Reviewer: Jesse Baker
Story Title: What if Phoenix Had Not Died?
Written by: Mary Jo Duffy
Penciled by: Jerry Bingham
Inked by: John Stewert
Colored by: Carl Garford
Lettered by: Simek Chaing
Editor: Tom DeFalco/Mark Gruenwald
Publisher: Marvel Comics
“What If” had been around since the late 1970s and for those who have had the unfortunate chance to read the first volume of this series will agree that the first version of “What If” sucked. For those who are not familiar with the series, “What If” was an anthology series that revolved around the mysterious Watcher telling stories that revolved around alternate outcomes to existing Marvel stories. More often than none, these stories in the first volume (published from the late 1970s through the mid 1980s) were REALLY bad. Really, really bad.
What If #27 was a much hyped issue “What if Phoenix Had Lived?” story that would reveal the original ending to the Dark Phoenix Saga. The build-up was pretty big but two things deep-sixed the issue: the fact that the story was not written or drawn by Claremont/Byrne and the fact that the story sucked with it’s numerous plot holes and blatant appearances of Galactus for no real reason except to include him in the story. The plot has a recap of the events of the Dark Phoenix Saga and of the new twist on the tale. In this story, we learn that Jean Grey was shot down by the Imperial Guard before Cyclops was. With Jean defeated, the Shi’ar Empire decide that rather than kill Phoenix, they will lobotomize her and strip her of her powers. Jean is returned to the X-Men powerless and sent home.
Weeks pass as Jean Grey remains on the X-Men team despite losing her powers. Suddenly, right before the events of Uncanny X-Men #141, the X-Men get a telepathic summons from the Shi’ar begging the team to stop Galactus from destroying a world that is under Shi’ar protection. The X-Men, with Jean Grey in tow, head into space and during their fight with Galactus’s herald Terrax, Jean suddenly transforms back into Phoenix and destroys Terrax. Jean and Galactus then fight and Jean destroys the equipment Galactus uses to consume entire worlds. Galactus runs away as the X-Men celebrate the return of Jean’s powers, except for Shadowcat. Soon Shadowcat is spying on Jean and catching her flying out into space where she destroys uninhabited asteroids and stars. When Jean returns after destroying another star the X-Men are waiting for her. Quicker than you can say “Busted” Jean turns into Dark Phoenix and kills the X-Men off one by one in quick and vicious fashion until only Cyclops is left. Facing down his beloved, Cyclops dies like everyone else. But his death trigger’s Dark Phoenix’s humanity and within seconds Jean is consumed by her Phoenix Effect, the firey bird that embodies Jean’s power. Within seconds the entire planet Earth has been consumed by fire as the fire-bird grows and grows until it consumes the entire universe.
Besides the nonsensical Galactus appearance, this story was full of crap. First the ending was way too much of a downer and secondly the story was filled with plot holes. Why didn’t Jean catch Kitty spying on her telepathically? Why did Jean’s powers return in the first place? Again plotholes abound. And the lack of art or even an official story from Chris Claremont hurt the story and gives it a third-rate feel towards it.