Tuesday, December 20, 2016

X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga

1.  This novel’s artwork is extremely expressionistic. Each character follows somewhat of a uniform body, but – especially in the case of Phoenix – they may change slightly from panel to panel. The backgrounds are often splashes or mixing of colors, rather than a more realistic setting. When any of the X-Men use their power, it is usually illustrated with swift, broad strokes along the page, explosions of color, and shifting or changing spaces. Expressionistic work is especially evident in Jean’s transformation into the Dark Phoenix. Her body goes out of focus and is completely engulfed in an aura of light and color; at times, she loses her shape entirely and takes on the form of the Phoenix, which is drawn freely much like the flame it is made up of.

2. Throughout the comic, panels change sizes quite rapidly. In many cases, like that on page 111, fractions of seconds are shown as the Phoenix warps Jason Wyngarde’s mind. In this case, time seems to slow down to a pause and communicates to us the gravity of the moment. While a film can use slow motion effects or speed up the succession of shots, I think it would seem overused on the cinema screen simply because the novel uses this technique so often. Additionally, Jean Grey’s inner monologue plays an important role in the story by helping us understand her fear of her own power. Books are able to share a character’s innermost thoughts in a way movies simply cannot do, so any attempt to make this story into a film would struggle with the loss of such an integral piece of the narrative.

3. This comic mainly focuses on the ethics of Jean Grey. As the Phoenix, she possesses a limitless power. In fact, the Grand Council of the Galactic Empire refers to her power as able to consume “all that exists” (136) and as boundless as God himself. Since she became the Phoenix, Jean has controlled her powers through a series of mental walls she created to rein in her abilities. When Jason Wyngarde/Master Mind tore down those barriers, Jean released her power in full, consuming all that is around her. In fact, she destroyed an entire planet by consuming their sun, exterminating 5 billion people. She killed every crewmember of the Shi’ar warship after they tried to stop her, and she attacked and nearly destroyed her beloved friends, the X-Men. All of these acts, however, were committed by the Dark Phoenix, not Jean Grey, yet she is ultimately held responsible for them because they are on in the same. This novel seems to question if Jean is redeemable, which is further explored as each of her friends struggle with whether or not it is right to fight for her life when she has taken so much through her power. Ultimately, they all come to the decision that the friendship and love they have for Jean is stronger than her faults. Jean, however, realizes she will not be able to stop the power within from consuming her once more, so she sacrifices herself to remain human. This seems to show that infinite power is not all a hero should seek. Instead, their focus must always be on others, even if that requires their own destruction.

4.On page 149-150, the Dark Phoenix (Jean) engages in a Psi-war with Professor Xavier. It is the ultimate battle – student against teacher. The panels explode with the flames of the Dark Phoenix as all her power concentrates on Xavier’s attack. At the end of the battle, Jean Grey falls from the sky making Professor Xavier the victor. He informs the X-Men that the only reason he was able to beat the Dark Phoenix is because he could sense Jean inside herself trying to help him stop her endless search for power. It is in these panels that we see the humanity of Jean Grey long before she chooses to sacrifice herself. Only a true hero would be willing to fight against their darkest form and chance losing infinite, cosmic power. In Jean’s case, the professor put a host of psionic circuit breakers in order to completely separate Jean from her most powerful tool, the Phoenix. In doing so, Jean loses a significant amount of power and is reduced to telepath only. These panels are the key to understanding Jean Grey's story as a superhero, friend, and human. 

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