Monday, December 14, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Uncanny X-Men #134-138

This week's run includes the Dark Phoenix Saga and, arguably, the most significant death in the Marvel Universe.  While Gwen Stacy's death is more important from an industry perspective, Jean Grey's is more impactful in-story.  

It's also a shame.  Without a doubt, Jean Grey/Phoenix had become the most interesting character in the Claremont/Byrne X-Men saga.  Female characters in general rose to prominence with Jean leading the way.  Was her death a narrative necessity, making room to develop the newer characters?  Did the Scott/Jean romance need to end in order for the broader story to move forward?  Maybe.

It's comic books so she comes back.  Eventually.  It's still a shame in the short term.

My Recent Reads

Uncanny X-Men #134
Originally Published June 10, 1980
Writers: Chris Claremont and John Byrne
Artist: John Byrne
  • Cyclops isn't really dead.  Phew!
  • The X-Men finally overcome the Hellfire Club and, more importantly, Jean Grey frees herself from Jason Wynegarde/Mastermind's psychic control.
  • But Jean's evolution continues in disturbing directions.  She's back on the X-Men side but there's still more than a touch of evil lurking within her, perhaps even growing.  When she breaks free of Mastermind, she basically performs a brutal, psychic lobotomy on him.
  • On the final page, Jean reveals herself as Dark Phoenix and the X-Men's hovercraft, transporting them all back to New Mexico, explodes in midair.

Uncanny X-Men #135
July 10, 1980
Claremont and Byrne/Byrne
  • The X-Men survive the explosion but Dark Phoenix still kicks the snot out of them.  
  • Dark Phoenix is far more powerful and far more dangerous than anyone, least of all Jean, suspected.  Dark Phoenix flies out into outer space.  She gets hungry.
  • She enters and devours an entire star, sending it into supernova.  The 5 billion inhabitants of the surrounding planets are all killed instantly.
  • Oh, boy...

Uncanny X-Men #136
August 1, 1980
Claremont and Byrne/Byrne
via Amazon

  • The Shi'ar, led by Empress Lilandra, are understandably alarmed by the whole solar system annihilation scene.  They are determined to destroy Dark Phoenix.
  • Dark Phoenix returns to Earth where Jean Grey's family and her fellow X-Men must come to terms with the new and terrifying powers she possesses.
  • Dark Phoenix battles the X-Men.  Crucially, Xavier duels her psychically and with the human side of Jean Grey's help, manages to suppress Dark Phoenix, at least for the moment.
  • At the end of the issue, all of the X-Men are mysteriously transported away.

Uncanny X-Men #137
September 1, 1980
Claremont and Byrne/Byrne
  • The X-Men appear on a Shi'ar starship, many light years away from Earth.  
  • Empress Lilandra declares that Dark Phoenix must die.
  • The X-Men object, naturally.  But then, Lilandra tells the story of the genocide exacted against the D'Barians, the inhabitants of the worlds destroyed in #135.  
  • Now, everyone is conflicted.  Where does Dark Phoenix end and Jean Grey begin?  Are they even separable?  Can Jean fairly be held accountable?  The Shi'ar say yes.  The X-Men are prepared to fight on her behalf.
  • Xavier demands a duel of honor between the X-Men and the Imperial Guard to determine Jean/Dark Phoenix's fate.
  • In the midst of the battle, which the X-Men are clearly losing, Jean transforms into the the terrible Dark Phoenix.  The X-Men have no choice but to turn against her.
  • Jean demands that they destroy her but the X-Men refuse to do so. 
  • Left with no other choice, she turns a laser cannon upon herself and dies.

Uncanny X-Men #138
October 10, 1980
Claremont and Byrne/Byrne
via Amazon

  • The story begins with X-Men old and new standing over the grave of Jean Grey.
  • Most of the issue is devoted to Scott recounting a thorough X-Men history up to that point.  I've seen such issues in other series, too.  While my initial reaction is always that they're unnecessary, I must remind myself that accessing these stories in 2020 is a lot easier than it would have been in 1980.  Now, it's literally all at my fingertips.  Then, I would have been limited to what was currently sitting on the rack at the grocery store.  Back issues would have required a bit more work.  So, an occasional catchup issue was essential.
  • Important development happens on the last page of the issue: Scott Summers leaves the X-Men at the same moment Kitty Pride arrives at the mansion.  One story ends just as a new one begins.  Such is life.


  1. I've never really been happy that they brought Jean back.
    I'm not fond of resurrection stories in general, but hers has always bothered me.

  2. What also impressed me about 138 is that it is an all new retelling. Byrne and Austin redid the entire history of the team up to that point. Not a reprint in sight!

  3. Before this project, most of my knowledge was from the movies. It's been fun digging deeper into the characters' stories.