Monday, July 13, 2015

X-Men # 101

Every comic book collector and reader worth his or her salt knows that Marvel Comics' X-Men is the biggest selling title in comic book publishing.

But that was not always the case.

When Jack Kirby and Stan Lee introduced Marvel Comics' X-Men in their own title in the 1960s sales were good-but not great.

After about 60 issues the sales were plummeting and in a last ditch effort to save the title Marvel Comics put superstars penciller Neal Adams and writer Roy Thomas on the title.

Granted their run was phenomenal but it did not translate to higher sales numbers so the title was cancelled.  At least as far as new stories were concerned.  It struggled on for about 20 more issues consisting of reprints and finally bit the dust.

In the mid-1970s the All-New, All Different X-Men were introduced in the revived title and while sales weren't stellar they were good enough to eventually push the title from a bi-monthly to a monthly print schedule-in no small part due to the scripts and art of Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum.

After completing an assignment in space the X-Men are aboard a damaged and plummeting space shuttle.  It crashes into a body of water and everyone survives-except Jean Grey.  Or so it was supposed.

Issue #101 introduced a character whose influence can still be felt today throughout the Marvel Comics Universe.

Having assumed Jean died in the crash the X-Men are startled and astonished when the water about them begins bubbling and suddenly a green and yellow clad Jean Grey emerges in a lightshow of energy proclaiming she is the Phoenix.

It was thought that Jean's mutant abilities came to full fruition when the crash triggered some sort of hidden power surge.

In later issues it was revealed that Jean possessed the cosmic power of the Phoenix.  Unfortunately the power soon corrupted her and she became the Dark Phoenix, devourer of worlds.

The first appearance of the Phoenix would set in motion a decades long string of stories that forever changed the Marvel Universe.  The Phoenix (Jean) would go on to become the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club and eventually die sacrificing herself rather than turning into the ravenous and insatiable Dark Phoenix.

Later still it would be revealed that the Phoenix wasn't Jean Grey but a being of immense power who took on her appearance.  Jean was still alive in a protective cocoon at the bottom of body of water the space shuttle crashed into and would be revived.

Jean's fate and that of the Phoenix would be intermingled over the following years and the power of the Phoenix would rival that of Galactus himself.

We've not seen the last of the Phoenix or its dark manifestation and I dare say not the last of Jean Grey.