Marvel’s new month long weekly event, Phoenix: Resurrection, aims to ring in the new year with the rebirth of a 13 year dead and beloved member of X-men universe, Jean Grey. But to those who aren’t well versed in X mythology the history of Jean Grey and her ties to the Phoenix Force can be a little convoluted. This is an extremely abbreviated history of Phoenix as it relates to the series Phoenix: Resurrection!
But first what exactly is the Phoenix Force? In short the Phoenix Force is a cosmic entity that represents all that has yet to be born in the universe, manifested as a giant fiery bird. It is both a necessity to the universe and an extreme danger as it uses its judgment to burn away parts of the universe that don’t work or have become stagnant and leave them to grow into something completely new. When Jean was a young child she telepathically linked her mind with that of her dying friend and in doing so was being dragged through the astral plane and eventually to the other side of living. The Phoenix Force used its power to sever the connection and from then on kept watch over Jean, having sensed the great power that she possessed.
While suffering from lethal solar radiation on a rescue mission to the moon, Jean died but the Phoenix Force was having none of that and responded to Jean’s telepathic calls for help by absorbing a portion of her consciousness and sending her to the bottom of the Jamaican bay in a cocoon to heal from her injuries. The X-men survived and were met by someone who looked and acted like Jean but called herself the Phoenix.
Sometime later the Phoenix was corrupted by the powers of Mastermind and the Hellfire club and became the Dark Phoenix. While corrupted with this sinister force, Dark Phoenix destroyed a star system and its billions of inhabitants.
Eventually after battling with the Shi’ar empire the Dark Phoenix realized it would never be able to control the darkness and sacrificed itself, believing to have committed suicide by the X-men. Jean had been stuck in the white hot room, a purgatory of sorts existing outside of time and space that the Phoenix itself created to keep Jean’s soul alive. The Phoenix tried to revive Jean’s body at the bottom of the Jamaican bay but she rejected the force, not being able to handle the tragedy it had brought. Thus ends the original Phoenix saga.
After several different hosts, Jean’s first resurrection, marriage to Cyclops, and a secondary mutation, Jean died again during the events of Grant Morrison’s New X-men. For 13 years now Jean has remained dead, but that didn’t stop the Phoenix Force from terrorizing the Marvel universe again and again. In Phoenix Endsong/Warsong the X-men once again faced a splintered version of the force who had seemed to resurrect Jean’s lifeless body to drudge up still tender feelings in the hearts of Wolverine, Cyclops and Emma Frost. Furthermore the events of Avengers vs. X-men centers around the Phoenix Force once again returning to Earth and the heroes believing the mutant messiah, Hope, to be its new host.
In Bendis’ All New X-men a teenage version of Jean Grey having been taken from the 1960’s to the 2010’s by Beast along with the rest of the teenage original 5 X-Men, got stuck in the modern age and struggled with still developing and seemingly uncontrollable powers, awkward teenage romance, finding herself, and more recently preparing for the Phoenix Force’s arrival.
Which brings us to Phoenix: Resurrection. Writer Matthew Rosenberg has stated that he wants this series to be a tribute to all the Jean/Phoenix stories to come before and a phenomenal set up to all the stories to come. The Phoenix Force will never truly be gone in the Marvel universe but there’s a reason the device is used over and over again and that’s because it’s just a plain great story. There’s so many places to take it, new facets of it to explore and Phoenix: Resurrection’s first issue really feels like an old school X-Men story that will satisfy old fans and fascinate new.
Written by Max