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Marvel’s ‘Dark Phoenix’ rises again

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In a new Marvel movie called “Dark Phoenix,” the X-Men team is hit by a solar flare while on a rescue mission in space. That unleashes Jean Grey’s Dark Phoenix persona. The storyline traces Grey’s corruption and fall. And resurrection.

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Friday, June 7, 2019

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were the co-creators of an X-Men character named Jean Grey. In Marvel comic books, she has been known under various aliases — Marvel Girl, Phoenix and Dark Phoenix. A mutant, Grey was born with telepathic and telekinetic powers. She rivals Professor Xavier in her mind-control abilities.

My old friend Chris Claremont helped develop the character.

“Jean had the greatest power imaginable,” he said. “And that was the thing I got from Stan: Actions have consequences.”

In a new Marvel movie called “Dark Phoenix,” the X-Men team is hit by a solar flare while on a rescue mission in space. That unleashes Grey’s Dark Phoenix persona. The storyline traces Grey’s corruption and fall. And resurrection.

“Dark Phoenix” brings back Professor X, founder of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters (again played by a hairless James McAvoy); Magneto, the rival who can control magnetic forces (Michael Fassbender); Mystique, the blue shape-shifter (Jennifer Lawrence); Storm, a mutant who can control the weather (Alexandra Shipp); and the rest of the gang. That includes Scott Summers/Cyclops, a mutant who fires concussive optic beams and provides the love interest for Grey.

As “Dark Phoenix” director Simon Kinberg puts it, that growing relationship between Grey and Summers is “ a huge part of the emotional core of the movie.”

We watch as Grey (played by Sophie Turner) splits into her Dark Phoenix alter ego, first becoming a being of pure thought, and then reforming herself upon return to Earth with the new costume, identity and incredible power of Dark Phoenix. Grey is the closest thing the so-called Phoenix Force has to an earthly avatar, a useful twinning in its bid to usurp Cyclops’s powers.

For the role, Turner studied dissociative identity disorder and schizophrena. She wanted to seem authentic when changing from the vulnerable Jean to the confident Phoenix.

Having had a twin who died before birth, Turner says she’s drawn toward stories about twins and doubles. Two of her previous films — “The Thirteenth Tale” and “Another” — explore that theme.

You’ll know Sophie Turner from TV’s “Game of Thrones,” as well as her previous appearance in “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

“Dark Phoenix” is currently doing battle on the screens at Regal Cinemas Greenville Grande 14 and AMC Fire Tower 12.

A direct sequel of “X-Men: Apocalypse,” this is the seventh and final installment in the main X-Men series.

Claremont reminisces about creating “The Dark Phoenix Saga " (Uncanny X-Men #101-#108, 1976 – 1977) and (Uncanny X-Men #129 - #138, 1980) with writer-artist John Byrne. Widely considered a classic, it is “one of the most well-known and heavily referenced stories in mainstream American superhero comics.”

Comic book historians Roy Thomas and Peter Sanderson observed that it is a “landmark in Marvel history, showcasing its creators’ work at the height of their abilities."

British-born Claremont considers Grey one of his favorite characters.

“We wanted her to be the heart and soul of the universe,” he said. “And we also wanted her to put Scott in his place.”

As Louise Simonton (Claremont’s X-Men editor at the time) says, “Chris took them very seriously. They were real people to him.”

When asked about Grey’s transformation, Claremont said: “Dark Phoenix is the ultimate expression of the darkest shadow in everyone’s soul.”

Or as Professor Xavier says in the film, “The mind is a fragile thing. Takes only the slightest tap to tip it in the wrong direction.”

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