Superhero Cheat Sheet: Dark Phoenix

You may have noticed that there are a lot of superhero movies coming out this year. This might seem a bit overwhelming but DON'T WORRY. As a comic book fan, I am very used to the feeling of being overwhelmed by too many superheroes. I can help guide you through decades of complicated and interconnected storylines with a curated list so you can read up on the characters before the movie comes out. Impress your friends by getting all the inside jokes!

Today, we're going over to the mutant side of things for the new X-Men movie: Dark Phoenix, out June 7. While the past X-Men movies have focused more on Wolverine, Professor Xavier, and Magneto, this one focuses on the psychic mutant Jean Grey whose struggle with a power may be too much for her to contain.

Cover of The Dark Phoenix SagaDark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont

This is it. The story that launched a thousand retellings. The classic story of girl meets alien firebird. This is also the story that introduces famous X-Men characters such as spunky Jewish teen Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, also known as the White Queen of the Hellfire Club, and Allison Blair, the musician and superhero Dazzler. There's a reason this story keeps getting retold, a reason it's still in print after all these years, and that's because it's really good. Art and writing work together to create a brutal, emotional story about power and love and sacrifice and what it can cost to hold onto your humanity.

 

Cover of The Uncanny X-MenX-Men Uncanny Origins by Dennis Hopeless

Before all the movies, before the constant events, before even Wolverine, there were the original five students and their teacher, Professor Xavier. This is the Silver Age X-Men rewritten for the modern era, and it is every bit as superpowered soap opera as you could hope. This is an excellent way to experience the earliest generation of X-Men without getting mired in the complicated weirdness of the original. Plus, Jean Grey is the point of view character, so she gets much more of a personality than "token girl," which is a plus!

Cover of Jean GreyJean Grey by Dennis Hopeless

It's taken til 2017 for Jean Grey to headline in her own ongoing series despite being one of the most enduring X-Men, going back to the very first issue in 1963. This is the story of a young Jean Grey brought forward from the past to the present Marvel universe. She knows what her future is, and she doesn't want it. The Phoenix Force is terrifying and tends to destroy and/or turn evil whatever it touches. It's coming for her, and one way or another, she'll have to be ready.

 

Cover of X-Men RedX-Men Red by Tom Taylor

Jean Grey is back from the dead and not pleased with how the world has gone in her absence. She's ready to stop just fighting crime and start actually changing the world. She doesn't have the Phoenix anymore, but she's got hope, friends,  Intelligence, and of course, her own considerable superpowers. Can she accomplish such an ambitious goal? Well, in her words, "The all-powerful cosmic entity was holding me back."