When AvX came to a climax, a single curse was uttered: “No more Phoenix.” With the power of both the Scarlet Witch and the Phoenix Force itself behind it, this spell somehow dissipated the energy of the Phoenix Force, and re-initiated the X-gene. But how has this actually worked out? And, frankly, have Earth’s heroes made an absolute mess of things? Well, before we can even begin to respond to those issues, I think we have to work out one simple question: Just what is the Phoenix Force?
Let me start with a quote from ‘X-Men: Phoenix Force Handbook’:
Born of the void between states of being, the Phoenix Force is allegedly a nexus of all the psionic energy that has, does, and ever will exist in all realities of the multiverse. One of the most feared creatures in creation, the Phoenix Force’s primary purpose is to burn away that which it deems obsolete. To this end, the Phoenix Force can cut away whole realities and re-grow them as it sees fit. In the dying moments of the previous universe, the “Big Crunch”, the M’kraan Crystal – a hypercubical nexus of realities – was shattered, bringing the entire multiverse to an end. However, the Phoenix Force saved all of the dying universe’s inhabitants from eternal damnation, while the sentience of the universe, Eternity, preserved the last survivor, Galan, within a “Cosmic Egg”, a sphere of disorganised, compact primordial matter. When the Cosmic Egg exploded, eventually condensing into stars and planets, the Phoenix Force was reborn from the cosmic fires of this universe-creating “Big Bang”.
OK, so when it comes to asking what the Phoenix Force is, we have a pretty alarming and powerful force – one linked to all of life, guardian of evolution, and transcending even the birth and death of universes. What I find most interesting about that quote, though, is the comment that the Phoenix Force’s primary purpose is to burn away that which it deems obsolete. It’s no coincidence that this is known as the ‘Phoenix Force’ – in mythology, the Phoenix is a symbol of death and rebirth.
Now, millennia ago the Phoenix Force was drawn into the affairs of mortal men, and was touched by the mind of the sorcerer Feron. The Force’s interactions with Feron transformed it, giving it a hunger for the sensations that it had never before encountered. Making matters even more complicated, Feron found himself opposed by his reality’s Sorcerer Supreme, Necrom, who bound a stolen fragment of the Phoenix Force as the ‘Anti-Phoenix’ and gave the Phoenix Force great pain. There was no going back for the Phoenix Force.
And so you have a long line of Phoenix Hosts; Rook’shir, Rachel Summers, Giraud… You also have hints that the Force had been fragmented, with, most prominently, the Blade of Phoenix.
That’s when our story really begins, as far as the X-Men are concerned; the Phoenix Force encountered the mind of one Jean Grey. With the universe threatened by the machinations of D’ken, who possessed the M’kraan crystal, the Phoenix Force sought an avatar through whom to act. This led to a very different event to anything that had gone before, with the Phoenix Force actually replacing Jean Grey and leaving her body to heal. Ultimately, the Phoenix Force was unable to handle the emotions of humanity, and – after Mastermind’s manipulations – was transformed into Dark Phoenix. Phoenix committed suicide, returning a fragment of life to Jean Grey (and inadvertently sending some of its power to Madelyne Prior, too).
To the Shi’ar, the Phoenix is ‘the end of all that is’, and they fear it. They are not the only ones; Galan, survivor of the last universe, became Galactus, and he too sought the Phoenix Force in an effort to destroy it. After a cataclysmic battle with Galactus, the Phoenix Force – at the time hosted by Rachel Summers – discovered why: in its natural existence, the Force is the embodiment of all life in the universe; the energy it had used becoming sentient was destined to be a life force for future generations.
Two more recent events are worth noting in this quick snapshot:
First of all, a rogue band of Shi’ar launched an attack upon the Phoenix Force, and did tremendous damage; they actually managed to splinter the Force, and it fled to Earth to heal, resurrecting Jean Grey, which it identified as its ‘prime host’ (whatever that means).
Secondly, and crucially, after the Decimation the Phoenix Force fragmented among the Stepford Cuckoos to defeat Sublime, whose plans threatened the remainder of the mutant race. This is actually quite a significant thing to bear in mind, as it perhaps adds another layer of logic (not mentioned in AvX, of course) to Cyclops’ insistence that the Phoenix Force was a friend to mutantkind.
Next: Let’s add AvX to this picture, and try to work out what’s happened!