Tag Archives: Phoenix Saga

Lessons In Fate, Power, And Passion (From An X-men Comic)

Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey (2017) #1

As kids, it seems as though everyone is trying to teach us morality lessons that’ll help us grow into functioning adults. Those lessons aren’t always effective, though. Just ask the potheads who sat through the DARE program in school.

As adults, we tend to pay less attention to those kinds of lessons because we arrogantly believe we’ve figured it out. We think we know enough about the human experience to determine what is right and what is wrong. People who think that way tend to be the arrogant assholes who refuse to admit that Dr. Oz is a quack and a fraud.

Truly functional people, be they kids, adults, or adults who still act like kids, never stop learning important life lessons. Life is a constantly changing, obstacle-filled struggle where you never see the finish line and are guaranteed to fall flat on your face at least once a week. That’s why lessons that really deliver a powerful message in a compelling way is a special, precious thing in this chaotic world we live in.

That brings me to comic books, superheroes, and the X-men. Yes, this is going to be another one of those posts. Yes, that means I’m about to extrapolate a major philosophical insight into the human condition from an X-men comic, most likely in a way that applies to love, sex, and everything in between. You’re welcome.

It’s not the first time I’ve gleaned such lessons from an X-men comic. A year ago, I singled out X-men 92 #5 as a testament to just how powerful a romance between equals can be. Chances are, I’ll single out more comics in the future and there’s a high possibility that they’ll involve the X-men, Deadpool, or Wonder Woman.

The comic in question today is Marvel Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1. It’s actually not part of any ongoing X-men series. It’s a single, self-contained story that’s part of an major promotional effort by Marvel called Marvel Generations.

The goal is as simple. Marvel seeks to bridge the gap between its older incarnations of iconic characters with the newer versions. While some of those newer versions have already caused controversy, the goal is always the same. Marvel hopes to appeal to their long-time fans while appealing to newer fans who are just getting into the world of Marvel.

Comic companies do this fairly often, trying to please old fans while creating new ones. Having followed comics for a good chunk of my life, I’ve seen more than my share of efforts. DC Comics, Marvel’s chief rival, did it last year with their DC Rebirth initiative. By most accounts, it was a success. Now, Marvel is attempting to achieve similar success.

There are many challenges to that effort, but for Jean Grey of the X-men, those challenges are more daunting than most. I’m not talking about the kind of daunting that involves dragons, killer robots, and Brett Ratner movies. I’m talking about convoluted complications involving time travel, evil clones, and cosmic forces. Trust me, it’s way more complicated than it sounds.

For this particular issue, though, you don’t need to know the fine print of those complications. You only need to know that Jean Grey’s story, after 50 years of X-men comics, got so crazy that one of her teammates, Beast, traveled back and time and brought her and the rest of the original five X-men to the future.

Now, since 2012, Jean Grey has basically been Marty McFly from “Back To The Future,” minus the incest sub-plot. She knows that her future sucks in that she ends up dead, and multiple times, no less. On top of that, she finds out she’s destined to become corrupted by a cosmic power known as the Phoenix Force, which will go onto cause all sorts of headaches, heartbreaks, and overall frustration.

That destiny is a huge part of the X-men mythos. That’s the part that “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” a movie I’ve talked about extensively, is going to try and capture. In this comic, Jean Grey has already read the spoilers to that story. She knows it doesn’t turn out well.

In fact, she has an ongoing solo series where the primary theme involves her preparing herself to face the Phoenix Force so that she doesn’t become that cute redheaded mutant who constantly dies and ends up on the wrong side of a bad love triangle. That’s entirely understandable and Marvel Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1 gives her the best opportunity she’s had to date to change her fate.

This is where the lesson that Marty McFly learned the hard way comes in. Through elaborate space-time machinations that would give Doc Brown a migraine, Jean Grey is transported to a critical moment in the history of her character. It’s a moment that puts her in a position to change a lot more than just her fate.

That’s because she’s plopped in the middle of the iconic Phoenix Saga, also known by fans as the greatest X-men story ever told. It’s after her older self gains the cosmic power of the Phoenix force, but before it corrupts her in a way that destroys an entire star system and dooms her to a life of death and resurrection. There’s no part of that last sentence that’s exaggerated.

It’s an understandably confusing situation, but it’s one that puts Jean Grey in a position that even Marty McFly never dealt with. She doesn’t just have a chance to change her fate or learn more about her older self, who she’s only really known through the memories of other X-men. She has a chance to learn more about the cosmic power that she knows will doom her.

It makes for a series of colorful interactions between her and her older self that will bring tears of joy to the eyes of X-men fans of any generation. It’s hopeful, sincere, dramatic, and impactful. It fits perfectly within the narrative of Jean’s ongoing story in other X-men comics, as well as the story of her past self.

There’s so much to love about this comic, but I’m not going to spoil the entire thing here. I’d much rather have people go out and buy the issue. It’s money well-spent. Even if you don’t know much about comics or only know the X-men through the movies, this comic will appeal to you.

Beyond that appeal, though, I want to highlight an important theme within this comic. It’s a theme that applies to stories beyond comics and is relevant to life, in general. It especially applies to matters of love, passion, and intimate connections, which are major topic of this blog and the novels I write.

Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey (2017) #1

At the heart of Jean Grey’s struggle in Marvel Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1 is a difficult decision that everybody who isn’t a psychotic dictator faces at some point in their lives. It has to do with having the power to effect a situation and choosing whether or not to exercise it.

In the comic, Jean Grey has a chance to tell her older self everything she knows about her fate. She could, in principle, warn her about how the events of the Phoenix Saga play out for her. As a result, she could ensure it turns out differently, preferably in a way that doesn’t leave her dead and subsequently cloned.

On the surface, it seems easy. We saw what Marty McFly chose. We saw what the entire cast of “Hot Tub Time Machine” chose. They chose the easiest, most obvious path. They understandably wanted to improve their situation. In doing so, they created a lot more problems that they had to solve. The stakes for Jean’s problems, though, are much higher.

The problems she could create by changing her fate might be far worse than simply ending up dead. She’s not dealing with incestuous infatuations here. She’s dealing with a cosmic force that eats entire stars just for the fun of it.

She already knows the consequences of not changing anything. That has been hard enough to deal with. However, she has no idea whether she’ll fix anything by choosing otherwise. Given the Phoenix Force’s mixed track record, the odds are not in her favor.

I won’t spoil the choice she makes or what goes into. Again, I’d rather people read this comic to appreciate the full weight of its message. I’ll just say that the decision Jean makes is one that we all indirectly make when we have any kind of power over someone and can affect the course of their life.

Whether you’re a parent, a spouse, or an authority figure of any kind, you have an ability to make choices that affect other peoples’ fate. This is especially true when you’re in a relationship with someone. Your love for them and their love for you effectively links your fate. That makes your ability to make the right choices for the right reasons so critical.

It happens all too often, people using their position of power over others to abuse them. We see it when police harass minorities. We see it in crimes of passion. We see it in cases of spousal abuse and child abuse. When someone else trusts us with authority, we impact their lives in so many ways, often in ways we can’t see.

It can bring out the best and the worst in people, as the Phoenix Saga famously demonstrated. Real life demonstrates it too. Power does corrupt people. Sometimes the hardest choice to make is to not exercise that power to avert the potential consequences it might incur. It’s a choice that a lot of crazy dictators fail to make.

It’s a choice ordinary people fail to make as well. Parents find this out the hard way when they try to make decisions for their children. Sure, it seems like the right thing to do at the time. They may see it as them just protecting their child, as every parent should. However, they don’t realize until it’s too late how much damage that can do.

When you’re in an intimate relationship with someone, it can be just as powerful. If someone loves you implicitly and is willing to trust you so completely, you have the power to guide their lives in profound ways. That guidance, though, can be detrimental to the both of you.

When you have the power to influence a person or a situation, it’s easy and tempting to bend it to what you think will be more beneficial. The problem is that, without the benefit of hindsight, it’s impossible to know whether you’ll actually make things better or much worse.

The hardest decision in that situation is to acknowledge the problems as you understand them, bear the burden of solving them, and focus on the future rather than agonizing over the past. It’s rarely a preferable decision because it means accepting a situation and your role in it. It may feel like a missed opportunity, but it can just as easily be an averted crisis. Hindsight may be painfully clear, but possibilities are painfully vague.

Jean Grey, who is a teenager, mind you, in the story that plays out in Marvel Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1, has to make this decision in the face of impossibly high stakes. What she does is a testament to the kind of character she is and the values we cherish in our heroes.

It’s a short, but powerful story that teaches an important lesson to children, adults, comic fans, and non-comic fans alike. Whether you’re a comic book character, a celebrity, an authority figure, or just someone with the slightest bit of leverage over someone, it’s a lesson worth learning.

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X-men Dark Phoenix Update: New Directors, Alien Princesses, And Concerns

I was going to talk about a more pressing topic today. Then, some news and tidbits about the upcoming “X-men: Dark Phoenix” movie hit the web and I immediately updated my priorities.

For those of you who rely on this blog for sexy thoughts and updates on bionic penises, I ask that you sit tight. Also, I’m not apologizing because I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a huge comic book fan and an ardent X-men fan. When there’s big news about both, it’s going to get my attention and I’m going to talk about it. That’s all there is to it.

At this very moment, “X-men: Dark Phoenix” is beginning production. The first images from the movie set have leaked and James McAvoy, who plays Charles Xavier, has teased the prospect of shaving his head again. As a comic book fan and a Marvel fan, I couldn’t be more excited about this without Jennifer Lawrence begin naked. Then again, with the X-men movies, that may be a moot point.

As excited as I am to see this movie come to life without someone going on a cocaine bender, there has been some recent news that’s worth mentioning and it does have some important implications for “X-men: Dark Phoenix” and the future of the X-men a movie franchise.

I’ll probably end up saying this more than a few times between now and next year, but “X-men: Dark Phoenix” is the most important X-men movie ever made. It’s not just that Fox has to keep making X-men movies in order to keep the movie rights from reverting back to Marvel/Disney, which happened with Daredevil. This movie is both a foundation for the future of the X-men, as well as an act of redemption.

That leads me to the first major bit of news that came out recently. Unlike “X-men: Apocalypse,” Bryan Singer won’t be directing this movie. Instead, “X-men: Dark Phoenix” will be directed by long-time X-men producer, Simon Kinberg.

This move seems amicable. Bryan Singer even went so far as to formally pass the torch on Instagram. The fact it was so amicable in an industry town built on cocaine, blowjobs, and exploiting child stars is a positive sign. It also helps that Kinberg and Singer have been working together since “X-men: First Class.” That means will be a sense of continuity, so to speak.

This is already a big deal for anyone who had their heart, soul, and balls crushed by the massive wet fart that was “X-men: The Last Stand.” That movie was mired in controversy before it even began production because Bryan Singer left the franchise to direct “Superman Returns.” That move left X-men fans with Brett “Rush Hour” Ratner. In hindsight, nobody won that exchange.

There’s another important element to highlight with Simon Kinberg directing this movie. As I pointed out in my instructions on how to not to screw up “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” Kinberg showed a bit of humility that’s rare for Hollywood these days. He apologized for the role he played in “X-men: The Last Stand” and vowed to do better if he got a second chance.

Well, that chance has arrived for Mr. Kinberg. On paper, he’s the best man for the job because he has a huge personal investment in this movie. He understands that he botched the Phoenix Saga when he tried to force it into “X-men: The Last Stand” as half-baked side-plot. He also understands why that was a big problem and a huge taint on his credibility with X-men fans.

As director of “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” he can do more than just get the Phoenix Saga right the second time around. He can be more than the man who not just atoned for the cinematic migraine that was “X-men: The Last Stand.” He can be the man who brought the greatest X-men story of all time to life and made it awesome. That’s a hell of a legacy, one that will surely get him laid by X-men fans for the rest of his life.

He has no excuses and all the resources. Unlike the last craptacular attempt in “X-men: The Last Stand,” this movie has every cast member returning, including Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender. The younger cast, led by Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey and Tye Sherridan’s Cyclops, is all under contract. None has jumped ship for a DC movie. If you don’t think that’s a big deal, just look up James Mardsen.

Mr. Kinberg may even be getting an extra boost with that cast because another bit of important news dropped recently. According to Deadline, Jessica Chastain is in talks to join the cast of the movie. Other than her inherent sex appeal, her role actually has some vital implications for this movie, as well as some uneasy concerns.

That’s because Ms. Chastain is in line to play a well-known X-men character named Lilandra. In the context of the Phoenix Saga, as well as the X-men as a movie franchise, that’s a big deal because Lilandra isn’t just any ordinary supporting character for the X-men. She’s the empress of a race of warring, bird-like race of aliens called the Shi’ar.

If that sounds like a lot of WTF to inject into a movie franchise that already has problems staying grounded, thanks largely to conflicting timelines, then calm down. There is at least some method to the madness and trust me, there’s still plenty of WTF to go around.

The casting of Lilandra is huge for the X-men franchise and for “X-men: Dark Phoenix” because in the original comics, she plays a critical role. In fact, it’s not unreasonable to say that she’s a big reason why the original Phoenix Saga became the dramatic, heart-wrenching story that still gives X-men fans wet panties to this day.

The Phoenix Force, at least in the comics, has a very cosmic origin. It has roots in an elaborate space mythos that would make the Church of Scientology envious. “X-men: The Last Stand” captured precisely none of that. Instead, it built the Phoenix around the idea of Jean Grey going crazy and Famke Janssen looking deadpanned every other frame. It’s even less exciting than it sounds.

This development with Lilandra is big because it means “X-men: Dark Phoenix” is going to try to follow the comics a bit closer. It also means that the X-men may have a very different enemy to face this time. After over a half-dozen movies of clashing with Magneto, it’s something the X-men movies need.

In fact, when I made my list of ways to not screw up “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” I highlighted the need for better enemies as one of the critical reasons. I cited a character named Mr. Sinister in that article. While he would be a huge draw in any X-men movie, especially if Bryan Cranston played him, he does have one shortcoming. He played no significant role in the Phoenix Saga.

With the casting of Lilandra, “X-men: Dark Phoenix” checks more than a few boxes and I’m not just talking about those involving X-men fans. Lilandra may have been a quasi-villain in the original Phoenix Saga, but she’s no Rita Repulsa. She’s no Disney Princess either.

She’s a tough, driven, hard-nosed ruler who will make hard decisions and not shed a goddamn tear about it. At a time when Wonder Woman has proven that there’s a market for badass female heroes, Lilandra can show that there’s also a market for complex female villains.

That’s a big deal in an era where Hollywood is trying to cater to more than just young men with a functioning penis. Everyone is trying, and failing at times, to create strong female characters. They’ve finally got a major success with “Wonder Woman.” Lilandra can be a success on the other end of that equation, but as a villain.

That’s going to be even more challenging because the margin for error for female characters is much smaller. We’re used to seeing flawed male characters screw up, step up, and everything in between. We’re not as used to seeing female characters do the same because if it’s messed up, people get accused of misogyny and sexism. It’s part of what video game critics have dubbed the “Galbrush Paradox.”

Having a character like Lilandra, along with the star power of Jessica Chastain, can break new ground for the X-men movies and for female characters in movies as a whole. However, with such a small margin for error, there is a distinct possibility that messing up this part will derail the movie.

Keep in mind, this is also a movie that has Sophie “Sansa Stark” Turner front and center. Her profile is rising fast and catching up to Jennifer Lawrence, probably more so than she’d ever admit. As Jean Grey, one of the founding members of the X-men and one of the most powerful female heroes in Marvel, there will be a lot of girl power in “X-men: Dark Phoenix.”

Image result for sophie turner jean grey gif

If it works, then it’ll be a boon for female superheroes on par with “Wonder Woman.” If not, we may end up with another “Catwoman” scenario that sets both the X-men franchise and the genre of superhero movies back another decade. As an X-men fan, I don’t want to see neither.

While I’m thrilled that Mr. Kinberg is going out of his way to capture the core elements of the Phoenix Saga for “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” I’m also worried that he’s not giving this movie a lot of flexibility. Just having great female characters and a great female villain just isn’t enough. Just ask “Power Rangers.” The story and drama has to work.

The cost of failure will be even higher this time around and not just for Mr. Kinberg. Failing to do justice on the most iconic X-men story of all time won’t just put him on the same level as Joel Shumacher. He’ll be responsible for failing to do justice to a strong female character in Jean Grey who, until “X-men: Apocalypse,” was nothing more than a pretty face for Wolverine to whine about.

I want to believe that Mr. Kinberg learned his lessons after “X-men: The Last Stand,” but that might not be enough for this movie. The cast is already pretty bloated and will likely juggle a lot of side-plots, which was one of the criticisms of “X-men: Apocalypse.” Adding aliens and cosmic forces to the mix is sure to complicate that.

Even with complications, “X-men: Dark Phoenix” has the potential to lay the foundation for the X-men franchise for the decade. By opening up the X-men’s more cosmic side, which includes space pirates and terrifying alien bugs that would give Ridley Scott nightmares, there could be a whole host of new movies for the X-men to pursue.

Again, a lot of that hinges on the success or non-total failure of “X-men: Dark Phoenix.” One movie can kill a franchise. Just ask the Fantastic Four. Mr. Kinberg was involved in that, which is another major concern, but he was not nearly as much at fault for that bombastic failure as he was “X-men: The Last Stand.” Despite this, I’m sure he’d like to make “X-men: Dark Phoenix” a high point for his career.

For now, these are my primary concerns and while some may end up being alleviated, others might emerge. Whatever the case, expect me to keep a close eye on developments involving “X-men: Dark Phoenix.” Between the stakes for X-men fans and the future of female characters, this movie is a huge deal in more ways than even Mr. Kinberg probably thinks.

In the meantime, I’ll keep myself busy with sexy stories and news about sex robots. For other X-men fans, here’s a fan trailer of the Dark Phoenix Saga using clips from the classic X-men 90s cartoon. It’s not much, but it should tide X-men fans over until the first trailer comes out.

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