Phoenix Saga (Part 3): Cry of the Banshee
Written by Michael Edens
Summary: Juggernaut kidnaps Lilandra, taking her to his partner, Black Tom. Their employer, Erik the Red, initially refuses to pay them until he’s intimidated into giving up millions of dollars. After Jean awakens with the sense that Xavier’s in trouble, the X-Men travel to Muir Island. With Banshee’s help, they track Juggernaut and Black Tom to Cassidy Keep. Suddenly, Gladiator enters and punches Juggernaut miles away. He demands Lilandra return with him, but is fought off by Jean, using her new Phoenix powers. Meanwhile, D’Ken enters our galaxy.
- This episode (very) loosely follows the events of Uncanny X-Men #101-103.
- Rogue returns this episode, berating herself for being away on a mysterious “mission” when the X-Men needed her.
- The episode marks the animated debuts of Black Tom and Gladiator. Banshee also reveals himself as a mutant, following his debut last episode as a seemingly normal Joe.
- When re-aired, this episode featured a different voice for Gladiator. Judging by my search logs, people remain very curious about this switch.
“Um, Actually…”: Black Tom claims that he and Banshee are brothers, explaining why their powers won’t work on each other. The original comics continuity long ago established them as cousins.
Saban Quality: Another change made during the reruns is in the episode title. Originally, the chyron listed this as “Phoenix Saga Part III” (notice the fancy Roman numerals). Later, the title was rewritten as “Phoenix Saga Part 2”…with no Roman numerals and the wrong chapter number.
Review: This has always been my favorite chapter of the original Phoenix five-parter. It’s also the one Juggernaut episode that I can't dismiss as boring or just dumb. Juggernaut doesn’t have a particularly great part in the story, he’s just used well, which is more than I can say for his other appearances. All of the classic Juggernaut bits make their way into the episode, right down to Xavier mentally attacking him and forcing him to relive his childhood, which is really all I wanted to see as a young fan. The other Juggernaut episodes either played him as a generic villain or comedic relief; here, he’s a true threat and is actually fun to watch.
Comparing this chapter to the original storyline, I have to acknowledge that this is the one time the cartoon’s changes are obviously an improvement. Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum weren’t plotting the initial issues specifically as “The Big Phoenix Storyline,” they were just doing a run on X-Men, giving the heroes villains to face every issue while the Erik the Red/Phoenix/Lilandra subplots simmered in the background. Consequently, that two-and-a-half issue diversion with Juggernaut, Black Tom, and the leprechauns at Banshee’s family castle stands out like a sore thumb when trying to piece together the true story of the Phoenix. Edens manages to work in Black Tom, Juggernaut, and Banshee into the plot through fairly logical connections to the larger storyline. Lilandra’s probes are driving Xavier insane, so he goes to Muir Island for help. There, he meets Moira’s new boyfriend, Banshee. While in Scotland, Erik the Red hires mercenaries to kidnap Lilandra, super-powered mercenaries that can do the job brainwashed astronauts can’t. This leads us to Black Tom and Juggernaut. For fans of the comics, you get to see the characters you remember from the original Phoenix issues, but the story’s been streamlined in a reasonable way to minimize the diversions.
The Phoenix entity also gets a mercifully simplified backstory. It’s the guardian of the M’Kraan Crystal, a powerful cosmic artifact that can destroy the galaxy if disturbed. That’s all we ever really needed to know, and I think we should all be grateful that the show’s producers never felt the need to elaborate on it too much. For anyone who only remembers the Phoenix from the TV show, I can’t imagine what they’ll think if they ever stumble across the Phoenix Wikipedia page.
Credit to http://marvel.toonzone.net/
xmen/ for the screencaps.