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Sunday, June 2, 2013

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga




Title:
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga





ISBN:
0939766965


Price:
$14.95


Publisher/Year:
Marvel, 1991


Artist: John Byrne


Writer:
Chris Claremont, John Byrne


Collects:
The X-Men #129–138





Rating:
3.5/5





Chris
Claremont's run on Uncanny X-men is one of the most praised and loved comic
runs of all time. In fact, Chris Claremont's X-men books are the only X-men
books I have ever consistently read and enjoyed. Perhaps his best known X-men
story is "The Dark Phoenix Saga". This 9 issue epic chronicles Jean
Grey's eventual descent into villainy, as the dark force within her transforms
her into the Dark Phoenix. Joining Chris Claremont is artist John Bryne, who
brings a dynamic and vibrant look to the book without sacrificing human
emotion.





The
story begins when the X-men are kidnapped by the Hellfire club (making their
first appearance here) and, to their surprise, betrayed by Jean Grey. Jean is
under the influence of a mind controlling mutant known as Mastermind, who
convinces her she is living in the 18th century.





It
may sound strange and silly, but it actually works to such a degree that her
"flashbacks" into the 18th century are often somewhat frightening and
sinister. What makes them so effectively creepy is the fact that each time Jean
slips into the past, she is suddenly put into a kind of fugue, wherein she
believes that she is in love with a "Sir Jason Wyngarde" and
apparently a queen of the shadowy and menacing Hellfire Club. The visions of
the past are made more believable by the fact that Jean herself is actually
scared of what's happening (she doesn't know why she is suddenly being whisked
away 200 years to the past) and at first tries to fight the urges she has in
them, but eventually gives in the temptations of the visions.





Jason
Wyngarde himself (actually Mastermind in disguise) is extremely foreboding and
mysterious in the first couple parts of the saga. At first, readers don't know
who Wyngarde is or why he is doing this to Jean, making him all the more
frightening.





After
the X-men come into conflict with some lackeys of the Hellfire club, including
Emma Frost in her first appearance, they decide to take the fight to the
Hellfire Club.





They
infiltrate the Club's party, only to realize too late that it is trap and they
are captured by the Hellfire Club's inner circle, a small group of elite and
powerful mutants that swiftly take down the X-men. The inner circle is an
interesting group of villains that work very well as a group.





Each
has a specific power set that work differently in taking down a member of the
X-men; one member, for example, can become stronger after being punched or hit
with kinetic energy, he is put against Colossus. The circle is also interesting
in that we get to see the circle bicker with each other, one member even plots
to bring down the current leader and take over the club for himself. These
various aspects serve to make the club very interesting and entertaining to
read.





This
saga contains the classic "Wolverine: Alone" issue in which the
Hellfire Club defeats every member of the X-men and Wolverine must try to take
down the entire club and rescue his friends on his own. Note that this issue
came out before the current over saturation of Wolverine that currently exists.
This issue was made before Wolverine was established as a major badass, and it
is a joy to see Wolverine tear through Hellfire guards before he was the
invincible and overused character that he is today. The panel of Wolverine
saying "Now it’s my turn!" is easily one of my favorite panels in all
of comics and still gives me goosebumps every time I read it.





Of
course the X-men do manage to take down the Hellfire Club and free Jean Grey
from Mastermind's spell, but this is just build up to what the story is really
about. They free Jean Grey, but Mastermind unintentionally loosed the Dark
Phoenix. Jean finally succumbs to the power of the Phoenix and, in an emotional
craze, sets out to destroy not only the X-men, but much, much more.





Dark
Phoenix is quite possibly the most powerful and sinister villain that the X-men
have ever faced, but what makes her such a great villain is how tragic a
character she is. Jean Grey tries doesn't want to hurt her friends, but she
knows that there is nothing she can do to stop the Phoenix from destroying
them. Even while Phoenix fights against the X-men, threatening to kill them
all, it is evident that she is conflicted and fighting her own emotions.





One
scene that always stood out to me is when Jean Grey visits her parents and
sister. It is clear that Jean loves her parents and doesn't want to hurt them,
but she can't help but see that deep down they fear her, and so she angrily
confirms their fears by threatening to obliterate them with her power. The
Phoenix is shown as being a source of ultimate and divine power, and power
corrupts, thus Jean Grey is corrupted.





The
X-men's own conflicted feelings towards Jean(destroy or save her?)make them
just as well characterized and just as interesting as all of the other
characters in the book. Their battles with Phoenix are fantastic even though
she vastly overpowers them, and the physic duel between Professor Xavier and
Jean Grey is nothing short of epic.





All
of this leads into the tragic and awesome final showdown between the X-men and
the Imperial Guard on the dark side of the moon. The build-up to this battle is
done wonderfully, with each member of the X-men(some not even wanting to
battle)preparing in their own unique way for what will probably be the most important
battle of their lives.





The
battle itself is fantastic as well. Each X-man puts up a tremendous fight, but
the X-men are ultimately doomed to a battle they can't win; exemplifying
perfectly the underdog nature that has always been inherent of the characters.





The
ending of this book should come as a surprise to no one, but I still won't
spoil it just in case you haven't read it and have no prior knowledge of X-men
continuity.





The
story, or saga, actually has three main parts; the first in which the X-men
rescue Kitty Pryde and some of their own from Emma Frost after they are
kidnapped, the second in which the X-men battle the inner circle of the
Hellfire Club, and the third in which the X-men battle Jean Grey herself, now
Dark Phoenix.





Each
part is fantastic, consisting of thrilling action, character progression,
intriguing plot points, and deep themes. Even the Watcher, who I usually
dislike, is used well here, and his final monologue is a perfect way to end the
saga.





Overall
The Dark Phoenix Saga is one Classic Comic that is definitely worth your time
and cash. A must read for any X-men fan, Marvel fan, or all around comic fan.

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