Marvel Has Broken The X-Men's Phoenix – Can It Be Fixed – Screen Rant

The Phoenix that featured in some of the best X-Men storylines of all time has now been reduced to a secondary character in the Avengers.
The Phoenix used to be one of Marvel Comics' most powerful characters, but the near-omnipotent cosmic being that featured in some of the best X-Men storylines of all time has now been reduced to a secondary character in Avengers. Attempts to rebrand the Phoenix with new hosts and new roles have ruined the original mystique of the character, who should instead go back to its origins.
The Phoenix was created by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum for X-Men #101, the beginning of the long and now legendary Dark Phoenix Saga that revolutionized mutant lore. The Phoenix is one of Marvel's oldest cosmic entities, a manifestation of the prime universal force of life as well as the forces of creation and destruction. The Phoenix's purpose in the cosmos is to make room for new life by destroying the old, but because the creature's power is fueled by emotions, it needs to bond with a mortal "host". Jean Grey is the most famous of them, and the Phoenix Force has been strictly tied to the X-Men lore for decades, until it became a prominent character in Jason Aaron's Avengers run, after bonding with Maya Lopez (Echo) and joining the Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
Related: Marvel's Next Phoenix is Galactus' Mother
Having the Phoenix (or actually its host) act as a "regular" superhero is not new: Rachel Summers was the avatar of the Phoenix Force during her time in Excalibur, but she could only access a small part of her power. Besides that, however, the Phoenix remained a cosmic force of destruction with goals that mortals could not understand, but Avengers changed all that. Maya Lopez acts like a regular member of the group and is actually one of the least prominent characters in the team, overshadowed by the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. The series also introduced alternative multiversal versions of the Phoenix, with the effect of destroying even more of the character's mystique. For example, in Avengers #59, by Jason Aaron, Javier Garròn, and David Curiel, readers meet Reno Carlotta, a cowgirl and Phoenix host who hunts alien criminals in 1868's Wild West. While potentially interesting, this character has very little to do with the unfathomable cosmic force of death and rebirth that the Phoenix should be.
New spins on old characters are often fun to see, but the Phoenix is a cosmic being, and as such it should remain constant in its scope and purpose, regardless of the time or the universe. X-Men writers over the years were careful (with a few exceptions) to not overuse the character, but Avengers is doing the opposite of that. Neither Echo nor Reno Phoenix have displayed the destructive impulses and the loss of humanity that are typical of Phoenix hosts. Instead, they act like regular heroes, with great powers but no different from the likes of Thor or Captain Marvel. With this approach, Marvel is hurting the Phoenix's lore ahead of the inevitable moment when the character will return to the X-Men franchise.
The attempt to separate the Phoenix from Marvel's mutants has not produced impressive results, until now. Fans still remember Chris Claremont and Grant Morrison's stories featuring the character after twenty or even forty years, but it's very hard to imagine that Maya Lopez or Reno Carlotta will leave such a long-standing impression. The original appeal of the character was that the Phoenix is a creature of inevitable destruction that made even the strongest superhero feel powerless. Its human hosts gave the Phoenix feelings, but in the end it would always prove to be an existence beyond human comprehension. If Marvel Comics wants to "fix" the Phoenix, it should remember that and preserve the character's mysticism.
Francesco is Senior Writer for Screen Rant’s Comics section. In his spare time he is also a lecturer in History and Cultural Studies. You can get mad at him on Twitter @FrancCacc


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