The past (and future?) Phoenix gets her own series as she tries to grapple with who she is and who she may be fated to become in Jean Grey #1.
Jean Grey #1
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: May 3, 2017
Collected in: Jean Grey v1
When a teenage JEAN GREY traveled through time and arrived in the present, she learned the terrible fate that befell her predecessor: Possessed by a cosmic entity called the Phoenix, Jean was trapped in an endless cycle of life and death. Determined to escape that future, Jean set out to write her own destiny. But now, she’s visited by a premonition that the Phoenix is coming for her…and in this new ongoing series by DENNIS HOPELESS (ALL-NEW X-MEN, SPIDER-WOMAN, X-MEN: SEASON ONE) and VICTOR IBANEZ (EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN, STORM), she’s going to fight tooth and nail to escape becoming its next victim!
Jean Grey is a character who has been through the ringer just a time or two. Her history isn’t so much “convoluted” as it is a mass of deaths, resurrections, clones and time-travelers all mixed together in a giant bowl of messy continuity. It is such a mess that even taking an almost entirely new version of the character without all of the baggage still results in all that baggage finding its way to her. The entire idea of the Phoenix and what that means and why it is attracted to Jean is now so overwhelming that it is impossible to view it separate from the character, even when she is dead. That’s an issue this book seems intent on tackling, but in a way it really just highlights how big of a problem it is.
Jean Grey #1 is a book with a purpose, but not much of an idea on how to get there. This is immediately obvious when it decides to stick young Jean in Japan, a place she has no connection to, and then have her face off against the Wrecking Crew, who also have no connection to the place. I can respect the need to take her away from New York and the other X-Men, but it is such an arbitrary location that then doesn’t play into the plot at all. It was weird enough with Batgirl visiting Asia over in her opening Rebirth arc for tenuous reasons, but at least she ended up finding a purpose to be there.
Mostly this issue tries to act as an introduction to Jean — as it should — but there is so much to cover that it barely scratches the surface. Instead it gets bogged down with Jean doing the usual “show off my powers” routine against the Wrecking Crew, which takes far longer than it should. Additionally, for a self-professed hater of unnecessary property damage she doesn’t seem to have any problem throwing cars into utility poles. In fairness that may be intentional hypocrisy thrown in there by writer Dennis Hopeless, but if it is I’m not sure exactly what the point is yet.
All of this is really just an exercise in getting this version of Jean to confront the Phoenix force, or at least an entity claiming to be the Phoenix. I am guessing that at least some of the intent here is to draw a line under the Jean/Phoenix story to let the character move on, but we are all too aware by now that it will never happen. Frankly I would have accepted the Phoenix Force showing up and recognizing that this is a different version of Jean that couldn’t handle its power and just fluttering off for a few years. It wouldn’t resolve anything long-term, but neither is this anyway. It would at least remove the looming specter for a while.
The art team here is Victor Ibanez and Travis Lanham, two artists I’m not familiar with. I wasn’t really all that impressed by the work at first, but as I got further in I noticed the small details they threw into the book that give it a leg up. It reminds me a lot of Batgirl again, for better or worse (more better than worse). Facial animations are top-notch, and there’s a great sense of action even in panels that aren’t about the fight with the Wrecking Crew. I went into this issue not knowing what to expect, and coming out of it fairly impressed. This is solid work from Ibanez and Lanham, and I am looking forward to seeing more of what they can do together.
Jean Grey #1 is a mixed bag, at best. The art is excellent, and at times the writing is good, too. Dennis Hopeless has a solid grasp on Jean as a character, and what makes her interesting, but he doesn’t do much to put it on display. Certainly she is a badass when she cuts loose with her powers, but honestly this fight should have ended before it even began. The whole “let’s randomly go to Japan” thing is more than a bit odd, as well, and makes little sense for the character. If this was Kitty Pryde or Wolverine that would be understandable, but Jean has no history there.
As a first issue I’m not really sure this succeeds. It does introduce us to Jean and lays out the basics, but there doesn’t feel like there’s a plot here. The question of whether Jean will or will not become the new Phoenix avatar is one that needs to be addressed, but I’m not convinced this is the way to do it. And that’s not even worrying about the fact that there are already at least three other good Phoenix candidates running around right now (Rachel Grey, Quinton Quire and Hope Summers — though they are slated to appear next issue). As much as Phoenix is a part of Jean and her story I really had hoped we could do something different with her for once.