Welcome back to Strange Times & Places, where we’re honoring the release of Dark Phoenix (as undeserving as it is) by talking about What If? #32-33, “What if Phoenix had not died?” and “What if Phoenix rose again?”.
How’s It Different?
Like basically all issues of What If?, this story and is a for want of a nail tale. Specifically, it starts from Chris Claremont’s original plan for how the Dark Phoenix Saga would end – namely, with Jean Grey losing her powers – before moving on to incorporate some of the plots that developed in the pages of X-Men because she died.
What’s The Story?
Having lost her powers rather than her life, Jean Grey marries Scott Summers. She completes her teaching degree, becomes mentor to Xavier’s New Mutants, and gives birth to a beautiful baby daughter named Rachel. Life is going great until the Shadow King invades the X-Men mansion while the team is away in order to murder Jean and kidnap Rachel. Unfortunately for everyone, Jean is going to discover that she is not the person she thinks she is and that the Phoenix can still rise again.
Best of Differences
- The story manages to use Chris Claremont’s original plans for Jean Grey as a great springboard well still incorporating elements of the X-Men canon that had a rendered those plans obsolete – namely, the Phoenix being an artificial copy of Jean that had stashed the real one at the bottom of the ocean.
- The story starts to head down the road towards Days of Future Past’s bleak future, but subverts audience expectations…because the X-Men have a veritable cosmic goddess on their side this time.
- Cyclops defies a bothersome trope in stories that involve cloning when he chooses to accept his wife (I.E. the Phoenix that thinks it’s Jean) as she is. He’s been married to her for a couple years, so she is the woman he loves even if she’s not entirely who she believed she was.
- Everything up to Phoenix’s realization that she isn’t the real Jean Grey represents a massive “What Could Have Been” for the history of the X-Men franchise, starting with Cyclops not marrying his dead girlfriend’s doppelganger only to immediately ditch her (and their son!) when said girlfriend returned to life.