Subsequently dubbed the "Phoenix Five," this transfigured bunch represents the latest in what's looking like a growing trend at Marvel and beyond during major event stories like AvX: Seeing familiar superheroes physically transformed as a key element of the plot. Marvel senior vice president of publishing and Avengers vs. X-Men editor Tom Brevoort told Newsarama that he sees it as more of a coincidence, but acknowledges it as a trope that can be used in different ways.
"I don't know that I think this is a trend per se — more of a reflection of the fact that the audience tends to care the most when things happen to our key heroes," Brevoort said. "All superhero comics are full of riffs of this sort, everything from heroes fighting heroes to heroes being hated or mistrusted by the people they serve and save."
With the "Phoenix Five" looking to remake the world in their own image during future installments of Avengers vs. X-Men, let's take a look back at similar occurrences in recent event series from the past few years.
Fear Itself (2011)
The transformation: Main Fear Itself bad guy The Serpent was aided in his quest by "The Worthy," a group of Marvel villains and heroes — Red Skull's daughter Sin, the Hulk, the Thing, Juggernaut, Absorbing Man, Titania, Attuma and the Grey Gargoyle — transformed through the use of enchanted hammers. Along with their increased powers and added weaponry, they also were noticeably visually altered — Thing had weird slug-creatures on his shoulders — and received cool new names like "Nerkkod: Breaker of Oceans" (Attuma's, natch). While not a full-blown physical transformation, a group of heroes led by Iron Man strapped on Asgardian armor and became "The Mighty" towards the climax of the series, in order to better face their foes.
Outcome: At the end of Fear Itself, Odin recalls the hammers and de-Worthy-ifies the group, returning to their less-but-still-considerably menacing selves. An aftermath series, Fear Itself: The Fearless, dealt with Sin and Valkyrie attempting to reclaim the hammers.
The transformation: In last year's Spider-Man event "Spider-Island," everybody could do what a spider can. Thanks to the actions of the Spider Queen and the Jackal, all of Manhattan was subject to a virus that gave the infected spider powers — and eventually mutated some, including Captain America and J. Jonah Jameson, into spider creatures. Although this was more of a Spidey-centric event than some of the broader universe-spanning affairs on this list, the Avengers, Cloak & Dagger and Shang-Chi were all affected. (Despite what the cover to the right suggests, they didn't all start wearing Spider-Man's old clothes, though.)
Outcome: Former "Lethal Protector" Eddie Brock finally got to have his heroic moment in the sun, as Reed Richards and Horizon Labs were able to use his antibodies to reverse the transformations, which completely depleted his Anti-Venom abilities. (He's now the new Toxin host against his will; poor guy can't catch a break.)
World War Hulks (2010)
The transformation: With numerous Hulk characters running around the Marvel Universe — the green, the red, the green She-Hulk, the red She-Hulk, A-Bomb — even more characters got in on the fun in this event, a spiritual successor to 2007's World War Hulk. Captain America, Thor, Ms. Marvel, Cyclops, Iceman, Storm, Human Torch, Invisible Woman and Thing all got the Hulk treatment, along with fresh monikers like "Hulklops" and "The Hulking Torch." The Hulked-up Deadpool (at the height of his ubiquity) also starred in his own two-part tie-in series, Hulked Out Heroes.
Outcome: Thanks to lots of gamma energy absorption, the heroes are brought back to normal, though at the expense of long-time Hulk supporting character Doc Samson's life.
Blackest Night (2009-2010)
The transformation: The dead rose over at DC Comics a few years back in the pre-New 52 era, with many of their deceased characters returning as "Black Lanterns" — essentially zombies with power rings. Over the course of the story, several big name good guys and bad guys became lanterns of a different color to help combat the threat, with the Ray Palmer Atom an Indigo Lantern (compassion), Lex Luthor orange (avarice), Scarecrow yellow (fear), Barry Allen blue (hope), Mera red (rage) and Wonder Woman a Star Sapphire (love). They all got new outfits respective to their place on the spectrum, too (an infamously revealing one in Wonder Woman's case)
Outcome: With antagonists Black Hand and Nekron defeated, 12 Black Lanterns were restored to life and the deputized lanterns went back to their normal-ish lives.
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