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Saturday, June 8, 2019

X-amining What If? #27 - Patreon First!

"What If Phoenix Had Not Died?"
July 1981

In a Nutshell
The Phoenix Force resurfaces in Jean, leading to the destruction of all existence.

Writer: Mary Jo Duffy
Penciler: Jerry Bingham
Inker: John Stuart
Letters: Simek & Chaing
Colorist: Carl Garford
Editors: DeFalco & Gruenwald
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

After Jean and Cyclops are overwhelmed by the Imperial Guard, the Shi'ar perform a psychic lobotomy on Jean, removing her mutant powers. Life goes on for Jean and the rest the X-Men, including the arrival of their newest member, Kitty Pryde. Some time later, Lilandra calls for the X-Men's help in repelling Galactus from a planet within the Shi'ar empire. A still-powerless Jean joins the team as they travel to the planet, but when Terrax, herald of Galactus, threatens the lives of the team, including Cyclops, the Phoenix Force manifests in Jean once more. She proceeds to strip Terrax of his cosmic powers, then chases Galactus away from the planet. With a reborn Phoenix on their side, the X-Men make short work of their enemies in the following months, but Jean's hunger for power continues to grow, and she takes to consuming stars to feed it. Returning from one such trip, flush with power, she is confronted by Kitty, who tells her she needs to stop. Jean's joy & exhilaration quickly turning to anger & hatred, she incinerates Kitty in front of the horrified X-Men. Xavier once again tries to contain the Phoenix Force within Jean, but this time, Jean refuses to help him, instead turning him into a vegetable. She then kills the X-Men one by one, but when she kills Cyclops, her grief allows the Phoenix Force to engulf her. From there, it grows larger, consuming the city, then the planet, spreading across the universe, destroying everything in its path.

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  1. Dear god did they ever stripmine this one for the main continuity. Not only the Phoenix vs. Galactus bit, but powered-up Jean bursting through the hull of the spaceship causing an explosive decompression will be re-done with Binary in the second Brood story.

  2. My brother bought this and UNCANNY X-MEN 137 at a comic book convention (the former, UXM#123 and a few CLASSIC were my only focus of the Byrne years for about 13 years). Boy, this issue with its tragic denoument still gets me. For awhile, when I think about the pre-137 issues I think an alternate version of the X-Cast will suffer that fate. Still, nowadays I often wonder if things would have happened the same way here. Evidently forgot about Mariko Yashida, and I doubt Storm would have allowed herself to go that way, considering this story was published around the same time as UXM#147.
    Sometimes I imagine the Jean Cocoon somehow managing to get to the battlefield, and then opening up...


  3. One of my favorite comics as a kid, I think I bought this around Uncanny 144-146? ,
    I was about eleven...I turn 50 next week!
    I also got the Avengers issue Yellow Jacket goes Wasp swatting, and the fantastic Avengers Annual 10 around that time.

    Take that Kitty!! ,that incineration scene is was shocking even for What If
    This should be included in Dark Phoenix trades,

  4. I recall another What If entry in the late 80s where (I think) Claremont got to revisit this idea with the added revelations of the Jean cocoon and Rachel Summers. It was a lot more character-driven, with far fewer "wild What If?" moments. I haven't seen a copy in forever, though. I wonder if it holds up better than this issue does.

    1. I would guess you're thinking of issues #32 and #33 from the second volume of WHAT IF? - "What If Phoenix Lived Had Lived?" and "What If Phoenix Rose Again?" - which, if memory served, loosely adapted the original post-"Dark Phoenix" plot (involving a lobotomized Jean eventually re-accessing her power to fight Magneto), and then ran from there, to the point where Claremont received a plotting credit on the issues.

      It's probably something I'll review as a future Retro X-amination or Patreon exclusive somewhere down the line.


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