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10 Ways The Dark Phoenix Saga Still Holds Up | ScreenRant

In 1980, a seminal X-Men storyline forever changed the superhero genre. The Dark Phoenix Saga ran from January to October, bringing considerable repercussions to the venerable team and introducing one of the most powerful entities in the Marvel Universe: the Phoenix Force.

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The storyline remains influential and is one of the most referenced in American superhero comics. Thanks to excellent writing, compelling and flawed characters, inspired and often-imitated artwork, and consequences so extreme they reshaped the entire franchise, The Dark Phoenix Saga remains a watershed moment in pop culture.

10 It Tells A Timeless Story

Hero-to villain stories are a favorite of film and television. Audiences love seeing their beloved heroes become corrupted and descend to the lowest of lows, only to rise again, strengthened and more capable than ever. Redemption is also a crucial part of this narrative arcs, the ultimate payoff to the excruciating story. From Star Wars to The Godfather, some of history's best villains began as some of its most well-intentioned heroes.

The Dark Phoenix Saga exemplifies this journey beautifully. The story's themes--identity, corruption, temptation, and the burden of power--remain as relevant as ever. Indeed, writers keep revisiting them in other movies and television shows, from the Spider-Man movies to Game of Thrones.

9 It Redefined Jean Grey's Character

Jean Grey served no important purpose in the team before The Dark Phoenix Saga, especially during the X-Men's early days. The character existed as a love interest for the group-- every member of the X-Men's original roster had feelings for her at one point-- and a mother figure to provide support and encouragement.

As more and more female characters arrived--Storm, Scarlet Witch, and Mystique all debuted throughout the 60s and 70s--it became increasingly complicated to use Jean in any meaningful way. The Dark Phoenix Saga was not only a showcase but, as it turns out, a victory lap for the X-Men's first lady. The storyline took a nearly irrelevant character and elevated it to the apex of importance, turning her into one of Marvel's most overpowered figures in the process.

8 The Phoenix Changed The Marvel Universe

The Phoenix entity arrived and disrupted the Marvel Universe's feeble stability. A threat so immense and mighty that it had the power to destroy entire planets, the Phoenix was among the most dangerous enemies in the comic book genre. It was no simple foe but a potentially catastrophic menace under the guise of one of the most passive and nurturing figures.

Even after its apparent death, the Phoenix's shadow loomed large over the broken mutant team. Throughout the years, the Phoenix would return in search of new hosts, including members of Jean's family. No one, no matter how capable, would ever come close to satisfying the cosmic force as it had been when it possessed Jean Grey.

7 It Forever Changed The X-Men

Jean Grey's death affected the X-Men deeply. Her long-time lover Scott quit the X-Men and joined a fishing crew. Storm became the X-Men's de-facto leader, while Wolverine remained alone with his unresolved feelings. The entire team carried on with a gap that was impossible to fill.

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Even after they all mourn and recover from Jean's loss, the Phoenix's constant return to their lives prevents them from moving on. The entity's presence alters the team's purpose, its very DNA. Phoenix is an enemy only they understand, a formal commitment they acquire to deal with it every time it returns, and it always does.

6 It Was A Watershed Moment For Female Characters

During the Silver and Bronze Ages of comic books, many Marvel teams had their obligatory female figure. The X-Men had Jean as Marvel Girl, the Fantastic Four had the Invisible Girl, and the Avengers had the Wasp. They provided considerable support to their men-dominated teams but never excelled in the same way their teammates did.

By the 70s, more female characters were a part of the conversation, but they never took control of it. The Dark Phoenix Saga changed the discourse by having a woman take the microphone, then blowing the roof and making the entire world her stage. The mightiest being in Marvel comics was a woman, a normally obedient female character who was finally letting loose. The Dark Phoenix Saga did more for female heroes and villains with just a few numbers than an entire decade of comic book continuity.

5 It Wasn't Afraid To Take Risks

The Dark Phoenix Saga did what few storylines before it dared to try. It took a well-liked, established character, one that audiences considered "untouchable," and not only turned her into a full-on villain but killed her as a direct result of her actions.

Moreover, Jean Grey's path to villainy wasn't sugar-coated. The panel showing the Phoenix consuming the energy of a star, inadvertently killings millions of living, sentient beings, remains one of the most infamous in comic book history. Audiences thought there was no way of coming back from that. Phoenix's actions during the storyline cemented its place as one of the greatest villains in modern history, and with good reason.

4 It Dared To Ask Profound Questions

At the storyline's end, Uatu the Watcher speaks one of the most profound lines in comic book history. Referring to Jean's sacrifice, Uatu states that "Jean Grey could have lived like a god. But it was more important to her that she die a human."

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This line keeps inspiring interpretations to this day. Uatu hints that, despite their many flaws, humans have the capacity to do and be good and evil. So even if they stray or commit reprehensible actions, there's always a chance for redemption, and it's up to them to take it or not. It's an ambitious lesson that gets somewhat lost between the cosmic shenanigans of the story. However, it's still clear enough to be as powerful now as it was back then.

3 It Remains An Inspiration For Marvel

Since WandaVision's ending, there have been some comparisons between Wanda's story in the MCU and the Dark Phoenix now-iconic debut in the comics. Furthermore, some fans think that Wanda already has a better Dark Phoenix story than Jean, effectively ending all possibility of a proper MCU adaptation if and when the X-Men debut. Fox already tried to adapt the storyline twice, but the less said about X-Men: The Last Stand and Dark Phoenix, the better.

The fact remains that The Dark Phoenix Saga tells such a universal tale that it's easy to translate into many other characters. And Marvel knows how influential the storyline was and how undeniable its legacy is, so it makes sense that they keep referencing it in other properties.

2 It Transcended Its Franchise

The Dark Phoenix Saga is synonymous with the X-Men as a whole and is one of the team's most significant storylines. It forever changed the group and introduced a constant enemy with such vast and mighty powers that they're still fighting it, forty-one years after its debut.

The story's success created a comic book trope of its own. Indeed, heroes Storm and the Invisible Woman go through their own dark phases, Rogue Storm and Malice, Mistress of Hate, respectively. However, Dark Phoenix's influence goes beyond the X-Men or even Marvel. Shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its Dark Willow storyline also drew inspiration from the character, cementing the storyline's place in pop culture.

1 It Remains The Definitive Version Of The Story

It's no secret that Marvel has tried to translate the seminal storyline into different mediums. The beloved and acclaimed X-Men: Animated series of the 90s did a decent job adapting it but still couldn't match the original story's grandeur. Wolverine and the X-Men fared worse by cramming the complex storyline into three episodes, and X-Men: Evolution only hinted at it during its series epilogue. And the movies, of course, tried and failed (twice!) to bring the story to live-action.

It's not easy adapting such a pivotal saga and doing it justice. The fact remains, the comic books took their time establishing the Phoenix Force and its powers before transforming into Dark Phoenix. There was a care and patience that's not present in any of the future adaptations and will probably never be. And so, The Dark Phoenix Saga will forever reign supreme in the minds and hearts of fans.

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