The Phoenix has arisen, and Carl is on hand to tackle Stuart Moore’s new adaptation of the classic X-Men storyline from Titan Books
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is legendary to all comic book fans. The graphic novel was a pure delight and was shocking in the extreme. The sad and shocking story of Jean Grey and her mutation into the “Dark Phoenix” enthralled millions across the globe, making it one of the best-loved comic book of all time. Film-wise however, its a totally different story. The 2006 film ‘X-Men: The Last Stand‘ took the material and completely destroyed it. It was a completely uninspiring, lacklustre failure, hardly deserving to have even attempted the “Dark Phoenix” storyline. This summer sees the release of a film based on the property completely. ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix‘ will be hitting multiplexes in June but the whispers are that it too is a complete failure and again, doesn’t deserve to carry the title.
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga | by Stuart Moore
The original graphic novel by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and John Byrne has been adapted into a novel form from Titan Books by acclaimed author Stuart Moore. Moore has written for the Marvel Universe before with such novels as Thanos: Death Sentance and Civil War, both books which are rewarding in their own right. Here, he has the unenviable task of attempting to novelise the classic comic. The attempt is a brave and valiant one, the book isn’t without its charm and enjoyment. But ultimately and not to Moore’s detriment, if you haven’t read the graphic novel, the book will come across to you like a bit of a jumble. Comic book fans who have read the graphic version of the book will understand it and enjoy it better in the long run. To be honest, it was a hard task, to begin with, but Moore gives it his all and gives us an entertaining, thrilling novel that sadly doesn’t quite hit the heights of his previous work.
The book starts with the X-Men in dire trouble aboard a shuttle damaged by a massive solar flare. The ship is plummeting towards its doom. There is a chance to save everyone aboard however but it means one person will have to make the ultimate sacrifice for their friends. Logan wants to do it but Jean Grey wins out, her telekinesis and mind reading abilities ensuring she will know how to pilot the ship, even though it will mean her death. The solar flare, however, mutates her genes even further, giving birth to the entity known as the Phoenix. The Phoenix is feared across the galaxy. She consumes entire star systems like food, regardless of the cost of living beings. As the ship enters the atmosphere, Jean’s cells are bonded with the Phoenix’s, both ending her life and then resurrecting her again.
After a further incident a year later at a lava-filled volcano and believing her fellow teammates to be dead at the hands of Magneto, who she kills in anger before the lava consumes her, Jean escapes to the Greek island of Kirinos. Here she is attacked by some local youths and her passport and personal effects are stolen. After reporting the crime to the local police, she encounters the mysterious and charming Jason Wyngarde. He offers to help her and to get a change of clothes at his home on the island. It is here that Jean has her first vision of a past she doesn’t recognise, of an affair centuries past with Wyngarde. Is it her past self emerging from her mind or is it a hallucination, brought upon by the turmoil and despair shes recently been through?
Meanwhile, a young emerging mutant by the name of Kitty Pride is visited at her home by the head of a special academy, Emma Frost. Kitty seems to recognise that Frost doesn’t really have her best interests at heart and runs from her home. She has already lost her best friend, who wants nothing to do with her after an incident at school where Kitty was exposed as possessing the mutant gene and showing her mutant ability so has nowhere to go apart from a local diner. Here, she meets three of the X-Men, Storm, Peter (Colossus) and Logan (Wolverine). They tell her about their own mutant abilities and Kitty finds herself somewhat attracted to the young Russian Peter. During their chat about the scary Emma Frost, Logan detects an attack coming. Each member of the X-Men tackles an attacker only to find that their abilities seem to have no effect. Realising their attackers have each been given a defence against one particular hero, all three switch to another foe and gain success. Emma Frost, however, has her own telekinetic abilities and renders the three unconscious, taking them away for purposes detailed later in the book. Kitty manages to tag along and bring the rest of the team to the place of their confinement in an attempt to rescue them.
Jean Grey has travelled to Scotland to meet with Moira McTaggert to try and find out why she is having the hallucinations of a past she doesn’t recognise and to discover why she has developed new and dangerous powers ever since the shuttle crash. All the while, Wyngarde, Leader of the famed Hellfire Club has been manipulating Jean to get her by his side as his Black Queen. With the other members of the club, he has been experimenting on other mutants. He wants to have complete power and his manipulation of Jean will be his crowning glory.
To go any further would be to reveal all the secrets and surprises awaiting the unknowing reader and that’s not fair. The uninitiated need to read and experience the events for themselves. All I shall say is that there are quite a few cameos from other members of the Marvel Universe and events take a completely dark and foreboding turn. The book excels in making us feel everything our heroes go through, their anguish and despair, their elation and their short-lived triumphs and the moral dilemmas they face. we, as the reader can feel there will be a reckoning and that it may not end the way we hope.
Moore has done a wonderful job attempting to translate the graphic novel and has to be commended for his effort. He gives it his all in a thrilling novel that fits in well within the Marvel Universe. It’s the source material that is the books slight downfall. The graphic novel is, in reality, almost impossible to translate into book form. Moore comes so close to pulling it off. If this was an original novel and with more time to pad the book out with more story information and more background to the story, the book would be probably one of, if not THE best of all the Marvel novels. As it is, the reader really needs to have knowledge of the X-Men universe and it’s classic stories to fully understand the events of the book. And that isn’t Stuart Moore’s fault. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED the book. To me, it’s completely fantastic. However, I’m a comic book fan and know the back stories and previous events so I’m in the know with the events of the book. Looking at it through the eyes of the uninitiated and unknowing, however, blocking out the knowledge I’ve got tucked away in my mind and reading the book objectively, the book can come across as confusing and disjointed. And the book deserves more than that. The material deserves more than that. The author deserves more than that.
On the whole, I would recommend this book to all comic book fans and non-fans alike. For the non-fans, however, I suggest a crash course into X-Men lore before tackling the book to get the full benefit of it. If you put in the time and the research, you will sit back and be stunned by this novel. If like me, you’re already a fan, you’ll be totally blown away by the book. This is how the story should be told and Moore has captured the spirit and the tone of the material to perfection. In that regard, the book deserves to be read over and over and enjoyed by all.
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Stuart Moore is published by Titan Books and is available to buy from Tomorrow.
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Entertainment/Books and Literature Correspondent for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!