“Like a Phoenix, from the Ashes!” (originally published in The X-Men # 101, October 1976) begins with an impressive scene (magnificently penciled by Dave Cockrum and inked by Frank Chiaramonte). The X-Men barely survive the rough landing of their space shuttle. Fearing the worst, Cyclops thinks Jean Grey might be dead, but suddenly she rises from the water with more power than ever before. “Hear me, X-Men! No longer am I the woman you knew! I am fire! And life incarnate! Now and forever -- I am Phoenix!”, claims Jean Grey.
In many ways, that astonishing panel is the beginning of the Phoenix saga, a historic milestone for the Marvel Universe, and a brilliant accomplishment by writer Chris Claremont, who was at his creative peak. Throughout the issue, Claremont makes a reference to Charles Xavier’s feelings for Jean Grey, explaining that the professor only thought that he was in love with her (as seen momentarily in X-Men # 3), however he’s still concerned for her well-being. Cyclops, on the other hand, is nervous and anxious, and the uncertainty of Jean Grey’s recovery takes a toll on him. There is one extraordinary scene in which Cyclops furtively locks himself in a room, so that he can cry quietly. Moments like these are an example of “the many-faceted characterization Chris Claremont gives our heroes. The insights into each member of the cast are neatly balanced, thus we get to know them all a little better each time they appear”, states Kent Roberts.
Jean Grey is hospitalized and only Professor X and Cyclops remain at her side. In “Who Will Stop the Juggernaut?” (The X-Men # 102, December 1976) The rest of the X-Men travel to Ireland, to accompany Banshee to his ancestral home, Cassidy Keep. However, they are ambushed by Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut. The mutants can’t defeat the unstoppable Juggernaut, but they find the way to get rid of him in “The Fall of the Tower” (The X-Men # 103, February 1977). As usual, Cockrum is in charge of the covers and he also pencils both issues, which are inked by Sam Grainger.
“The Gentleman's Name Is Magneto” (The X-Men # 104, April 1977) marks the return of the X-Men’s nemesis: the master of magnetism. In the cover, Cockrum pays homage to X-Men # 1 (even replicating the caption that says “ [The New] X-Men versus Magneto, Earth’s more powerful super-villain”). In Cockrum’s cover, Cyclops is in the same position as in the classic Kirby cover, but the founding members of the X-Men have now been replaced by Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus. In this issue, Magneto unleashes all his power. Despite all their efforts, the mutant heroes lose the battle and they must run away, much to the chagrin of a bloodthirsty Wolverine.
In “Phoenix Unleashed!” (The X-Men # 105, June 1977) Claremont reveals that the confrontations against Black Tom Cassidy, Juggernaut and Magneto have all been orchestrated by Erik the Red. The real identity of this new enemy is Davan Shakari, he’s a Shi’ar secret agent sent to our planet with the mission to capture Lilandra Neramani, an alien princess who established a telepathic connection with Charles Xavier. Erik the Red has deceived Firelord, the new herald of Galactus, persuading him to destroy the mutants. The X-Men try to defend Professor X, but they are overpowered by Firelord and only Jean Grey, using the cosmic power of Phoenix, is able to defeat the herald of Galactus. Some of my favorite moments include a very amusing cameo of Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum (who barely survive the attack of Firelord), and the abundant Star Trek references (Claremont was a huge fan of the sci-fi series so he decided to model the Shi’ar starship fleet after the USS Enterprise). Dave Cockrum is the cover artist and penciler of this action-packed, and Bob Layton is the inker. “Dark Shroud of the Past!” (The X-Men # 106, August 1977) is a fill-in issue scripted by Bill Mantlo and drawn by Bob Brown.
|The Birth of Phoenix / El nacimiento de Fénix|
“There is a smooth, strong flow from one major story to the next, thanks to an intricate interweaving of subplots”, affirms Kent Roberts. Indeed, “Where No X-Man Has Gone Before!” is the narrative culmination of several plot threads introduced in previous issues. As a curiosity, I’d like to point out that when Dave Cockrum designed the Imperial Guard, he based their appearances (and powers for that matter) on the Legion of Super-Heroes (after all, Cockrum had been the main Legion artist before working for Marvel).
Después de la batalla final contra los mortales X-Centinelas, Jean Grey decidió arriesgar su vida para salvar a sus compañeros de equipo; su sacrificio es un momento desgarrador, “estarán de acuerdo conmigo en que nadie, pero nadie escribiendo cómics hoy en día, podría haberlo hecho de una manera tan dramática, única y verdaderamente original”, afirma Stan Lee. Y, por supuesto, estoy 100% de acuerdo con él.
|Black Tom Cassidy & Juggernaut|
|The return of Magneto / El regreso de Magneto|
|X-Men versus Firelord|
|Shi'ar Imperial Guard / La guardia imperial Shi'ar|