X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga Omnibus Review (and Reading Order)

Dark Phoenix - Fire

The Dark Phoenix Saga might be — without exaggeration — the most important storyline in X-Men history. In fact, some would go so far as to call it one of the most important storylines in the history of comic books. So Marvel gathered a whole bunch of its disparate parts into one cohesive collection to bring us the X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga omnibus.

So let’s run through the content that’s included in this volume, and then take a look at the construction of the book itself. Once we’re done with that, I’ll talk about who I think this book is for.

I’ll try to do all of this without spoiling anything, but there are some major plot events that are hinted at throughout. I’ll do my best to be as subtle as possible.

What’s collected here?

Dark Phoenix - Witness the birth of a god

This volume contains 688 pages, and it collects so much more than the Dark Phoenix Saga. It actually starts with the Phoenix Saga, then contains a lot of the buildup to the Dark Phoenix Saga (though not all of it). It also includes several of the B stories from X-Men Classic (you can learn more about that series here).

I should mention that the main X-series was called The X-Men when these issues were first published, but it was renamed Uncanny X-Men shortly after the Dark Phoenix Saga wrapped up. If you’re looking for these individual issues on Marvel Unlimited, they’ll be filed under Uncanny X-Men (1963). So I’m going to refer to them as Uncanny X-Men for this review.

Anyway, here’s what the mapping of the book looks like:

  • Uncanny X-Men #97-105
  • Uncanny X-Men #107-108
  • Uncanny X-Men #125-138
  • “A Love Story” (B story from X-Men Classic #6)
  • “Phoenix!” (B story from X-Men Classic #8)
  • “Lifesigns” (B Story from X-Men Classic #13)
  • “Stalking Life!” (B story from X-Men Classic #18)
  • “Vacation” (B story from X-Men Classic #24)
  • “Flights of Angels” (B story from X-Men Classic #43)
  • “Phoenix” (from Bizarre Adventures #27)
  • Phoenix: The Untold Story
  • What If? #27

As you can see, this book leaves out issue #106 (which is a filler story where the X-Men battle against Charles Xavier’s subconscious), and issues #109-124 (which is a huge chunk of issues where the X-Men become separated into two groups, and each group assumes the other is dead).

I don’t like this mapping for several reasons. Most importantly, the X-Men Classic stories are intended to go in between issues instead of read in one big chunk. If this is your first time reading these stories, it’s hard to tell that “Phoenix!” is actually part of the first Phoenix Saga and not the Dark Phoenix Saga, and “Vacation” feels really odd without the context of knowing that Jean thought Scott was dead at that point in the story.

On top of that, this leaves out the fight between Phoenix and Magneto from issue #112, which is absolutely glorious, and it’s a really important character moment for Jean. There are also some panels in issue #122 that I would have tried to stuff into this collection (mostly just pages 7-8), and I think I would have tried to get the B story from Classic X-Men #7 into the book as well — it’s not necessary, but it shows Sebastian Shaw taking control of the Hellfire Club, which serves as a great setup to his eventual role in the Dark Phoenix Saga.

One last thing I should make note of here: Bizarre Adventures #27 was originally released in black and white, but it was colored in 2017. The version collected in this book is the full-color version (while the version collected in Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2 is in black and white). However, this book only collects the “Phoenix” story, while Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2 collects all three of the stories from Bizarre Adventures #27.

What’s the recommended reading order?

Dark Phoenix - Black Queen

If this is your first time reading this content, I would strongly recommend this reading order:

  • Uncanny X-Men #97
  • “A Love Story” (B story from X-Men Classic #6)
  • Uncanny X-Men #98-100
  • “Phoenix!” (B story from X-Men Classic #8)
  • Uncanny X-Men #101-105
  • Uncanny X-Men #107-108
  • “Lifesigns” (B Story from X-Men Classic #13)
  • “Stalking Life!” (B story from X-Men Classic #18)
  • “Vacation” (B story from X-Men Classic #24)
  • Uncanny X-Men #125-138
  • “Flights of Angels” (B story from X-Men Classic #43)
  • “Phoenix” (from Bizarre Adventures #27)
  • Phoenix: The Untold Story (optional)
  • What If? #27 (optional)

If I were mapping out this book, this is the order I would have put it in.

How is the quality of the physical book?

Dark Phoenix Saga Omnibus

This is a book that goes in and out of print. If you try to pick it up when it’s out of print, it can be ludicrously expensive (hundreds of dollars, generally). However, the cover price is $100. I believe that makes this the only Marvel omnibus I’ve ever paid full price for, though I gladly paid it to support my local comic shop.

My copy of the book was manufactured sometime between March 9 and May 21 of 2018 at Leo Paper Group in China, which I’m pretty sure means this is the first edition. This is actually getting reprinted with a new title, Phoenix, Vol. 1 omnibus, later this year (2022). I can’t say if the content is being remapped or not (but I really hope so).

Here’s what the Dark Phoenix Saga omnibus looks like next to the Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2 omnibus. Dark Phoenix is the one on the left.

Dark Phoenix Saga Omnibus

As you can see, the cover was heavily recolored for the Dark Phoenix Saga omnibus, whereas Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2 looks a lot closer to the actual cover of issue #137. I honestly like the original better, but that’s just a matter of opinion, I suppose.

Like many of Marvel’s omnibuses that collect this period of comics, the back of the slipcase features a cover gallery that shows everything that’s collected within. I really do like this format for the backsides of my omnibuses, so it’s neat to see it here as well.

Dark Phoenix Saga Omnibus

When you remove the slipcover, you’ll see this beautiful black and yellow image of the Phoenix, which wraps around the entire outside of the book.

Dark Phoenix Saga Omnibus

The binding here is stitched with a lovely yellow color that (sort of) matches the Phoenix image under the slipcase. As you can see, this binding is really tight, but I do have to say I’m impressed at how well this book has been holding up. I’ve not taken the best care of it (you can probably see a few dings in the these images) but it still looks pretty nice, all things considered.

Dark Phoenix Saga Omnibus

I’m honestly not super worried about this book wearing out at this point, because I already own pretty much all of this content in other omnibuses.

Actually, let’s talk about that…

Should I buy this if I already own Uncanny X-Men Vol 1. and Vol. 2?

Dark Phoenix - No

So, this book collects a hodgepodge of different bits that come together to make a relatively complete version of the Dark Phoenix Saga. I say “relatively” because there’s still a lot of material left out of this, and the issue mapping makes it somewhat confusing to read (as I mentioned earlier).

This collection is for people who only want to read the Phoenix Saga and the Dark Phoenix Saga, without reading all of the stuff in between. If you want to collect all this material in omnibus format otherwise, it’s spread out between Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1, Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2, and X-Men Classic, making this a money-saving option for the Dark Phoenix curious. And, just for a little bonus, this book collects What If? #27, which doesn’t appear in any of the other books I mentioned above.

I do think this content is a lot better if you read it with the context of the other stories. I read it for the first time in this omnibus, and I re-read it more recently as part of my comprehensive X-Men reading project. I definitely got a lot more out of it when I read it as part of the greater X-Men mythos than as an independent storyline.

A huge part of that is the fact that the Dark Phoenix arc was meant to pay off the setup Chris Claremont and John Byrne had been building for years. Yeah, it’s a good story out of context, but in context it’s a great one.

So this book is made for those who just want the early Phoenix stories but aren’t interested in reading X-Men from the very beginning, or from the start of the Second Genesis era. Considering the high demand for this particular volume, that seems like a pretty large group of folks.

However, that also means this isn’t for completionists, because those fans probably already own the other omnibuses, which are far more complete than this one. Yes, this omnibus looks great on a shelf, and it does include What If? #27, but those facts alone aren’t worth the price tag.

The bottom line: If you only care about the Dark Phoenix saga, this is your option for having it all in one beautiful hardcover. However, if you want to read all of Chris Claremont’s X-Men run, you’ll be spending a whole lot of money, but you’ll want to instead pick up Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 and 2, as well as X-Men Classic to get the full Dark Phoenix story with all of the surrounding context. Thankfully, you don’t need the Dark Phoenix omnibus if you’re going with the more expensive route, so you can save yourself the $100.

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