What If... Phoenix Had Not Died?

For once, taking a story from (then) recent memory works, probably because the Dark Phoenix Saga was a bonafide classic as soon as it hit the racks. Mary Jo Duffy and Jerry Bingham ask "What if Chris Claremont had wanted to wring a couple more years out of this storyline?" to good effect, with only one cheat (an appearance by Galactus that doesn't mirror Uncanny's events). Despite what the inevitable (and by modern What If? standards, clichéed) ending, this was definitely worthy of being included in the Best of collection, Duffy doing her best to keep even the requisite angst of mutant fare even at that time.

What If Vol.1 #27 (June 1981)
Based on: Uncanny X-Men #129-138
The true history: After the Phoenix Force inhabits Jean Gray, she starts to lose control until she consumes a star, killing 5 billion people. Princess Lilandra and the Imperial Guard wish to destroy her, but when their attack on the X-Men "brutally cuts down" Cyclops, the Phoenix once again manifests and Jean realizes she is a danger to everyone. She commits suicide to save all of existence (or at least, her boyfriend).
Turning point: What if Cyclops didn't get zapped by the Imperial Guard?
Story type: Everybody dies
Watcher's mood: Got... to... concentrate!
Altered history: This time, Jean jumps in front of the zap meant for Cyclops and she's down for the count. Cyclops goes a little ballistic, but the Imperial Guard gangs up on him and pretty soon, they've got Jean hooked up to the "cosmic lobotomizer".
They burn away the parts of her brain that gave her mutant powers, which should keep her out of the universe-destroying business and in the kitchen.
Jean is still replaced by Kitty Pryde and becomes a sort of butler, trainer and pilot for the team. Things are fine until Lilandra calls for help in dealing with Galactus who wants to eat one of the Shi'ar's member worlds. In the ensuing battle, Cyclops is injured, which makes the Phoenix Force return. It seems emotions can fix a cosmic lobotomy. Phoenix gives Galactus a spanking, and in his usual fashion, he decides to leave (Galactus is nothing if not lazy), but not before delivering a warning (click to enlarge legibility).
If you did click the pic, I apologize for that enlarged naked Terrax. Couldn't be helped. Despite the warning, Jean doesn't feel the "Dark" in her at all, and the Shi'ar even pardon her. From then on, the X-Men have the same adventures (though more easily resolved) and soap opera (though Wolverine is sadder). However, Jean has been routinely going into space to destroy stars and planetoids (all uninhabited, of course) to recharge her batteries. The fiend. Professor X has been fighting through migraines to monitor Phoenix though, and when Kitty blows the whistle on her...
...my high school crush is turned into a fine powder! Next stop: Lobotomizing Professor X!
And from there, every single X-Man. Props for turning a fastball special into one of Grimtooth's Traps.
And when she finally kills Cyclops, everything goes caca.
Ah well. That's one less Earth for the Watcher to monitor. I swear, he must do it on purpose to get a weekend off now and then.
Books canceled as a result: I hope Marvel can survive on Silver Surfer comics alone. Somebody call Jim Starlin or something!
These things happen: In fact, they do. It was later revealed that Jean Gray never even became the Phoenix and that the Force just copied her body and mind while she lay sleeping in the East River. As for the Force, it too came back again and again, in different hosts, never managing to destroy all of reality.

Next week: What If Ghost Rider Were Separated from Johnny Blaze?
My guess: They'd fight for custody of the bike.


Anonymous said...

When Phoenix desintegrates Pride everybody cries, "Jean, no!". Only Colossus remembers poor Kitty is dead! What a morons.


Jack Norris said...

"What a morons"?


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