Aug 22, 2008

[Comics] X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix SagaI've never really been a big X-Men comic book fan outside of the time when the cartoon series was on TV and more recently with the largely successful movies. I mean, like any good comic book geek I was familiar with the characters and the basics of their origins and abilities but then the same could be said of more obscure Marvel characters like Iron Fist and Power Man. Yeah, it's a geek thing I suppose.

Of course an event like the infamous Dark Phoenix Saga is not one the most violent non X-Men can could possible remain ignorant of. Sure, Jean Grey tends to be a pretty wimpy character for the most part but when she became one with the near-omnipotent Phoenix Force, things definitely started to get interesting. The Dark Phoenix Saga typically covers X-Men issues #129-138, although the variant collection I downloaded only covered issues #132-138 plus the annual.

Dark Phoenix on the cover of the Dark Phoenix ...Image via Wikipedia This 1980 story follows The Phoenix Saga, for lack of a better term, where Jean Grey as Phoenix was able to save the universe by repairing the M'Kraan Crystal. Despite coming from such an amazing achievement, she was later on subverted by an augmented Mastermind who managed to project his illusions directly into her mind to convince her she was her ancestor Lady Grey. When the X-Men tried to save her from Mastermind a.k.a. Jason Wyngarde and the rest of the Hellfire Club, this incidentally resulted in all internal barriers to her full abilities. This new being. driven pretty much mad by her own near-omnipotent powers renamed herself as Dark Phoenix and went on to terrorize the universe until the X-Men could eventually find a way to stop her.

This was definitely an amazing piece of story-writing, one that was quite complex in many ways. It didn't just involve a super-powered mutant in the form of Dark Phoenix, but also involved things on a more interstellar scale with races like the Shi'ar, the Kree and their eternal foes the Skrulls. It didn't seem overdone either - all the characters involved were key to the plot and all played their roles.

The Hellfire Club was also an interesting set of villains to have the X-Men face - a diverse group of fairly powerful mutants who truly knew how to make the most of abilities, power, wealth and influence. I always like characters who don't solely need to use their abilities to prove a point but are also adept political players in terms of the society at large.

I think I also got a better appreciation for some of the nuances of the interplay of relationships and differences between the X-Men themselves. Cyclops has more and more come across as a sap in the recent forms of media and to really experience him as a leader (to some extent) and of course as Jean's lover was definitely significant. I think the cartoons and even the recent films have not done full justice to the true level of their relationship and that's something plain enough to see even without having read a significant number of the X-Men titles before and after this story arc.

This is something worth the time to read and see just what made the X-Men such a pivotal comic book in this period. The character balance was just amazingly done and the quality of the stories and situations they were put into was something else. I know I still have a number of other epic storylines to read as part of this set of comic books I've acquired and this title gave me hope about the reading ahead.


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