The Phoenix is possibly one of the trickiest things to use from the Marvel universe. That’s in part due to the epic and almost impossible to top story involving Jean Grey and the X-Men, but similar to the Superman conundrum, it’s also a force that’s almost too powerful. Much like Superman though, with the right creative team, the Phoenix can be utilized well. For the most part, Rebecca Roanhorse and Luca Maresca pull it off with their start in Phoenix Song out this week.
Echo gained the power of the Phoenix Force in Avengers about a year ago. The start of this issue sees her use her godly powers on a few thugs, which you can see in the preview. A few things are on display here, from Echo’s incredible abilities protecting her, but also how she uses this power to burn a guy to death. Not very heroic, but when you take a bazooka to a knife fight bad things might happen.
It’s a good example of how Echo may not have full control over these powers as she might think, but given the history of this power, who does? Much of this issue is focused on Echo coming to grips with her abilities and other characters questioning her. You get the sense Roanhorse is setting up future confrontations using key characters.
The back third of the issue begins to delve into some unexpected turns, however, which leads to the introduction of a new character with an incredible ability. Avoiding spoilers, but it’s a very cool way to tap into Echo’s Native American heritage and how Echo is a unique controller of the Phoenix Force. One can imagine Roanhorse’s approach could mean new developments for the Phoenix Force and new growth for it, too.
Art by Maresca, with colors by Carlos Lopez, is clean and focused. The detail in environments is a welcome contrast to the cartoony touch in the characters. Echo’s costume looks great, along with other heroes who pop up for that matter (like Forge and Elektra who popped up in an early preview), and the fire effects are fantastic. The art never gets a chance to go full splash, but you gather that Echo’s abilities are incredible and awe-inspiring from the tighter panels that feature the powers.
Speaking of splash pages, the book is a bit slow in its pace, taking its time from scene to scene to get inside Echo’s head. There’s nothing bad about how it’s paced per se, but it does feel slow and could have been tighter. As it stands, the issue reads like a few separate scenes one after the other rather than a straight line of action and intersection between the moments. This relaxed feel does seem a bit off for a book about a character who could blow up the world with a thought — you’d think there’d be a lot more tension and conflict with other heroes and even villains, but for Echo’s journey, it works.
Letters by Ariana Maher are good, with key changes in speech conveyed well through word balloon differences. An “Aaahhhhh!” seen in the preview shows how Maher can add extra emphasis well with a word balloon that wraps around each letter. There are a lot of changes from word balloons to captions that help convey different tone and speakers.
Pick up Phoenix Song: Echo at your local comic shop for an intriguing approach to Echo and her new role as the bearer of the Phoenix Force. This first issue sets up the main players and sets up the main conflict that feels wholly original but also key to Echo’s Native American roots.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!