to get involved in the action.
Spidey tells her that her moment will come. It happens to every Avenger. They get that special instance where it's THEIR turn to save the day and prove their worth as an Avenger.
Spoiler Alert: later in the issue, it'll be Spider-Man's turn.
When Hope continues to protest, Spider-Man cuts her off and orders her back to training.
Let's head over to the Avengers Infirmary where we have a whole lot of injured Avengers. Wolverine and She-Hulk are helping Red Hulk into the room. Rulk's arm is in a special cast but I don't believe that's a new injury since Namor twisted that arm to the breaking point last issue. A quick look around the room shows Beast in the role of doctor to Giant-Man (in bed, wrapped in bandages, still wearing his mask), Daredevil (broken leg, bandages on his right arm and torso), Captain Britain (I think his right arm is bandaged), Scarlet Witch (standing up but with bandages on her left arm and leg, an IV is in her right arm), an unidentifiable person behind Wanda, and Mockingbird (neck brace and a bandage on her left arm).
Possibly somewhere in this room, Captain America asks Iron Fist if their situation is improving. That's a definite "no." Danny Rand tells Steve that Iron Man has been deep in study for three days (so not all eight), Black Panther has returned to Wakanda, and Hope is NOT ready for whatever is coming her way. Things are looking grim and without more Avengers, this war is over.
So, where ARE the captured Avengers? As we learned in X-Men Legacy #269, the X-Men are holding their Avengers prisoners in a little slice of Limbo that Illyana has brought to the Earth and placed within the Verkhoyansk Mountains in Russia. When she drops a captured Avenger (for example: Thor) inside the Limbo Prison, it looks like they're being dropped into a volcano.
Watching this from a safe distance are four X-Men, Storm, Gambit, Pixie, and Armor. While they've been true believers up until this moment, seeing Magik drop Thor into a slice of Limbo pretty much proves that the PhoeniX-Men are going mad. Before this issue, Iceman, Angel, and Rachel Grey had quit Pax Utopia and returned to the Jean Grey School. Rogue has disappeared to parts unknown. This is the moment that Storm and company conclude that they've backed the wrong horse.
In the Danakil Desert, Ethiopia, Emma Frost has stolen away from Utopia to escape all the voices crowding into her head. She can't filter out the thoughts anymore but she HAS been able to read every mind on Earth. Which is a lot of minds.
Cyclops comes in for a visit. Scott just wants her to return to Utopia because things are starting to fall apart and he needs her support. Instead, she just goes into how she can read every individual mind on the planet and how part of her wants to turn the minds of the Avengers off. Cyclops tells her to stop thinking about this as war because that's not how HE sees it. To him, this is still about saving the world. He doesn't want the Avengers to be able to label them as bad guys and still believes that he'll be able to change the Avengers' minds.
Though the way he says it sounds a LOT like he's going to change their minds FOR the Avengers.
So far, Scott has held it together the best. Yes, he's definitely being influenced. We've SEEN that. But he's steered clear of killing anyone. Summers hasn't let the Phoenix completely corrupt him. Yet.
Cyke tells Emma to pull herself together and return home before starting to fly off. Emma stops him by telling Scott where Hope is staying. K'un Lun. She doesn't exactly know what that is but Scott Summers does. He continues to fly off. Emma tries to call him back because she's falling apart, worried about what she's going to do, and hopes that Cyclops can make sure she doesn't DO IT. Scott doesn't turn around.
In 1987, a certain pilot was flying over the Gulf of Mexico when he ran into Daniel Mantego. Daniel had joined the mutant population three days earlier and had just grown his own pair of wings. Mantego died. The pilot never reported the incident. That was twenty-five years ago.
Today, Emma Frost has learned this hidden truth and exacted revenge on the pilot. Revenge as in death. At the dinner table. With his family watching helplessly.
After last issue, Wakanda is in ruins. Black Panther has returned home to help his people as best he can but it looks like the task is beyond even him. Joining him is Storm but she and her husband aren't exactly on speaking terms. They took opposite sides in the AvX conflict, after all. After Namor and Atlantis stormed Wakanda, things have reached what might be a point of no return. T'challa, acting as High Priest of the Panther Clan, has annulled their marriage. He tells Ororo this. He also tells her to get the hell out of his country.
Storm turns away from the Black Panther but doesn't leave. There will be time to talk about their marriage (or lack thereof) later. Right now, there are Avengers that need rescuing and she knows where they're being held.
A team of Avengers is quickly assembled and sent to the Verkhoyansk Mountains for a little jailbreak action. The team is comprised of Captain America, She-Hulk, Wolverine, Black Panther, Iron Fist, Dr. Strange, and Spider-Man. The mission is simple. Get in. Get their friends. Get out. Avoid fighting. Concentrate on running.
As the team enters a cave to the interior of the Limbo Prison, they run into Storm and Professor Charles Xavier. Professor X decided to side against Cyclops after Scott and company showed up in Wakanda after the attack was over. It was a little on the weak side. The knowledge that the X-Men have been storing their prisoners in a slice of Limbo makes Xavier's decision a little stronger.
Dr. Strange covers the Avengers, Storm, and Xavier in an invisibility spell and the team continues on into the Prison. It doesn't take long for the demonic inhabitants of this realm to smell the Avengers but instead of attacking, the demons contact Magik.
Illyana gets word of the Avengers' jailbreak while visiting her brother at Cape Dezhnev, the Bering Strait. Piotr has been giving whales crab legs but this has just led to whales to die since they weren't designed for life above water. Yes, even with legs. Together, the brother and sister Phoenixes teleport to the Limbo Prison just after the Avengers have located their lost comrades.
Now, it's the Avengers versus TWO of the PhoeniX-Men. Odds are NOT in the Avengers' favor.
In the middle of this slaughter, Spider-Man remembers what he told Hope earlier. You know. The whole thing about every Avenger getting their own moment to prove themselves. It turns out this is HIS moment. Peter tells Iron Fist "Tell Hope I meant what I said."
Spidey webs Wolverine and She-Hulk out of the conflict. He kicks the roof, causing it to cave in between himself and the rest of the Avengers. The only two others on HIS side of the collapse are the Phoenix-powered Rasputins. The Web-Slinger is planning to hold these two off so that the rest of the Avengers can escape. Now, the only problem is DOING that...
The rest of the Avengers manage to make a pretty quick escape even with their comatose companions. We even see Storm and the Black Panther working side-by-side. Maybe there IS hope for their marriage. After all, the couple that fights together, stays together. Or something.
Unfortunately, all this escaping comes at Spider-Man's expense. He's buying the Avengers time by being a human punching back for Colossus. This is part of Peter Parker's character. Even with the odds so stacked against him, Spidey is going to keep getting up and fighting. It's kind of what he does.
Even after being punched around for three pages, the Wall-Crawler is still alive. Illyana sees that Colossus doesn't have a killer instinct and the two siblings start bickering over their powers and who has the most right to WIELD them. Spider-Man uses this by reminding the two that when one of them falls, their powers will be split amongst the remaining Phoenix Five.
And that would be terrible, right?
The Rasputins get a funny look in their eyes...
The the Limbo Prison explodes.
In K'un Lun, the Avengers are returning with their liberated prisoners. Hawkeye, Black Widow, Thing, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, Thor, Quicksilver, and Luke Cage have been successfully rescued. For once, the Avengers have come back with good news.
Well, MOST of them have come back. Captain America, Black Panther, Wolverine, and Storm have turned around in an attempt to rescue Spider-Man. When they reach him, they find him barely standing up... but he IS standing. Colossus and Magik have defeated each other and their Phoenix powers have left them. You can tell because they're back to their older costumes.
In K'un Lun, The Avengers' good news is about to be completely spoiled. Cyclops has found them and he wants Hope back.
The Uncanny X-Men #137
Writer/ Co-plotter: Chris Claremont
Penciler/ Co-plotter: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Editors: Jim Salicrup & Louise Jones (Simonson)
The issue in a nutshell:
After learning of the terrible atrocities commited by Dark Phoenix, the X-Men decide to save Jean Grey's life through a trial of combat. It's the X-Men versus the Imperial Guard and... the X-Men get their butts handed to them. Jean's Dark Phoenix persona begins to resurface and she manipulates events to cause her death instead of give in to her darker, crazier self.
The issue by bullet points:
• The X-Men, Beast, and Angel are teleported aboard the Shi'ar Flagship where they learn that Dark Phoenix killed off an inhabited planet and has been sentenced to death.
• Xavier disputes this death sentence by announcing his team's willingness to fight a "Duel of Honor." After confering with other leaders of galactic empires (the Kree and Skrulls), Lilandra accepts this challenge.
• The Earth heroes are given the day to rest. Each one wrestles with the decision on whether or not to defend Jean Grey. Everyone decides to stand up for their friend.
• The X-Men, Beast, and Angel are teleported to the Blue Area of the Moon and await the arrival of the Imperial Guard.
• In page after page of battle, the X-Men are all defeated. Cyclops and Marvel Girl are the last standing.
• When Cyclops is injured, all of the locks holding Phoenix in check are broken.
• Xavier psychically wakes up all of his X-Men and orders them to attack Phoenix before the Universe is imperiled once more.
• After getting knocked around for a bit by the X-Men, Jean regains a sense of self-controlled and begs the X-Men to kill her. When they refuse, she runs off with Cyclops close behind her.
• Phoenix changes into Dark Phoenix but stays in control long enough to telekinetically hold Cyclops in place while she commits suicide by ancient laser gun.
The issue in EXTREME detail:
We begin this issue as we do many important event issues: with an appearance by the Watcher. He's the guy who is isn't supposed to interfere but has a very loose interpretation of this Prime Directive. Anyway, he's here to tell us that this issue will contain some awesome human drama filled with tragedy and triumph. So pay attention!
Uncanny X-Men #136 ended with the X-Men, Angel, and Beast being teleported away from the Grey's homestead in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Now, we see WHERE they were teleported TO. It's the Shi'ar Flagship. On board to greet them is Professor Xavier's girlfriend and Empress of the Shi'ar Empire, Lilandra. Also on hand is Gladiator, Praetor of the Imperial Guard, Lilandra's Lord Chamberlain, Araki, numerous Shi'ar Guards, and an assembly of various aliens from all of the Shi'ar's numerous imperial holdings. This isn't a personal visit, after all. This is judgement against the Phoenix.
Even though Professor X sealed up Jean Grey's Phoenix powers, leaving her with only her usual mutant abilities, the Shi'ar Majestrix is demanding her death. This is because Dark Phoenix circumstantially destroyed the inhabited planet of D'Bari Four and then annihilated the Shi'ar Warship that responded to the destruction by attacking her. This is the first the rest of the X-Men have heard of any of this and suddenly, they aren't so certain they want to stand so close to someone who so casually killed a world.
To Jean's credit, she remembers the act and really wishes she couldn't. It happened under a moment that could only be described as temporary insanity. Cyclops tries to explain that Jean no longer has access to her Phoenix powers and is no longer a danger to anyone but the Shi'ar aren't willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. A crime so monumental can only be dealt with in one way. The sentence is death and execution is to be carried out immediately.
Before Lilandra's guards can take her into custody, Professor Xavier counters the sentence with a "Duel of Honor." Apparently, Shi'ar law is so civilized that Imperial verdicts can be overturned just so long as you're willing to fight your way out of it.
Lilandra calls for a break while she contacts the Kree Supreme Intelligence and the Skrull Empress, Rk'lll. The Supreme Intelligence sums the situation up best. The X-Men are going to fight for Jean's life regardless. They might as well make it all legal. Everyone agrees just so long as the X-Men LOSE their Duel of Honor. The Kree and Skrull representatives on the scene are supposed to keep an eye on the fight to make sure everything goes according to plan but since the two civilizations have been warring for thousands of years, the representatives (particularly the Skrull) aren't keen on working together.
Long story short? Lilandra returns to the X-Men to tell them that their Duel has been accepted.
Beast ends up yelling at the Shi'ar Empress for the whole mockery of justice. There's no trial, no jury, and an appeal turns out to be akin to gladiatorial combat. Lilandra sidesteps the legal issues and just credits Beast for his "courage and loyalty." The X-Men are given the rest of the day to relax before the Duel. They'll need it. They've been getting swatted around by Dark Phoenix for the last few issues.
The X-Men separate and we check on each one individually. First on our list is the focal point of the entire issue, Jean Grey. Now, I SAY "Jean Grey" because she no longer has access to her Phoenix powers but in reality, we're still talking about the Phoenix. The REAL Jean Grey is in a healing pod at the bottom of the Hudson River. This uncanny lookalike THINKS she's the real Jean Grey and no one, not even the writers, think of her as anything OTHER than Jean. But history will prove that this cosmic being is just the Phoenix Force in Jean Grey's form.
HOWEVER, since she no longer HAS those Phoenix powers, she'll need a non-Phoenix costume. Thankfully the Shi'ar ship comes with tailors, capable of making any suit of clothing in record time. We don't get to see what she'll be wearing to the fight but it's a classic. Guaranteed.
Nightcrawler spends his free time training in a workout room but he can't get his mind off of the deaths on D'Bari Four. Kurt doesn't know if he'll be able to stand beside Jean Grey knowing what she has done. Deciding that he's had enough training, Nightcrawler leaps towards a wall, intending to crawl his way down. Imagine his surprise when he realizes that the wall is frictionless! Wagner is plummeting to the ground when Angel flies in for the save.
Kurt thanks Warren for the help but tells Angel that he was just about to teleport to safety. Worthington reveals that he is kind of rusty at this whole super-hero thing and needed the practice. He also admits that he's not so certain if HE can stand with Jean... and they have much more history and much more trust going for them than most of the All-Different X-Men do with Jean.
In Logan's room, the Canadian mutant walks around naked after taking a steamy shower. Wolverine is in love with Jean Grey. That's all there is to it. Of all the All-New X-Men, Logan is the most assured about his feelings towards this fight. He'll fight for Jean.
You know who isn't convinced? Hank McCoy. Beast isn't an X-Man at this point in time. He's an Avenger; which is my excuse for even COVERING these comics. Hank wasn't too thrilled about Xavier just EXPECTING him and the X-Men to fight a Duel, especially after learning what Dark Phoenix had done; but he has other reasons to fight. To him, Lilandra's way isn't justice. It's vengeance. His belief is that there NEEDS to be a trial. There needs to be accountability. Otherwise, it's just two wrongs and no rights. McCoy slips out of his bathtub and right into the waiting arms of an alien masseuse.
Colossus spends his night sleeping which is probably the best use of EVERYONE'S time. Piotr is also certain of his place. He and the X-Men fought against Dark Phoenix to SAVE Jean Grey. To give her in to a death sentence now would be to betray what they fought for in the first place. Colossus armors up in preparation for battle.
Storm has also been sleeping but she's not as sure of what she should be doing as Colossus. She abhors the actions of Dark Phoenix... but Jean Grey is the sister she never had. There's a lot of emotional conflict there. In the end, her love of Jean Grey wins out over her negative feelings towards the Dark Phoenix.
Now, it's time to check in on Cyclops. Being Jean Grey's fiance, Scott Summers' opinion is probably the most important one in the issue. Cyke can SEE why the Shi'ar are acting in such an absolute way. Dark Phoenix is a definite threat and they are ACTING on that. He, on the other hand, is in love with Jean Grey. Scott wants to believe that if her were in Lilandra's position, he'd be more forgiving of the situation... but maybe that's just the love talking.
Either way, we know where he stands. He made that clear last issue when he promised himself to love Jean Grey even if she WAS still the Dark Phoenix.
Jean Grey overhears all of Scott's thoughts because they still share a psychic rapport. She enters the room in her old Marvel Girl costume. Jean wonders if SHE should go through with this fight. Maybe it's best if she just lets the Shi'ar end it. Scott tells her that giving up is not an option and the two suck face and declare their love for one another.
And that was the whole day before the Duel of Honor. The X-Men gather together before the fight and they all declare their willingness to fight for the life of Jean Grey no matter her crimes as Dark Phoenix. Empress Lilandra announces the terms of the Duel which basically amounts to "YOU win, Jean goes free. WE win, the Phoenix dies." Everyone agrees and the X-Men are teleported to the battle zone.
Lord Chamberlain Araki wonders about the X-Men's chances of victory but with a tear in her eye, Lilandra assures him that there is NO chance.
And so... TO THE BATTLE GROUND! It's the Blue Area of the Moon! We've been here before. It was discovered back in Fantastic Four #13 and is the only area on the Lunar Surface that happens to have a breathable atmosphere. Other than that fact, it's just like the rest of the Moon with a very low gravity. Angel finds this out personally when he decides to fly up and scout ahead and ends up soaring right outside the crater and nearly suffocates. Storm helps Warren back down to the ground and Scott lightly chews him out for being an idiot.
The Shi'ar Imperial Guard have teleported down and are making their way to the X-Men's position. Instead of facing the Guard head on, Cyclops splits the X-Men into two groups and they both race off in different directions. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, and Nightcrawler comprise one team. Beast, Storm, Wolverine, and Colossus are the other. Scott's plan is to go all Hit-and-Run on the Imperials.
Unfortunately, the Imperial Guard are all over them before any hitting and very little running can occur. Cyclops' team is almost immediately attacked by Starbolt, Oracle, Smasher, and Manta. Beast's team is hit soon after by Warstar, Gladiator, Earthquake, and Hussar.
Wolverine ends getting knocked off a platform by Gladiator. Storm flies down to save him and they both end up on the edge of the Watcher's domain. Uatu has his own building set up inside the Blue Area and he's not very accomodating to uninvited guests. That's too bad because Earthquake's attack accidentally knocks Logan inside, leaving Storm all alone. Fighting alone against two Imperials (Earthquake and Hussar), Ororo is the first to fall before the Imperial Guard.
She won't be the last. A nearly defeated Angel is tossed down another shaft by Smasher. Nightcrawler leaps after Warren, hoping to catch the unconscious mutant before Angel hits the bottom.
Meanwhile, Wolverine wakes up to find himself inside the Watcher's home. After searching around for a bit, Wolverine is found by Uatu and plunged into a prehistoric setting and thena post-apocalyptic landscape before being forced out of the house.
Once outside, Logan runs into Storm who doesn't look as out of the fight as she did a few pages ago. Ororo is in the middle of giving Wolverine a back rub when Logan, still out of it after his confrontation with the Watcher, decides to trust his instincts and tosses Storm over his shoulders. It turns out "Storm" was actually the Skrull observer, Raksor. He's not SUPPOSED to be getting involved in the fight but Skrulls can't help but attack humans. It's in their blood.
Wolverine leaps at the shapeshifter but is blasted out of the fight by the Kree Observer. Age old animosities rise to the surface and Raksor ends up attacking the Kree Captain for the audacity of saving the Skrull's life.
In another section of the Blue Area, Nightcrawler crawls alone. He never did catch Angel and now he'd just settle for finding Warren's body. Instead, he finds Manta. Kurt sinks into the shadows where he'd normally be invisible but Manta sees in infrared. Nightcrawler is swiftly blasted unconscious. In the background of this scene, we can see that Angel, also unconscious, has been loaded up onto a floating platform.
We are starting to run out of X-Men! Up a few levels, Colossus and Beast are still fighting Warstar as Gladiator watches from a distance. Kallark is a bit disappointed at Warstar's performance. Colossus is besting the larger portion of the Imperial even as the smaller form electrocutes Hank McCoy. Piotr turns around to face the smaller part of Warstar but ends up in battle with Gladiator instead.
Since Kallark is Marvel's take on DC's Legion of Super-heroes castmember, Superboy, Chris Claremont makes sure to point out that this is a fight between two "Men of Steel." I still think that's clever. :) The fight ends up taking down the architecture for the entire area. When it's all over, only Gladiator is left standing.
And then there were two. Inside the Shi'ar Flagship, Professor Charles Xavier pretty much loses all hope of an X-Men victory. This isn't going at all how he had hoped. As he drops into dispair, Lilandra watches and wishes she could comfort her consort. Unfortunately, her position as Shi'ar Empress supercedes her own desires.
On the Blue Area, Cyclops and Marvel Girl elude capture by Smasher and Oracle and get a few seconds to themselves. Once again, they express their feelings for one another. These two are deeply in love and they should have been truly happy. Not one couple in a century has that chance, no matter what the storybooks say. Instead, they're about to suffer greatly.
The two X-Men leave their hiding place and take on the Imperial Guard head-on. This isn't a last chance at victory. It's "meeting their end together." Instead, Cyclops goes down and Jean Grey...
The blast strikes all the way up and hits the Shi'ar flagship, causing the crew to race around in the chaos, trying to stabilize their ship. To passengers like Lilandra and Xavier, this is a clear indication that Professor X's psi-locks that held Jean's Phoenix powers in place have broken down.
On the surface, Jean's Phoenix Effect is another pretty good indication that trouble has returned. The Professor telepathically awakens all of the X-Men with orders to take out the Phoenix before the entire universe suffers for their hesitance.
With thoughts begging Jean to forgive him, Cyclops is the first to strike out with his optic beams. Storm is the second X-Man on the scene and adds her own weather powers to the attack.
Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Angel, and the Beast are out of Storm's hurricane attack but ready to act. Logan remembers that he wasn't able to seal the deal last issue and uses the low-gravity of the moon to help him throw Colossus at the Phoenix. Yep! It's a remixed Fastball Special!
Piotr armors up in mid-air. Logan gave him orders to kill Jean Grey but Colossus realizes before he reaches the Phoenix that he's just not capable of killing a friend. Still, his punch takes the wind out of Jean and has the added benefit of bringing her back to the realm of sanity. She begs the X-Men to kill her but no one is willing to take her up on that offer.
Phoenix runs off with Cyclops close behind.
Once they're alone, Jean turns around and puts Scott in a telekinetic bubble. For the rest of the scene, Cyclops isn't able to do much of anything except listen to Phoenix talk about how her powers are corrupting her. She tells him that she's been fighting for control but it's STILL slipping away from her. Maybe she could keep the Dark Phoenix in check but it would take every ounce of willpower she had for the rest of her life.
And even then, it's a "maybe."
Instead of taking that risk and putting the entire universe in danger, Phoenix activates an ancient gun emplacement, stands in the line of fire and kills herself. There's nothing left but dust.
Scott Summers is freed from the telekinetic shield with Phoenix's death. He sees now that this was ALWAYS Jean's plan. She hid it from their psychic rapport but Jean KNEW that the Phoenix's powers wouldn't be so easily locked away. She came here to die.
And in her way, she came here to save the universe one last time.
Out of view from the grieving X-Man, the Watcher and his companion, the Recorder, talk over the situation and the indominable will of mankind. Uatu surmises that this'll go down in history as the X-Men's "greatest victory." He's probably right.
The Uncanny X-Men #138
Writer/ Co-plotter: Chris Claremont
Penciler/ Co-plotter: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Editor: Louise Jones (Simonson)
The issue in a nutshell:
The X-Men, past and present, attend the funeral of Jean Grey. After Scott recalls all of his adventures with the X-Men, he takes a leave of absence from the team. Kitty Pryde arrives at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters to begin training in her mutant abilities.
The issue by bullet points:
• It's the funeral of Jean Grey. The first one. There'll be others.
• Cyclops fills up the rest of the issue with a retelling of the entire history of the X-Men in his own words while commenting on his oldest friends.
• Lilandra gives John and Elaine Grey a "Holempathic Matrix Crystal" containing an imprint of their daughter.
• Cyclops leaves the X-Men.
• Kitty Pryde shows up at the X-Mansion, ready for training.
The issue in EXTREME detail:
In the last exciting issue of the Uncanny X-Men, the Phoenix sacrificed her life to prevent her darker self from killing more worlds. Now, we cut straight to the burial of Jean Grey. The gravestone tells us that she was born in 1956 and died in 1980. Attending the funeral are the current group of X-Men, Wolverine, Colossus, and Storm, as well as the original team, Beast (wearing his human suit), Angel, Iceman, Cyclops, and Professor Xavier. Jean's father and mother, John and Elaine, are both there. So is her sister, Sara and Sara's husband, Paul Bailey. Further back, we see the Shi'ar Empress, Lilandra Neramani. She's an odd attendant because, well, she demanded Phoenix's death. Even though Jean ended up killing HERSELF, it's still kind of wierd to see Lilandra here.
Scott Summers is our narrator for most of this issue. He claims to be telling the story of Jean Grey and himself but what he's really doing is giving a summary of the X-Men's history. That's right, True Believer, you're watching the comic book equivalent of the clip show! Woo!
The neat thing is we get to see classic X-Men scenes redrawn by John Byrne. Magneto's first fight with the X-Men? Done! The first appearance of the Juggernaut? Byrned! What you have here is the entire history of the X-Men condensed down into one issue, as retold by Cyclops.
So... me retelling Scott's retelling... is probably not something I want to do. Just trust me. It's all of the X-Men's adventures to date. What I find MORE interesting than just the history lesson (which I ALSO find interesting because I'm that kind of guy) is how Cyclops SEES these memories. Part of it is about how he liked a girl and how long it took him to own up to that. The OTHER part is how he was once so DEDICATED to being an X-Man and following Professor X's instructions and how he now sees Xavier as being... well, kind of a douche, really.
There are adventures where Professor X fakes a serious injury just as a test to see how the X-Men would function without him. At the time, it didn't ring any alarms for Scott but in hindsight, Cyclops is seeing it in a brand new light. I'm not saying that he suddenly HATES Charles Xavier. I'm just saying that Scott isn't as beholden to his replacement father figure.
Mixed into the clip show are scenes from the burial. Cyclops looks over at Warren Worthington III and remembers that it was Angel that was his first "rival" for Jean's affections. He wonders how Warren took the news that Jean wasn't all that interested in the winged X-Man. It's a good thing that Angel started seeing Candy Southern soon after realizing Jean was a lost cause.
SPEAKING of Candy Southern, the clip show has the scene from Iceman's birthday party where Warren introduces her to the rest of the team. Following that panel is a little bit of revisionist history. After Bobby's party, Scott and Jean took a walk back to the X-Mansion. In the original comic, this is the scene where Cyclops opens up JUST A BIT to Marvel Girl for the first time. He just tells her how his dangerous powers have him extra cautious and how he keeps everyone at a distance. In THIS comic, that scene is rewritten with Scott and Jean declaring their love for one another, complete with an open mouthed kiss.
Go grab your copy of X-Men #32 where this scene takes place. RETCON! It's not just for the current Marvel crop of writers! Of course, this being Scott's retelling of events, maybe he just sees things the way he WANTS them to have happened...
After retelling another portion of X-Men history, Scott's focus turns to Hank McCoy. In between the original X-Men series and the All-New, All-Different reforming of the team, Beast left the X-Men to work for the Brand Corporation. Hank was busy researching the key to mutation when he created a potion that would cause mutation in others. For ridiculous reasons, McCoy injested the formula himself, doubling up his OWN mutation and giving him his current furry, blue look. Since it's an embarrassing story, Beast doesn't really go into details about it so Scott still doesn't know HOW Hank ended up in his current form. Cyclops just hopes that Beast is satisfied with his life with the Avengers.
Summers moves on to the All-New, All-Different X-Men and their first couple missions. Their second adventure ended with the untimely death of Thunderbird. Scott claims that this was the moment things stopped being polite and started being real. He began to question whether running around in skin-tight clothing and fighting crime was any way to live. Still, he stayed on with the X-Men as field commander so his worrying didn't LEAD to anything.
Scott fast forwards through Jean's transformation into the Phoenix and their first encounter with the Shi'ar and takes another pause after their fight with Magneto led to he and the rest of the X-Men to believe that Jean and the Beast were dead. You might remember that Cyke mourned for Beast but not for Jean. For Phoenix, he "felt NOTHING." Even he didn't understand it at the time but in retrospect, he realizes that it's not that he was emotionless over Jean's presumed death. It's that he reacted to her death by a severe case of denial. The emotions were so overwhelming that he just cut them off so he wouldn't have to feel them.
Y'know. Because he's a man.
Scott continues his history of the X-Men and finishes with the death of the Phoenix. That would bring us up to the present. Finished with his story, Scott Summers talks to Jean's parents. When he's done, Lilandra has her own words for John and Elaine Grey.
What she actually hands them is a "Holempathic Matrix Crystal" that not only shows the Greys and image of their lost daughter, it also contains "the essence of her personality." This'll be important in the future so it's worth mentioning beyond my cheap jokes. The Greys accept this gift as graciously as possible.
As Scott walks up to Xavier to give his parting speech, Nightcrawler leaps out of a nearby tree. Kurt's no longer using an image inducer and his demonic visage would probably be too much for this funeral so he's made himself relatively invisible.
But the important bit: Cyclops takes an extended leave of absence from the team. Xavier knew this was going to happen. You'd take a break, too. Admit it. Before Scott leaves, Professor X lets him know just how proud he is of the First X-Man. It's quite a lot.
With every ending, there's probably a beginning. In this case, that beginning is the arrival of Kitty Pryde to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Sure, no one's there to greet her but she's got the time. She can wait.
And we are done, people. That took a LOT longer than I expected!
Until next time: Have a good week!