San Diego Comic Con is almost upon us and that means that the announcements are going to start coming fast from the creators and studios behind the biggest movies, television and of course, comics.
Marvel has opened up with a blazing teaser that has X-Men fans in an uproar. Preview art for the post-Avengers Versus X-Men story arc includes none other than the former Phoenix herself, Jean Grey.
The leaked art, drawn by Joe Quesada, shows Jean sporting her old Marvel Girl costume.
Marvel’s official statement to Entertainment Weekly said, “We can only confirm that her presence in the Marvel universe will not be imaginary. This will not be part of the Ultimate line-up. She will not be a zombie hologram, like Shard on X-Factor.” (Also wow is that a deep reference to make in a mainstream publication.)
This announcement has lead to a lot of heated debate about the resurrection of fallen comic friends. Jean Grey i.e. Phoenix has been dead in the comics since Grant Morrison wrote her death in December 2003’s New X-Men #150. Yet like her namesake, Jean has risen from death about a dozen times, so the return from the afterlife isn’t much of a surprise to her true fans.
But should Jean have stayed gone? Is the revolving door of death in Marvel becoming a problem? In Jean Grey’s case, I’ll stand behind a rousing round of applause for the return of a much missed character, provided that the resurrection is done right. Why would Jean make such a great return to the X-Men? Here are some reasons why!
1.) Cyclops Needs a Foil That Isn’t Wolverine
You know something has gone terribly wrong when a guy named Wolverine is the voice of reason and restraint. In recent comic history, the rift between Wolverine and Cyclops has turned into a fundamental philosophical debate. Their battle isn’t over their love of the same dead redhead, but over their ideas on the future of mutantkind and the X-Men. Wolverine leads the mutant faction that wants to give mutant children a chance at an education and integration, going so far as to rebuild the destroyed Westchester school as The Jean Grey School For Higher Learning. (With Beast and Kitty Pryde as co-headmasters, no less.)
Cyclops advocates staying isolated on Utopia, an island off the coast of San Francisco, to continue fighting for mutant rights in a very militant, militaristic way. Guided by the practical advice of Emma Frost, Cyclops has become a leader so cold and hard that Magneto now takes advice from him, while Wolverine has in essence focused on the ideal of Xavier’s dream.
This fundamental schism (hence the name of the storyline in which it took place) is perfect fodder for the return of Jean. Her resurrection could provide the Westchester school with the emotional foil for Cyclops that Wolverine, try as he might, just isn’t written to do. Wolverine is a kick-ass, take-names kind of guy and seeing him grow as a character into a headmaster has been fun. But with Jean coming back, she could be the emotional winch upon which the dream of the Professor can once again turn. She is, after all, one of the only people who could break through Cyclops’ harsh exterior besides the White Queen.
And speaking of a certain half-dressed blond telepath…
2.) The Square-Off Continues: Emma Frost Versus Jean Grey
It’s no surprise that should Jean return, a cat fight might be expected between the original X-Woman and her long-time rival, Emma Frost. Emma was quick to move in on Cyclops back before Jean was even dead, telepathically sexing him up and making moves within his brain when Jean started detaching from their relationship in the months before her murder. Emma and Scott started their relationship before Jean’s body was cold in the ground (even having one of the tackiest kisses in comics, right on top of Jean’s grave), and the two have stayed together ever since. Strange also how the length of their relationship corresponds with a markedly cynical and harsh turn in Cyclops, who was often criticized as being boring in the years he was with Jean. Yet with Jean’s return, the question becomes: what will Emma’s response be? What will Jean do about their relationship, and what emotional impact will it have on the leader of the San Fransisco team?
Because yeah, he’s obviously so over her. (The above panel is from the recent Avengers vs X-Men #6 Infinity, a digital extra to the AvX storyline.)
For that matter, what impact will it have on Wolverine, whose long-time torch for Jean has burned brightly all these years? That kind of romantic drama has always been at the heart of a lot of X-Men dynamics and was never fully explored when Jean was put in the ground.
3.) Unresolved Stories: Rachel Grey
Let’s visit on Rachel Grey for a second. One of the more interesting characters with fall-out from the death of Jean Grey was Rachel Grey-Summers. Rachel was the daughter of Scott and Jean from an alternate reality who came to our reality and has since stayed. She was a member of the British team Excaliber and for a short period was also the bearer of the Phoenix Force. Once Jean died, Rachel mourned the fact that her “mother” in this reality had died before she could ever make Rachel exist within her reality. When Cyclops shacked up with Emma Frost, Rachel mourned the fact that she could never exist and shucked the last name Summers so she could honor her lost mother. Now, with Jean’s return, the relationship between these two—which has gone from strange to warm over the years—has a chance to be rekindled.
Include Nate Grey, another alternate reality offspring, and Cable into the mix and you’ve got a heck of a family reunion in the works. Dare I even wonder how Hope Summers, Cable’s adopted daughter and prospective Phoenix bearer, will react? And speaking of Phoenix bearers…
4.) The Resolution of the Phoenix Force Problem
The big issue at the center of the Avengers vs. X-Men storyline is one question: who will be the bearer of the Phoenix Force? Throughout the entire comic book existence of the Phoenix, nobody has been equally as disasterous and successful a bearer of the Phoenix than Jean Grey. With everyone and their brother trying to figure out how to deal with the Phoenix, doesn’t it stand to reason that the person who bore it the longest in the comics and had to deal with its emotional and psychic stress the most would be the perfect host once again? The Phoenix was an amazing storyline for Jean Grey in the first place and through all her evolutions, deaths, and resurrections has remained integrally tied to her as a focal point for Jean’s existence. Her return would bring a balance to the struggle behind who should host this chaotic force.
So there are a bunch of good reasons for Jean’s return. But here’s the one I get back to every time I think about it.
5.) It’s Just About Damn Time
Marvel and other major comic book companies have been lambasted over the years for bringing back characters from the dead unnecessarily. The joke is that the afterlife has a revolving door for superheroes, and maybe there’s some validity there. So many characters have died, faked us out, been cloned or resurrected that it’s hard to take death seriously after a while. Yet where other characters have died and been brought back in shorter amounts of time (I’m looking at Colossus, Professor Xavier, a new incarnation of Nightcrawler, Magneto, etc.) Jean has stayed good and dead since the events of Grant Morrison’s run and her brief appearance in Phoenix: Endsong. There were teases of appearances elsewhere, like in Wolverine when she appeared inside his psyche to help him beat a demonic possession, but these were all memories or constructions of the original. The real Jean has laid in the ground waiting for the right storyline to come along and bring her back. And why? The answer is simple.
6.) Jean Grey Was the Heart of the X-Men
Jean Grey began as the only female on the five person original X-team alongside Cyclops, Angel, Beast and Iceman. She was the token woman, sure, but as time went on she grew into a spectacular example of a powerful mutant, caring as well as capable. While she was a love interest character for Cyclops as well as several other characters, most notably Wolverine, Jean’s role was also often that of emotional compass and touchstone for other characters. She was the heart that kept Cyclops’ overly analytical leadership from slipping out of bounds, and while other characters have sought to fill that place over the years, the role of caring nurturer that Jean brought to the table has been sorely missed on a team that has gone cynical, bitter and jaded. With Jean’s growth into a mature character all her own, she transcended the boundaries of moral touchstone to become a nigh-goddess in her own right while still maintaining the emotional integrity of the character. She was a heartfelt character who fought, lived, loved and died with integrity and strength. When she died, the team lost a vital piece of it’s center that writers tried to fill, unfortunately, with Emma Frost. But vamp though she is, Emma Frost isn’t Jean Grey and you can’t replace one with the other. Jean brought the warmth and love to the X-Men story that has been missing ever since her death, and to have her back might possibly cure the almost inescapable cynical “modern” vibe that the main X-Team have adopted lately.
In a perfect world, Jean’s resurrection would signal a return to the ideas of Xavier’s dream, the linchpin around which the X-Men stories revolved in so many mediums and so many books for so long. Then again, if it doesn’t do all that, her return would at least give back a wonderful character to the fans who thought her passing was a loss to the X-Men world.
Shoshana Kessock is a comics fan, photographer, game developer, LARPer and all around geek girl. She’s the creator of Phoenix Outlaw Productions and ReImaginedReality.com