The history of Phoenix's role in the X-Men has been a long and much beloved one by fans of Marvel's Mutants. Starting way back in issue #100 of the original series, Phoenix's role has been an important one in the development of the team and individual team members, most especially Jean Grey. She's been alive, she's been dead. Then she comes back. Then she, well, you get the idea. Her story is such an integral part of the mythos that it appears to be the basis for the third X-Men film, if the end to X-Men 2 is any indication.
With Phoenix's 25th anniversary on the horizon, Marvel announced at Wizard World Chicago last weekend that it will celebrate that landmark with a new five-issue mini-series, "X-Men: Phoenix - Endsong," written by Greg Pak ("Warlock") with art by Greg Land coming January of 2005. The recently married Pak took a few moments out of his honeymoon (yes, his honeymoon!) to discuss the series with CBR News.
"I can't say too much, for fear of letting the ol' cat out of the ol' bag," Pak told CBR News, "but the series is conceived as the last Phoenix story, a final chance for our characters to work through the huge themes of love and death which run through all the Phoenix stories.
"We're working with a pretty classic set of characters -- Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost, Beast, Storm, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pride... The biggest new character is actually the Phoenix Force it/herself, whom we're exploring as a thinking, learning sentient creature with a big and terrifying and moving emotional arc of her own. And there will be a few more surprises..."
The history of Phoenix & Jean Grey is an extensive one, which makes the combo one of the most complex characters in the X-Men Universe. Pak is keeping story details close to his heart, but that history will obviously play a major role in "Endsong." "The emotional bonds and histories which have been developed over the years among and between X-Men are essential to our story," said Pak, "in fact, our story is only worth telling because of those bonds and histories."
The story launches from the pages of "Astonishing X-Men," which features most of the characters who were major players during the first "Dark Phoenix" Saga. "In telling this last Phoenix story, it just felt right to work with that same core group," said Pak.
The project originated within the editorial group at Marvel who were looking for a last Phoenix story. According to Pak, they put together a rough outline of the events and themes they felt should be in such a story and invited a group of writers to pitch, of which Pak was one.
"I holed myself up for a few days and reread every Phoenix story I could get my hands on," said Pak. "And I was just blown away by how rich the themes and the characters were. So I suppose the influences have come directly from the original source material, the histories of the characters.
"What I love about the way the characters and stories have been set up is that they're evocative and compelling without being overexplained; there's a great deal of emotional story waiting to be explored and huge potential to find new ways to dramatize the emotional arcs in the story in surprising and compelling ways."
For long time X-Men fans, you must be wondering what effect, if any, this will have on Jean Grey, who the Phoenix force has been inextricably linked to since her introduction into the Marvel Universe. Once again, Pak was guarded with details, but did share some thoughts on the characters.
"Again, I don't want to give away too much -- in particular, I don't want to imply one way or another whether or not we'll see Jean Grey in the flesh in this series. But I can say that the Phoenix character is enormously compelling as one of the best examples in comics of the notion of superpowers gone awry, of the idea that maybe human beings are simply not meant to handle superpowers of this scale. With the Phoenix, the stakes are enormously high, which makes for good drama. Add to that the complicated and moving emotional history the Phoenix shares with Jean, and you have a great combination of high stakes action and high stakes emotion."
Finally, Pak is joined on "X-Men: Phoenix - Endsong" by fan favorite artist Greg Land.
"I've just begun to work with Greg and I'm enormously excited -- he's awesome and I think he'll bring a real grace, beauty, and power to the story."