Review: X-Men #134

X-Men #134 cover
Cover by John Byrne and Terry Austin

X-Men #134
Published and © by Marvel, June 1980

Title: “Too Late, the Heroes!”
Synopsis: Phoenix manages to shake off Jason “Mastermind” Wyngarde’s control … but has her liberation come too late?

Writer (plot): Chris Claremont and John Byrne
Writer (script): Claremont
Penciler: Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin

Review: This issue slips just a bit due to the era’s requirement to bring new readers up to speed. The opening pages’ recap is mostly well handled, but some clunky internal exposition interrupts the breakneck pace of “The Dark Phoenix Saga’s” forward momentum. By page 3, the story is back on the attack, escalating tensions and hurtling the X-Men – and the reader – toward this historic arc’s tragic conclusion. After multiple run-ins with the Hellfire Club, our mutant heroes finally gain the upper hand – albeit briefly. The last pages’ shocking development was breathtaking in 1980 and still packs a punch today.

Grade: A

Second opinion: “The best, and most consistent, Marvel 40¢ book on the stands at present.” – Barry K. Winetrobe, BEM #28, May 1980 … “Thus is ‘The Dark Phoenix Saga’ propelled into his final three-issue act, and the momentum of the turning point could not be fiercer.” – Jason Powell, “The Best There Is at What He Does: Examining Chris Claremont’s X-Men,” 2016 … “Jean’s spiral into darkness has been apparent for several issues, but her transformation in this issue is a shock, regardless.” – Jim Johnson, The Comics Buyer’s Guide to the X-Men (Comics Buyer’s Guide Presents), 2003 … “(Jean Grey’s) dark side has been released and comicdom would never be the same again!” – Pierre Comtois, “Marvel Comics in the 1980s: An Issue By Issue Field Guide to a Pop Culture Phenomenon,” 2014 … Recommended by The Slings & Arrows Comic Guide (second edition), 2003.

Cool factor: Everything? Yes, let’s go with everything.
Not-so-cool factor: Knowing where this arc is about to go, this reviewer just wants to hit pause and give Jean Grey a hug.

Notable: First appearance of Dark Phoenix.
Collector’s note: According to the Grand Comics Database, there is a 15p British variant of this issue. … According to MyComicShop.com, there is also a Mark Jewelers variant.

Character quotable:Here me, X-Men! No longer am I the woman you knew! I am fire! And LIFE INCARNATE! Now and forever – I am PHOENIX!” – Phoenix, taking a dark – make that very dark – turn

Editor’s note: This review was written Oct. 9, 2022.

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