Saturday, June 22, 2024

A Big Week for Jean Grey

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This month, we are treated with a double—okay, make that triple-dose of Jean Grey. The fifth issue of Jean Grey is out along with the newest of Marvel’s Generations one-shots with Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey. I took a look at both of them, since the one-shot is a (sort of) tie-in to the ongoing series. Let’s see how they played out.

Jean Grey #5

Jean Grey has been popping around the Marvel universe with the help of her teleporting BAMF friend, Pickles. She is on a quest to find a solution to her Phoenix problem. Namely, the Phoenix is coming for her and she needs to figure out how to stop it.

She began by consulting with everyone she knew to have survived being indwelt by the Phoenix, which didn’t turn out well. Then she found Namor, who told her that she had a warrior’s spirit, and must learn to harness it. Thor Odinson taught her how to let go of herself and fight. Through Thor, she discovered she can fashion psionic weapons when pressed to do it, but it was more of a reflex. She needs to figure out how to do it on command.

Enter Psylocke

Who better to teach her how to make weapons from nothing than the expert herself, Psylocke? They start with some meditation, but Jean’s mind is far too busy for that. Next, they go the opposite route and attend a metal concert. That doesn’t work so well either. Psylocke decides that maybe duress will bring out Jean’s powers, and takes them to an underground cave full of vampire mole people. That turns out to be a bit of a dead end as well.

Finally, Psylocke decides to take them on a mission to a high-rise owned by The Hand. The building is full of zombie ninjas, and in the basement is their resurrection chamber. Psylocke wants Jean to infiltrate them and plant some explosives. She believes that giving Jean a mission to focus on will get her “in the moment” enough to harness her powers more effectively.

And learn how to banter…

It goes well for a bit. She makes a club, an axe, and even Wolverine claws. All the while, Psylocke maintains her psychic link with Jean, but another third voice is in there as well. Who is this third voice? Psylocke hears it as well and cautions Jean that she really ought to figure it out. Next issue, Jean will visit a STRANGE character to try and determine the owner of the voice. (Get it?)

Fun and Action

This issue is very well paced. Jean and Psylocke hop around from place to place trying to find the right vibe for Jean, and it gives the guest artist Anthony Piper a chance to flex his muscle a bit. The art this issue is great. The characters in particular are very expressive both in their facial expressions and in their movement, which makes it a perfect fit for Hopeless’s Jean of Snark (Get it?) writing. Despite the oncoming doom of the phoenix force, Jean Grey never loses its sense of fun and the art goes a long way this month in maintaining that. The panel layouts are very cool and add to the fun feel of the issue, and J David Ramos’s colors keep it consistent with the previous issues. I seriously hope that Piper hangs around for a few issue, because I love his rendering of Jean.

The issue ultimately doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things. Jean doesn’t really discover any new hidden talents, though she does get more comfortable with herself as a skilled fighter. She manages to take out the Hand with relative ease, which keeps the stakes low, and makes the Hand seem like a bunch of cream-puffs.Even if Jean is an omega-level mutant, you would think an entire skyscraper full of ninjas could pose a problem for her.

The main takeaway from this issue is the third voice. Who is it? Is it the Phoenix? We’ll have to wait and see. Speaking of The Phoenix…

Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey

Where is she? Jean Grey appears in a rocky forest overlooking a concealed beach full of sunbathers. She doesn’t know where she is or how she got there, but might as well embrace it. She outfits herself in the illusion of a bathing suit and enters the crowd. Before too long, she runs smack into…herself.

This isn’t a mirror-image Jean Grey, this is Jean Grey from another time, a time before the time-displaced Jean was pulled to the future. This is Jean Grey-The Phoenix. Young Jean just about loses it at the sight of her. This is what she’s been fearing, becoming the Phoenix, and the Phoenix is right here. Phoenix deals with a flirtatious stranger before noticing Jean. Phoenix recognizes her, but doesn’t seem upset by the presence of her past self from the future (ah, comics). They retire to a more appropriate place to talk.

She should host an AMA

The two sit down at a restaurant to hash things out. Jean’s internal monologue is going this whole time. She marvels at Phoenix’s power. It’s the perfect time to ask all the questions she’s had about the Phoenix, but at the same time she is afraid of revealing too much about what will happen to her. Phoenix tries to take her out dancing, but neither are having any fun. Finally, Phoenix decides to take Jean out into the cosmos on a mission.

Saving a World

Phoenix uses her amazing powers to bring Jean with her across the galaxy to a planet in peril. A small inhabited world is about to be devoured by Galactus. The Phoenix does battle with Galactus’s herald Terrax, and gets the attention of the cosmic being. Galactus knows and respects the Phoenix, but he must feed.

The two cosmic beings go at it, and Galactus gets the upper hand. Jean can’t just stand by. She can harness the psychic energy of other beings to add it to her own, and with beings like Terrax, Phoenix, and fricking Galactus hanging around, that adds up to a buttload of extra power. She uses her power to sock Galactus right in the face. The devourer reluctantly relents and sulks away with Terrax in tow. He couldn’t stand up to two Jean Greys.

Phoenix tries to explain to Jean that this is what being the Phoenix is all about. It’s about saving lives. Unfortunately, Jean already knows how this story ends, and it isn’t with saved lives. She can’t hide her feelings, and Phoenix demands to know what has her so worked up. That’s when the Watcher shows up.

The Watcher reminds Jean that her choice whether or not to tell Phoenix what happens to her will have cosmic consequences, and he is forbidden to tell her what the outcome will be either way. Thanks for nothing, Watcher. Jean makes her choice (I’ll let you guess what that is) and then vanishes leaving the Phoenix to her cosmic patrol.

What Was That?

This was an interesting story, but it left me with a lot of questions. Is this canon to Jean’s ongoing story? It would seem to be, as this Jean is on her quest to defend against the Phoenix just like the ongoing. Also, they plug the next issue of Jean Grey at the end as “Up Next” which would seem to mean that this is a part of the linear story.

But… just what the heck is going on here? How did Jean get in the past? Why? What does the Watcher have to do with it? Where did she go at the end when she disappeared? Hasn’t her mere presence changed the past? None of these questions are answered, and regardless of whether you liked this issue or the Generations Hulks that came out last week, it hints at Marvel’s lack of direction with the Generations push. This is feeling more and more like a stunt. Future Generations issues (we’ll be covering a few of them here) will tell, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason or rhyme or overarching plot for all of these heroes to be encountering old versions of themselves. In fact, Jean is the only one who is actually seeing her actual older self, the rest will be seeing their legacy namesakes. What the heck, Marvel?

I don’t know what’s happening but it looks cool.

All that aside, it is a fun issue, and seeing Jean and Phoenix interact is certainly entertaining. I’m just not sure it accomplished much. The art is good, and fits with the look and feel of the Jean Grey ongoing. The cosmic battles are especially effective, and a couple of two-page spreads are highlights of the issue.

Overall, if you love Jean Grey, and are enjoying her solo series, or if you miss the old Phoenix Jean Grey, then this issue is worth picking up. If not, then it’s not really worth the hiked-up cover price.

Fanfinites Ratings:

Jean Grey – 9/10

Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey 7/10

Jean Grey #5

Writer: Dennis Hopeless

Artist: Anthony Piper

Colorist: Jay David Ramos

Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham

Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1

Writer: Cullen Bunn

Penciler: R.B. Silva

Inkers: Adriano Di Benedetto with R.B. Silva

Colorist: Rain Beredo

Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham

Images Courtesy of Marvel Comics

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