X-Men reboot boosts Marvel with a new Dark Phoenix storyline

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The MCU is on shaky footing these days, but thankfully Marvel has one of its most beloved properties on the way to help the franchise rise up from its doldrums like, well, a phoenix: the X-Men.

Following Kelsey Grammer’s Beast turning up in The Marvels, the coming of the Children of the Atom is set to really heat up from now on. Next May’s Deadpool 3 will bring back a whole host of familiar faces from the original Fox universe, as led by Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. But, don’t forget, before that gets here, another motley crew of other mutants will be back on our screens to scratch that uncanny itch.

What’s more, a glimpse at a brand new character to the lore is promising that Marvel Studios is wasting no time in offering up its own twist on the well-worn Dark Phoenix concept, which Fox infamously squandered twice over.

Premiering in January 2024 is X-Men ’97, the most curious project on Marvel’s upcoming slate. A continuation of the beloved 1990s X-Men: The Animated Series, the show will pick up where the original left off, except it all now takes place within the MCU’s wider multiverse.

Much of what we have to expect is still under wraps, in the bowels of the X-Mansion, but a new wave of Hasbro action figures that have been officially released tease a major plotline that will play out in season 1: the debut of the Goblin Queen, aka Jean Grey’s brainwashed clone Madelyne Pryor.

As previously explained, Pryor is among the most confusing characters in all of X-Men comics, but for her X-Men ’97 debut, the show will be drawing from the “Inferno” comic book arc of 1989, in which she was corrupted by Minister Sinister into becoming the Goblin Queen (no relation to Norman Osborn). Yes, this was a shameless attempt to replicate the success of 1980’s “Dark Phoenix Saga.”

Based on her action figure, though, then, the Goblin Queen could go down with fans far better than either of the two live-action Dark Phoenixes we’ve already seen. Her black leather get-up is a close homage to her look from the comics, although it’s thankfully not as exploitative and revealing as in the source material. It’s a perfect example of a modern redesign that improves on what’s come before.

That’s sadly something that isn’t true of either Famke Janssen and Sophie Turner’s turns as evil Jeans in both 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand and 2019’s Dark Phoenix, in which the fearful transformation was boldly reflected in the costuming choice to have them wear *checks notes* a red coat. The decision to give them glowy, flaky skin was also less intimidating than intended and only left them looking like they needed to urgently visit the dermatologist before they tried to destroy the world.

Obviously, this character is confined to ’97, but this kind of clever costuming and character design seems to be indicative of Marvel’s approach to the X-Men across the board. Just look at the decision to finally put Jackman in the yellow and blue in Deadpool 3.

The odds are, then, that fans are going to be very happy with how all the major X-Men heroes and villains look once they eventually make their way into the MCU. Although if we could not have another direct Dark Phoenix adaptation for another decade or so, Kevin Feige, that would be great.

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