Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, I rise from my failed attempt to sleep and embrace Dark Insomnia to write about this piece about the supposed return of none other than the original Jean Grey.
Now hold on, you can’t seriously say you’re surprised? First, the folks at Marvel have been trying to recapture the popularity of the X-Men, that it had back in the 90’s. The current books read like a nod to those days, while trying to stay modern and fresh at the same time. And during the 90’s, none other than Jean Grey herself, was resurrected from the dead.
Well, except that she was never dead. As it turns out, from the moment that the space ship crashed into the body of water (Hudson River, I believe) – and the X-Men feared that Jean was dead, having piloted the ship all by herself – but no! – she rose up from the water…
Remember that scene? The iconic cover? Well, as it turns out… everything from Uncanny X-Men #101 (after she rises up from the water), until Jean’s “apparent” death in Uncanny X-Men #137… is all a ruse. That’s right – because of events that happened, where Marvel wanted to bring back the original X-Men cast (and Jean was the only one dead at the time), they came up with an idea… that when the ship crashed into the water, the Phoenix Force, that had been protecting Jean (having encountered her, as she was piloting the ship), put Jean Grey in a cocoon and then took her place among the X-Men. So, the wonderful story of Jean Grey’s fall into the Dark Phoenix, thanks to the Hellfire Club (primarily Mastermind who had tampered with her mind), is all undone – because, as it turns out – that was never Jean Grey – that was actually the Phoenix Force.
If you think I am crazy, look no further than Avengers #263. That’s where the story starts. The Avengers examine a cocoon sitting at the bottom of this body of water, that’s emitting all kinds of power.
Captain Marvel (Monica) goes down below and finds this mysterious source of power. By the end of the issue, they’ve gotten her out of the cocoon, but she’s in a mysterious container that has mist… but by the end of that issue, the mist clears, and the readers see a red head, who calls out for Scott; and if you think that might not be solid proof, that could be any redhead, mysteriously shoved into a cocoon, calling out for Scott – because that’s a really common first name. Hold up, they confirm it in the panel that it’s Jean Grey.
So let’s think about this for a moment – if that was indeed Jean Grey in the cocoon, and if she never actually became Dark Phoenix “back in the day” – then how is Jean coming back to life so many times? You could say that she was touched by the Phoenix Force, for that brief moment, as it helped her pilot the plane into the water, and kept her alive, right? But the more probable excuse is that writers have since then, either forgotten that it wasn’t actually Jean Grey between Uncanny X-Men #102 and #137, or they’re simply choosing to ignore it.
So what’s my point? Now I think I made my thoughts clear about the whole “05” that trendy people call them (I assume it stands for “Original 5” – as in the original five X-Men… You can read my thoughts on the “05” here: Part 1 and Part 2). Well, Marvel has officially announced the resurrection of Jean Grey. The creative team of Matthew Rosenberg and Leinil Yu have come aboard in PHOENIX RESURRECTION this fall to help her on her way from the grave to flying above the Earth once more.
So let’s do a quick role call – of the “616” (Regular Marvel Universe) for the Original Five:
Adult Cyclops is dead (after going, what some would say, a little crazy). Time displaced Cyclops, alive and well.
Adult Jean Grey, dead (but apparently coming back – surprise, surprise). Time displaced Jean Grey, alive and well.
Adult Angel, now going by Archangel, and alive and well. (Well, as much as one can be, considering all Warren’s been through). Time displaced Angel, in order to “change his future” and not become an agent of Apocalypse, that leads to Archangel, he gets – get this – fire wings instead of metal wings. Oh those young kids and their crazy ideas.
Adult Iceman, alive and well. Time displaced Iceman, alive and well.
Adult Beast, alive and … well, not so well in the head, but he’s alive. Time displaced teen Beast, also alive… and not so well in the head.
So now, adult Jean is coming back – and no one thinks all these duplicate characters are going to start getting really confusing to new readers? And I am not talking about two people running around with the same code name, like when Monica was running around as Captain Marvel, then Genis-Vell came to claim the name, having previously gone by the name Legacy. And then how Monica changed her code name to Photon, to which Genis-Vell was like, “Cool name, I want that now, too.” So she changed her name to Pulsar. Not that kind of confusion. But the confusion where it’s two of the same character, just different versions of them, running around at the same time. Because the time displaced Jean Grey has a solo series going, entitled Jean Grey.
Now based on Matthew Rosenberg’s interview answers, it sounds like he’s going with forgot/ignore that Jean was in a cocoon and go with what the original canon was, that it was Jean Grey who became Dark Phoenix, and thus died, and not the Phoenix Force that “died” in Jean’s place.
Matthew Rosenberg: The biggest challenge is obviously doing it justice. People love Jean. I love Jean. Some people desperately want to see her back because they miss her, and I want to do right by them. But others feel really strongly that her death was monumental and we should respect that. And I get that 100%. I’m hoping we can tell a story that makes those people understand why we brought her back. We actually have something to say, it means something. And I think all of that, trying to please everyone, is the real trick.
As for opportunities, for me it’s two things. Getting to use the X-Men, all of them, is a huge one. Getting to explore her relationships with them, showing how they react to certain things, what things mean to them, is a real blessing because these characters have ties to her that long time readers will understand. There is an emotional shorthand to Beast or Bobby or Logan or Storm seeing her again. It’s heavy. And the other great storytelling opportunity we have is how powerful Jean and Phoenix are. They can create worlds and rearrange minds. That is something we go into a bit and I think it will keep readers on their toes.
One of the big keys to getting Jean is to actually study her progression as a character. From the meek and quiet student, to the bad ass team member, to the goddess, to death, and back again. She has had these changes; the Marvel Girl of old is not the same as Phoenix, or Jean in X-FACTOR, or the Jean that raises Cable in the future, or the Jean that fights Emma for the heart of Scott. All of these are evolutions of who she is. And our book, it does something a bit different. This isn’t an evolution. It’s a resurrection. But I can’t say much more than that.
I can say of the “covers” I’ve seen, the digital touch of the inside page of Uncanny X-Men #136 (one of my all time favorite panels) is a nice touch. Here they are: