Why I don’t want Jean Grey back

Well, fair readers, this is the moment I’ve been dreading.  The day when I shall come clean.  The day when I conduct X-Men heresy.  Without further ado, I’ll say it plainly: I don’t want Jean Grey back.

marvelgirl-1stclass
Time for me to set the cat among the pigeons!

First of all, let me begin with a few very disturbing facts about an X-Men character who I actually love.  When Stan Lee first created Jean, he didn’t really put much effort into her.  In fact, Lee’s initial concept for mutants was that every single mutant would have some degree of telepathic / telekinetic powers – that even slipped into the canon in an early issue of Uncanny X-Men, where Magneto of all people happily wanders the Astral Plane and has a telepathic chit-chat with Professor X!  Yes, Lee changed his mind; but when you realise that, you also get the feeling Lee couldn’t be bothered reinventing the sole female character in the original X-Men team.  In actual fact, in various interviews Lee has admitted he’d forget her name or her powers back when he was writing the comic.

But my main problem with Jean is that, considering she’s had a fifty-year-tenure, she’s really only had two major ‘arcs’ – her love-life and the Phoenix.

It doesn’t matter who you are; if you’re male, you’re a mutant, you’ve got a pulse, and you’re in Marvel Comics, you’ll have a crush on Jean Grey.  Don’t believe me?  After a quick Google, here’s a list of some of the guys who’ve had a thing for Jean – let me know if I’ve missed any:

  • Cyclops (no duh there, huh?)
  • Wolverine
  • Beast
  • Angel
  • Ted Roberts (a student at Metro College)
  • Professor X (when Stan Lee was asked about it, he replied, “I don’t know, it just seemed like something that made sense. I tossed it in to complicate things.”)
  • Mastermind
  • Havok (!)

That Jean and Scott were meant to be together was a basic trope of the X-Men up until the Morrison era; another side of that trope, though, was that Jean was forever being tempted by another character.  It was the 1990s that gave this trope a bit of a twist, with her being on the receiving end as Psylocke tried to tempt Cyclops into a telepathic affair.  It took the head-spinning events of X-Cutioner’s Song to bring Scott and Jean together for good, with them finally taking the plunge and getting married.

To me, this passionate moment in X-Cutioner’s song is one that made me cheer. For this scene alone, X-Cutioner’s Song will always be an arc I hold dear.

Morrison, of course, subverted this.  He had both Scott and Jean in love triangles (even though they were, of course, married).  Morrison used Jean in particular as a symbol of the ‘good old days’ of the X-Men, and her death (and Scott’s moving on to Emma) was Scott’s necessarily moving on into the future.  Note that, for all the sparks between Logan and Jean, Morrison’s dislike of Logan meant he didn’t put anything in place for Logan to move on).  I have to be honest, this kind of screwy logic – Scott’s lust-driven psychic affair with Emma as ’embracing the future’ – is the kind of thing that makes me consider Morrison one of the worst X-writers there have ever been.

Bendis has subverted this too in All-New X-Men, with Jean terrified of her future – and so running from her possible relationship with Cyclops, right into the arms of Beast.  But a subversion doesn’t mean the character isn’t still a walking, talking breach of the Bechdel Test.

This newest love-triangle will need to be resolved in Battle of the Atom.

Even when X-fans discuss the return of Jean, one question inevitably comes up; who will she end up with?  Scott?  Logan?  The ghost of Jean Grey’s love-life even hovered over the Schism plotline…

In the middle of their heated argument, it’s the low blows Scott and Logan make that really start their fight off…

And Jean’s second arc?  Phoenix.

As we saw in AvX, whenever a character gets a taste of the Phoenix Force they have a temptation to say those words. Colossus? Check. Cyclops? Check. Somehow Namor, Emma, and Magik resisted the temptation.

It took Chris Claremont to do something new with Jean, amping up her power-levels to a phenomenal degree and then penning some epic stories in which she plays a cosmic role.  It was tremendous stuff, full of passion and drama, and culminated in the Dark Phoenix Saga.  Editorial mandate required Jean to die (she had destroyed a world, after all), but this was then retconned so the Phoenix replaced Jean rather than became her, so Jean could be brought back.

In truth, in fifty years of X-Men comics this is the only epic that has centred around Jean Grey.

And the writers keep coming back to it.  Steve Seagle, for example, was intending to have Jean become the Phoenix in his 1990s run.  Jean’s powers began to grow, and she even adopted her old costume.  You had a tortuous conversation between Scott and Beast, with Scott terrified that history was repeating itself.  You even had the variant cover of Uncanny X-Men #354.  Claremont tapped into this in the pages of Wolverine #125-#126, where Jean was brainwashed – and manifested a Phoenix raptor!  Don’t get me wrong, Seagle’s plans actually sound rather cool, but it’s not exactly a massive leap from Jean’s traditional arc.

See what I mean?

Seagle’s intention was to have Jean get the Phoenix powers, and test her character – see if she would fall as the Phoenix had done.  Scott would be in a very different place, and would have acted as an anchor, drawing her back to the right path.  You can get more information from Comic Book Legends Revealed.

Morrison, of course, went the whole hog with the Phoenix – with Jean ultimately killed by Logan, and finally by Xorn-as-Magneto.

One reason I can’t stand Morrison’s writing – everything has to be over-the-top. Seriously, a “planetary-scale stroke”?!?

This is one of the reasons the character of Hope is so hated by X-fans; not only does she physically resembled Jean, but she even has the hook into the Phoenix Force.  It feels as though she’s unoriginal, because she infringes too much on another character’s territory.

We know that Jean is coming back.  She actually almost came back at the end of Mike Carey’s Age of X, but editorial asked Carey to bring back Rachel Summers from deepest space instead.  In the current Battle of the Atom arc, we now have a future Jean, establishing very clearly that Jean has a future in the first place.  In that timeline, she’s headmaster of the Jean Grey School but, for some reason, operates under the pseudonym Professor Xorn.

If Marvel must bring Jean Grey back, I have one plea: do something new with her.  Move her away from being a simple ‘love-triangle-character who occasionally gets linked to the Phoenix’.  Although I may be enjoying Battle of the Atom, this Jean-centric arc sadly doesn’t seem to be the solution to the problem of Jean Grey.  If Jean is to truly be worth bringing back, then Marvel have to be willing to do something new with her.

20 Comments Add yours

  1. xmenxpert says:

    For the record: Anyone who thinks there’s a real romantic connection between jean and Wolverine is an idiot. Yes, this includes Chris Claremont. He shoe-horned that in as a retcon, and it contradicted his own frigging work. Any writer who suggests there’s anything serious is wrong.

    However, I’ve never been a big fan of Jean. I feel she’s been too defined by the men around her. I actually love what Bendis has been doing with her, because she’s a much more interesting, dynamic character than usual. Even if I kinda regret that Bendis decided not to have any interactions between Rachel and Teen Jean, beyond awkwardly avoiding each other.

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    1. I do agree! I’ve come on quite harsh here, and it’s odd in a sense, because there are scenes with Jean that I absolutely love and, at the same time, I too enjoy what Bendis has been doing. Yet I was disappointed when he sparked the romance between Jean and Hank, and that’s really what made me start questioning whether I want Jean back.

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  2. B. Patterson says:

    I can’t agree more. No more Jean and no more Phoenix (for the rest of the decade anyway). Unfortunately, Scott and Emma’s break up give her a perfect opportunity for a love triangle. As bad as Emma is, I think she’s good for Scott. Jean Grey is very… morally pure. For her, there’s black and there’s white and she behaves in a very “white” manner. Scott’s become much darker and more convoluted over the years. I’m not sure how Jean would feel about his mutant revolution. The mutant revolution itself would be morally gray territory. I like that, and I like my Scott Summers as morally gray. Jean Grey (pun not intended) does not fit there.

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    1. Personally I’d rather like a Scott-Emma-Psylocke love triangle 🙂

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      1. B. Patterson says:

        Is that actually happening!! I stopped at issue 3 for the most recent Uncanny X-men. Hm… I dunno. Yeah, Psylocke is psychic, but she’s a total badass ninja. I don’t know if Scott can handle that 🙂

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      2. Sadly I don’t think it’ll happen lol. I always found the idea of Scott and Betsy amusing, ever since the 90s…

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  3. loz says:

    I have to say I agree with a lot of what you said, both of you. I started reading X-men when Jean was no longer a part of the team, incidentally when Rachel joined the team. That period led quickly into Mutant Massacre where Jean Grey was featured more prominently, so I’ve never really had that much of a connection to her. When the Teams went Gold/Blue I followed the Blue team exclusively until my wallet allowe dfor multiple issues a month.
    Funny thing is, Jean got really interesting to me with Morrison’s run. It seemed like she was the Heart and soul of the team. She and Emma kept that book together in my eyes. When she died at the end of Morrison’s run, it felt like a real tragedy but I wasn’t losing sleep over it. I do agree that while she and Emma were a big draw for New X-Men, their relationship revolved around the triangle with Scott.

    I’m also one of the only fans of Seagle and Kelly’s run and would love to have seen what they did with Jean. And in turn I would have loved to see Carey turn Legacy from a Rogue-centric book into a Jean-centric book. That would have been awesome. Let her redefine who she was and who she would be moving forward. That said I’m glad they went with Rachel which made a lot more sense to me. Rachel, in my eyes, has had more memorable storylines and moments that i loved. And X-Pert, I too wanted more Rachel/Jean interaction. Maybe we’ll see more of that in the coming month.

    All in all, I feel a lot of people are praising Jeans return in BotA but is this really the return people are expecting. Will she be sticking around? No one has said she is. It all up in the air. I won’t be sad if she goes back to the future with the other future X-Men.

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    1. Interesting comments! Seagle and Kelly didn’t have much of a chance, from what I’ve gathered, they had a year’s plotlines (even a Schism!) planned and approved, and then editorial changed their minds… 😦

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  4. loz says:

    I don’t think Psylocke will be involved with Cyclops. I think he’s going to be solo for the foreseeable future while Psylocke seems to be involved with fantomex, or whatever part of him is currently inhabiting X-force right now. I finally read the last three issues of Remenders Uncanny X-Force last night and liked where he left the characters. His Deadpool is one of my favourite things ever.

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    1. Oh I don’t think that’ll happen either, I’d just enjoy it if it did lol! 🙂

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  5. mech says:

    I liked what Morrison did with Jean during his run, she for once embraced her powers instead of being afraid of them. It’s sad that he killed her at then end (and in a very dumb way…a stroke, really?) but I gues he did to develop Cyclop’s character further and make him move on. Cyclops, like Jean, had also been defined by two thing: his love-life and his position as a leader. But this last decade writers took risks while writing him and made Cyclops a interesting character once again. So if Jean ever comes back I hope Marvel do something similar with her.

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    1. It’s strange, the love-life between Scott and Jean really did seem to stunt them both. I disagreed with the way Morrison brought Scott and Emma together, but I have to say they made a superb couple!

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    2. loz says:

      Totally agree with you Mech.It’s like Jean had to die for Cyclops to become interesting to me.

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  6. ariwl1 says:

    I understand the sentiment. Jean is a rather controversial character as her personality type is so different compared to the rest of the cast. I’ll admit she is my favorite but agree that she needs room to do things besides be in love or be Phoenix since the writers don’t let her take the stage as often to do things outside those two themes.

    I stopped reading X-Men for a bit when she last died because I think her presence injects some hope and morally affirming tones into a franchise otherwise filled with melodramatic hardasses. That’s why I’ve missed both her and Nightcrawler. They need some heart and soul in those books or things just get too dire.

    That’s also why I’ve been enjoying Bendis’ take on her so far. The Phoenix isn’t an issue (that we can see) and while her love life has been popping up it’s really secondary. Her primary goal right now is fighting for her right simply to exist and choose her own destiny, which is something even non-fans can appreciate.

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    1. loz says:

      I keep saying that Nightcrawler was the heart and soul of the X-Men, but since his death, I think Iceman, Kitty and Rachel stepped up quite nicely.
      I’ve enjoyed Past Jeans presence on the book because it does something different with the familiar concepts.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Always welcome.

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    2. Interesting to hear your thoughts! 🙂 I’ve got to be honest, I’m still suspicious that the Phoenix will factor into ANXM somewhere…

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      1. ariwl1 says:

        Well we know now that Quentin Quire will host the Phoenix in the future and that it will influence BotA somehow. How this will relate to Jean is anybody’s guess.

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  7. I think the best thing they’ve done with Past-Jean is a) separate her from the Phoenix plot line (which everyone seem to think will next inhabit Quentin Quire), b) separate her from Past-Cyclops (who has gone off with his father into space) and c) separate her from Wolverine (which happened when the originals decided to join Cyclops’ ‘mutant revolution’). Now that the 3 old repetitive story lines have been (for the present) avoided we might just have some possibility of something original happening.

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    1. I agree. These recent developments have really impressed me.

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