The original idea for the Phoenix came about when Jean Grey was forced to land a shuttlecraft in a cosmic storm. It imbued Jean with incredible new power that she used as Phoenix. That power led Jean to darkness and massive destruction before she sacrificed herself for the universe. However, things took a turn when Jean was found alive at a bay. It turned out the Phoenix was a cosmic entity that had taken on Jean’s appearance. That same entity has now become a major force in the Marvel Universe going back eons.
Although it has taken a variety of hosts, the basic form of the Phoenix remains the same, which is a massive bird of flame. The Phoenix can be a sign of destruction or rebirth. It can wipe out a solar system or revive a planet, depending on the host. The regular Marvel Universe has shown amazingly epic moments for the Phoenix in the past, present and seems to promise big things for the future. That’s not to mention the multi-verse, as other realities have shown the Phoenix embarking on feats of dark power…which can often be cataclysmic. It reminds readers of how dangerous the Phoenix can be when it is unleashed and why so many across the universe are afraid of it.
19 HOLD BACK CYCLOPS' OPTIC BLASTS
Cyclops is often cited as one of the most powerful X-Men. His optic blasts can punch a hole through a mountain, which makes him incredibly strong. The downside is that his power doesn’t have an off switch. The only things keeping Cyclops’ power back are his own eyes closed or special ruby quartz lenses. One of the first signs of Jean’s power as Phoenix growing is when she and Scott are sharing a picnic and she pulls his visor off. She tells him it’s okay as she’s using her power to hold back his blasts.
Cyclops is impressed at that, although it shows how Jean is growing more powerful than she’ll admit. Cyclops himself became a host to the Phoenix down the line which let his optic blasts cut loose. So the Phoenix Force was able to both control his powers and let them go completely out of control.
18 TAKE DOWN THE HULK
The Hulk is known for being the strongest guy in a fight, but even he has his limits. It’s been shown that as powerful as the Hulk can be, against the Phoenix, he’s as weak as any human. He’s clashed with the Phoenix a few times, be it Jean Grey or Rachel Summers and ended up on the losing side. There’s also been more than a few What If issues where the Hulk is crushed by the Phoenix.
Bruce isn’t the only one either. She-Hulk has also come up short in several fights with the Avengers. And in a clash with the Phoenix Five, Red Hulk was not only trashed but forced to turn back into Thunderbolt Ross.
17 GODDESS OF THE EARTH
Usually, the Phoenix absorbs Jean Grey or Rachel Summers. However, the occasional What If? issue shows a much different host. In vol 2 #79, Storm uses her newfound powers to land the shuttlecraft but she and Wolverine are the only survivors. With the X-Men gone, Storm returns to Africa where thanks to the Phoenix power, she is worshipped as a goddess. At first, Storm uses her power to bring peace and unite various warring nations.
But power corrupts and Storm is no exception. She soon becomes a tyrant who deals harshly with anyone who dares question her. Eventually, Logan finds the original Storm at the same bay where Jean had once been, and attempts to make it right.
16 THE ANNIHILATION WAVE
After years of preparing, the twisted Negative Zone resident Annihilus struck at the universe. He crafted the Annihilation Wave, a massive armada of ships and aliens that wiped out the entire Nova Corps with ease. Soon, the Wave was crushing anything in its path with entire star systems falling to its power. It took a huge alliance of the Silver Surfer, Nova, Star-Lord, Super-Skrull, and others to finally beat it back and even then it wasn’t a full victory.
That’s what makes it so impressive when a What If? special deals with it quickly. Here, Vulcan, the insane half-brother of Cyclops, is able to gain the power of the Phoenix. He’s soon on a quest to Earth to track down the X-Men. During this, he comes across the Wave and destroys it with ease. To wipe out such a cosmic threat so easily is another sign of the Phoenix’s amazing power.
15 CREATE MADELYNE PRYOR
When Madelyne Pryor showed up, Scott was struck by her uncanny resemblance to Jean Grey. Thus, fans believed that this was Jean reborn and so Scott was worried the Phoenix was coming back. It turned out that hints of her “return” were a plot by Mastermind and Madelyne wasn’t Jean at all. She and Scott were married but when the real Jean returned, Scott went to her, causing Madelyne to snap.
It would eventually turn out that Madelyne was a clone of Jean created by Mister Sinister. It had been a child but when Jean “died,” a piece of the Phoenix Force sparked life that grew Madelyne to adulthood. It also created her attraction to Scott. Madelyne would become the Goblin Queen before dying but owed the Phoenix her life after all.
14 BATTLE THANOS
Thanos of Titan is well known as one of the most terrible beings in all of the Marvel Universe. His very presence brings destruction and Earth has been hard pressed to fight off his attacks. Thanos discovered that long ago, one of his slaves had born his son. Calling himself Thane, he was an Inhuman and thus Thanos staged a full-scale invasion of Earth to track him down. Thane turned out to be just as treacherous as his father as he tricked the Guardians of the Galaxy into stealing a Phoenix egg and took its power.
Thane had made his father’s mistake of falling in love with Mistress Death who used the Phoenix to cause mass destruction across the galaxy for her own power. Father and son eventually did battle in an epic clash with Thanos only winning when a cosmic coven stripped Thane of the Phoenix. Without that, Thane could have gotten the victory as Thanos was hard-pressed against the Phoenix.
13 FACE THE BEYONDER
The Beyonder isn’t just the most powerful being in his universe. He is his universe. Created in a cosmic accident, this being became intrigued by the regular Marvel Universe and decided to visit it. On the one hand, he had an innocent mind; he tried to learn more about human ways and customs and even granted a few wishes along the way. On the other hand, this was a being that could wipe out galaxies in an eyeblink and not even realize it was the wrong thing to do.
While many Marvel heroes fought against him, Phoenix was the only one to really have a chance. Rachel Summers was the host at the time and realized unleashing the full might of the Phoenix was the only way to stop the Beyonder. While even her power wasn’t enough to do more than knock him back, taking on a being of near-omnipotence was pretty impressive.
12 CLEANSE THE PLANET OF DEMONS
One of the darkest What If issues, vol 2 #6, imagines the X-Men losing the events of the “Inferno” crossover. Earth is thus overrun with demons with many heroes either killed or corrupted. Even Wolverine is on the bad side of things. Doctor Strange says the world is unbalanced and the Living Tribunal is on its way to judge (i.e. destroy) it. The only way humanity survives is to use the Phoenix Force. Amid various battles and several characters dying, Rachel Summers is able to summon the Phoenix to Earth. She then uses it to “cleanse” the planet of all its demonic influence.
The Tribunal arrives just as it’s finished and judges that the Phoenix has restored the balance. It lets the Phoenix go, making it clear it is never to return to Earth or take a host. Earth is in a primal state but able to rebuild to show the Phoenix can restore life as well as take it.
11 REIGNITE THE SUN
In What If? vol 2 #23, Jean Grey never possesses the Phoenix Force as Polaris is able to bring down a shuttlecraft without Jean’s sacrifice. Much of the events of X-Men lore play out, albeit a bit differently, including meeting the Shi’ar. Here, just as the events of “The Dark Phoenix Saga” are about to begin, the Shi’ar tell the X-Men that the Phoenix Force resides in the sun and they have to destroy it before it awakens.
Naturally, the X-Men try to find another way and Cyclops decides to fly into the sun, absorb the Phoenix and leave the galaxy. Before he can, he’s knocked out by Nightcrawler who in this reality mistakenly believed the X-Men were bad guys. Realizing he was wrong, Nightcrawler atones by sacrificing himself to reignite Earth’s sun and take the Phoenix away.
10 POSSESS MAGNETO
Magneto has always seen himself being in the right with his desire to help mutants survive. Sadly, that’s often led to some dark actions. In a What If? miniseries, the events of Avengers vs X-Men take a turn when the Phoenix manages to possess young Hope. Magneto sways the teen into believing humans are the true threat so she’ll start wiping them out. This sets up a brutal fight between the heroes with many on both sides falling. The power overwhelms Hope who begs Magneto to help her. He does…by taking her out her so he takes the Phoenix himself.
Thus, we get the nightmare sight of the X-Men’s oldest enemy now possessing the power to remake reality. That leads to more heroes falling before Wolverine is able to take out Magneto. This causes the Phoenix power to explode and remake the world. Wolverine is spared by Jean, now the White Phoenix, who sees the Earth reborn. It just shows how deadly two X-Men foes combined can be.
9 WIELD THOR'S HAMMER
A few times, Thor has gone up against the Phoenix and came out worse because of it. As strong as Thor is, against the power of the Phoenix, he’s overmatched. In the 31st century, Giraud is now the wielder of the Phoenix Force. However, he later contracted a virus that caused him to go mad and destroy several planets.
When a deadly reality-controlling villain attacked the universe, Giraud redeemed himself by beating her. He did so by aiding Woden, the son of Thor in the battle. That included Giraud handling Mjlonir and channeling his power into it to destroy the evil entity. It’s a great showcase for the power of the Phoenix in how it could hold this mystical weapon. Although we do have to wonder how Mjlonir deemed the Phoenix worthy.
8 CURING JUBILEE
Once, Jubilee was a popular teenage mutant with the ability to create fireworks from her hands. She was one of many who lost her mutant powers on “M-Day” and felt pretty out of place afterward. In a wild storyline, she was transformed into a vampire and became a foster mom to an orphaned girl. She wore a talisman to allow her to walk in the sunlight and worked as a teacher at the Jean Grey Academy. Yet it was clear Jubilee felt more out of place being one of the undead.
In a fight with the twisted Emplate, Jubilee’s protective medallion was torn off and she was thrown into the sun where she caught on fire. The selfish Quinten Quire had just gotten a piece of the Phoenix Force but remembered how Jubilee was the one person who had tried to see the best in him. So Quinten used his piece of the Phoenix to not only make Jubilee human but restore her powers. He brushed it off as “just for fun” but Jubilee was grateful the Phoenix made her a regular person once more.
7 TAKING DOWN GALACTUS
Galactus feeds on entire planets to survive, and that's what makes him one of the strongest beings. It is pure luck that Earth has managed to beat him a couple of times. The only thing that has managed to have an easy time defeating it is the Phoenix.
It’s happened in a few What If? specials to showcase how different things can be. However, even the regular MU has shown the Rachel Summers Phoenix being able to hold her own against Galactus. Likewise, the Phoenix Five could do the same. It can depend upon the host but the fact remains in a straight-up battle, even the Devourer of Worlds can’t compete with the Phoenix.
6 FLOODING WAKANDA
The 2012 Avengers vs X-Men event has the two teams battling when the Phoenix comes to Earth. The issue is that the X-Men want to use the Phoenix to aid mutants while the Avengers think it’s too dangerous. Eventually, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Majik become “the Phoenix Five,” imbued with the cosmic power. This just makes the stakes even bigger.
When the Avengers continue to fight back, Namor (never the most rational person in his normal state) takes offense. In a stunning move, he uses his new power to flood the entire heart of Wakanda, taking out hundreds. Naturally, this makes Namor the Black Panther’s sworn enemy for some time. It also shows the power of the Phoenix that Wakanda felt first hand.
5 TEAMING UP WITH DARKSEID
In a 1982 special, the X-Men team up with the Teen Titans in an epic adventure. Deathstroke has been hired to collect Phoenix energies from across the planet and both teams get involved in the search. Deathstroke is working for Darkseid who uses the energies to reform the Dark Phoenix. Darkseid’s plan is to use her to enhance his own power to breach the Source Wall and absorb its energies in order to conquer the universe.
It’s a wild battle between the teams with Professor X seeming to get through to Jean inside Phoenix. She ends up fighting back to defeat Darkseid before vanishing. Obviously, it wasn’t really Jean, but the special itself was terrific if only for the epic panel of two of the most powerful cosmic beings united in evil.
4 FEASTING ON A PLANET
In the 31st century of the original Guardians of the Galaxy, mutants had long left Earth to settle on another world. There, the human population grew while the mutants dwindled but maintained a brutal control. The Guardians worked with a rebellion to overthrow this evil rule and during the conflict, a young resistance member named Giraud found out he was a mutant himself. He was soon the new host of the Phoenix Force which he began to use to rock this world.
The Guardians barely escaped before watching in horror as the Phoenix destroyed this entire planet to stop an evil creature living inside it. However, Giraud had managed to control the Phoenix enough to teleport the entire population of the planet to the world of the living computer Mainframe (once the Vision). Thus, the Phoenix was a savior as much as a destroyer to aid the universe.
3 RESTARTING THE UNIVERSE
When Jean Grey first became Phoenix, there were hints that her abilities were a little more than her usual mutant powers magnified. But it took a turn when the X-Men traveled into space to face off against the Shi’ar Empire. The mad Emperor D’ken was attempting to use the reality-controlling M’kraan Crystal to add to his own power. D’ken didn’t understand he was messing with a force that could wipe out all of existence. The X-Men teamed up with the Starjammers to take out the Imperial Guard but the Crystal was cracked.
Phoenix flew into it and used her powers to heal it up. She brushed it off as a simple repair but in truth, she basically restarted the entire universe in the process. She had to resist the idea of “fixing” it but the fact she showed such power over reality was out of this world.
2 EATING A STAR
This is the most infamous Phoenix moment. After emerging as Dark Phoenix, Jean takes to the stars and travels across the universe. To sate her hunger, she dives into a star and absorbs its energy. This creates a super-nova that wipes out an entire planet. She then destroys a Shi’ar battle cruiser that tries to stop her. This alerts the Shi’ar Empire and thus sets up the big battle with the X-Men.
It was artist John Byrne who added the panel of the planet wiped out which wasn’t in the agreed-upon plot. When then-editor Jim Shooter realized Phoenix had become a destroyer of people and worlds, she demanded that she pay for it, and set up her “death.” It wouldn’t take, but the fact that Phoenix was able to wipe out an entire world for a meal is still proof of the threat it poses.
1 WIPING OUT THE UNIVERSE
Almost as soon as Marvel had “killed off” Phoenix, fans were demanding some sort of revival. Marvel gave it to them, in a way, in a now-classic What If? issue (vol 1, #27). Jean survives the battle on the moon and is stripped of her psychic powers. For a time, she feels out of place with the other X-Men and misses the power she had. When the team clashes with Galactus, Jean’s Phoenix powers return and she aids the team once more.
However, Jean’s power soon becomes addictive to where she goes on night “excursions” destroying asteroids. When the team confronts her, Phoenix loses control and takes them all out. She then proceeds to go totally insane and wipe out her entire universe. As the Watcher states, terrible as Jean’s fate was in the main Marvel universe, it was far worse for this reality.