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Classic Comic Book Canon: The Dark Phoenix Saga (Part 1 of 3)
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Uncanny X-Men #132: “And Hellfire is Their Name!”
Synopsis: Cyclops has the X-Men seek refuge at Angel’s home, feeling that the mansion is no longer safe. 1 Needing privacy, Cyclops is carried by Angel to a butte out in the middle of the New Mexico 2 desert where they can talk privately, much to the chagrin of Professor X. There Cyclops explains the X-Men’s most recent clash with the Hellfire Club. Warren finds this hard to believe as he and his girlfriend Candy are members of the Hellfire Club. 3 Scott goes on to explain that he’s worried about Jean’s powers. Before he can explain any further, Jean arrives and interrupts them to have a private and impromptu picnic with Scott. When Warren leaves them alone, Jean takes off Scott’s visor, and much to his surprise she is able to hold back his optic blast with her mental powers. The two embrace and make love on the butte as the sun sets.
A week later on a stormy night, the X-Men return to New York City to infiltrate the Hellfire Club. Wolverine and Nightcrawler travel through the sewers to sneak into the club from below. As they are passing through the rapidly flooding tunnels, Wolverine slices open some electrical wires pointing out that they could use a distraction later.
Meanwhile, with invitations organized by Warren, Scott, Jean, Peter and Ororo prepare to enter a prestigious party with in the club. As Scott and the others enter the party and try to blend in, they are noticed on the security monitors by the Inner Circle. Shaw tells Jason Wyngarde that this is his chance to prove that he has full control over Jean Grey.
Wyngarde goes downstairs and quickly sweeps Jean off into another one of his illusions. When Scott watches Wyngarde taking Jean upstairs he is shocked when he reveals himself to be none other than the X-Men’s old foe Mastermind. 4
He is blasted by Jean who, under Mastermind’s full control, has transformed herself into the Black Queen. Storm and Colossus change into costume and charge after their friend. They run into Sebastian Shaw, and Colossus learns the hard way that Shaw can absorb any attack directed at him and transform it into strength and invulnerability.
Wolverine and Nightcrawler emerge from the sewers to be attacked by Pierce and Leland. While Wolverine manages to damage Pierce’s cybernetic arm, Leland uses his mass increasing powers to increase Wolverine’s weight until he breaks through the floor and lands into the rushing waters of the sewers below. Storm is tracked down by Sebastian Shaw who easily defeats her. The Inner Circle propose a toast to the newest member of their club, the Black Queen.
While down below in the sewers, Wolverine emerges from the waters alive and well.
Analysis: The idea that Jean can essentially cancel out another mutant’s power has to be terrifying. Having sex with that mutant is probably the only way to distract him from that fact. That final panel has been homaged several times.
Uncanny X-Men #133: “Wolverine: Alone”
Synopsis: The Hellfire Club’s soldiers search the basement to find the body of Wolverine, who is hiding in the rafters. When his wet body drips water on them, they try to shoot him. Wolverine mortally wounds three of them 5 before he takes some rifle rounds to the stomach and falls over in some boxes. Playing possum, he tags one more of the soldiers. Wolverine freaks the last one out enough to demand to know everything he knows about his employers.
While upstairs, the other X-Men are a prisoner of the Hellfire Club, who are celebrating not only their victory over the X-Men, but the addition of Jean Grey as their new Black Queen. Cyclops realizes that he and Jean still have their psychic rapport.6
On Muir Island, Sean Cassidy and Moira MacTaggert fear that Jean’s near infinite power levels could threaten the entire world. While in New Mexico, Angel and Professor X wait for word from the X-Men.
Wolverine takes a dumbwaiter up to the main floor where a party is still going on. A guard manages to get the drop on him, putting a gun to his temple. Scott accesses the psychic rapport with Jean to get into her mind, finding himself transformed into a Colonial era outfit and that Jason Wyngarde is in Jean’s mind as well. The two get into a sword fight, with Mastermind warning Scott that whoever dies here will likely die in the real world as well.
Wolverine manages to get the better of the guard and storms through until he is confronted by the Club’s security guards who pile onto him with their clubs swinging. Scott’s telepathic sword fight with Mastermind ends when Mastermind stabbing Scott through the chest with his sword. In the real world the X-Men watch in horror as Cyclops suddenly screams and keels over.
Analysis: This is when Wolverine becomes the break out star of the series.
Uncanny X-Men #134: “Too Late, the Heroes!”
Synopsis: As the Hellfire Club gloats over thier victory, Jean looks on in worry. Before the Hellfire Club can do anything else, Wolverine bursts through the door. Shaw orders Jean to attack Wolverine, which she does, however, she uses her telekinetic powers to unlock the ruby quartz helmet on Cyclops’s head. Scott knocks out Donald Pierce before using his optic blast to free his fellow X-Men and blast Leland.
Logan goes after Leland to get revenge for his earlier defeat. Cyclops defeats Shaw by blasting out the ground out from under him, and Pierce manages to escape when Colossus foolishly tries to stop him in his human form. Mastermind hides to see what happens. Leland makes the stupid mistake of using his mass increasing powers on Wolverine causing him to land heavily on Leland with his claws out. As Shaw tries to flee through the club, he is attacked by Nightcrawler and Storm.
An alert goes in at nearby Avengers Mansion where the Beast is on monitor duty. 7 Reading about how his former friends in the X-Men involved in the commotion, he erases the record of the emergency call and goes to help his old comrades.
Back at the club, Colossus catches up to Donald Pierce and breaks Pierce’s mechanical arm, and Nightcrawler and Storm try their best to defeat Sebastian Shaw in battle, however, both escape.
Upstairs Cyclops tries to calm the party goers, however, Mastermind uses his powers to make them think that he is attacking them. Just then, the power cables that Wolverine slashed earlier in the night connect with the rising rainwater causing the power to go out in the club. Cyclops runs into Wolverine in the dark and tells him to gather the other X-Men while he goes looking for Jean.
Jean tracks down Mastermind and pins him to the wall. She finds on him a device created by the White Queen that allowed him to beam his illusions directly into her mind. She destroys the device and then gives Mastermind what he wanted: control of cosmic power. Opening up his mind to the vastness of the universe Jean causes Mastermind to enter a catatonic state and leaves him.
The X-Men load up into their plane and take off just as the authorities begin to arrive. Jean, finally unable to contain herself, gives in to her dark side. She changes her costume into a crimson version of her Phoenix outfit and announces that she is no longer the woman they knew, but rather power incarnate. Suddenly, the X-Men’s ship explodes due to her “power incarnate”.
Analysis: This particular issue is mentioned in the television show Stranger Things. Both stories feature young women with incredible powe4 unleashed by men meddling with their minds. They homage the scene with Jean pinning Mastermind against the wall with Eleven doing the same to the Demagorgan.
Next: The story reaches it’s tragic conclusion
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