Jason Aaron is a writer whose work I usually enjoy, but something about his Avengers run hasn’t been working for me as much as I would like it to.
But there’s something about various old powers coming together both in 100 million BC and the present, and the next of those powers has come to Earth again in the form of the Phoenix Force. That’s the big thing happening in the 8th volume subtitled Enter the Phoenix.
As with many of these trades, the book opens with an origin story for the original Phoenix, an unnamed redheaded cavewoman who was one of the world’s first mutants. And it seems that anti-mutant prejudice has been around a lot longer than it should have been.
Regardless, the Phoenix was summoned to Earth to battle Khonshu at the end of the previous volume. It seems the Phoenix never really went anywhere. The Phoenix also wants a host, and absent a redheaded telepath, this time the Phoenix is holding a tournament. After essentially kidnapping a number of beings, mostly heroes, the Phoenix is gifting them with a portion of its power and forcing them to fight. Winners advance. Losers, well, don’t. Among the main Avengers team, the Phoenix has taken Black Panther, Captain America, and the sometime She-Hulk. Also in there is Namor, insisting he needs the power and he summoned the Phoenix for it; Wolverine, claiming he wants it for the mutants just in case and he’s not there to help the Avengers; and a host of other odd choices. Some, like Squadron Supreme member Hyperion and Nighthawk as well as the Winter Guard’s Red Widow are reoccurring antagonists in the book. Others like Shang-Chi, Howard the Duck, Devil Dinosaur, the Man-Thing, and Shana the She-Devil are also in there, none of them quite sure what criteria the Phoenix even has.
And meanwhile on the outside, Thor is leading the remaining Avengers to try and contain the Phoenix, but there’s are some small problems as Namor’s forces are still causing trouble nearby and Thor is about to learn something he really didn’t know from the spirit of the first Phoenix host.
There’s a lot of different conflicts going on here, most notably between the different potential hosts. Namor wants to burn down the surface world. Jennifer Walters just wants to smash Namor. Captain America doesn’t want the power, but he also wants to make sure it doesn’t go to someone particularly awful. Black Panther thinks he can control the Phoenix with the use of his advanced vibranium-based Wakandan technology. Regardless, a new Phoenix host will be rising soon, and the Avengers might be needing that power for…whatever is coming. The Panther thinks it’s necessary. Cap? He’s not so certain.
As always, I think Jason Aaron is going somewhere with all this, but I’m not sure where. There are a lot of plot points being juggled around this story, often with artwork of fire doing things that made it a little difficult to tell what was happening in places. Between Namor, the Squadron Supreme, and the new Phoenix, there’s a lot to see and while I didn’t get the feeling that I was missing things like I did with the Starbrand storyarc, but I am still mostly wondering both why this run isn’t working for me and where it’s going if anywhere.
I say that knowing full well I will read the next one when I find it.
7.5 out of 10 vampire nations in the final reprinted issue.