Marvel has released a preview of Javier Garron's interior pages from Avengers #40, in which the Phoenix Force returns to Earth this December to find a new host. In fact, it'll find a whole host of hosts, recruiting the Avengers, some X-Men, and more into a tournament to be the new permanent bearer of its power.
"The infamous firebird of cosmic destruction and rebirth known as the Phoenix Force has returned to Earth to find a new avatar," reads Marvel's solicitation for Avengers #40.
"So now the Avengers and some of the most powerful heroes and villains in the Marvel Universe are being called into a competition unlike anything they've ever seen," it continues. "A globe-spanning battle that will transform them all and ultimately decide...who will be the all-new Phoenix."
If that premise sounds sort of familiar, it's not unlike the so-called Phoenix Five – the five mutants the Phoenix bonded with when it came to Earth in 2012's Avengers vs. X-Men limited series, including Namor, Emma Frost, Colossus, Cyclops, and Magik. That story led to the downfall of the X-Men and the death of Charles Xavier (for a time, anyway).
Here's the gallery of pages, along with the issue's variant covers:
"The most iconic, primordial powers of the Marvel Universe have been central to my Avengers run. And few forces in the cosmos are more world-shaking and potentially world-destroying than the Phoenix Force," stated writer Jason Aaron when the story was announced.
"Its legacy on Earth goes back to the Stone Age, as we've seen, but we haven't seen much of the firebird in the present day. That's about to change in a very big way,” he continues.
"The Phoenix is back and in its spirit of fiery rebirth, it's seeking a brand new avatar. So begins the greatest tournament the world has ever seen, as some of Marvel's most powerful heroes and villains are called to battle for the right to become the all-new Phoenix. All will be transformed. But who will burn?"
Avengers #40 is due out December 30.
Before the Phoenix picks a new host, these are the best heroes (and villains) who have borne its power before.