In my years of TV watching, there have been tons of well-regarded shows that have eluded my gaze. Thanks to the magic of Netflix and other online streaming sites, I now have an opportunity to watch these shows and share my thoughts on them. It may be a classic to you, but It’s New To Me!
Even though it is a compressed and simplified version of its original comic book source material, I have greatly enjoyed the five-part “Phoenix Saga” that occurs early on in X-Men ‘s third season. This epic storyline hearkens back to the week-long storylines that would occasionally run in the old G.I. Joe animated series that sometimes played as full-length movies on weekends. These types of storylines usually marked a season premiere or finale back in those days, but serialized storytelling was a much bigger part of the X-Men Animated Series, which shows when a longer than average storyline like this runs so early on in the season.
The penultimate chapter of “The Phoenix Saga,” entitled “The Starjammers,” begins with Jean/Phoenix transporting Lilandra and her teammates to Lilandra’s ship, where they get their first glance at the M’Kraan Crystal, the object that Jean’s newfound persona has been tasked with protecting. They are soon beseiged by a ship carrying a team of intergalactic pirates known as The Starjammers that attempt to take the crystal. During their obligatory battle, Jean discovers that the Starjammers are not working for D’Ken and that their human leader, Corsair, is really Cyclops’ long-lost father, a fact she decides to hide from him. The Starjammers take both the crystal and Cyclops, hoping to use him as a weapon against D’Ken. Corsair negotiates a deal with D’Ken for the M’Kraan, with both parties planning to betray the other. D’Ken tasks Gladiator and his Imperial Guard with killing the Starjammers after the deal is made, a dishonorable practice that does not sit well with the Shi’ar general, but he is forced to obey the Emperor’s wishes. Corsair persuades a reluctant Cyclops to help him destroy D’Ken during their meeting, bonding with him somewhat as he reminisces about his former life on Earth. Jean tracks Cyclops down telepathically and transports the X-Men to D’Ken’s ship during the botched handoff, resulting in a battle between the team and the superpowered Imperial Guard. Lilandra grabs the crystal and tries to make a break for it, only to be stopped by D’Ken, , who unleashes the power of the crystal, putting the galaxy at risk.
Just like any good penultimate chapter of a multi-part story, “The Starjammers” effectively builds toward the inevitable climax, upping the ante of the main threat and providing some exciting battle scenes along the way. As a fan of these characters from the comics, I was thrilled to see the Starjammers in animated form, though their introduction and the reveal of Corsair as Scott’s father did seem a bit rushed. The fight between the X-Men and the Imperial Guard was fun and brought back memories of their first meeting in the comics, which was impeccably rendered by the great Dave Cockrum. I also enjoyed the brief cameos from other powerful beings within the Marvel Universe such as Dr. Strange, Emma Frost, and Captain Britain, all of whom feel the immense power emitted by the Phoenix and hint at posible future appearances on the show. This entire episode was an enjoyable, somewhat nostalgic sci-fi romp that provided some genuinely thrilling moments while effectively pushing the storyline toward its inevitable conclusion and earns 4.5 out of 5 Emerson Quotes.
The fifth and final chapter of “The Phoenix Saga,” entitled “Child of Light,” begins right where chapter four left off, with D’Ken growing more powerful after tapping into the crystal and easily fighting off the X-Men while Phoenix states that he is creating his own universe inside the crystal that he intends to pull all of reality into and rule. She advises her friends to retreat with the Starjammers while she tries to find out if she can contain the crystal using her newfound powers as the Phoenix. From the Starjammers’ ship, the X-Men watch as both Jean and D’Ken’s ship are sucked into the crystal, supposedly overtaken by its power. These events result in environmental devastation throughout Earth as the crystal slowly draws energy from the planet. The X-Men, Starjammers, Imperial Guard, and Lilandra soon find themselves inside the crystal, where they again battle D’Ken within his created universe. Lilandra pleads with her mad brother not to destroy the universe with his lust for power, but her words fall on deaf ears. Just when all looks lost for the heroes, the Phoenix appears and transports them all to safety before telling them that she must sacrifice herself in order to contain the M’Kraan’s power. She tearfully bids farewell to Scott and the rest of the team before completely absorbing the crystal’s power, trapping D’Ken inside. Jean tells her friends that she will bury the crystal within the sun where it will remain hidden from all who wish to access its power, which means that she will have to remain with it. Back on Earth, Lilandra bids farewell to Xavier and the X-Men, ready to claim the Shi’ar throne, and both Scott and Wolverine mourn the loss of Jean.
“Child of Light” is a worthy ending to this five-part epic, despite because the team not having as much to do aside from a brief battle with D’Ken. Jean / Phoenix does the majority of the heavy lifting here, and her sacrifice provides a couple of surprisingly poignant emotional scenes as she says goodbye to her friends and comments on the beauty of what she sees as she journeys to the sun to act as the M’Kraan’s guardian. I also appreciated how this episode illustrated the global threat posed by D’Ken’s misues of the crystal, showing not only Storm protecting the people of New York but also several other areas around the Marvel Universe where Sunfire, Spider-Man, War Machine, and members of Alpha Flight are protecting the public. Overall, this was a narratively and emotionally rich conclusion to this long story, though I do know, from both my knowledge of the comics and from the titles of future episodes this season, both Jean and the Phoenix will be returning soon. “Child of Light” earns 4.5 out of 5 Giant Rock Soldiers.