There are few mutants more symbolic to the X-Men than Jean Grey. She was one of the original X-Men, and her love-life has dominated Marvel’s merry mutant madness for decades. But just what are her powers? Is The Trial of Jean Grey really so ground-breaking and ‘All-New’?
Now, Jean Grey is, of course, a telepath and a telekinetic. I’m not giving you any surprises by saying that! But how does this work? Some months ago, Loz compared telepathic powers to a forest, a physical location; all psychics walk through the forest, and their powers can be pinpointed according to where they are in it. Loz wrote:
“All the psychics we know of (Emma, Jean, Betsy, Dani, Karma etc.) stood on the outskirts of this forests and were then forced to walk into it, finding their first “destination”, that is when they realize they have powers.
Over the years, the psychics familiarize themselves with the surroundings, learning more about their gifts and expanding the zone of the forest which they know by heart.
Technically, one could run straight through the forest and access another “destination”, but the forest is large and dark and it may be very difficult to even imagine that there is something else out there. Besides the time and dedication it takes to master a “destination,” the biggest problem is finding YOUR OWN path to the destination.”
It’s quite a cool metaphor, and I think it’s rather appropriate. It explains how different psis, even when operating within the same field, can have such radically different ways of using their powers. And then, of course, you have the Omega Levels.
We know of a few telepaths who consider themselves to be Omega Levels; Charles Xavier, Emma Frost, and, of course, Jean Grey. These Omega Levels have unlimited potential. In other words, there is absolutely nothing within the field of telepathy that they cannot accomplish. This is Jean Grey – one of the most powerful telepaths on the face of the planet.
It’s a matter of record that most X-genes seem to ‘trigger’ at puberty, presumably when the mutant’s development has reached a certain point. There’s no set age for puberty, but in girls it tends to be between 8 and 14. For Jean, it seems to have been taking place around age 10. But the key point is that, at age 10, Jean was influenced by trauma. She witnessed the death of her friend Annie; and that was the moment when Jean’s powers triggered, and she telepathically experienced Annie’s death. Now, I’m of the view that this was a ‘jump in the deep end’ that really shouldn’t have happened.
Jean’s telepathy was, frankly, out of control; after a particularly nasty incident (which we’ll examine later), Professor Xavier imposed potent mental blocks on her in order to allow that telepathic potential to develop at its own rate. She’s one of the world’s most powerful telepaths, able to enter the Astral Plane, boost other mutants telepathically, control and manipulate others, and – well, generally, if its telepathic, she can do it.
But Jean is different to all these others telepaths, and that’s something Marvel have made no secret of. Professor Xavier couldn’t lift a pencil with his mind, and nor can Emma Frost. You see, Jean is also an Omega level telekinetic. She’s able to wield her mental power in devastating attacks, to levitate herself and others, and to control objects of enormous complexity. When linked to the Phoenix Force, this was extended to being able to telekinetically manipulate matter at a molecular level. It makes me suspect she could even telekinetically generate nuclear fission!
So, basically Jean Grey rules OK. Except… The Trial of Jean Grey has thrown a wrinkle in it. In an intriguing moment, Jean absorbed the psychic energy around her, and unleashed it in telekinetic attacks that could even stagger Gladiator. Now, before anyone gets too excited, Gladiator’s powers are confidence-based. When a girl who you believe has ties to the Phoenix starts throwing new powers at you and swatting you around, your confidence kind of takes a dent. So we can’t make too much of that fight, but that still doesn’t change the fact it’s seriously impressive.
In one sense, as Loz observed the other day, this is nothing new. In one issue of Generation X, Emma Frost pulled all the psychic energy of a place into herself and unleashed what she called a ‘psychic lightning bolt’. It was even enough to penetrate Monet’s psychic shields.
But what is new here, is the idea of drawing in through telepathy and releasing through telekinesis. It binds these two Omega-level powers of Jean together in rather a cool way.
Except, while on the surface, this is ‘all-new’, it’s actually really respectful to the canon. Remember I mentioned an incident where Jean’s telepathy ran amok? Her telepathy fueled an uncontrolled telekinetic surge. I’m prepared to hypothesise that Jean’s telepathy and telekinesis should always have been linked, but that Xavier’s mental blocks ‘broke’ that developmental link, preventing it occurring. In bringing ANXM Jean into our time, the work of Xavier has been undone. I’m actually theorising that, in the ‘correct’ timeline, Xavier may have unintentionally broken Jean’s powers when he erected those mental walls.
And so, for the first time, we’re actually getting a glimpse of Jean as she always should have been: an Omega level mutant without the Phoenix Force. And it fits perfectly with the canon. Disturbingly for Jean, this also gives us a clue as to why the future Jean in Battle of the Atom was so very unstable; she was drawing too much power into herself. Entertainingly enough, it settles the issue of why a future Jean could handle Emma and the Cuckoos, but not her past self; I’m willing to bet she was powering herself off of the attacks of Emma and the Cuckoos, but couldn’t psychically draw off of ANXM Jean.
Jean Grey has become a battery of psychic energy, the Omega-level telepathy and telekinesis binding together in a brilliant synergy. This, I think, is the way her powers would have turned out, if not for Charles Xavier.
And, I have to add: well done, Brian Bendis!
By the way, check out this amazing Jean Grey art by McGuan from DeviantArt, used with permission!