The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the most highly regarded storylines in X-Men history, even nearly three decades after it was published. It is a story that even the most passive of X-Men fans should be able to easily recite. The Hellfire Club corrupts Jean Grey, making her their new Black Queen. Through a series of bad events, Jean breaks free of their control, but finds that their corruption has awakened an insastiable hunger in her near-limitless powers which drives her mad with a need to consume. The X-Men manage to defeat the dark persona and restore Jean, but she is put on trial for her crimes by the Shi’ar. The X-Men fight the Imperial Guard for her life and fail, but as the Dark Phoenix power begins to awaken, Jean kills herself rather than allowing it to destroy the universe.
But when you look at the details, you might realize just how ridiculously close the Hellfire Club actually came to defeating the X-Men. In fact, the difference between victory and defeat was one floor that gave way under substantial pressure. Had it not been for that floor, the universe might have wound up destroyed, and you would not be sitting there reading this blog.
Upon their arrival into the Hellfire Club gala, the Hellfire Club made decently short work of the X-Men. Cyclops, Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler were all taken down easily. Wolverine, however, was not targetted for capture, but rather for death. As he attacked, he found himself before Harry Leland who used his mutant power to increase an object’s mass on Wolverine past the point where his body could sustain itself. Just before Wolverine collapsed and would have been subsequently killed, the floor under him gave way and he plummeted through the Club’s mansion and was swept away in the flooding New York sewers.
Because of his escape, Wolverine managed to return to the Club, slice through a bunch of soldiers and ultimately bust into the Inner Circle. His distraction allowed the other X-Men to escape their captives and mount a counter-offensive. Caught off-guard, the Hellfire Club was defeated and sent scurrying away.
Thus, had the proprietors of the Club just thought to reinforce the floor for the thought of Harry Leland’s powers, Wolverine would have actually been killed and the X-Men would not have escaped. It’s actually an oversight that Leland remedied the second time the Hellfire Club went after the X-Men (with a ridiculous body-switch scheme) that only failed because they failed to realize that Nightcrawler’s sister/girlfriend was a witch. Nothing in that sentence was exaggerated.
So what does that mean for the universe? Doesn’t that simply mean the Hellfire Club would win and Jean Grey would remain in their grasp? The grand scheme of Mastermind to bind Jean to him permanately was to kill Cyclops’ astral form (and thus his actual body) in her mind using the psychic rapport the two shared. But Mastermind underestimated the love between the two, so the shock of seeing Cyclops killed by Mastermind was enough to snap her back into her proper mindset and lash out against the Hellfire Club.
The problem here is that the mental battle between the two happened BEFORE Wolverine busted in to free the X-Men. Had Wolverine been killed, the fight between Cyclops and Mastermind would still have been fought and Jean still would have been freed. But without Wolverine’s arrival, the events would not have unfolded as they did and chances are the Hellfire Club would have attacked at least one other person before Jean attacked (if she did at all).
But without Wolverine and whatever other X-Men could have been dropped in the meantime, the fight to quell Dark Phoenix would likely not have gone nearly as well and perhaps even failed. And thus with her powers unchecked, Phoenix would have gone on to destroy the universe.
So kudos to you, good men who did a shoddy job on the floor of the Hellfire Club estate. Kudos to your failure to realize that a 300+ pound man might dramatically increase a man’s mass. A very grateful universe salutes you.