The Phoenix Force holds a special place in the hearts of nearly every Marvel Comics reader. Out of every X-Men storyline and character that has existed, two of the most popular is by far none "The Phoenix Saga" and the "Dark Phoenix Saga". Writer Chris Claremont, along with artists John Byrne and David Cockrum, not only went and made Jean Grey relevant, but they force the entire comic-reading community to take the X-Men, and comic books, seriously. At its height, there are few stories that compare to the two Sagas; it’s resonated with fans for decades. Even now, movies studios and Marvel itself continues to bank heavily on the Phoenix and its relationship with Jean Grey and the X-Men. The Sagas have become genre defining in their own right.
Much of this is due to the Phoenix Force and the way it was written. While other cosmic beings had existed beforehand, readers had never seen anything quite like the cosmic bird of rebirth and destruction. In short order, the Phoenix went on to become one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. Today at CBR we’re looking at 15 things you probably don’t know about the Phoenix.
15 POSSESSED RACHEL SUMMERS THE LONGEST
The Phoenix Force adores jean Grey and together they share the strongest connection out of any other host. In spite of this, Jean and Phoenix haven’t always gotten along and Jean usually ends up on the wrong side of the cosmic bird and its power. On the other end of the spectrum is Rachel Summers, Jean’s daughter from another timeline. She has maintained the longest relationship with the Phoenix Force without any evil incarnations, out of anybody else.
Mentioned as “The One True Phoenix,” Rachel connected with the Phoenix because of her Grey legacy. After learning of her deceased mother’s actions as the Phoenix, Rachel vowed to use the power of the Phoenix Force as part of her birthright and to use it for good. She could then tap into the Phoenix Force ‘s power with unrivaled mastery. Since the Dark Phoenix powers weren’t a part of the equation for her, Rachel was and is potentially the strongest Phoenix incarnation.
14 IT CAN CONNECT TO THE IRON FIST
As already mentioned, the Phoenix Force exists in nearly every timeline, having survived the Big Bang and existing in the Omniverse. In the 616 Marvel Universe, the Phoenix shared a connection to the immortal Iron Fist power. While the Iron Fist stems more from magic and life energy, the Phienix’s Force’s psychic energy balanced it out nicely.
The first union of the Phoenix Force and the Iron Fist debuted in 2012’s The New Avengers #25. In it, Fongji Wu appeared in Yu-Ti’s prophetic dream. She found Fongji in the city of K’un-L’un and trained her. Named as the next Iron Fist, she also acquired the powers of the Phoenix Force. After Fongji emerged with both powers, she departed for outer space and never returned. Hope Summers would later learn to utilize the Iron Fist and the Phoenix Force to combat an insane Dark Phoenix Cyclops in Avengers vs. X-Men.
13 IT CAN TIME TRAVEL
If you’re being especially technical, then yes, the Phoenix Force can indeed time travel. To be more precise however, it’s imperative to understand that the Phoenix Force actually exists outside the constraints of time and space. It does, in essence, exist at every point in reality, since it’s the embodiment of all psychic energy in the past, present, and future. For all intents and purposes, the Phoenix operates above what many consider reality.
The Phoenix operates out of the White Hot Room, where it perceives the whole of creation as a tapestry from an outside vantage. In the moments Jean Grey has perfectly fused with the Phoenix, she was able manipulate events in the past and future to forge brand new timelines. The Phoenix Force can even anticipate how these changes will play out. At the end of the day, the Phoenix can manipulate time with a scalpel’s precision.
12 IT WAS MADE TO BE MARVEL'S FIRST FEMALE COSMIC HERO
Before the introduction of the Phoenix Force and it startling connection to Jean Grey, Marvel didn’t have any female cosmic-level superheroes. First appearing in in Uncanny X-Men #101, the Phoenix Force forever changed the way Jean Grey was presented. Up until then, she was typically portrayed as the team’s weakest member Chris Claremont and artists David Cockrum and John Byrne changed all that. They specifically created the Phoenix Force storyline to provide Marvel with its first female cosmic hero
This also put Jean in the spotlight, as she’d never had an impactful role in early X-Men comics. Claremont wanted to expand her powers with the Phoenix Force and rebrand her as an important team member. Yet while they wrote the Phoenix Saga, Claremont noticed Jean’s powers were becoming too great and the book’s focus was falling squarely on her, rather than the whole team.
11 IT CAN TELEPORT BY DESTROYING ITSELF
The Phoenix possessing people and then wiping out the universe isn’t the only way it can cause untold destruction. When the Phoenix possesses its host, the hosts can travel unaided through space at speeds that far exceed light. If it’s feeling particularly lazy, the Phoenix Force itself can use a more efficient mode of transportation: teleportation. As powerful as it is, the cosmic entity can travel anywhere at anytime to any plane of existence. It achieves this by creating a quantum singularity.
Essentially, the Phoenix folds time and space and teleports to wherever it so chooses. Unfortunately, this requires a tremendous amount of energy and typically instigates a temporal collapse. As a result, there’s a massive explosion akin to a black hole in scope of power. The Phoenix Force then recreates itself at a different location, ready to go about its day.
10 IT CAN DIVIDE INTO MULTIPLE HOSTS
The Phoenix Force is one of the most powerful cosmic forces in the Marvel Universe. That being the case, sometimes its energies can be a little overwhelming for folks. Occasionally, but not always, the Phoenix Force will account for this and divide itself among numerous individuals. This allows for its hosts to not get totally burned out by the experience. On the downside, dividing its power, makes the hosts temperamental and desire the entire thing.
During the Avengers vs. X-Men series, the division was accidental, as Iron Man punched the Phoenix Force so hard that it involuntarily divided. Ruptured into five parts, the sections bonded with Cyclops, Namor, Emma Frost, Colossus and Magik. The hosts then posses one-fifth of the Phoenix Force, but that’s still more power than nearly any of them can handle. The incredible might practically drives them mad and power hungry.
9 IT JUDGES THE UNIVERSE
The universe is a tricky place. There’s tons going on and even most gods can’t keep track of who’s doing what. Like everything else however, the universe, and all the living beings inside it, occasionally need to be judged to instill order to make sure everyone knows their place. The designated role of judge, jury, and executioner sometimes goes to the Celestials, but also the Phoenix Force.
The Phoenix Force does this by way of "The Judgment of the Phoenix". It is a cycle of creation and destruction and one of the Phoenix's key responsibilities is maintaining the integrity of the multiverse. When the time comes and a decision has been made, the Phoenix possesses the power to destroy and re-create parts of the universe. It literally burns away the old to make room for the new.
8 IT CAN BESTOW PSIONIC ABILITIES
Turns out, the Phoenix doesn’t just have a penchant with bonding to extremely powerful psychic mutants. It can, and has, bonded to regular humans. Like any mutant it possesses, if a human becomes part of the Phoenix Force, they too will receive an incredible power boost and become living gods, imbuing them with fantastic psionic abilities.
This isn’t often seen, but there was a moment it occurred in the Guardians of the Galaxy series. The character Giraud of New Haven became the ninth host of the Phoenix. The Phoenix Force chose him on account of latent potential mental mutation. Alas, only abilities Giraud demonstrated were a byproduct of the Phoenix Force. With the Phoenix at his disposal he easily controlled matter on an atomic scale, could manipulate and absorb infinite amounts of energy, and open bridges to other realities.
7 IT BONDS DIFFERENTLY WITH EACH HOST
The Phoenix Force is typically associated for its relationship with Jean Grey and eventually driving her to the edge of insanity and eventually suicide. That said, not everyone experiences the Phoenix Force the exact same way. That’s just the way of eternal beings like the Phoenix. It’s not a simplistic creature, but wholly complex in its motivations.
It’s true that most fans think of the entity in two forms: the Phoenix and the Dark Phoenix, yet there are other versions of the Phoenix. There’s the White Phoenix of the Crown, which is considered the purest bond between the Phoenix and a physical avatar. In this from, the user can do anything the Phoenix can do. There’s also the Blue Shadow form, where the Phoenix Force imprints on an object and allows its host to absorb this fragment of power, accessing the Blue Phoenix energy.
6 IT CAN LAY EGGS
Even though the Phoenix Force is practically unrivaled in might when it comes to mortals, immortals and godly opponents can sometimes mean certain doom. It’s rare, but the Phoenix Force has been defeated and even destroyed on multiple occasions. Whenever someone or something manages to do that, the Phoenix Force finds a way to be reborn, thanks to laying a cosmic egg. Similar to the phoenix of myth, it rises from ashes in order to experience new life. When the Phoenix Force emerges fully formed and is reborn, it comes loaded, wielding its unfathomable power.
This happened during the 2015 series Secret Wars. The Phoenix Force has survived the end of the universe and lays an egg which Cyclops happen upon. He takes the power and becomes the new Phoenix. His tenure is short as God Doom quickly kills him, but the Phoenix would still live on.
5 IT PREFERS CERTAIN GENEALOGIES
X-Men fans may have noticed that Phoenix Force’s proclivity for attaching itself to a member of the Summers household. There’s a reason for that and it’s called favoritism. The Phoenix Force is attracted to the strongest psychic minds in all of reality, and Jean Grey and her offspring fit the bill masterfully. Over countless millennia of roaming across time and space, the Phoenix seems to prefer bonding with hosts from the same family.
Besides Jean, the most famous examples are Nate Grey and Rachel Summers, Jean Grey and Scott Summers' kids from alternate timelines. Rachel’s union with the Phoenix is called the "One True Phoenix," since her bond with the Force was largely predicated on her familial ties. Light years away in the Shi'ar Empire, the Rook'shir line was feared by their government on account of them too being potential hosts of the Phoenix.
4 IT WAS USED BY MAGNETO TO KILL EVERY HERO (SORT OF)
Magneto is arguably the X-Men’s greatest enemy. While his intentions, i.e. saving mutants, are noble, he generally goes about trying to create nuclear holocausts to ensure his plans. In What if…? AVX, Magneto finally acquired the power he needs to turn the planet into a world he deems fit for himself. In this timeline, The Phoenix kills the Guardians of the Galaxy and other heroes, before eventually merging with Hope Summers.
The entire time, Magneto has been whispering into Hope’s ears, until she feel he’s the only one who understands her. Finally, Magneto seizes his moment, steals the Phoenix Force for himself and becomes unstoppable. He proceeds to kill nearly every hero on the planet before Wolverine stabs him in the face. But the damage is done. Jean Grey appears to Wolverine, takes them to the beginning of creation, and they become a version of Adam and Eve.
3 IT HAS POSSESSED 28 PEOPLE
The Phoenix Force is known for the special connection its maintained with the mutant Jean Grey. Ever since the Phoenix was introduced in X-Men comics back in 1976, it’s always been associated with the telepathic mutant. Though the Phoenix Force prefers the Jean Grey/Scott Summers genealogy, it’s made exceptions to the rule. Including humans and other mutants, to date, the Phoenix Force has had 28 different hosts.
The Phoenix Force cannot be permanently destroyed, but its hosts can die. That being the case, it would continue searching for new hosts after Jean, or whoever was its host at the time, died. It would possess Marvel heroes like included Cyclops, Colossus, Namor, Emma Frost, and Rachel Summers, but the majority of these hosts only sampled a small portion of its power and not the whole thing.
2 IT CAN KILL EVERY DEMON ON EARTH
Marvel’s What If? comics line usually featured dark stories that departed from mainstream canon. In these tales, things typically go terribly awry. In What If…? #6, readers were introduced to a monstrous reality where Wolverine and the evil Madelyne Pryor kill nearly every hero on Earth. In the storyline, Madelyne literally brings Hell to Earth and nearly wipes out every living thing.
With a bloodthirsty Wolverine as her loyal slave, who happens to enjoy feasting on his fallen victims, they are almost unstoppable. Rachel Summers initially tries to use the Phoenix Force, but cannot because Madelyne controls it…at least until the skeleton of Wolverine kills her. Don’t ask. From there, Rachel summons the Phoenix, it cleanses the world of every demon and what’s left of humanity return to nature.
1 IT CAN BE BEATEN
The Phoenix Force is typically thought neigh unbeatable. After all, once you survive the Big Bang and have the ability to take on the likes of Galactus, you wouldn’t think much could challenge you. If that really were the case, then the universe would likely be just a mound of ashes. The X-Men, and other heroes an villains have indeed stopped the Phoenix Force dead in its tracks. Even though the Phoenix possesses the infuriating ability to never truly die, it can still be stopped. When Jean Grey killed herself, after becoming subjugated to the cosmic bird’s might, she stopped it then.
In Avengers vs. X-Men a combination of Scarlet Witch’s chaos magic and Hope Summers’ Iron Fist powers defeated a Dark Phoenix Cyclops. God (Doctor) Doom easily killed Cyclops after he had acquired the Phoenix Force (again) and the demon Cyttorak swat the Phoenix’s power aside with zero effort.