Writer Alan Davis
Breakdowns Will Simpson
Finishes Jimmy Palmiotti & Dave Hoover
Letterer Michael Heisler
Colorist Kelly Corvese
Cover Dated July 1992
This issue’s title tell you everything you want to know! “All You Ever Wanted To Know About Phoenix… But Were Afraid To Ask” and they mean it! It is essentially the origin of the Phoenix and Rachel Grey. If only the writers were given this single issue when they are writing AvX. It would have given some great insight on what the Phoenix has done before. Or if they were familiar with Rachel as a character, that would have gone a long way as well.
Since this issue deals heavily with Rachel’s origin, we get to see more of the early days of the Days of Future Past timeline.
That cover by Alan Davis is so much fun! Since the first issue, an appearance by the X-Men have been teased and it became an ongoing gag from there.
Awesome that I have an issue by Jimmy Pamiotti in my collection as I really liked his work on the Kevin Smith Daredevil run. That motion comic DVD is pretty outstanding. Great guy too, met him once at San Diego Comic Con, had to be 1998 has they were promoting their Daredevil / Marvel Knights run.
Issue opens with Xavier reading a book in his study. Then he notices Scott in the room. What really confuses him is that Scott starts changing his costume / appearance right in front of him, so Xavier knows someone is playing a mind game with him.
Xavier tries to leave the study but Cyclops tells him to stay as it is safer in this room. Xavier wants to know what he needs to be safe from but Cyclops just repeats his statement. Cyclops tries to optic blast Xavier but it is psychic energy so Xavier can deflect it easily.
Then a voice states that Xavier won’t fare well against his X-Men. Xavier turns to see Magneto speaking and his X-Men are coming down the stairs. Colossus, Kurt, Rogue, Kitty, Wolverine and 80s Storm. Not a team I would want to go up against.
This is usually how the X-Men appeared in Excalibur, if it wasn’t an alternate timeline or dimension version of the team, it was evil decoy versions or flashbacks from either Kurt or Kitty.
Xavier knows that whoever he is up against, is using old information but still precise information so his opponent must be … Phoenix! She resembles Jean in her classic green and yellow costume. Phoenix blasts him and he falls backward.
He is awake now. Jean has caught him. Xavier notices that he is now in Braddock Manor. Jean reminds him that they are there to help Rachel.
Unfortunately, Jean tells him that Xavier started the process ten hours ago. Which is a long time to just let a man in a wheelchair stare at a young lady while she is sleeping and not ask any questions.
Xavier is both baffled and amazed that ten hours as passed. He only has a memory of the above events, which would have taken thirty minutes at most.
Jean had tried to wake him but was kept being pushed out.
Excalibur has been in the room the entire time. Kurt’s leg is still in the cast, as he broke it a while ago and the healing process is slow, which I liked. He broke his leg landing badly back in issue 43.
Xavier knows the memories are from Rachel’s time with the X-Men. Kurt tells him that her memories have been scrambled or Swiss cheesed. Rachel was tired of not having her memories so she forced her Phoenix powers down so that she could have her mind heal. Over the past several weeks, her memories were coming back, revealing details of her past, and their future.
Jean corrects him, that it is an alternate Earth. Jean and Rachel have rarely actually been on Earth at the same time and for any length of time. So Jean is still uneasy around her. She learned in X-Factor Annual 5 that she is Rachel’s mother as did Scott learn that he is her father. He’s hurt by her keeping this from him while they were on the X-Men together. It really is odd how much time they served together and she really should have told him.
Jean didn’t like having her future foretold to her as she barely wanted to be Scott’s girlfriend again just because she didn’t want to fall back into old roles immediately once she came out of her Phoenix-educed cocoon.
Kitty wonders what the significance of Rachel wearing the green and yellow costume is. Xavier believes it is the key to figuring out why Rachel is in this coma. Xavier believes that the Phoenix Force is keeping her unconscious.
Xavier wants to get some answers. Kitty wants him to rest. He is quick to point out that he’s been resting for ten hours. His physical hunger will help focus his attention on the issue at hand.
He believes the Phoenix Force saw him as a threat, so he gets the entire team to be linked telepathically, once he has his support group in place, he dives back in. Included in the team is Alistaire Stuart, who tries to play with the mindlink, as he can see it now. I like how this is old news for Brian.
Xavier tries to encourage Jean to be involved in this process as both the Phoenix Force and Rachel have sought Jean out in the past and will be willing to spend more time with her.
Up to this point, I’ve been under the impression that Rachel has the powers of the Phoenix, or at least a fragment of it, but that she didn’t have the Phoenix Force itself, living in her head. I believe this is a new development.
As they enter the astral plane, there is nothing. Then they are treated to the Phoenix Force as it explains its origins. From the nothing, came the Big Bang. The universe is alive as is the Phoenix Force. The Phoenix Force is going to give the ensemble heroes a tour of what it is.
The Phoenix Force was alone. It had no emotion or goals. It simply existed. Then one day, it was summoned to Earth. It met its first human, Feron – not the kid who had helped up out with the latest attack by Necrom – the being that put Rachel in this current state. Feron is a title that is passed down. They are a group of people who prepare themselves to be the host of the Phoenix. The very first one was a cruel man. The Phoenix Force open itself to any new experience and this Feron was horrible to it. I keep wanting to refer to it as a she but it really is a cosmic force, it is beyond gender.
The Phoenix Force was hurt and it ran away. It couldn’t revert to what it once was, it had experienced too much. It came back to Earth eventually and tried to find Feron again but found another. A young woman who was about to make the ultimate sacrifice for her friends. That woman is, of course, Jean.
The Phoenix Force wanted to experience what Jean has experienced. A deal was struck and after taking a piece of Jean’s life force, the Phoenix Force put Jean into a cocoon and took on her life. Thus begins the story we know already.
Phoenix Jean comes out of the waters, X-Men I’m No Longer the Woman You Once Knew – I am now and forever the Phoenix! Which, really, they should have known something was up at that moment.
Phoenix Jean learns so much being Jean. She learns about friendship, camaraderie and love. Has it ever been a plotpoint before that Scott was able to not only have sex with the Phoenix but satisfy her/it? That seems like something I would brag about, constantly. Scott, may in fact, be a better man than me. Seems like a moment Scott should have. I know he felt betrayed by the Phoenix Force, tricking him into loving it and thinking it was Jean that entire time. But once that raw emotion left, and in his quiet times, wouldn’t the think about that from time to time. A cosmic force of the universe and he had sex with it. It wanted him for who he was. There has to be a deleted scene somewhere out there. Or if there was a moment like that during AvX when the Phoenix Force and him (well a fifth of the Force) were finally united – one would think there would have been a thought there, regarding that.
Then the Dark Phoenix Saga starts. Her thirst for power meant she wanted more power. Then she was tricked by Mastermind and the Hellfire Club. She was out of control until Xavier was able to place mental blocks that brought out the Jean essence of the Phoenix Force.
Then the Shi’ar show up. The Phoenix Force learns what sacrifice means as the X-Men are willing to die for it. She didn’t want to keep tricking everybody anymore. She does confess to loving Scott. Then she vaporized herself on the moon.
Of course, it is all about life and rebirth so only the shell died. It watched as Scott grieved for his lady love. It realized it had to make things right. It went to find Jean but on the way, it noticed Rachel floating in the New York Sky. It appeared to be also a portion of Jean. It did an initial scan and learned that this lady was the daughter of Jean and Scott. It had to learn more.
Which explains why the Phoenix didn’t give Jean the life force slash memories initially. It eventually does at the end of Inferno, when it gives its memories and Madelyne’s memories to Jean. Which I know drives Jean a little crazy. Imagine getting your husband’s memories of him having sex with not only your evil clone but also a cosmic entity? And that’s just the stuff I’m curious about. I wonder if Madelyne’s memories of her wedding spurred Jean to have an even bigger wedding?
There is an ad for the Nintendo game for the film, Hook. That’s how far ago 1992 is, not even Super Nintendo. Also, no other video game companies are shown. Nintendo is it.
So now we get the Rachel memories section. Almost immediately we are shown where the divide is between her timeline and ours. These X-Men never met the Phoenix. Mastermind set off a nuclear bomb in Pittsburgh (it shall be missed!) and Jean dies in this event. So I wonder if it would be the opposite of Fallout 3 where Pittsburgh looks like the DC Wasteland and DC looks relatively intact like the Pitt is?
On the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins, is the COOLometer for May. Which was a feature that confused me as a ten year old and leaves me scratching my head as a 32 year old. Here is the list, from cool to uncool
-The New Commonwealth of Independent States
-US / Japan Trade Relations
What a crazy list! What was happening during May 1992!?! How is vomiting (ralphing) the top of a list? Spin Doctors, I get. Some of them are just words that must have made some one smile when they saw them on the list. How is Paradigm Shift even a concept someone thinks about and then rank it?
At the X-Mansion. Kurt and Amanda, who are married (swoon!) are walking Illyana (who is still a kid (aww!) to the bus station. The military straight slaughters them with a hail of bullets. It is a horrible panel to see! The captions build up the possible nice future, the panel shows death and the second caption finalizes it.
Rachel begs Xavier to leave, he tries to plead one last time. The mansion is destroyed. Rachel is left in a state of shock. Though this flashback, when the Phoenix initially experienced it, it felt even more new emotions – fear, panic and true terror.
The caption states that the guards ‘cruel hands’ dragged Rachel away. Is that the same as when Rogue’s guards cruelly touched her when she lost her powers the first time as a prisoner of Genosha?
Rachel did her best to fight off the drugs and the mind washing but it was eventually too much. Ahab used her as the first of his hounds. She will be the example the other will follow. She was mindless as she hunted old friends.
Which reminds me, that we saw how Kurt died at the sort of hands of Rachel once already in Excalibur 35. I wonder if this is Alan Davis’ attempt to correct what he thought Scott Lobdell did wrong. Or did he just now read anything not written by Claremont and himself? I know there is that example of the editors going out of their way to fix a few storylines before Alan Davis came back to the title, so that he can not go back and rewrite issues that he had already done why on hiatus.
Rachel’s technique as a hound, was to mentally scan for her prey. Learn their heart and desire and then hunt them down. When they were killed, Rachel made sure to feel their death so she can feel that punishment as there was a part of her still that was trying to fight it. The deaths will give her fuel as she felt the shame, grief and anger.
Ahab saw that Rachel was holding back and doubled his efforts to make her more of a hound. Eventually he went to far, as caused her too much pain. She lashed out and throw him into some electronics, crippling him. Which she didn’t do to Rory Campbell, in the proper timeline but with each day Rachel lives in the present, she must be changing small details of the future. Maybe with how her powers work, that each change effects her memory of how it should unfold now. That is never shown, just a theory I’m working on.
Each day she saw the physically impaired Ahab, it gave her strength. Ahab tires of this little game and throws her into the concentration camps. Rachel is taken in by the Future X-Men. We are not shown if she is forgiven or even talks about her hound days. They need her for a plan of theirs. They will send back Kate Pryde into the past and fix what once went wrong. Days of Future Past, yo!
We are finally shown what Kate saw once she came back. She fixed history but not their history. So they had to figure out a plan to try to make their present better. They stormed into the Baxter Building, it isn’t named but that’s what it has to be. It is a suicide mission but Kate has a secret plan. As Kate came back to her present, Rachel’s mind was hovering above the city. Which is when the Phoenix finds her – which I don’t think matches up as much as it thinks it does but I could be wrong. Who am I to doubt Alan Davis?
I guess Dark Phoenix Saga ends at 137 and Days of Future Past ends on 142 so yeah, it probably makes sense. I just don’t get Rachel being actually in the past with Kate as we see her awake in that storyline. Maybe that’s what is throwing me off. But it makes sense, I suppose, that a piece of Rachel has to be in the past to monitor Kate to bring her back. It could be after Colossus dies in the future and it was just good timing. Yeah, that must be it. Where is my No-Prize?
The Phoenix Force really likes Rachel and doesn’t want all of her hard work of overcoming the odds to regain her soul and spirit to be wasted so it follows her to the future. Before it goes all in, it does release its portion of Jean’s life force back to Jean. Which would have been around Uncanny X-Men 201 as that came out in January 1986 when Fantastic Four 286 (the storyline Phoenix Rising that brought Jean back to life). But Rachel shows up around Uncanny 184 – but maybe Jean is still healing at that point and then is fully healed by 201? That has to be it. Another No-Prize!
So in the future, Rachel and Kate sort of switch roles. Kate is awake and Rachel is unconscious now. The Phoenix Force reveal itself to Kate. The Phoenix Force recognizes Kate from the brief moments they shared back when she was Kitty. Kate comes up with a plan so that the young Rachel can still live a happy life.
Maybe they are not heading towards the Baxter Building as the captions state that they are going after Project : Nimrod now so that could be a different building. Right when their deaths are for certain, Kate says the magic words – Dark Phoenix – and Rachel’s third mutant power kicks in. Rachel had Jean’s telepathic and telekinesis powers inherited but her own mutant power was the ability to travel through time, mentally. With the Phoenix Force boosting her powers, she was able to do it physically.
This will pay off later in Excalibur 66 where we see what happens next, this scene fully shown and the origins of Widget! I have plans to review it next, so the wait shouldn’t be that long. Such a good issue!
Kate is going to detonate a device. Once the device goes off, it should vaporized everything so none of the Sentinels should investigate what happened ot Rachel. Not like they could go back in time, if they did find any evidence. Though it is the Nimrod program so time justice could have been a thing if Kate wasn’t successful. Which should make this an alternate version of Bishop’s future? Maybe?
Actually I relooked up Uncanny X-Men 191, Nimrod’s first appearance. Curse that 90s X-Men cartoon on FOX! Curse it! I was getting that storyline with Bishop confused with the comics. So it came to the present to hunt Rachel, that is some tight continuity! In retrospect, I should have gone from Days of Future Past to Days of Future Present to Rachel’s first appearances in Uncanny X-Men as now I won’t be getting to those for this event month. I really wanted to do these Excalibur issues as they really delve into Rachel’s origins, hence they get into the origins of Days of Future Past. So that was my rationale.
Rachel’s memories are Swiss cheesed as Kate told the Phoenix Force to do that so that Rachel wouldn’t be haunted by her memories of the future. Instead, she is only haunted by the wanting of those memories. Best laid plans and all of that.
Jean makes a snide comment about, only following orders. Ooof, Jean really hates the Phoenix Force and for very understanding reasons.
Kitty is tired of all of this mumble jumbo and asks where Rachel is right now. The Phoenix Force shows them a baby Rachel. Necrom essentially killed her as a last second move during their fight. The Phoenix Force didn’t care for that and put her in a mental cocoon so Rachel can heal properly. Since we see that she is a baby, mentally, it is going to take some time to reach her rightful age again. Which is probably 25 or so.
Kurt is curious if she will ever fully heal. She should, the Phoenix Force states. And I can tell you that she does.
The Phoenix Force can’t guarantee that her memories will be intact or that she would even know who Excalibur is but she will be whole at least.
The Phoenix Force can tell them something, that it and Rachel are forever merged. Well, as forever as comics allow.
The Phoenix Force wants to know if Jean can forgive it. She doesn’t answer that question, asking one of her own. What is its next step? The Phoenix Force takes control of Rachel’s body and they both are going to heal somewhere in the stars. Rachel accepted the Phoenix Force freely and without reservation, so they are one now.
Kitty wonders as they only have the Phoenix Force’s side of the story, if they can believe that. It seems like the Phoenix Force just likes to take possession of red haired ladies.
Kitty cries as she just lost another friend. She is down to Kurt now.
Jean and Xavier both tell the team that there really is little they could have done to stop the Phoenix Force. Which isn’t really that comforting of a thought.
Issue ends with a setup of the next issue, as there is a sleepy little town – Skufington Wallop, and everyone is missing from the town. Two officers are walking around. It seems people just up and left as there is still warm coffee and half eaten sandwiches.
The Crazy Gang are watching from a distance.
The back cover ad is for, Honey I Blew Up the Kid. Which, whenever I tell Walker it is nice for a nap, I think about this movie at least once that day as that little kid hated naps. Also, that kid loved his mother.