After 40 Years… The X-Men’s Dark Phoenix Finally Makes Sense

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After 40 years, Marvel’s Chris Claremont Anniversary Special finally explains the Dark Phoenix – and why a creator is a destroyer.

This article contains spoilers for the Chris Claremont Anniversary Special, by Chris Claremont, Brett Booth, Sean Chen, Diego Olortegui, and Bill Sienkiewicz.

After 40 years, the X-Men‘s Dark Phoenix finally makes sense. In the Marvel Universe, the Phoenix Force is one of the most powerful entities in the entire Multiverse. It essentially serves as a guardian of evolution, and according to Marvel’s Phoenix Force Handbook it was one of the forces responsible for the dawn of creation itself.

And yet, with that being the case, the Phoenix has a propensity for destruction that is absolutely unparalleled. The alien race known as the Shi’ar call the Phoenix “The End of All That Is,” and countless Phoenix Hosts have gone rogue over the millennia, razing entire worlds and burning away alien civilizations. The Phoenix has returned to Earth in Jason Aaron’s Avengers run, with Captain America giving his own insight into the Phoenix in Avengers #40. “The Phoenix Force is a giant space parasite,” Steve Rogers recalls. “Made of fire. Like a big angry star with wings, and ungodly destructive power.” So why is such a powerful entity so destructive?

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Related: The X-Men’s Version of Thanos is Marvel’s Most Dangerous Villain

Marvel’s Chris Claremont Anniversary Special is a celebration of the legendary X-Men scribe and it finally provides an answer. The one-shot stars Dani Moonstar, one of the Valkyries of Hela, and in one conversation they discuss the Phoenix’s nature. “Existence is binary,” Hela explains. “Alpha-Omega. Chaos-Order. Beginning-End. Life-Death. Phoenix is the passion of creation. Dark Phoenix, the cold fire that brings it to its end.” This brief account is the key to understanding the Dark Phoenix – although it’s rather amusing the explanation comes 40 years after the classic “Dark Phoenix Saga” began.

This, then, finally explains the paradox at the heart of the Phoenix Force. Because existence is binary, so is the Phoenix. It is a force of death and rebirth, chaos and order, creation and destruction. The Phoenix Force ignited the Big Bang, and one day the Phoenix Force will be responsible for the destruction of this universe in its Big Crunch. But because the Phoenix transcends creation itself, the cycle will begin again; the Big Crunch will be followed by another Big Bang, as the binary of creation begins once again.

This explains why so many hosts struggle to handle the unbridled power of the Phoenix. They have at their fingertips infinite, unlimited power to create and destroy alike. Where the Phoenix Force is binary, they are not, and consequently their minds struggle to contain its infinitude. Only one host has ever really flourished when wielding the power of the Phoenix, Rachel Grey, and it is telling she is actually the daughter of the Phoenix itself – the child of Cyclops and the Phoenix when it had replaced his beloved Jean Grey in one timeline. It seems only a child of the Phoenix is equipped to handle its strange, binary nature.

More: Wolverine Reminds Fans The X-Men’s Red Queen is Their Deadliest

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