What If... (Vol 2) #32: Phoenix Had Not Died?

(Note that this was published in 1991, when we already knew that Phoenix and the real Jean Grey were two entirely different people. So in this follow up to Phoenix: The Untold Story, the “Jean Grey” that exists in this reality is actually Phoenix, and the real Jean Grey is still in her healing cocoon.)

After the events of the Phoenix, Scott and Jean left the X-Men to try and find happiness living a normal life. They were married shortly after in a private ceremony and lived on a beach front house at Martha’s Vineyard (a gift from Warren Worthington III).

But the bad memories of being Dark Phoenix still plagued Jean, resulting in many sleepless nights.

Jean: “I slaughtered an entire race of living beings and...God in heaven...I loved it. I remember everything -- the Shi’ar made sure of that."

Furthermore, the loss of her mental powers has left her mentally distraught. To her, “it’s worse than being deaf, dumb, and blind”. It was worse than living.

It was then Scott discovered that Jean had wanted to attempt to overdose herself with sleeping pills. He assured her that “[he’d] give [his] soul to be rid of [his powers]! [They“ve] both been hurt, but that’s all behind [them]”.

The couple share a kiss in the rain, only to be interrupted by Magneto. Scott tried to defend them against Magneto, but was quickly taken down, bound by metal elements of the house. Magneto had come for Phoenix, offering Scott’s safety in return for Jean’s restoration of her powers, and Phoenix. Jean followed, and was taken to a chamber on Asteroid M.

Magneto: “So long as you possess the genetic potential for power, my mutant energy stimulator can restore it. Behold...The power of the Phoenix is yours for the taking!”

Meanwhile, Scott enlists the help of the X-Men to rescue Jean from Magneto. The team take into space just as Magneto schemes to make use of Jean’s Phoenix powers to his plans. He entices Jean with the offer to relive the sensations of the Phoenix, and that she had “nothing to lose”.

The X-Men arrive on cue and attack Magneto, just as Jean prepares to step into the chamber. On contact with the touch of her hand, she feels an almost full force surge of the “vast and all-encompassing” Phoenix force ready to return to her. But Jean fights back the temptation with her conscience.

Jean: “If she accepts this power, how long will it be before she loses control...Again? How many billions more will burn on the pyre of the Phoenix?”

Jean proceeds to destroy the chamber and returns home, “her human life, her life with Scott, reaffirmed”.

Scott splits his time with the X-Men and a home life with Jean, while Jean completes her college education, receiving a degree in education and becoming a teacher to the New Mutants. In addition to that, the birth of Rachel Summers has brought much joy to the couple.

But things seemingly take a turn for the worse. When the X-Men and New Mutants go missing, Jean is left alone with Rachel in the mansion. Rachel’s cries wake Jean in the middle of the night. Jean thinks that Rachel might be sensing something wrong (the Professor thinks that Rachel might have inherited Jean’s telepathy).

Jean: “I’d sell my soul to save you from the kind of life I’ve had. I wish your daddy was here.”

It all seems so real when Scott suddenly shows up. But it turned out to be an illusion created by Mastermind, who gave Jean her “blackest heart’s desire”. He had come to take revenge on Jean for making him suffer, and toyed with her mind, creating illusions, tormenting her. Jean retaliates and fights back, but Mastermind shoots her with a shot gun and takes Rachel with him.

Her body is dead, but her psyche is well alive. The Phoenix entity seeks her, and reveals the truth that she is not Jean Grey. “She is the Phoenix. She took a portion of Jean’s soul and made this body a perfect match. In another world, Phoenix took her own life, but death cannot hold her. Now she remembers what she made herself forget. Jean Grey is a mortal earth woman. Phoenix is a force of the universe.” Becoming Phoenix once more, she sets out to the Jamaica Bay to find the real Jean, within a healing cocoon. She took Jean’s life, she has to give it back. But Scott would love the real Jean, not she [Phoenix] who pretended to be Jean. Her heart breaks, and she wishes that she had been the real Jean Grey. “But for the Phoenix, whatever she thinks becomes reality”, and the real Jean Grey vanishes as if she never existed.

Watcher: “The day I saw her take an innocent life -- A deliberate act of murder -- and with that one selfish act she will condemn everyone and everything she holds dear. Time will tell..you will see...”

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