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Phoenix - X-Men
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The phoenix is eternal
But pays it by a recurring death
And will suffer until the end of time
Do you wish for this eternity?
In case someone still thinks it's a promise of life and an optimistic symbol...
I said I wouldn't sound lyrical, but this name is too related to me.
It seems that for at least 15 years, there's always been a Phoenix around me.
It's a strong symbol so it may be no surprise that it caught my attention and that characters related to it impressed me.
Two Phoenix from the X-world...
It all began with a comics, X-Men, in the great period of Chris Claremont and John Byrne. I discovered it when one of the heroines of the group, Jean Grey, known as Phoenix in the group, had a split personality. She was in fact manipulated by one of their enemies, who managed to liberate her bad instincts. The problem was that she was far more powerful than he and his acolytes had thought, and bending her moral controls they also weakened her control on her power. Old topic, that power corrupts people. I should take a page to debate about that. To begin with the fact that maybe in a corrupted system only corruptable people can get power...
So in that case, it happened that having to use her power beyond the limits she had previously imposed to herself, she gave up her moral and human features, becoming the Dark Phoenix. A creature beyond imagination, feeding from stars, virtually limitless. More or less. Okay, she did have limits, like the imagination of the scenarists each time they come to describe an overpowerful creature. But she was far above the level of her fellows, that she actually let down in a difficult situation. Therefore they couldn't stop her as she left the Earth to take the real measure of her power.
She traveled through for a little while, and feeling hungry she dived into a star and absorbed part of its energy, destroying the planets around, including one where lived billions of intelligent creatures. A Shi'ar Galactic Empire's spaceship passing by attacked her, in response to the destruction of the planet that belonged to the galactic empire. Of course she destroyed it.
Flames in her green eyes, flames in her red hair, and fire all around
She came back to Earth (go figure why she did it so soon...) where her ancient fellows found her. They fought against her to make her recover her mind. Their wise telepathic professor X (bleaah...) raised up new controls in her brain to keep her power to a low level. She turned back to the kind and 'normal' mutant Jean Grey, having few telepathic power, and just a little more telekinetics. But...
Ta-daa! It was not over! The director of publication had his word to say and the end of the story was not moral! They couldn't let live an heroine who had so much blood on her hands. So the previously mentioned galactic empire, actually ruled by the professor's extra-terrestrial lover, Empress Lilandra (universe is so small, have you noticed?), intervened. They had judged Phoenix and wanted her to be absolutely deprived of her power, if not executed. The X-Men couldn't let it happen, and they accepted to defend her in a fight against the Guardians of the Empire.
They were about to lose, when the Phoenix awakened in Jean Grey. This time the X-Men had no other choice (in the mind of the director...) to fight against her until death, and herself was pushing them to kill her. As she was anyway too powerful for them, she committed suicide there, in desolate ruins on the dark side of the moon. Fulcrum of the story. Minute of silence please.
Can you imagine that they didn't, no they didn't, make her come back from ashes... for at least 5 years? Because of course they did. Not Phoenix exactly, but Jean Grey, who resurrected in a new 'X' story, X-Factor. For the ones who have never heard of these comics, don't roll your eyes of lust, this X has nothing to do with sex. What do you think, I'm a very wise and pure young woman... (hem...) The X describes the X-factor that makes different the genetic code of the super-heroes it is talking about, and who are all mutants. A common sci-fi concept, used and abused by Marvel Comics, and the X-Men were one of the best examples of that.
Not X-Factor. Well it wasn't bad, and there were good things inside - specially when one of the most boring character, Archangel, became a villain with new powers, metallic killing wings to replace his angel's ones, and a new blue look veeery impressive. Much more than his previous blond playboy attitude. But the fact is that the more I saw Jean Grey, the more I regretted Phoenix. Specially when they made these speeches about the fact that it was the human heroic soul of Jean Grey that had saved the universe from the hunger of the Dark Phoenix, or when they dwelled on all the guys being in love with her in a soapy way...
Heir of the Phoenix
Before this come-back, a new Phoenix had appeared in X-Men. This one was called Rachel Summers. She was the daughter of Jean Grey and another X-Man, Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops, coming from a future where mutants were persecuted. She was one of the only X-Men survivors. Captured when she was a teenager and brainwashed, Rachel had been for a while the best 'hunting dog' of their torturers. She used telepathic skills inherited from her mother to find mutants so that her human masters could kill them. After a while she got over her brain-washing and joined the other survivors of the X-Men in a prisoners' camp. They first tried to change their present by sending someone's spirit in the past (the X-Men present) to change the events that had led to their horrible situation. But it had changed nothing for them and a lot of the survivors died during their attempt to change that present. Rachel woke up with the only survivor, Kate Pryde a.k.a. Ariel, once known as Kitty a.k.a. Sprite. With her she tried to reach the headquarters of the Sentinels to destroy it. It was a one-way ticket and they got blocked inside. Just before the complex exploded, Kate used an hypnotic impulse to wake up the Phoenix in Rachel, that sent her back in the past. But it wasn't the same past. Rachel's mother had never been killed on the moon. And though Scott Summers' new bride, Madelyne Pryor, who was the exact copy of Jean Grey, was pregnant, she gave birth to a boy, Nathan Christopher, not to a girl who could be the new Rachel. It gets quite complicated to explain this story. There are some problems about the different versions too. When Rachel appeared, Claremont seemed to pretend that she was the daughter of Jean / Phoenix. But when Jean Grey came back, they invented a story to absolve her from the Dark Phoenix's crimes : the entity Phoenix had stolen Jean Grey's appearance when this one had saved the X-Men years ago in a space-shuttle crash. "It" had enclosed her irradiated body in a healing cocoon and modeled its own energy on Jean Grey's character to replace her among the X-Men and learn what a human life was like. The Dark Phoenix was the result of the Phoenix's selfishness, while the entity's sacrifice had been inspired by Jean Grey's human spirit, and the Phoenix's guilt by the thought of how noble a human can be compared to its own recklessness. Something like that. Bleeah... Well if you consider it's the right version, then it appears that if Jean Grey hadn't tried to limitate the Phoenix - because she did it and even lost battles for that reason -, maybe this one wouldn't have been so eager to follow the villain's indoctrination to be free at least to use its power, nee? And as a matter of fact, the Dark Phoenix's cruelty came from its human model, since the Phoenix was a non-feeling creature at its origin. Anyway this kind of character is always hard to deal with in stories and requires cheats like that not to spoil a plot. Because they're so powerful that if they could use the power they've been given, there would be no more danger, no more topic for an heroic series. Just snap her fingers and woops, villains are down. Rachel has red hair and green eyes like her mother, and she always wears red. Actually it suits her far better than the original Phoenix's green suit, as she puts it herself when she eventually recover it... After some time where she had vanished, she'd joined for a while a new team, Excalibur, with Kitty Pryde. Too many fun or great moments to tell there too. Authors: Claremont and Alan Davis.
Eventually, after Captain Britain was caught in a time-stream, Rachel took his place to free him. She ended up in a distant future where she initiated the Askani clan, to protect humans and mutants from new dangers. Side-note : one of the Askani would later come back in our time to save Nathan / Christopher Summers (son of Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor, Rachel's half-brother), after he was infected with the techno-virus. She brought him back with her in the future, where he would become Cable and/or Stryfe. The Summers - Grey - Pryor family ties get more complicated than the Atrid, with all the time-shifs, clones, alternative futures... It's in this future that Jean Grey also ended up once (in "Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix"), and trying to save Nathan she encountered the old Rachel - a.k.a. Mother Askani -, who died of exhaustion after giving her the power of the Phoenix... My lost, here we go again... What's sure to me is that she was more Phoenix's daughter than Jean Grey's. But it seems it wasn't the opinion of all the people that had worked on the X-series since then. Just before she formed Excalibur, Rachel said that once the heroes were dead, tradesmen stole their legend and corrupted their ideal. Unfortunately, comics characters often don't even have a life before tradesmen get interested in them and betray their essence. The worst of all is that fiction is not their only prey...
Anyway, as the editor himself says it, it's the old Rachel who died there, but there is still another one living, nobody knows where so far... And merchants would sell the heroes as legends...
Some sites related to these Phoenix : Links checked / revised in December 2002
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