Title: X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga
Author: Chris Claremont
Artist: John Byrne
I encountered in The Dark Phoenix Saga a problem I have seen in almost all of the X=Men stories I have read. It is painfully written at times - OK, let's be honest: most times. However, if I separate that from the story itself, I find this saga quite compelling.
Although, some of the art is quite striking (see above - how can you not love this visual of a phoenix? Of course, the phoenix is one of my favorite mythological creatures. The symbols that the bird possesses are so intriguing - the images of rebirth, healing, fire, power and wealth - and they represent so much in sooo many cultures, from the Phoenicians to the Persians to the Greeks to the Egyptians), at other times I disliked it. For example, the color is that often tacky and ill-fitting However, I have to admit that the art is also successful. The way Byrne represents action and the characters is pleasing.
Here we have a page where Jane Grey goes into her crazy, violent self and her friends are forced to fight against her. This is a question that I always find intriguing. What I enjoy about the writing of Claremont (never the actual way he phrases it, but his overall ideas can be captivating). These elements in the story are notable because they show an attractive trend that occurred in the eighties in mainstream comic writing (The Dark Phoenix Saga was published from January to October in 1980).
One of my favorite aspects of the story are the fun mind games that Mastermind (classic name, right) plays with Jane Grey. He makes her relive the life of Lady Jane Grey (quick shameless plug - check out Lady Jane, old school Cary Elwes, prePrincessBride and Helena Bonham Carter, pre-creepyness, which recounts the sad reign of Lady Jane Grey) with himself cast as her love, which really kills Scott. Good times.
I actually really like that last picture (minus the Spiderman, you know how I feel about people other than Batman - are you ready for this: Right now I am sitting in my living room with my awesome roomies watching a Batman marathon. That's right. We started with Batman from 1966, moved onto Batman from 1989, to Batman Returns from 1992, then to Batman Forever from 1995, then to Batman and Robin from 1997 (I know it really is painful to watch), then to Batman Begins from 2005 and, finally, to end beautifully with The Dark Knight (which started my interest in reading comics, so I can't help bu that love it) aren't y'all jealous!!!!). Even though the cheesy mask kills me a little bit, the pathos grips me.
One of the most beautiful aspects of this story is Jean Gray's self-sacrifice. Granted, she had committed genocide of an entire planet and wreaked awful havoc on the X-Men team, but even so when she dies the note of tragedy is not lost. The powerful moment is somewhat lessened by the unfortunately large-headed (forever emblazoned in my mind as babies because of how they look - unfair, I know) Uatu, the watcher (an idea that intrigues me - those cursed to watch the universe and never interfere, but why do they have to look so unfortunate???) commenting, rather lamely, in my opinion, "Jane Grey could have lived to become a God. But it was more important to her that she die ... a human." I am really not sure why that strikes me as so cheesy. I know I love a good line as much as the next person, but, I suppose, this one just rings false for me.
However, I still believe that The Dark Phoenix is worth a read. It is an example of some of the best story you will get from an ultra mainstream storyline. I would suggest getting it from your local library (you know how much I like those), but if you just feel compelled to buy it, you may purchase it here: http://http//www.amazon.com/X-Men-Dark-Phoenix-Chris-Claremont/dp/0785122133. Until next time; go enjoy some art!