Enter: The Phoenix!

And so it begins. Possibly the most retcon heavy event in Marvel history (and that is saying something). It’s also the beginning of a significant shift in comic culture. Until this point, when someone died on page you were pretty much guaranteed that they weren’t coming back. Jean Grey’s death and rebirth and death and rebirth (and death and rebirth) began such a marked trend of loopholing out of character deaths that today when a character is killed off most of us just shrug and wait for a new writer to find a way to reintroduce them. We’ve seen retconning using clones, Life Model Decoys, interdimensional travel, actual aliens, alternate universe copies, Hydra plots, bamfs, and much more. But what we’re talking about right now is the birth of the Phoenix.

Jean Grey manages to hold on long enough to save the lives of the X-Men, however, the landing leaves something to be desired as Starcore Eagle One makes a hard landing right into Jamaica Bay. Jean Grey is presumed dead for only a few panels before:

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Despite some strong indications they should be asking a few questions, they take the miracle at face value. The general assumption seems to be that she’s unlocked powers she hadn’t had access to before, and they’re too grateful that she’s alive to probe further. I do like the continuity with their acknowledgment that this isn’t the first time they’ve trashed this airport. Xavier uses (abuses?) his mental powers to ensure that no one remembers they were there. It’s a little disconcerting how easily he downplays it. (I should probably admit I’m not his #1 fan.)

Also introduced in this arc is the often irritating Logan/Scott/Jean love triangle. I’ve got to say the narrator really sticks it to Wolverine here, which I kind of appreciate. Meanwhile Scott seems to finally be coming to terms with how much Jean Grey really means to him.

 

Also, I wasn’t aware that in addition to being a scientist, an astronaut and an Olympic-level swimmer, Peter Corbeau is also a surgeon?! “Doctor” is an amazingly comprehensive term in the Marvel universe. He and another doctor are there to deliver the news that Jean’s going to be just fine, so the Professor takes an opportunity to move the plot along by sending the X-Men on an enforced vacation. Conveniently, Banshee’s just gotten a letter from home along with possession of his ancestral castle home. So we’re finally seeing the payoff from that mysterious letter.

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There’s a nice aside with Storm dressing for dinner and Nightcrawler having some fun with his image inducer. I’m enjoying seeing Nightcrawler show more of the character traits that I identify with him. Wolverine’s version of dress wear is interesting, especially for a Canadian. Banshee’s enjoying getting to wear whatever he wants since it’s his house now (doesn’t that mean it’s underwear time?). And then the trap is sprung. I love the nonchalance of Nightcrawler’s line: “Oh well, it was a nice vacation while it lasted.”

Black Tom goes in for some stellar mustache twirling, but Storm steals the focus as her battle with claustrophobia finally comes to a head! Issue #102 opens with the X-Men at a severe disadvantage. The only way the X-Men have bested the Juggernaut before has been through telepathy, and they’ve left both of their telepaths at home. Meanwhile, Black Tom is immune to Banshee’s powers. Wolverine resorts to throwing Colossus at Juggernaut in an attempt to slow him down.

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It’s becoming increasingly clear that they’re doomed unless Storm gets in the fight, but she’s trapped in her memories. The plus side for us is that now we get to see exactly what caused her claustrophobia. This is the most backstory we’ve gotten about any of the new team, so far.

She does manage to communicate their danger to Professor Xavier, though. He and Scott argue when he tries to send Scott as reinforcements, but their fight is cut short by another vision of the face Xavier has been seeing in his dreams. This is the first time we’ve seen it this clearly, though.

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Back at stately Cassidy Keep, Black Tom reveals to Banshee’s shock that he and Juggernaut were hired to kill the X-Men instead of just being your run of the mill evil backstabbers. And when Nightcrawler is knocked unconscious by Black Tom’s shillelagh (yeah, you read that right), the X-Men get help from a wildly unlikely source.  Next time on X-Men: Leprechauns!

MVP: Banshee really stepped up to center stage since so much of the new plot revolved around his family and his family home.

Benchwarmer: There was actually a pretty fair split in character interaction this time.

Rating – 3/5.

Loose Threads: Wolverine’s Canadian origins, Illyana Rasputin, Mikhail Rasputin, Krakoa, Count Nefaria, Black Tom Cassidy, the Juggernaut, the Shi’ar, Eric the Red, Stephen Lang, and Jean Grey.

Next up: Death Siege!