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By Thomas Wheeler

Finally, after a long dearth of no new Marvel Legends in the stores -- at least not around here -- some figures from the more recent assortments have started to turn up. This will be the first of several reviews of a number of figures which I have added to my collection.

This review features PHOENIX, a near-chase figure from Series VI that isn't even shown on the back of the package for the assortment. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have found this figure at retail, at a Wal-Mart one day in early January, where it appeared someone had made a half-hearted attempt to hide her in the toy clearance section. Didn't do a very good job of it because I found her instead.

Based on the original story, Phoenix was Jean Grey, an original member of the X-Men previously known as Marvel Girl, possessing considerable telekinetic abilities. After she guided a space shuttle carrying the X-Men through a solar storm, which crashed into the waters of New York harbor, she emerged from the sunken vessel with a new costume and the new name of Phoenix!

Her powers, it seemed, had been raised to near-cosmic levels. She had both telepathic and telekinetic abilities, and could work on such a meticulous level that she could rearrange the molecules of her clothes to turn them into her costume with a mere thought.

But over time, her advanced powers required more and more sustenance. This ultimately led to the epic storyline known as "The Phoenix Saga", widely regarded as unmatched for its time, and barely equaled since. I might be inclined to give equal status to "The Death of Superman", "Batman: No Man's Land", and "X-Men: Age of Apocalypse", and superior status to "Crisis on Infinite Earths", but that's still pretty rare company, and "The Phoenix Saga" preceded them all.

Phoenix became corrupted by her own powers, and became Dark Phoenix, consuming a sun for its energy, causing it to go nova, and wiping out an inhabited planet in the process. In the final storyline, even though it seemed that, with the help of Professor Xavier, the power of the Phoenix had been excised from Jean Grey, the alien Shi'ar were not content with this, and demanded the life of Jean Grey for the safety of the universe. This led to a battle with the X-Men against the Shi'ar's Imperial Guard, in which the Phoenix power returned. Rather than risk another turn as Dark Phoenix, Jean Grey turned the ancient weapons of the battlefield on which they fought onto herself, and seemingly died.

I say "seemingly", because years later, it was revealed that the Phoenix was not, in fact, Jean Grey. Jean Grey had been damaged by the radiation of the solar storm through which she had flown the shuttle. Dying, she was contacted by the cosmic Phoenix Force, which placed her in a healing cocoon at the bottom of the ocean, while the Phoenix took on the physical form and memories of Jean Grey. The transition was so complete that not even a trained telepath such as Professor X could have known.

This was a plausible (for comics, anyway) means of bringing the popular Jean Grey character back into the X-Men fold. Her original seeming "death" had actually been an edict laid down by Marvel's then-editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, who was not pleased with the original outcome of the final story of the Phoenix Saga, which had Jean Grey subdued by the Imperial Guard, and all of her mutant telepathic/telekinetic powers removed by force. Shooter felt there should be graver consequences for wiping out a planet, and the last few pages of the story were rewritten and redrawn in some haste. But none of the creators were especially happy with the overall situation.

As with many things "X", the Phoenix Story has become somewhat watered down in the years since that initial story. Both Jean Grey and a daughter from an alternate universe, Rachel Summers, have held the power of the Phoenix. Jean Grey has died and returned several times. It's a shame, really.

But the Marvel Legends figure of PHOENIX is a representation of the original Phoenix, before everything got so diluted, and the comic book included with the figure, Uncanny X-Men #101, is the story of her very first appearance.

The figure is, simply stated, nothing short of truly amazing, even for a Marvel Legends figure. 44 points of articulation. I think that may be a record. Head, arms, upper-arm swivel, double-jointed elbows, lower arm swivel, wrists, fingers, mid-torso, waist, legs, hip swivel, upper-leg swivel, double-jointed knees, lower leg swivel, ankles, toe groups.

The likeness is incredible. The face is perfect. Finely sculpted with amazing detail and a perfect facial expression. The uniform is molded (or painted where necessary) in a faintly metallic-toned plastic. The belt with sash is made from a thin, flexible plastic, and looks perfect. The colors are just as they should be. Phoenix's stunning red hair is a superb sculpt in and of itself, molded from flexible plastic, and perfectly detailed.

The energy manifestation of the Phoenix always took the form of a giant bird of flame, and this is the design of the display base that Phoenix comes with, for those inclined to use it.

I can see why this would be a hard figure to find. Apart from being a short-pack, it's a truly superb figure, that harkens back to the days when X-Men stories still had a good measure of class and grandeur to them. If you're any sort of X-Fan, and if you like the Marvel Legends figures, then I don't really need to tell you that you will unquestionably want to add PHOENIX to your collection. Just -- good luck finding her.

And did I mention that there's an even scarcer variant, of DARK PHOENIX? Again, good luck...

(Special thanks to Terry Dizard for special effects work on the picture)