The Phoenix Force: Where Do I Start?

The Phoenix Force easily ranks as one of the biggest villains in X-Men history, and coming up in AvX it’s being used as the McGuffin to bring the Avengers and the X-Men into battle with each other. As the nexus of all psionic energy in the Marvel universe, it’s in effect the source and combination of all the universe’s telepaths, telekinetics and mental-based powers — but with a mind all its own. On par with other space-based icons like Galactus, Death and Eternity, the Phoenix has primarily played in the X-titles but this summer plans to take on the entirety of the Marvel U.

The Phoenix Force first showed up as the power source for Jean Grey in 1976’s Uncanny X-Men #101 by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, and its powers came to overwhelm and consume Grey and turn her into the villainous Dark Phoenix. Over the years it’s taken on several hosts after Jean Grey, and stood toe-to-toe against everything from the X-Men, the Shi’ar Empire, Galactus and even the Beyonder. For reasons yet to be explained, the Phoenix Force has liked having hosts in the Grey lineage, linking itself to Jean Grey, Rachel Summers, the Jean Grey clone Madelyne Pryor. As it returns to earth with connections to Hope Summers, all eyes are on it as to why, where and who the Phoenix Force chooses to ally itself with.

For all the stories out there about the Phoenix Force, it’s hard to narrow down the best ones to get an overall idea of who and what it is exactly. In some cases was merely the power source for a hero without touching upon the force itself. For this week’s Where Do I Start?, we’ve made a list of the four books that will give you the best idea of what the Phoenix Force is, and more importantly, what it’s capable of.

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga:You know Spider-Man’s mantra of “with great power comes great responsibility”? This seminal story-arc from Uncanny X-Men adds to that, showing power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Founding X-Men Jean Grey had received the powers of the Phoenix Force issues before resulting in a big-time power upgrade, but this arc shows that there were strings attached to that power — and that power had a mind of its own. After being unknownly set off by the Hellfire Club, the Dark Phoenix takes full possession of Jean Grey and single-handed beats the X-Men before soaring into space and killing off an entire star system — and its five billion inhabitants — to satiate her bloodlust. The Sh’iar get involved, leading to a showdown where the X-Men want to protect their comrade Jean Grey before slowly coming to the truth that there was getting Jean Grey back.

X-Men: Phoenix: Endsong: This overlooked 2005 series by Greg Pak and Greg Land revives the Phoenix Force and Jean Grey one last time (so far…), seeing Jean Grey become more than just a pawn in the fire of the Phoenix and battling for control of the force. This storyarc brought some fresh changes to the Phoenix Force mythos, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was revisited this summer in AvX. There is a pseudo-sequel to this titled X-Men: Phoenix: Warsong, but it doesn’t deal much with the Phoenix mythos.

X-Men: Phoenix Rising: Proving that comic characters can never truly die, just years after The Dark Phoenix Saga the Phoenix Force rears its head again with a seemingly returned Jean Grey in tow. In her return it’s more than just the X-Men who take notice, and this storyarc features a wide assortment of Marvel heroes coming to bear witness like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four… and they’re not so welcoming of Jean Grey as the X-Men are.

The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans: Although considered non-canonical now by Marvel or DC, this epic crossover between Marvel’s two super-teams uses the Phoenix Force as its crux and could be seen as a dry run for AvX. It all starts when DC’s Darkseid gets the bright idea to try to harness the Phoenix Force to break through the barriers to him reaching the limitless powers of the Source… what could possibly go wrong? In the end, Darkseid and both teams are on the receiving end of a multiverse level attack from the Phoenix that only a last-ditch effort straight out of Ghostbusters 2 can solve.



  1. X-Men/Teen Titans is a fantastic story with some stunning art.

    I don’t know if it is collected anywhere but there was a Byrne issue of Fantastic Four, part of the lead in to returning Jean Grey from the dead, that I believe was the first indictation that The Phoenix Force was its own entity and not just a supercharged Jean Grey

    • It’s in the X-MEN: PHOENIX RISING TPB I mentioned above, Anthony.

    • Cool. I didn’t make the connection.

    • i think hope summers is scott and jean’s kid because in the comics the phoenix force mostly picks a summers/grey host.
      in grants story of how he killed jean….jean become the ever watching eye to her own galaxy….she become like a godhood…..i think hope summers will die and meet jean where jean would tell her the turth.but hope of course will be revived moments later

  2. Ghostbusters 2, huh? Do they sing Auld Lang Syne?

  3. Other ones I would recommend include the original Phoenix story, Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run (although I think AvX may ignore parts of this especially the final flashforward issues), and their was a small section of Ultimate X-Men that dealt with it, was the arch called Hellfire? I can’t remember.

  4. Shouldn’t X-Men: Phoenix – Warsong be lumped together with Endsong? Aren’t they suppose to be close connected? Just wondering. Only read Endsong (which i didn’t like).

  5. Why do I have a feeling that if I went on wikipeida to look up the history of the Phoenix Force in full I’d get a brain aneurysm?

  6. Endsong was a pretty good story in which Jean became one with the force and went to the white hot room to look for the other lost phoenix fragments. I can see why they left Warsong out (horrible story and really not important). If you noticed in the point one issue the phoenix was white (they said the color was deliberate) and the one coming for Hope is fiery.

  7. I’ve always felt that all the Phoenix needed was to get laid by Wolverine and then she’ll/it’ll mellow out.