Saturday, October 18, 2008

Comic Book Week: "X-Men: PhoenixWarsong"

“X-Men: Phoenix Warsong” is a five issue limited series released 2006 to follow the ever successful Phoenix saga. Chronologically it follows the Endong miniseries, where the Phoenix force resurrects Jean Grey again and hunts down Cyclops led by Grey’s feelings. However this time Jean Grey is not the target, Emma Frost has to face a painful truth and more about the Weapon X program is revealed. Due to the complexity of the storyline this review will definitely have major spoiler moments.

The series begins with fragments of the Phoenix force making contact with the Stepford Cuckoos, which have been reduced from quintuplets to triplets. At first they develop the power to levitate, which was viewed as a normal secondary mutation, but when the girls burst out in flames and speak of being life and death itself, things go downhill. The mystery over the girls suddenly increases as the two deceased sisters Sophie and Esme raise from the dead. Emma discovers that her ovary has been used by Doctor Sublime to create a thousand clones of herself, all identical, five of which were the Cuckoos. On the other hand it is revealed the Cuckoos have metal in their bones and communicate with some sort of a binary code, thus processing heavy loads of information.

A team of X-men is dispatched at Sublime’s secret laboratory after tracking the sisters with Cerebra. In the meantime Celeste becomes the dominant mind and thus the host of the whole Phoenix fragment, while her sisters have been trapped into machine that wires them to all of their sisters, thus activating them. Doctor Sublime informs the X-Men that the Cuckoos were designed as the perfect weapons to erase all mutants from the earth and an army of Cuckoos called the Thousand-in-One. But Celeste still maintaining her individuality works with the X-men to short circuit all of the girls. The crisis overcome, the Phoenix is split between the three original sisters and encased in their hearts, now made of diamonds.

To tell the truth, I was torn between “Endsong”, featuring the resurrection story of Jean Grey, and “Warsong” series, since Jean Grey is one of my personal favorite characters, but considering the fresh angle of the latter and the sheer volume encompassed in just five issues I knew this was the winner. The Phoenix saga has spanned for quite awhile now Jean Grey being the white phoenix, the good phoenix, the dark phoenix, dying and coming back. In the end Marvel decided to freshen up the story line by adding new elements to the mix. After Emma Frost experiences the host relationship with the Phoenix, we see new hosts. The Cuckoo sisters are relatively new characters and people haven’t seen much of them and this is so to say their first apocalyptic major story line.

This series has five major strengths. 1) Tyler Kirkham’s (Also Here)artwork is one of the most exceptional and detailed example of why I love comic books and how I usually visualize stories, either from novels or for writing. 2) The new hosts have been very unlikely, but a very pleasant choice for the readers can experience the hivemind communication and relatiosn between the three sisters. Having such power and switching it before settling for a dominant mind has been interesting. 3) The Cuckoos’ origins as Weapon XIV. Honestly as far as the Weapon X program goes its highest achievements have been Wolverine and Sabertooth and X-23, although she is meant as a clone of Wolverine. 4) Having Emma Frost as their DNA mother, which leads to the finale where they develop the same secondary mutation to change into a diamond shape and encasing the Phoenix force. 5) The awesome reference to the Stepford Wives by Ira Levin and the fight for individuality, which is being lost. Although the sisters have always wanted to be understood and escape their visage as ice queens, in the ultimate end, when they turn their hearts to diamonds they became hollow and soulless, obedient and emotionless, the perfect humans in any way, the perfect machines as well. Obedient and detached. Thank you writer Greg Pack.

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