The Phoenix, a cosmic entity of both creation and destruction, has long been at the center of the Marvel Universe’s balance of power. It began as a staple of the X-Men comics, and has grown to affect the larger Marvel U quite a few times. But throughout its long years of appearances, the focus has always been placed mainly on its capacity for death and destruction. Rarely has there been evidence to the Phoenix being an equal force for good, for life and protection, other than characters sometimes verbally reminding readers of that fact.
Lately, however, as part of the Marvel Legacy relaunch, it seemed like we were looking at a renewed emphasis on the positive side of the Phoenix. A certain amount of groundwork has been laid to open the door for a different kind of Phoenix, one that is truly both the end and the beginning, death and life. But the most recent appearance of the cosmic entity in Matt Rosenberg’s Phoenix Resurrection might contradict that recent evolution. Is the Jean Grey-centric miniseries a step back, or is it part of the larger plan to further develop the Phoenix Force?
Ever since “The Asgard/Shi’ar War” storyline in Jason Aaron’s Thor epic, a new direction for The Phoenix has been slowly established. The final issue of the story went out of its way to remind readers that the cosmic force was not just about destruction, but creation as well. Yes, it was painted as an adversary, but under the right circumstances, it could also be an ally.
The idea was pushed even further in the Aaron-scripted Marvel Legacy #1 one-shot special, an ambitious book that served as a new starting point for the publisher’s line of titles. This book introduced the concept of the Avengers 1,000,000 B.C., a group of superheroes that was formed back when humanity was still in its infancy.
This first group of Avengers was comprised of characters wielding legacy-based superhero identities: a Black Panther, a Ghost Rider (seated atop a flaming mammoth), a Starbrand, an Iron Fist, Odin, King of Asgard, and a Phoenix host. The notion that the Phoenix could be a hero, a force for good who doesn’t just torment its host and seeks to wreak havoc was now cemented in the very beginning of the Marvel Universe. In fact, we came to learn that this group of superheroes managed to defend the Earth from an all-powerful Celestial who had come to Earth a long, long time ago. Not only that, a romance between the Phoenix and Odin was also teased, showing that the god-like being was also capable of love.
The Phoenix then appeared in the Generations: The Phoenix one-shot by Cullen Bunn and R.B. Silva. There, a young, time-traveling Jean Grey met her future, Phoenix-possessed self. But rather than being tormented and haunted by the cosmic entity, young Jean saw, in the far reaches of space, the Phoenix save a world and a race of aliens from the annihilating threat of Galactus. The Phoenix fought the Devourer of Worlds and won, saving countless lives in the process.
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