Phoenix Rising, 5 of 6. Potential Responses to Violence & Suicide

“Understanding war I do not harm myself.” – Alice Walker

After Dark Phoenix has destroyed a galaxy and appears too strong to control, the Shi’ar, a sort of United Nations for the universe, decides to put her to death.  Prof. X, trying to save her, uses procedural grounds to call for a violent “Duel of Honor.”

Artworks by John Byrne, Terry Austin, Chris Claremont, and Glynis Wein:

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(Click on the images if you wish to view them individually or larger.)

If the X-Men beat the crap out of the Universe’s strongest heroes, then Jean Grey’s life can be spared (and then I guess presumably she would have gone into some high-powered mental hospital/therapy program instead of being executed).  It is a system designed to fail from the start, because the X-Men are no match against the strongest forces in the universe.

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For reasons that I love, but that I still don’t fully understand, Jean Grey chooses to wear an old costume for the duel.  She chooses an old persona, a previous self.

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When Jean Grey loses mental control and turns once again toward being destructive, it occurs only after she sees that her team of X-Men, the people closest to her, have all been violently assaulted or knocked unconscious.  Before seeing them in peril, she was so powerful that she probably could have kept anyone from destroying her.  She is most weakened by seeing her loved ones in harm’s way.  Fearing more violence against her loved ones, she irrationally decides to take her own life.

 

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This story was devised in a comic book culture predominantly run and designed by men.  So it’s interesting to also highlight that in the original Uncanny X-Men Phoenix saga, issue #137, at one point or another, ALL the men in Jean Grey’s life let her down.  They all care about her, but at some point, each one of them is persuaded to use violence against her, even the men closest to her, including Cyclops, Wolverine, Prof. X (who gives the order) and Colossus (Angel and Nightcrawler don’t actually throw any blows, but they don’t protest or try to stop the other men’s violence either).

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Most fans of the comic art are familiar with X-Men #137, pages 44 and 45 . In my opinion, they are two of the best drawn and composed pages ever.  They were created by penciller John Byrne, inker Terry Austin, and colorist Glynis Wein.  There are volumes of discussions as to the politics that led to the decision to have Jean Grey kill herself.  If you do a web search for “X-Men Companion” Volumes I and II, those are two good book starting points (they can also be found on eBay from time to time. They are out of print.)  It was primarily a bunch of men, with all their perceptions of women’s roles and duties, trying to decide the fate of one woman.

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It should be noted that in the last moments of crisis, all the men close to Jean struggle with their decision to use violence against her.   Cyclops realizes the errors of his thinking and concedes the mistakes he has made.  He does everything he can to try and convince her to stay alive.  But in her depressive thinking patterns and depressed state, she cannot reason clearly and she takes her own life.   She silences her creative abilities.

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You will find I censor very little on this blog, because I intentionally hope this discussion touches on rarely discussed & important, real issues.  But I choose not to show images of suicide, even costumed superhero suicide, for personal reasons.  But I think it is important to communicate suicide’s indicators, the cultural thought processes that can lead to suicide’s increased risks, and suicide’s reprocussions.  The struggle with suicide is at the core of the original Uncanny X-Men’s Phoenix saga.

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In summary, Phoenix plans her own death and weakens herself so that an external weapon can kill her.  Her unreasonable rationales are based on her incorrect belief that there is no answer to the conflicts she faces.  And ironically, as in real life suicidal reasoning, her perceptions of love for others are a key root of her self-harming rationales.  There is no question she loves with all her heart.  There is no question she would die to protect others.  Everyone around her can see the incredible good and capacity for good in her.  The tragedy is that for any number of complex and self-conceptual reasons, she does not fully see the good in herself and she does not see how certain things could adapt or change.  And she incorrectly believes her death will make things better for others.  She does not understand that the unwarranted death of a loved one never ends.  It never simplifies.  It never resolves.  The family and friends and their children and significant others struggle with it for the rest of their lives.

This post series is called Phoenix Rising because it is focused on rebirth, recovery, and renewal.  THE MOST BEAUTIFUL artists and friends I’ve known have on occassion been suicidal.  I personally believe this is because they are so sensitive, empathetic, and intelligent.  They are so good in so many ways.  And if I could discourage stereotypes and misperceptions about suicide, I would say this:  Never presume that someone who is suicidal or who has commited suicide was of less value, beauty, intellect, potential or character than anyone else.  Never presume they were not loved tremendously by their friends and family.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.  Discover what was beautiful in them, and remember and discuss those infinitely good things.  Don’t be silent.  Never forget the good that blossomed in them.  Phoenix can rise again from many good sources.  Changing personal perceptions and cognitive structures can enable that rebirth more than any superpower ever could.

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© All rights reserved for all the images in this post series by Marvel.

Honor those who have passed, regardless of how they passed.  Always cherish and remember.

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“Understanding war I do not harm myself.” – Alice Walker

The Phoenix 6-Part Series: 1 2 3 4 5 6

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7 thoughts on “Phoenix Rising, 5 of 6. Potential Responses to Violence & Suicide

  1. I totally agree on what you said on suicide. But, also you have to remember that this is fantasy and therefore their are slightly different circumstances involved here. Jean could not control the Phoenix because it wasn’t some part of her personality, it was a cosmic being. She literally could not control it.

    But, in the real world, yes everything you have said is true. Suicide doesn’t make things better, never has and never will.

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  2. i watched x-men. the movies. and i cried. when jean scarificed herself for the ones she loved. she showed us the ture meaning of being a hero and HAVING to make sacrifices. to be a hero. its not all fun and games. you have to make sacrifices as do you family and those you love. jean grey one of my great heros. thank you soo much.!!. [aaah im crying]

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  3. Phoenix was a dual ego in Jean Grey, the mental part of her brain as strong as it was wasn’t even able to control it. Phoenix itself in X-men was considered to be an off the chart power. when it came into her body it was meant to do good and save all humanity by destroying the crystal but then after being shown new emotion from the dark side (the black queen) she turned to the red phoenix and enjoyed in and ate a sun so the universe thought she was to much a danger. and so did she! Jean could not control her own power and phoenix refused to leave her body.
    with Phoenix in her body she was able to control the world!
    she could have lived in the comic to be a god many times over, what is why they have killed her many times over.
    in this version she actually kills herself rather then having the team do it for her. in others its usually wolverine or Scott who do it since there the only ones who can control her.
    but if you where becoming an over powerful god, hurting people you loved and ultimately able to kill the earth or eat the sun! yeah i would step in the way of a gun and kill the Phoenix in me to! since it CANT DIE ANYWAY! as long as phoenix is in Jeans body she wont die, its a forever living force and so is she. she can live as long as she wants. what again she proves when she goes into the sun later with wolverine and dies, but then comes back 150 years later! and changes the past! x-men is fiction! involving aliens and mutants! if some dumb person actually thinks self sacrifice is right then wow! they must have split ego or just as bad mental problems and shouldn’t be reading or watching a ton of things! little kids don’t understand half of what they see on it! i would know i grew up me and my friends watching it and reading it and didn’t understand half the hidden mean or sexuality, we thought it was icky when her and Scott would kiss! now that were older we understand it! and quite well as you can see.
    X-men is yes meant to entertain not to be taken for real!
    thats why it is far fetch with time travel. clone’s, alien’s and oh MUTANTS!
    Jean Grey was meant to be put in the comic for a reason!
    there is a good and bad side to all of us. sometimes we need to break free. and sometimes we cant control what we are. she could have surpass all human life and choose to live among humans as a god, controlling all humans and mutants alike and no one could stop her. but in the end she took the high road and choose self sacrifice instead knowing whats better for humanity. but after her (death) the phoenix appears and comes as it normal self again, back to pure and good, and tells the team with a little sacrifice from each she can live again! what they do and JEAN LIVES! and goes on living! until marvel actually kills her off for real in Phoenix end song.

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