So, late last night the first reviews for Fox’s last installment in their X-Men franchise, Dark Phoenix, hit the internet. With the Disney acquisition, multiple release delays, and (once again) an obvious avoidance of the source material, it comes as no surprise that the Rotten Tomatoes score is as bad as it is.
I have not seen the film yet, so I can’t bash it fairly. However, for fans of the Fox franchise, fans of the characters, and anyone just curious about the story of the Phoenix, I wanted to provide a list of some alternatives to experience the real deal!
1: Epic History X-Men: If you just want to get the gist of the story then your best bet would be to check out Comicbookgirl19’s Youtube documentaries, Epic History X-Men Volume’s 2 and 3.
She does a FANTASTIC job of providing an easy to follow narrative of the comic’s story, includes wonderful voice-over using panels from the issues, and brings her own love for the story and the franchise to the projects.
Recently, she has been re-releasing the documentaries in pieces with updated footage and editing. So, if you want to know the REAL Phoenix/Dark Phoenix stories (yes there are two parts and Fox skipped the first piece twice) then go check them out! Link to her channel is below.
2: The Animated Series: You all may remember an iconic animated series released back in 1992 based on the X-Men that used Jim Lee’s signature gold and blue team uniforms? It had one of the most epic theme songs for any superhero show ever? Yeah, you know which one.
Well, that little animated engine that could did a lot of respectable comic to cartoon story adaptations. The Phoenix and Dark Phoenix stories are some of them! Yes, a lot of us are adults, but who cares? Take a trip down memory lane!
If interested, you are looking for X-Men The Animated Series Season 3 episodes 3-7 (Phoenix Saga) and Season 3 episodes 11-14 (Dark Phoenix Saga).
They take some liberties, but for the most part stick true to a lot of the elements! The M’krann crystal, the Shi’ar, F#$^ even the Starjammers are in this!
The only thing missing from this adaptation is the tragic finale. I mean, it’s a cartoon for kids. I guess they didn’t want to go full Mufasa on us and Jean still is a main member of the team…
3: X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga Novel: This book is FRESH off the press. I just got my copy myself and started it the other day. It opens with the space shuttle scene from the Phoenix Saga (so far so good).
What I’m loving about this prose adaptation is the modernization of the dialogue. This story hit comics in the mid-seventies so reading it today might not have as much of an impact on readers who are used to more modern forms of expression. Despite the adaptation of dialogue the characters are still spot on. Stuart Moore does an excellent job of adapting the story, and it’s a fun way to experience the iconic tale.
You can find the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and even some comic book stores!
4: Ed Piskor’s Second Genesis: If you don’t want to dedicate time to an entire novel or eight episodes of an animated series, you also have Ed Piskor’s critically acclaimed X-Men Grand Design. Famously known for Hip Hop Family Tree this brilliant artist came up with the idea of telling DECADES of X-Men history in a six issue series. Currently, five of the six have released individually but you can also find two volumes that hold two issues each.
Taking Piskor’s beautifully unique art style, Second Genesis (issues 3 and 4) touch on multiple elements from the X-Men’s history including, you guessed it, the Phoenix and Dark Phoenix Saga! The cover is also dedicated to the iconic story!
5: The ACTUAL Comic: Lastly, if you really want to dedicate the time, you can read the ACTUAL original story. Well, that is somewhat of a subjective claim as many don’t know that some elements of the story were retconned in the mid-eighties. What elements? Well, in the original comic story, it isn’t clearly explained that the Phoenix is a cosmic entity! Instead it reads as if the solar radiation taps into Jean’s powers and awakens the god-like force.
For the original run you want to read, Uncanny X-Men issues 94- 137. Yes, I’m not kidding. You should read all 33 issues. Does it ALL focus around the Phoenix? No. Yet, the beauty of these sagas is their slow burn! It’s seeing this team come together, watching them go through the ups and downs, seeing Jean and Scott’s relationship grow, reading through the S#$^ they go through, and THEN arrive to the iconic battle of the moon where the Dark Phoenix reaches it’s tragic conclusion.
If you don’t want to put the strain on your wallet, don’t fear! The issues are available for digital download and I BELIEVE are available in Marvel’s database for those with a monthly subscription.
If you are feeling generous with the wallet, you can commit to the Marvel Masterworks Uncanny X-Men volumes 1-5.
For the retcon material, you want to read Classic X-Men issues 1-43. Yes, more than the actual run. It gives a whole other layer to so much of the story and I promise it’s worth it!