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Off The Rack Comic Review: X-Men – Phoenix Endsong

June 28, 2020 | Posted by Rob Stewart
X-Men Phoenix Endsong
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Off The Rack Comic Review: X-Men – Phoenix Endsong  

I hope you enjoyed our recent 100th edition spectacular! It was… a LOT of work. But I was happy to put it all together and take a look back at what all I have read for you guys in the past two years. And, wow, that only included books I have read for this article. It says nothing of books I have read for my podcast or for when I have guest-starred on other shows.

And I have, of course, read the occasional book for fun and NOT turned it into a whole review project. Sometimes it’s enjoyable to just read stuff and not worry about note-taking or recalling details.

Comics are just the best, guys.

If I can find the time!

That said, the celebration is over, and we’re back to basics this week with Off The Rack #101! What do we have for you?

TITLE: X-Men: Phoenix Endsong

Writer and Artist: Greg Pak and Greg Land

Publisher: Marvel

Protagonists: The X-Men

Antagonists: Phoenix

Phoenix Endsong is a mini-series from the mid-2000’s written by Greg Pak, who is not a name I have ever really thought of when I think of the X-Men. It’s the story of the X-Men fighting The Phoenix because, jeez, it’s right there in the name. PHOENIX. Of course it keeps coming back!

After a growing Phoenix Force is attacked and severely weakened by a Shi’ar ship, it returns to Earth in its confusion, instinctively drawn there. Stuck in the form of a firefly (or lightning bug! I always called them lightning bugs growing up. I’m sure it’s a regional thing), the Phoenix makes its way around the Xavier school, running into Wolverine, the Cuckoos, Beast, and the contained, broken form of Quentin Quire.

It eventually remembers why it was drawn to this place and finds the still-somewhat-recently deceased body of Jean Grey. It forces her back from the beyond, possesses her again… and the Phoenix is reborn. Because, again: PHOENIX.

(This part always confused me. Wasn’t it retconned that the Phoenix was merely imitating Jean during the first Phoenix arc? And Jean’s body was in a cocoon under the bay where the ship crashed and from where the Phoenix first emerged? Are they actively UN-retconning that and saying the Phoenix WAS in Jean’s body the whole time? So what did the Fantastic Four find under the bay? And who is THAT? Or did I misread all of that way back when? Did Jean’s actual body kill the broccoli people planet during the original Saga or WHAT? I’m so… I don’t get it)

ANYWAY…

The X-Men gather to not only contain the reborn Phoenix, but also to stop the Shi’ar from destroying Earth to put an end to it. And during all this, Quentin Quire returns and seeks out the Phoenix to return his beloved Sophie to life. There is a lot going on here, Pak!

The Phoenix has suddenly decided it feeds off of Cyclops’ energy blasts, and it is seeking him out basically as a battery. The X-Men build a containment cocoon, and during the scuffle, the Force realizes that Scott truly loves Emma now. So it leaves Jean’s body to take hers, Scott tackles her into the container, and the idea is that they can live there forever with Scott’s power feeding the Force without anyone being harmed.

Forever being subjective, they are actually just there for a few minutes before Quentin breaks them out. The end is a sheer cluster of Sophie returning to life for one panel, Jean Grey, who should be dead since the Phoenix is in Emma, fighting the Phoenix Force, and The Power of Love saving the day. Huey Lewis would be proud.

First, will you please sign my petition for Greg Land to draw literally everything i the world?

The art in this book is magnificent, and it masks a lot of story shortcomings. Land is some kind of hybrid John Cassaday, Alex Ross, and Frank Cho. Everything looks like Cassaday’s style, but it’s more higher-realistic and almost painted… and the women are cheesecake goddesses. The book is absolutely beautiful.

(I just checked out his Wikipedia entry to see what else he has drawn, and holy crap… there’s a whole section about all the negative reaction he generally gets for photo-referencing and using porn [haha!] as a reference for his art. Okay, that latter point is a bit skeevy, but seriously? This book is gorgeous. Alex Ross uses models and photo-referencing, too)

There is some criticism that Land, because of his reference work is not a particularly good storyteller, and there might be some truth to that, but to be fair, Pak didn’t do him a lot of favors with this nonsense conclusion, so a lot of the confusing mess of the end of the series I mostly blamed on him.

There is just TOO MUCH going on in this book! This is a five issue series, and the whole Quentin Quire bit adds nothing at all except a method by which PhoEmma can escape containment. It just feels like Pak had way too many ideas for this, or that he couldn’t appropriately pace the idea he had, so he threw in a subplot to kill time.

The first four issues are perfectly fine. And then it culminates in madness. The Quire angle is reduced to a one panel joke where a revived Sophie says “Eeewww” at him and then chooses to die again. The Shi’ar are eminently pointless. The Phoenix pin-balling between Jean and Emma is silly, and then, yeah, it’s defeated by Jean getting a psychic image of how much everyone loves her? Why not?

This should have been cleaned up and not given the cheesy movie ending. But it’s a fun ride until the car crashes.

As a final, positive note, the title coincides nicely with Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run, and it really adds to the Scott/Emma dynamic that Whedon perfected.

Talking Point: No, really. Please explain the Phoenix/Jean dynamic to me. I don’t feel like looking it up. Also, when the Phoenix came back in Avengers vs X-Men, why did we forget about it needing to absorb Scott’s blasts for energy? Shouldn’t these writers be reading the books they are referencing!?

That’s enough homework, though. If you liked this article, check out Ghosts of the Stratosphere. That’s my website where others and I write comic book and pop culture articles every day. Comics, Wrestling, TV, Movies… it’s all there.

You can also follow us on Twitter, @gotstratosphere for updates! Mostly I tweet about food.

7.0
The final score: review Good
The 411
The art, for all Land’s purported issues, really does put a very pretty band-aid on this story’s flaws. Even then, the story is fine; it just face-plants on the landing. 
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Off the Rack, Rob Stewart