Fatal Attraction on a Cosmic Scale  (X-Men:  Phoenix Endsong Review)

With Phoenix Resurrection in full swing, check out the last time Jean was resurrected by the Phoenix as the mythical bird of creation steps in-between Scott and Emma hoping to reunite with it’s one true “love” and instead screws everything up.

pheonix endsong.jpg

“PHOENIX ENDSONG”
X-Men Phoenix Endsong #1-5
Authors:  Greg Pak
Artists:  Greg Land
Inkers:  Matt Ryan
Colors:  Justin Ponsor
Publisher:  Marvel Comics

What You Need to Know:

Many years ago, the Phoenix replaced Jean Grey with an almost perfect copy.  Jean’s humanity was too much for it and the Phoenix was forced to commit suicide.  Years later, Jean and the Phoenix merged and this time Magneto killed Jean, leaving the Phoenix scattered.

What You’ll Find Out: 

The Phoenix has been brought back.  It’s not sure how or why, but we are given a glimpse into the Shi’ar space cruiser responsible for its reconstruction.  Their intent is not altruistic…they want to destroy it forever (ugh…how many times has that been attempted).  The Phoenix suddenly speeds off towards earth where it’s drawn towards a certain mansion in upper New York.  It’s appearance isn’t gone unnoticed, however.  Wolverine senses something unusual, but he can’t quite put his finger on it.

The Phoenix goes through the mansion, possessing a firefly.  It checks out the Stepford Cuckoos, but they aren’t what the Phoenix is looking for.  Instead, the Phoenix goes into the basement, the lab, where Quentin Quire is held prisoner, trapped in a vat of liquid (after all, he did try and take over the school).  But the Phoenix cannot free Quentin so it looks elsewhere.  In an upstairs bedroom.  It finds Emma Frost and the one it seeks…the one it remembers loving…Scott Summers.  And somehow the Phoenix cracks one of the lenses on Cyclops’ goggles and then suddenly a vision of Jean Grey stirs him awake and his optic blast blows a hole in the ceiling.

Cyclops dream

Emma, of course, is pissed.  Because it was a dream of Jean that evoked such a reaction.  But the Phoenix now remembers Jean.  And it heads off unseen to the graveyard where Jean is buried.  It pulls the redhead to the surface, instilling life in the corpse, but Jean fights back.  This causes a giant explosion of fire that is noticed again by Wolverine (he’s a sharp tack, that one).  He runs to the disturbance and finds Jean standing there, naked, but definitely not looking like a rotting corpse.  After a brief conversation, Jean/Phoenix covers up in her classic red/gold outfit, knocks down Wolverine, and flies off.

Jean dead

Out in space, the Shi’ar craft sets course for earth.

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Cyclops and Emma talk over their personal problems but makeup.  Wolverine shows up in their window sill to announce that Jean is back.  A handful of X-Men shows up at Jean’s grave to investigate.  Cyclops’ immediate reaction is to kill her.  And of course, he has a plan.  Wolverine is to track Dark Phoenix through smell while Emma looks for her via Cerebro.  Beast is working on a cage while Kitty and Colossus prep the X-jet.

kitty

Suddenly, Emma calls telepathically, having found an omega level mutant in the mansion.  They all run to the basement.  It’s not Dark Phoenix, though.  Quentin Quire is free.  He wants to find Sophie, the member of the Cuckoos who died during his rampage at the school.  He easily freezes Beast and after reading his mind, he goes off in search of the Cuckoos.  He finds them…but where he remembers five, there are only three.  Sophie isn’t among them.  He flies off to the graveyard.

Quentin

In the skies, the Shi’ar craft shows up, but it runs into a roadblock:  Storm and Nightcrawler.  In the graveyard, Quentin finds Sophie’s grave and digs up her body, vowing to have Phoenix bring her back to life.

cover

In the skies, Storm, and Nightcrawler…hover…in front of a Shi’ar craft, blocking its way.  There’s little communication in this Mexican standoff, but eventually, the Shi’ar ship moves on and Storm and Nightcrawler follows.

At the mansion, Angel reports in…they’ve found Dark Phoenix.  Cyclops loads up his team but deliberately leaves Colossus behind.  The last time they fought Dark Phoenix, Colossus pulled his punches and that was something they couldn’t afford.

Angel

Meanwhile, Dark Phoenix and Wolverine go back and forth:  Wolverine lunging at her, Dark Phoenix dodging him and burning him.  It seems to continue but above, the X-Men arrive.  Their arrival is interrupted, however, by the Shi’ar craft.  It fires a single blast into the forest below with the intent of killing the Dark Phoenix (unfortunately, both Wolverine and Quentin are down there as well).  Storm responds by immobilizing the Shi’ar ship with a strong bolt of lightning.  With the Shi’ar craft hovering, Storm and Nightcrawler teleport on board to hold the Shi’ar in place.

The forest below, however, is decimated.  There is a giant crater and the Phoenix, Wolverine, and Quentin are nowhere to be seen.  Miles away, near the north pole, Phoenix, now in her green and yellow outfit, cradles Wolverine.  He is worried she is using him as bait but Phoenix has other plans.  Wolverine then stabs her through her gut.  It doesn’t kill her, but her outfit changes back to the red/gold Dark Phoenix garb.  He attacks again, and again, and again, stabbing her each time, until finally Jean, not Phoenix, asks him to stop.  He’s done his job.  He’s weakened her, enough for Jean to take control.  She buries herself deep in the ice.

Dark Phoenix

Cyclops’ team arrives and Kitty dives into the ice to check.  When she arrives, she announces that it’s Jean, not Dark Phoenix, buried down there.  But then a fiery bird appears, heading for Cyclops.  Wolverine tackles him, revealing that he’s the one the Phoenix was after all along.  But it’s too late.  The Phoenix, manifesting as a woman, attacks.

cover

As it turns out, Phoenix didn’t just bring herself and Wolverine to the North Pole.  She brought Quentin and the corpse of Sophie.  The Shi’ar craft is aware of this too, but Storm and Nightcrawler aren’t going to allow them to just fire on Quentin when he hasn’t done anything.  As Quentin cradles his love (who, by the way, died fighting him), he reaches out to the Phoenix to find her fighting the X-Men.

As the Phoenix attempts to force Cyclops to open his eyes, to fire his optic blast which would fuel her, Emma intervenes, using her own powers to keep the Phoenix at bay.  But then Quentin attacks Emma, trying to help the Phoenix.  With Emma struggling, the Phoenix is able to get through to Cyclops to force him to fire his blasts.  Emma pleads with Quentin to let her help the X-Men but he refuses.  Cyclops begs for his team to stop him, but the Phoenix, growing stronger, knocks them down.

Phoenix

Until Nightcrawler teleports in (and the captain of the Shi’ar cruiser follows) and hits Quentin over the head, disrupting his concentration.  Emma is freed to then act and her telepathy is once again able to disrupt the Phoenix’s hold over Cyclops.  But the Phoenix isn’t oblivious.  She attacks Emma directly, breaking the telepath’s concentration, but this gives Cyclops time to formulate a plan.  Kitty phases her hand into Cyclops’ chest and stands ready to squeeze his heart at his command.  And when Dark Phoenix persists in her attempts to get Cyclops to willingly join, Cyclops gives that command.

However, Emma intervenes.  With her telepathy, she hurls Kitty to the ground (who is none too happy).  And Emma points out how the Phoenix doesn’t just want Cyclops’ power.  It wants Cyclops.  But as much as it tries to masquerade as Jean, Cyclops doesn’t want Jean anymore.  He wants Emma.  And so with Emma willing, the Phoenix possesses her.  And in the split second of the Phoenix getting used to its new host, Cyclops tackles her and they both fall into the psychic-proof egg that Beast brought.

Emma Phoenix

As Cyclops and Emma/Phoenix create almost an infinite loop within the egg, Quentin Quire shows up to cause trouble.

cover

The X-Men immediately attack but they are no match for him.  Even as Wolverine stabs him and Angel clocks him in the head, his telekinesis rips open the egg.  And much like a pressure cooker that is broken, it explodes, the Dark Emma (catchy, isn’t it?) lashes out.  Cyclops doesn’t miss a beat, ordering his team to attack, but tired as they are, they don’t stand a chance.

Dark Emma then confronts Quentin who promises to teach her about love if she can only bring his Sophie back to life.  The X-Men are helpless as they watch Sophie’s rotting corpse return to its living beauty.  But Sophie, as well as the other three Cuckoos (who are observing through Cerebro), see Quentin who wants to be with Sophie.  But she rejects him and immediately returns to the rotting corpse version.  Dark Emma flips out at this, as Quentin didn’t really know anything about love.  He was just a confused kid.  And so Cyclops turns to the only hope he has left.  With his optic blast, he frees Jean from her frozen prison.

Jean Phoenix - green

Jean lifts herself up to confront Dark Emma and rips the Dark Phoenix from Emma, separating the two.  Even as Jean and the Dark Phoenix fight for control, the Shi’ar are returning to end this.  Cyclops reaches Emma and asks her to remind Jean of why she came back…of who her friends are.  And so Emma, with the help of the Cuckoos, touches Jean’s mind with every single X-Man out there.  This love that everyone felt for Jean frees her of the Dark Phoenix and leaves her clad in a white/gold outfit.  The Shi’ar ship fires, but Jean blocks the shot, destroying the craft.

Jean Phoenix

And Jean says one last goodbye to the man she loved.  Cyclops is briefly taken to the White Hot Room with Jean where he removes his visor and looks on her with his own eyes.  Cyclops is left on the snow with the other X-Men finally coming to their feet, Phoenix nowhere to be seen.

What Just Happened? 

Okay, so let’s get this out of the way…  Yes, Greg Land is known as a tracer.  Yes, he often uses pornography for source material.  But I’m going to offer an unpopular opinion.

The art in this story is absolutely beautiful.  I hope this doesn’t forever tarnish any of my future reviews whenever I criticize or praise a book’s art.  But it really is.  Even now, having seen plenty of Greg Land’s work (and yes, some of it is bad), I still can’t help but admire the art in this series.  I mean, sure, you still get plenty of Land’s creepy smiles from the women that all somehow look the same, but beyond that, I completely love the art.  Perhaps it has to do with this being one of Land’s earliest mainstream books and it was a 5 issue miniseries instead of a monthly book.  Perhaps it had to do with the fact that this was my first exposure to Land’s art when this series came out.  Or, perhaps it was a combination of amazing inks (as well as the use of shadows) from Matt Ryan and striking colors from Justin Ponsor.  It wasn’t just the smooth pencils.  It was the colors of the fire and the Phoenix.  It was the shadows obscuring faces in just such a way to create a mood.  It was everything about the art.  I don’t think Jim Lee himself could have done a better job on this book if he didn’t have Ryan and Ponsor.

Phoenix

But that being said, the art isn’t the only thing I love about this series.  I could just pick little pieces that I love (such as the throwback to the Dark Phoenix Saga when Cyclops held back Colossus and Angel pointed out Cyke’s hypocrisy).  But let’s instead just talk about why, as a whole book, I loved this series.

Because I’m a big sap and I do believe in love and this entire series can be summed up in one word:  “Love”.

It’s not all about healthy love, and we’ll get into that in a bit, but it’s love nonetheless.  And that’s also what’s great about this series.  See, there are two major camps when it comes to Cyclops.  There are those who prefer him with Jean and there’s those who prefer him with Emma (admittedly I’m in the former).  But the beauty of this book is it pays homage to both camps and does not dismiss either.  It treats them both with the respect they deserve.

This series took a look at four loves, each of them very different.

  1. Cyclops’ love for Jean. That’s obvious.  Cyclops and Jean have been together almost nonstop since the 60’s.  They were almost written to be intended for each other.  And that sort of true love is something to admire.  Cyclops still loves Jean in this book.  He doesn’t love her more than Emma.  He’s adult enough to realize that their relationship fell apart and he’s moved on.  But it doesn’t mean he stopped loving her.  He still dreams about her (such as the dream in book one) and his memories of her are mostly good ones.  She still makes his heart jump and he still regrets what happened towards the end.
    Cyclops
  2. Cyclops’ love for Emma. Sure, Emma has often been a villain…or, at the very least, an anti-hero.  And she came in late to the Cyclops drama.  And some might blame her for breaking him and Jean up (I don’t blame Emma, I blame Morrison, but we’ll get into that some other time).  But it’s clear that Cyclops loved Jean but he loves Emma.  His reaction when Emma tosses away Kitty and their interaction within the egg prove this.
  3. Everybody’s love for Jean. Jean was often referred to as the heart and soul of the X-Men so it’s no surprise that it’s the love of her friends and family that bring her back, grounded.  This is more or less what even worked during the first Dark Phoenix Saga.  It was the love of everybody else that brought her back and allowed her to defeat the Phoenix within her.  It’s the same here.  The scene where everybody talks to her through the psychic link still gets me choked up (especially Rachel’s “hi mom”).
    X-men
  4. Quentin’s love for Sophie and Phoenix’s love for Cyclops. I’m grouping these two together because they are essentially the same.  Remember how I said not all the love explored in this series was healthy?  Yeah…this is what I mean.  Both are very emotionally immature.  Quentin thinks he feels love for Sophie, but I would suspect that mostly what he feels is regret.  Regret overtaking her for granted.  Regret causing her death.  And if he can somehow bring her back to life, he might find forgiveness.  But that’s not love.  That’s just guilt.  And Phoenix…well its “love” is possibly even more dysfunctional (which is odd considering it’s a cosmic entity).  It claims to love Cyclops so much that it wants to replace Jean (which, of course, is what it did all those years ago) and is even wanting to force Cyclops to love it.  That’s a twisted love.
    Phoenix vs Cyclops

Ultimately, this book is one of the best resurrections of Jean.  In part, because it’s not permanent and thus doesn’t cheapen her death.  It also doesn’t have to retcon anything.  I was amazed because until then I’d never heard of Greg Pak.  Everything about this, from the slow build up to the finale was amazing.  If I had any complaint it would only be that this further complicated the Jean/Phoenix relationship which makes it near impossible to have conversations with die-hard Jean fans.

Rating: 9.5/10.

Final Thoughts:  This may not have been a permanent resurrection, but this definitely ranks up there with Phoenix stories.  Ultimately, it’s a love story, but if you’re at all a fan of Jean, Emma, Cyclops or Phoenix, you’ll want to pick this one up.


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