Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Javier Garron & Leinil Francis Yu
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: January 20th, 2021
The Marvel Universe has decided to revisit the Phoenix Force in a new light. In a new light!? What does that mean? Well, when we think of the Phoenix Force who do we normally think of? Is it a certain red-headed mutant whose name rhymes with Lean Ray? However, this time, instead of being the sometimes villain sometimes hero of the X-Universe, the Phoenix Force has firmly planted herself into the Avengers Arena. Her goal? The Phoenix is looking for a new host or Avatar, and she has transported a group of the Avengers to the White-Hot Room to battle it out! The winner becomes the new host of the Phoenix and hijinks are sure to follow!
The cover artwork by Leinil Francis Yu immediately sticks out to me. When have you ever seen the Black Panther looking so…Fiery? Majestic? Maybe it is a combination of his sheer elegance, coupled with the firebird image of the Phoenix, that makes this cover pop? One thing that stood out to me, is the Phoenix Version of the Black Panther Outfit. Anytime the Phoenix takes over a host (or in this case, a host has a portion of its power) the outfit changes to a Phoenix version. How detailed does it become? Take a look at the Black Panther’s fingertips and smile.
This issue opens with the Black Panther musing over some of the other Avengers routines prior to battle. Each “routine” really speaks to the character of that Avenger (i.e., Thor laughing to hide his brooding and vice versa for CPT Marvel). The Black Panther’s routine? Clearing his mind. Understanding that one must fight with emotion and not emotionally. The Black Panther gets it. When you are dealing with such an entity of pure passion and fire such as the Phoenix, you definitely want to enter the battle as clear and level-headed as possible. After a fiery battle with the Man-Thing, the Black Panther returns back to the holding room with the rest of the contenders. Now normally, the Avengers have nothing to do with the Phoenix Force (sans Avengers v. X-Men several years back), so they are completely out of their element.
As some of them try to deduce where they are exactly, the one and only Wolverine, immediately informs the group that they are in the White-Hot Room, and it is reserved for past Phoenix avatars only. Ok, I get it. You kind of need at least one member of the X-Men to explain a little bit of how the Phoenix works. But really? Wolverine? If the writers were in need of a mutant who knows a thing or two about the Phoenix Force AND was a member of the Avengers, why not Beast? Sometimes, the Wolverine cameos are unneeded. But since Wolverine was there during the Dark Phoenix Saga, and he was an Avenger, he gets a pass this time. Speaking of mutants, our favorite arrogant Atlantean Namor is also in the group of contenders. The raging Atlantean is ready to fight and take on the mantle of the Phoenix yet again (check out Avengers vs. X-Men) He is so ready in fact, that he is egging on the other contenders. This is where the term “a picture is worth a thousand words” truly shows. Garron draws the PERFECT picture of an angry Namor, yelling at a peaceful and meditative Shang-Chi. This is what the Phoenix is: a balance between anger and peace.
The next round of pages shows the various contenders fighting. It is always interesting to see how a Phoenix avatar’s costume will change once they have any portion of the Phoenix. The immediate standout? A Phoenix dinosaur…Aaron’s writing truly takes off midway through this issue. As one of the contenders is struggling with the sheer power of the Phoenix, the scene cuts to a mediating Shang-Chi wearing a gold and white Phoenix costume. Now, this is important. Up until this point, the bulk of the fighters are wearing some combination of black, red, and gold (the colors that are historically linked to the Dark Phoenix). The white and gold color scheme, however, represents the ultimate form of the Phoenix: The Phoenix of the White Crown. This can only be achieved once a Phoenix Avatar truly becomes one with the Phoenix. Up until this point, the only known Phoenix of the White Crown, or the ultimate Phoenix Avatar IS Jean Grey. So, this is very interesting to see.
As the issue winds down, we see an intense dialogue between one of the past Phoenix Avatars (a red-headed cavewoman) and the Black Panther. The cavewoman approaches the Black Panther with a message: The Phoenix wants him as the next host. Now let’s pause for a second and rewind time back to 2017 when the short comic titled Avengers 1,000,000 B.C. was released. In this comic, we are introduced to the first group of Avengers. Who was a part of this group you may ask? Well, we have Odin, the very first Ghost Rider, the second being to ever wield the Starbrand, the very first Iron Fist, Agamotto, the first Phoenix Avatar (the cavewoman), and the first Black Panther. After failing to convince the Black Panther to willingly become the next Phoenix Avatar, the Phoenix teleports him to his next battle. Both fighting with a portion of the Phoenix Force, the Black Panther and Nighthawk’s battle ends at a stalemate. The issue then ends with the next battle. Boy am I sorry for Echo who has to face a pissed off Namor!
Aaron truly captures the voice of the Phoenix throughout the issue. This is a skill set that very few writers are able to master. The Phoenix is an entity of light and darkness. She is a balance, creating life and burning away what does not work. Aaron understands this and paints a truly illustrative series of events with a fresh take of the Phoenix Force. Can you imagine if CPT America becomes a Phoenix Avatar? I am just happy that the X-Men are finally given a break from this destructive entity. Garron brings the Phoenix to life with the multiple panels of flames and the classic firebird. But his creativity really takes place with the costumes. Each fighter’s costume has a hint of their personality embedded in it (I am looking at your crown Black Panther). Some seeds were definitely planted in this issue. I am truly anticipating seeing if Shang – Chi becomes the Phoenix of the White Crown. With the Phoenix, it is all about those color schemes! All in all, if you are a fan of the Avengers OR you love the Phoenix in all of its glory, I would purchase this issue. Between the art and the writing, you are in for a treat.
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