X-Men #137 (1980, September)
We now reach the finale of the Dark Phoenix Saga. Many feels are to be had. This one’s titled “The Fate of the Phoenix!”
It starts with the Watcher narrating. He mentions that Jean had “become one with a primal force second only to the creator.” I always forget that he said that. I wonder if Claremont included that line to justify letting her live in his original script, with the argument that she wasn’t responsible for her actions.
The X-Men are on the deck of a Shi’ar Imperial Dreadnought. Lilandra’s flagship. She says Phoenix must be destroyed. Gladiator tells them about Dark Pheonix devouring the D’Bari star, and killing 5 billion people in the process. The X-Men are understandably shocked. Xavier challenges her to the Arin’nn Haelar, a duel of honour, for Jean’s life. Beast is upset at Xavier issuing the challenge in all their names without consulting them, and also snaps at Lilandra for condemning Jean without a trial.
We get a few pages of everyone thinking things over. Nightcrawler wonders if he’s right to fight for Jean, and Angel expresses the same doubts. Wolverine has no doubts about defending her. Beast is more concerned about Lilandra’s exercise in might makes right, condemning Jean without proving her guilt in a court of law. Colossus is determined to help Jean. Storm thinks about how much she loves Jean, and that she can’t not defend her. Scott is still confused. He sees both sides, but thinks if the situation were reversed, he’d err on the side of mercy. Jean meets him in her old Marvel Girl garb. It’s an emotional scene they share.
Everyone meets back up, and the X-Men all agree to fight for Scott and Jean. They’re beamed down, and Araki asks what happens if the X-Men win. Lilandra tearfully promises they won’t. Down on the moon, in the Blue Area, Angel almost takes himself out of the fight immediately by jumping up to do some recon, and passes outside the air present. Cyclops splits the team, planning to use hit-and-run tactics, using the ruins for cover. Each team runs into Imperial Guard fighters. Gladiator knocks Storm and Wolverine into a pit. They find a newer building at the bottom, along with another Imperial, Earthquake. He knocks Wolverine into the building. Storm throws chunks of the ground at Earthquake, but then gets taken from behind by Hussar and her whip. (Interesting note: Hussar has goat-like legs and hooves. I have never noticed that before.)
At the other fight, Angel is taken out by Oracle, then thrown into a pit by Smasher. Nightcrawler dives in after him, then teleports ahead to try to break his fall. Wolverine wakes up in the building he fell into. The Watcher tells him to leave, and then kicks him out with a warning never to return. Storm moves to help him up, but when Wolverine throws her, she turns back into a Skrull. Wolverine attacks him, but gets blasted by a Kree. The Skrull and Kree were meant to be observers at Jean’s death. The Skrull is infuriated at being saved by a Kree, and attacks him.
Nightcrawler’s lost Angel, but finds Manta. She can see in Infra-red, and takes him out as he tries to hide in the shadows. Colossus takes out Warstar, but Beast is taken out by B’nee. Before Colossus can go after B’nee, Gladiator gets involved. They pound each other hard, until their fight eventually brings down the ruins around them. Gladiator emerges from the rubble. Back on Lilandra’s ship, Xavier is racked by guilt and grief. So is Lilandra, who wants to comfort him, but can’t.
Scott and Jean find a small alcove to hide in, and have a very sweet moment before heading back out. The camera pulls out, so we don’t see the fight, only some light. And then a blast of energy hits Lilandra’s ship. Phoenix is back. She tells the captain to alert the fleet to implement Plan Omega – to do whatever it takes to destroy Phoenix, even if it means destroying the entire star cluster. Xavier knows she’s right, and uses his powers to wake up the X-Men.
Cyclops shoots at Phoenix (still in her green outfit for now), and she thinks he’s doing exactly what she hoped he would. Storm whips up a tornado, and Wolverine throws Colossus at Jean, telling him to kill her. (Fastball Special Tracker: 4. And I forgot to keep track of my Claremazon Moment Tracker for the past few weeks. I’ll say Storm and Jean are both at 10. I’ll put Kitty at 2 so far.) Colossus pulls his punch at the last moment, unable to kill. The punch still knocks some sense back into her, and she explains about the Phoenix being a cosmic force, and that she needs to die, so it can return to the cosmos. Scott refuses. She runs away, and he chases after her. Her costume turns red.
Her anguish is brutal. She forces a gun hidden in the ruins to shoot her. Scott realizes it was her plan all along, and then weeps.
Then we cut to the Recorder asking the Watcher about what happened. The Watcher talks about how great humanity is.
It sorta falls apart at the very, very end, after Jean’s sacrifice. Scott analyzing things right beside her ashes felt silly, and the Watcher’s speech was incredibly cheesy. But other than that, this issue’s amazing. It’s a fitting end to the Phoenix Saga, full of wonderful moments for everyone. Their inner conflicts are handled well. They love Jean, but she killed billions. In the end, of course, their love wins out. But their love isn’t enough against the overwhelming odds they face. They fight well, but never stood a chance. I like, though, that Cyclops is the last to fall. The whole thing is wonderful, just beautiful.
I’ll have more thoughts on the Phoenix Saga as a whole on Saturday. The next issue is mostly flashbacks, so I won’t have much to say about it. So I’ll spend a chunk the next entry talking about the past 37 issues, and about the original ending.