Flashback illustrations, narrated by Iron Man:
Once upon a time, the Scarlet Witch said “No more mutants”. And, just like that, millions of mutants lost their powers - almost all of them. She may not have been in her right mind when she said it, but still, it was Wanda’s power that made it happen - her chaos-magic rewrote the natural order of things, and suddenly, mutants looked to be on the fast-track to extinction. Then, re-enter the X-Men’s old “friend“, the Phoenix, an ancient cosmic entity, a force of destruction and rebirth, once that they barely understand, once that has shown a repeated interest in Earth’s mutant population.
‘Now, here’s where we’re operating solely on conjecture, but it’s my belief that when Wanda made her declaration, the Phoenix took note. When Wanda said “No more mutants”, the Phoenix said “Screw that…more mutants”, and Hope was born. Her coming heralded with an explosion of power, a messiah in the eyes of her people. Destined, or so everyone believes, to someday inherit the full power of the Phoenix. The primal chaos of Wanda’s mutant magic. The fiery order of the Phoenix. Two cosmic powers, caught in some kind of crazy cycle, acting as contrary forces - as Yin and Yang. And all of it embodied in two amazingly powerful women’.
Seventy-Two Hours Ago:
‘So, that’s it. That’s all I’ve got’ Iron Man explains to the Avengers gathered with him in K’un Lun - Wolverine, Thor, the Thing, Luke Cage, Captain America, the Red Hulk, Spider-Woman, Ms Marvel, Dr Strange, Hawkeye, the Black Widow and Iron Fist. ‘I’ve been working for weeks now with the best minds on the planet. Human and mutant alike. Trying to figure out how to save the day, and we have officially exhausted the known limits of science. For me, that’s a first’ Iron Man reports. He points out that they have tried every way they could dream of to stop the Phoenix. ‘We couldn’t deflect it. Couldn’t contain it. We all know what happened when we tried to break it apart. We can’t go toe to toe with it. Have no idea how to even attempt to kill it, and no one as of yet seems able to control it’.
Iron Man continues, stating that the only people who have been able to hurt the Phoenix Force are Wanda and Hope. He declares that, together, they are the keys to winning this battle, they have to be. ‘Because they’re all we’ve got left’ he adds. Wolverine points out that when Iron Man starts talking about Yings and Yangs - it doesn’t sound like science. ‘That sounds like Iron Fist stuff’ he remarks. ‘It is. That’s the other piece of the puzzle’ Iron Man replies, stating that they exhausted the limits of science, so he was forced to look beyond those limits, and here in K’un Lun, which has its own history with the Phoenix, he has been looking for a way to understand things on more of a spiritual level, to reconcile science and mysticism, and he thinks he has found it - a radical new idea, a rather breathtaking discovery, if he does say so himself.
‘I call it… “Faith”’ Iron Man announces. ‘Soon as he starts passing around the Kool-Aid, I’m out’ the Thing mutters, while Captain America tells Iron Man that it is great that he is expanding his horizons, he still doesn’t understand the practical application here. ‘Wanda and Hope are supposed to do what exactly?’ he asks. ‘Well, Cap…I think only they can answer that’ Iron Man replies.
Nearby, Hope is sitting besides a water fountain, when the Scarlet Witch approaches her. Wanda tells Hope that she has been looking all over for her, and suggests that they should join the others. ‘They’re talking about us’ Wanda explains. Hope just frowns and mutters that they are always talking about the two of them, and that she is sick of listening to them talk about her. ‘This wasn’t how it was supposed to go’ Hope argues, adding that she just held her own against Cyclops, so she should be excited, right? ‘So why do I feel like such a jerk?’ Hope asks. ‘Was this really what I’ve been training for all this time? Not so I could save my people, but so I could stand and fight against them?’ she asks. The Scarlet Witch explains that this fight will be to save the world, as the Phoenix X-Men have to be stopped, for the path they are on will only end badly. ‘Trust me, I know better than anyone. You can’t blame yourself for their choices’ Wanda adds.
‘You know something? You’re right…I should blame you’ Hope scowls at Wanda, before standing up and approaching her. ‘Wait a second…’ Wanda begins, but Hope continues: ‘You wiped out the mutants! Cyclops started down the path he’s on because you forced his hand!’ ‘You think I don’t know that?’ Wanda replies. ‘You think I don’t hate myself every day for my part in this? But I can’t change the past. Right now should be about coming together to save the -’ Wanda begins, but Hope, continuing to scowl, shouts ‘You ruined my life!’ as she marches closer to Wanda. ‘Hope, don’t!’ Wanda declares, while, nearby, Iron Man is walking with Captain America, telling him that Wanda and Hope are the key, and all they have to do is get them together, get them on the same page, and they are good to go. But Iron Man looks unimpressed, while Cap smiles, as they reach the fountain, only to find Wanda defending herself with chaos magic against Hope and her own energies.
The beach of Utopia, where Cyclops, fuelled by the cosmic fire of the Phoenix, fires a powerful optic blast, knocking back the Hulk. The Thing and Iron Man are down. Havok, Cyclops’s brother, has fallen to his knees. Thor, Gambit and Ms Marvel stand ready to make their move, while Red Hulk is dowsed in cosmic energy. Storm hovers nearby, while Iceman is beside her on an ice-sled. Volcanic eruptions splatter lava across the beach turned battle-ground.
Meanwhile, at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, the Stepford Cuckoos are using Cerebra, and announce that the worst has happened - Cyclops has gone Dark Phoenix. The Cuckoos report that they are tracking him the best they can, but his power is so all-encompassing, that tendrils reach out everywhere, and now volcanic eruptions are occurring across half the globe, and the other half is in flames. The girls announce that there are tidal waves, earthquakes and fire raining from the sky - while Cyclops’s mind is all rage - all rage and white hot flames. ‘He’s tearing the entire planet apart’ they tell Captain America, the Beast and Iron Fist who are in a Quinjet.
The Beast announces that they will be right on top of him in a matter of minutes, for whatever good that will do them. ‘My God. The ocean is burning’ Iron Fist gasps as he looks out the window. Cap tells his teammates to keep their heads in the game, before reporting to all teams: ‘I don’t have time for any last minute speeches and neither do you! You all know the drill! It’s the end of the world! This is what we do! The Earth doesn’t die on our watch!’ Captain America orders.
On Utopia, Cyclops has one hand wrapped around the Red Hulk’s throat, while firing an optic blast at Iceman. In Paris, Gambit and Hawkeye are on hand to stop as many meteors crashing down as they can. In Sydney, Cyclops tosses the Hulk across the Sydney Opera House. In Beijing, Spider-Man uses his webbing to catch a car that has fallen from a destroyed bridge, while Angel hovers overhead after rescuing a girl. In Sacramento, the Hulk lands in the middle of a street. At the Mediterranean Sea, Giant Man holds a yacht up on his shoulder, out of harms way, while Pixie has rescued two children. Above the Himalayas, Cyclops fires a powerful optic blast, which knocks Thor skyward, and in the skies over the Amazon Jungle, Captain Britain and Ms Marvel try to stop a passenger jet from crashing. In the upper limits of Earth’s atmosphere, Thor slows down, floating aimlessly as meteors blast around him.
‘Avengers! Take him down!’ Captain America orders as he slams his shield into Cyclops’s face. Wolverine, the Beast, Storm, Iron Man and Iron Fist are on hand to assist, but the cosmic energy continues to burn around Cyclops, who, with a voice changed even further, exclaims ‘Take him down? You would have a better chance stopping the sun from rising by throwing pebbles at it. The Phoenix is beyond your power!’ Wolverine moves towards Cyclops who exclaims ‘This world will burn and from its ashes, a new world will rise. A brave new paradise forged in fire’. Wolverine shoves his claws into Cyclops’s head, but Cyclops - or rather, the Dark Phoenix - exclaims ‘But not for the likes of you!’ as he casually pushes Wolverine and the others back with a wave of energy. Wolverine’s claws did not harm him.
‘Prepare to burn, Avengers. The new Age of the Phoenix begins now’ Cyclops shouts as he takes flight. Captain America gets to his feet and calls out to the others: ‘Whoever’s able, follow me to the Quinjet. We have to go after him’. Iron Man tells Cap that they have no hope of fighting Cyclops like this - as they are completely out of their weight-class here. ‘I know you’re not sold on my plan, but look around you. It’s Hail Mary time if there ever was one’ Iron Man adds. Iron Fist tells Cap that it will work, that he believes it in his bones. ‘If it hurts him. Me and my bones are all for it’ Wolverine remarks. Cap pauses, before telling Iron Man ‘Do it’. However, Iron Man’s armor is only at 12% power, his thrusters are charging and flight is impossible at this time. He uses his communicator to inform all Avengers and X-Men that the Dark Phoenix is currently 30,000 feet above Tibet, and they have to bring him back to Earth for one last shot. ‘Who the hell is still standing out there?’ Iron Man asks.
‘This is Nova. I’m a hemisphere away. I’ll be there in a few seconds’ the new hero called Nova reports as he flies as quick as he can towards an unsuspecting Dark Phoenix - and slams into him with full force. ‘I see your fear. I see your secret. You don’t even belong here, do you?’ Dark Phoenix calls out to Nova as the new hero continues to push downwards back towards Earth. ‘Can’t hear you! Too busy kicking your ass!’ Nova replies, and an instant later, they slam back into Earth, with a mighty explosion. Dark Phoenix stands up in the crater that formed thanks to the explosion. He holds the new Nova up by his costume, his body is limp. ‘So many fools. So many wasted lives to be burned away in the all-consuming flames of the Phoenix’ Dark Phoenix calls out.
Suddenly, ‘I don’t think so. Nothing else burns today!’ the Scarlet Witch announces as she appears nearby, alongside an unimpressed Hope, who adds ‘Except for you’.
Seventy-Two Hours Ago:
‘Stop it! Break it up!’ Captain America exclaims as he rushes over to Wanda and Hope. ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing? We’re on the eve of a battle to decide the fate of the world, and you two are fighting each other? This is not how Avengers behave!’ Wanda and Hope turn away from each other, while Cap asks ‘Yin and Yang, huh? Looks like your final plan still needs some work, Tony’, to which Iron Man replies ‘Does it? This is what they did when they were pointed at each other’ he points out, as they look at the large crater that has formed around them. ‘Imagine what happens when they’re pointed in the same direction’ he suggests.
Hope lunges towards Dark Phoenix, she is still furious, and punches him in the face, energy pounding him from her fist. Wanda stands ready, chaos magic spiralling around her. Hope remembers what she said earlier to Wanda - that this is all her fault, and then she remembers what Iron Fist said to her - that he thought she was supposed to be something special. ‘So why did the Phoenix pass you by?’ he asked her, while urging her to focus her rage and hit him. Now though, Hope hits Cyclops again. A Quinjet approaches, ‘It’s working!’ Iron Man exclaims as he sees the brilliance of Hope and Wanda’s energies blasting in the distance. Cap, Wolverine, the Beast, Storm, Thor, Iron Man and Iron Fist emerge from the Quinjet and rush towards the battle. Iron Man exclaims that Wanda’s hex blasts are the only thing that truly hurts the Dark Phoenix, and Hope is mimicking Wanda’s power and channelling it into a version of the Iron Fist. ‘That’s my girl!’ Iron Fist exclaims, while Wolverine points out that just hurting him is not enough - it is time to put him down. ‘AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!’ Captain America shouts as he throws his shield towards the battle - where is strikes Cyclops on his head.
Cyclops’s memories, narrated by him in the present tense:
‘All I wanted to do was change the world’ Scott thinks to himself. ‘To see my children grow up to be something other than time-traveling freedom fighters. To see mutants able to use their powers for more than just fighting killer robots’. He wanted to usher in an era of peace - and he did, he made miracles. He remembers pushing Charles Xavier around in his wheelchair, and realizes that somewhere along the way, he went off track. Cyclops remembers holding Jean Grey.
Wolverine’s claws slice against him. Iron Man fires a repulsor ray at him. ‘Please…kill me. Before it’s -’ Scott calls out, before the Dark Phoenix consumes him once more, and he growls. He raises his arms and the Phoenix raptor bursts from the earth, lava flowing around him, and Cyclops roars an unholy sound.
Suddenly, in the flame, Scott sees a woman walking towards him. ‘Scott, this has to stop’ the woman calls out. ‘Scott, please. It’s all right. I’m here now’. ‘Jean?’ Scott utters. ‘It’s time, Scott. It’s time to let go’ the woman tells him. ‘Jean, I…’ Scott calls out, tears dripping from his eyes. ’I promise…it doesn’t hurt’ the woman tells him - but she isn’t there, if she ever was at all - for Hope and Wanda appear before Cyclops and attack him in unison. Cyclops falls to the ground, and the Phoenix rises from his body.
’We did it! The Phoenix has left him!’ Wanda exclaims. A wide-eyed Hope announces that she can hear it calling her, but Wanda tells her to look away. ’HOPE!’ Wanda calls out, as Hope’s eyes are fixed on the Phoenix.
Seventy-One Hours Ago:
Cap and Iron Man both look at Hope. ’I know what you’re gonna say. I’m too hot-headed, too short-tempered. It was stupid of me to last out at Wanda like that. But I’m not standing down. You’re not keeping me out of this fight’ Hope tells them. Cap replies that he never said he was going to. ‘You think I haven’t been watching you this entire time? I’ve seen how you handled yourself when Cyclops attacked K’un Lun. Yes, you’re fiery, but you’ve earned the right to stand with the Avengers, to lead your people into battle.’ Cap explains that his question is about what comes after - ‘Say we take down the Phoenix X-Men. That power has to go somewhere, right? Stark tells me it can’t be contained except in a host. All this started because we were told it was coming for you. Well, what if it still is?’ Cap enquires.
Hope listens as Cap tells her that he has sent good people into battle to fight to prevent that very thing from happening. ‘Are you telling me now I should send them back, to fight to make sure it does? To risk everything to make you the Phoenix?’ he asks her. Hope replies by telling Cap that she is not telling him to send anyone anywhere. ‘Just don’t try and stop me’ she adds. ‘You believe in yourself. That much is obvious. I guess my ultimate question is…why should I?’ Captain America asks.
Hope’s eyes roll back in her head as she is consumed by the cosmic Phoenix. ‘Hope!’ Wanda calls out as Hope flies upwards. ‘I’ve got her!’ Iron Man exclaims as he starts to pursue her. ‘Tony, what’s happening?’ Captain America radios. Flying towards Hope, Iron Man replies that he doesn’t know, only Hope is on fire and she is flying really fast.
Seventy-One Hours Ago:
‘Do you have any idea what it’s like to feel all your life like you’re destined for something great, but you can never quite feel there? Almost like…like you’re something strong trapped in the body of a weakling?’ Hope asks. Without going into detail, Cap tells Hope that he has some idea what she means. Hope turns to him and tells Captain America that she doesn’t want to change the world, that she wouldn’t know where to begin - and if the Phoenix kills her, so be it, she will gladly take that bullet if it means the end of all this fighting. ‘I guess at the end of the day, Captain, I’m just sick to death of waiting. Waiting around to become something or other. For better or for worse…I’m just ready to finally be me’.
‘She’s…I’ll be damned’ Iron Man utters as he continues to follow Hope. ‘Tony? What the hell is happening?’ Cap asks via the communicator. ‘She’s putting them out, Cap. She’s putting out the fires!’ Iron Man reports, watching as Hope puts out fires, repairs damaged buildings and bridges, seals up newly-formed volcanoes, cools the burning seas, all over the world. The heroes gather together. Iceman, Ms Marvel, Rachel Grey, and both Hulks are with them, as a voice from above calls out: ‘Hear me, Avengers and X-Men. No longer am I the woman you knew. I am fire and lire incarnate. Now and forever…I am PHOENIX!’ Hope exclaims, cosmic energy burning around her as she hovers majestically in the white and gold Phoenix costume.
‘Nobody move. Give her a moment Captain America tells everyone. They study her, everyone one of them, looking for the first crack, the first sign that their battle isn’t over. That hey had merely traded one Dark Phoenix for another. ‘Hope…this has to stop’ the Scarlet Witch calls out from down below. Hope drops down to the ground, and announces ‘All this power…this is how it was meant to be. This is my destiny’. She has her usual trademark frown as she holds her hands out, and flames flicker on them. ‘I see where the others went wrong. Where they faltered, I will not fail. I will be the White Phoenix. I will be the savior of all -’ Hope begins, but Wanda interrupts her: ‘No. That wasn’t why you were chosen’ she tells her.
‘Look inside yourself. See what I see in you. This is your destiny, you’re right. You were born to be the Phoenix. But not so you could wield this power’ the Scarlet Witch tells Hope. Hope turns and looks at the Scarlet Witch, who explains ‘It’s because you’re the only one with the strength to let it go’. Hope walks over to Wanda, and tells her that she feels like she is on fire. ‘Back in K’un Lun, you were right about me. Once upon a time, I started this whole mess. Please…let me help you end it. No more fire. No more fighting. No more playing God’ Wanda offers, holding out her hands. Hope’s flaming hands take Wandas, and together, they both announce ‘No more Phoenix’, and with that, the cosmic energy pours upwards from Hope, and in spectacular display, it crackles around the Earth, striking various points.
At the Jean Grey School, ‘What was that? What just happened?’ one of the Cuckoos asks. ‘The Phoenix light just blinked off’ another points out. ‘They must have killed her. They killed the Phoenix’ one of them suggests. But the third replies that she doesn’t think so, as it was almost like her power exploded, spreading out all over the planet. ‘Oh my God’ one of the girls exclaims.
At that moment, a bus is hanging from a bridge, suspended only by Spider-Man’s webs. Spider-Man can see a girl inside the bus and tells her not to worry. ‘I do this for a living’ he jokes, but before he can reach her, a sliver of cosmic energy slams against the bus, and Spider-Man falls backwards. ‘More lights…more lights are popping up. But that means…’ one of the Cuckoos exclaims as they watch a map of planet Earth suddenly glow with lights. ‘Yeah…more mutants’ one of the Cuckoos declares. Including the girl in the bus, who is no longer in danger, as her form as become rocky, and she has grown wings.
‘Um, hey guys, this is Spider-Man in China. A kid here just grew wings. Is that a good or bad sign?’ Spider-Man calls out over the communicator, but gets no response, as the Scarlet Witch and Hope embrace, hugging each other, and the other heroes gather around, smiling. They turn to see Cyclops, his costume in tatters, stumbling nearby. His visor is gone, and without it, he can’t open his eyes. But he can still somehow see all the blood on his hands.
Cyclops’s hands are chained to a table. A helmet is locked over his head, with ruby quartz over his eyes. ‘There’s a point past which I don’t remember much about what happened’ Cyclops states, adding that there is no TV in his ruby quartz prison cell, but that he remembers enough. ‘I nearly destroyed the world. And I killed Charles Xavier. Captain America sits opposite Cyclops and tells him that his list of crimes is rather lengthy, but that those are right at the top. ‘Xavier was responsible for whatever is the best in me. As for the rest…I take full responsibility’ Cyclops replies.
Elsewhere, wanted posters with images of Emma Frost, Colossus, the Sub-Mariner and even Magneto line walls, while Magneto passes through an alleyway, a hood over his face.
In the ruby quartz cell, Captain America tells Cyclops that he wished his fellow renegade X-Men felt the same, but at present, there is no sign of them, but that he is sure they will turn up somewhere before too long. ‘As I said, I take full responsibility. You should leave them to me’ Cyclops tells Captain America, who quickly points out that Cyclops is not in a position to give orders anymore, so Emma Frost and the others will have to answer for themselves. ‘The Phoenix itself is as much to blame as anyone or anything, I get that. But I can’t help your friends if they won’t turn themselves in’ Cap adds, before admitting that he will take his share of responsibility for this as well. ‘Back on Utopia, you were right about one thing: The Avengers should have done more to help mutants. I should have done more. I allowed the world to hate and fear them far too long. I won’t make that same mistake again’ Cap assures Cyclops.
Elsewhere, old friends the Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye stand closely as they look at several screens which hover in front of them. ‘I don’t understand. What is this again? Cap’s putting together a new Avengers team’ Hawkeye asks. ‘Not exactly. This is something a bit more…uncanny’ Wanda tells him, looking at the monitors closer, one can see that they have profiles and photos of several high-profile mutants.
‘Then I guess this begins a new age for the Avengers and X-Men both’ Cyclops remarks. ‘Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare try to turn this into a win!’ Captain America retorts, standing up and staring down at Cyclops. ‘You waged a war that set friend against friend. You played Russian roulette with this planet! You left wounds that will take years to heal, if they ever heal at all’ Cyclops adds, referring specifically to Storm and the Black Panther, who are both in Wakanda dealing with the rebuild of the devastated nation. ‘And you killed one of the finest men I’ve ever known. If you consider that a win…I pity you. I really do’ Captain America declares.
Meanwhile, Iron Fist is in a lab with Tony Stark, who is repairing his Iron Man armor. ‘Looking at all these reports of new mutants popping up, why do I get the feeling you knew all along this would happen?’ Iron Fist asks, watching a news report. ‘I did the math. The numbers never added up. Between Wanda and Hope and the firebird, there were just too many variables’ Iron Man explains. ‘Yet you went and did it anyway’ Iron Fist points out. ‘There’s still a chance I could be insane. If I was insane, you’d tell me, right?’ Tony asks. ‘Tony Stark, man of faith. Will wonders never cease?’ Iron Fist mutters. ‘Not if I can help it’ Tony replies.
In his cell, Cyclops tells Captain America that out of the blue last night, a man in cell block B began vomiting acid, that it burned his cell door apart, and he nearly escaped. ‘There are new mutants being born, aren’t there?’ Cyclops asks, declaring that he was right about the Phoenix, it wasn’t here to destroy them. ‘No…only you were’ Captain America frowns.
At that moment, Thor and the new Nova fly side by side, and Thor congratulates him on the way he handled himself admirably in the battle against the Phoenix. ‘Really? I thought all I did was…crash into things really hard’ Nova replies. ‘We would count on you among our number - as a member of the Avengers’ Thor tells him, and Nova smiles, ‘An Avenger - wow, okay. I’ll just have to ask my Mom first’.
Cyclops tells Captain America that change never comes easy, that there were always going to be sacrifices. ‘If I could trade places with Professor Xavier, I would, without hesitation’ he announces. ‘If only it were that simple. If only the ends always justified the means’ Cap responds, before announcing that they are about done here. ‘Unless there’s something you’d like to add?’ he calls back to Wolverine, who is leaning against the wall, frowning. ‘No. I’ve got a eulogy to give’ Wolverine snarls. As Cap and Wolverine turn to leave the cell, Cyclops tells them ‘That’s the thing about the Phoenix…there always has to be destruction…before rebirth’.
And, on Utopia, restored to its usual appearance, the sun begins to rise, and it glistens on the half-destroyed buildings. Hope Summers smiles for a change, she stands beside the barbed-wire fence with the sign “No trespassing by order of SHIELD” that surrounds Utopia. ‘God, what a beautiful day’ Hope tells herself, before blasting away with her jetpack, while a single rose grows from the battle-damaged nation.