(Phoenix) Jean Grey Is the Worst Hero in the Marvel Universe

Okay, put away those daggers and let me explain.
Jean Grey has been gone for a decade now, surpassing her original death and absence after the Dark Phoenix Saga. Her return was a major milestone in many ways and one of the events that really set the precedent for the idea that no matter how dramatic, epic, and permanent a death seems at the time, a return is inevitable. Even now, 10 years later, when Jean is discussed in circles, her return is referred to as a “when” not an “if.” Here I make the case that the only hero worth returning is a Jean Grey that is not an embodiment of the Phoenix.

Jean’s first return began her rather convoluted history with the Phoenix Force. The relationship between the two has changed quite a bit over the years. During the Phoenix Saga the Phoenix was the ultimate expression of Jean’s psionic abilities. Later, it was revised (to allow Jean’s return despite editorial decree), now Phoenix was a separate cosmic entity that had replaced Jean and Jean had no ties to the actions of the Dark Phoenix. Later writers, tempted by popular idea, cosmic scale powers, and apparently a dearth of original Jean Grey stories, danced and hinted at the return of Jean’s Phoenix power levels. This finally culminated in the official return of her telekinesis and the Phoenix Force before her death in New X-Men.

Jean’s death in New X-men #150

Through the concept of the White Hot Room, the White Phoenix of the Crown, fan interpretation and stories like Phoenix: Endsong, Jean now has a HUGE PR problem. There are many people, apparently including some at Marvel, that would like to claim that Jean and the Phoenix Force are one entity, that other hosts are just borrowing Jean’s power, channeling her, and that she is the only true host and they are a single being. Here is where we run into the problem.

Why is that?

If Jean and the Phoenix are indeed a single being

Jean and Phoenix declaring each other “one” in Phoenix:Endsong

then this is where that leaves us:

Jean Grey murdered the D’Bari in cold blood. Let’s start with the easy one. The entire point in the beginning for separating Jean from the Phoenix was that Marvel declared a hero could not commit genocide and live. If Jean and Phoenix Force are one, then even though it wasn’t in Jean’s original body, the Phoenix committing the murder also makes Jean responsible. Jean is now a mass murderer out of the gate. But wait, there’s more and it gets personal.

Jean’s original return absolved her of this genocide. Merging her with the Phoenix puts her back on the hook.

It negates her entire development during the late 1980s and entire 1990s. It also makes Rachel’s hosting of the force while Jean is walking around with her telekinesis recovering and her telepathy gone make no sense. Apparently Jean’s hanging out with her daughter while she’s yelling at the other original members every 5 minutes because she stole her life from herself. What?

Jean Grey resurrected
Pretty much nothing makes sense from here until New X-men if Jean and the Phoenix are the same being in the past, present and future.

Jean apparently gave life to Madelyne Pryor just to mess with Scott Summers. The Phoenix is the one that animated Sinister’s Jean clone because it mistook her for Jean’s body in Jamaica Bay. And talk about screwing with someone’s head. Jean gave life to a clone by imbuing it with the Phoenix Force, which is her, marries Scott, goes mad and accuses him of leaving her for herself, sleeps with his brother and then…wait, what? And apparently Jean can’t tell the difference between herself, her clone, and her daughter.

Maddie and Phoenix
Madelyne being animated by Phoenix (Jean?) as seen in Uncanny X-men #241

And speaking of Rachel….Jean spent years rejecting anything to do with the Phoenix. She refused to marry Scott until she got her life back from Madelyne and the Phoenix (both of whom were apparently just her the whole time so I guess she was just stringing him along there…..) and she took it out on Rachel more than once. And considering that the Phoenix Force was the one that brought Rachel to Earth-616 in the first place, that pretty much makes Jean Phoenix the most sadistic split personality mother ever.

Jean utterly rejects the daughter she (Phoenix) brought here. X-Factor Annual #5.

The Phoenix left Rachel and abandoned her in the future. Jean is quickly losing ground on that mother of the year award.

Cable 85-86, The Phoenix (Jean) abandons Rachel at some point in the far future, leaving her to her own devices.

Jean Grey is responsible for the all of the chaos and destruction during AvX. All the cosmic chaos, those solar systems being destroyed as it heads to Earth, I guess that was Jean. That thing trying to forcibly possess Hope? Looks like that’s Jean too. The force that influenced the Phoenix 5 after Tony Stark did his splitting thing? That was all Jean. And that leads us to yet another working over of Scott Summers….

Avengers Vs. X-men #8. Phoenix (Jean) possesses the Phoenix 5 and forces her husband to steal Cap’s shield, Thor’s hammer and dress like Nightwing.

Jean Grey murdered Charles Xavier and used Scott Summers to do her dirty work. And here we are. If Jean is the Phoenix and the Phoenix is Jean, then it was Jean that pushed Scott to kill Charles Xavier. If the Phoenix cannot be separated from Jean if they are truly one, there is no way around it — Jean grey killed her mentor, her father figure, her friend, in cold blood, in complete control, and she used the love of her life to do it and left him holding the bag and wracked with guilt. Why does this woman have a school named after her again?

Classic X-men #42. She’s even standing in the same pose as Cyclops in AvX! I guess if first you don’t succeed, make your husband do it…

There are other examples, but those are the highlights. There it is. People ask why I object so strongly to Jean being one with the Phoenix as an idea. This is why. The idea of Jean as cosmically powered hero is sexy, but the reality is very ugly. As I see it, there are two choices:

1) Jean Grey is one with the Phoenix bound now and forever as one. In this case she is possibly the most odious character in the Marvel Universe. She casually extinguishes entirely civilizations. She messes with the heads of the people that love her the most. She is unbelievably cruel. And she abandons and murders her friends and family.

Jean Phoenix 1
New X-men 134. Phoenix makes a nice visual, but also a big mess.


2) Jean Grey was replaced by the Phoenix, she is a potential host, but her relationship with the entity ends there. With this option we have a Jean Grey that was sometimes empowered by the Phoenix, sometimes replaced by it, but not one with it. Her history makes sense, and she’s a hero in her own right able to move on, reject the Phoenix, develop her powers and find her own identity. This is the Jean I want.

Just Jean Grey
Uncanny X-men #300. Jean unequivocally declares she’s a force to be reckoned with all on her own.

With All-New X-men we’ve seen a completely different take on Jean, she’s grown into a massively powerful character without the Phoenix and she’s been incredibly interesting. This is a bit of wrench for me, because this is what Jean could have been if they hadn’t kept trying to force the Phoenix onto her. When she returned, Jean’s central story was her struggle to claim her identity back from everyone she felt was trying to take it from her — The Phoenix, Madelyne, Rachel.

I love Jean. I loved the Dark Phoenix Saga. I loved Rachel as Phoenix and the way Excalibur tied it all up. But it’s time to let it go. Should Jean return, the Phoenix needs to move on and leave Jean alone. She’s not just an empty vessel for a cosmic mess-maker. She’s an X-man and a kickass one at that. Bring Jean back, let her be herself, and let her show that she’s awesome because she’s her.

22 Comments Add yours

  1. Abarai says:

    An excellent post… I’m agree with you.. Jean grey should’ve been developed as a single person, not only a host for the phoenix force…


    1. chamlet5127 says:

      Thanks, glad you liked it!


  2. Clarence Nash says:

    So, why can’t we just settle for O5 Jean? I’m actually beginning to think that this Jean has more potential. She isn’t tied to either Scooter or James and it’s awesome and independent and she’s so powerful already that I believe when the inevitable Phoenix Force comes, she’ll reject it. That she’ll tell it that a cosmic force need not hold a host.


    1. loz says:

      I agree Clarence. O5 jean has become more interesting to me. Great article Christina.


    2. chamlet5127 says:

      The O5 in general are going to have to go home eventually, especially since they’ve shown that what happens to them affects 616. And I agree O5 Jean is great! I just want to know why we can’t have that level of awesome Jean with our own, present-day adult 616 Jean. Instead we have to keep coming back to the Phoenix Force and sarcastic story lines about her revolving door death cycle.


  3. Brian says:

    The writer of this article is arguing from the point that just because two entities are tied together- that means they are both consciously aware of each other. When Jean and Phoenix finally “Merged” and became one the whole destiny thing came into play. But Phoenix created Jean-not the other way around. Jean Grey the human being cannot be targeted with those faults just because the forces that created her rampaged and killed innocent lives (something that looks negligible in the cosmic scheme). Jean Grey has become the “conscious” of the Phoenix force when she is alive and until she returns it’s going to act as instinctively as its meant to. And 05 Jean already became a Phoenix host for a moment, and she didn’t reject it. She used it to warp reality to save millions of lives.


    1. chamlet5127 says:

      Hi Brian, thanks for the comment! Actually what I’m doing is responding to numerous comments that I’ve seen/heard over the years that “Phoenix is Jean and Jean is Phoenix.” The Phoenix is a force of creation and arguably created all life, so in that context the Phoenix did create Jean. But if you mean that the Phoenix created Jean specifically to be a host and that is Jean’s main purpose, then that doesn’t make much sense in the context of Excalibur #52 (I think that’s the right number) where the Phoenix explains that it just happened upon Jean above the planet while it was looking for Feron…..


    2. Phoenix created Jean..? Not getting at you or anything, Brian, but can you give me a reference to that? I’m genuinely fascinated!


  4. Psychodad says:

    Brian, I think one of the things that chamlet was getting at is that if you consider Jean/Phoenix as a single entity, you don’t get to pick and choose when they’re together and when they’re separate. viewing them as a single entity means that Jean has to take the blame for all of the atrocities committed by the Phoenix (both on a planet-wide scale as well as those a bit more personal).


  5. LOVE IT! Bring her back fully separate from the PF and call her Ash. Give her an X-team to lead and let her natural mutant abilities simulate 05’s skill set. Also, don’t have her jump back into relationship mode with Scott (OR LOGAN!). Then I shall be happy and the world can prosper.


    1. chamlet5127 says:

      Thanks London! I would love to see her on her own and not with anyone for a good long while if she comes back. She needs some “me” time!


  6. When did O5 Jean become Phoenix? I think I’ve missed something.


    1. chamlet5127 says:

      Did you read “No More Humans?”


      1. Aaah. No More Humans. I haven’t, but I will in a few days.


      2. chamlet5127 says:

        Then yes, you missed something 😀


  7. Adam says:

    I love Jean and I love the Phoenix (the older version at least), but as this article demonstrates the Phoenix concept has been warped and badly rewritten for so long trying to do anything with it opens a Pandora’s Box of continuity fuster cluck. It’s been going on practically since the original “Jean” died.

    I’m glad Jean is back, at least in teenage form, and so far has no trace of Phoenix, because any time the cosmic chicken does come around it means Jean is about to make a gloriously unfortunate exit.


  8. aftabx says:

    I wouldn’t that the Phoenix Force and Jean were one from the beginning, but maybe after Endsong Jean told the Phoenix that they were meant to be together to find their missing parts which is why they went to the white hot room. And after finding their parts led to AvX which would explain Jeans absence. Because she was meant to help the Phoenix not be the Phoenix.

    I do get the writers when say that jean and Phoenix is one being. But I believe that over the years jean forced to Phoenix to move on. Which means that after AvX Jean and Phoenix remained separate.


  9. I like to see Jean/Phoenix relationship as simbiotic.I see Phoenix as an alien being, never as a cosmic entity…I belive the great trouble was the vision of some individuals as John Byrne ans Roger Stern to see Jean’s reformulation as Phoenix as a menace. There are stereotyped points of view about the women’s paper in comics…The great true is the the writer/penciller point of view (Claremont & Cockrum) against the rest of the team point of view (Byrne/Stern/Shooter and after Morrison). Well, In any case, Phoenix saga never was written as Claremont/Cockrum original vision: Re-create Jean as a female equal of Thor.


  10. Baran says:

    Hı, actually ı am a huge jean grey fan but ı agreed with you. Not the worst one. Now they TRY to Fix it with all new xmen. I thing it is great idea. There is lots of People who loves jean grey. She shouldnt die. Although she died for her team every time, just kill gambit or another x-man. I hope, she is not going to die in all new xmen if she die again, some Fans could be very angry about it. Good writing.


  11. Jay Xavier says:

    Arent you forgetting that the Phoenix-Force is Life itself? “I am Life incarnate..” a cosmic entity that touches every single thing in the known universe…opposite of he entity Death…..the Phoenix-Force creates sparks of LIFE (souls)…and Death itself had that conversation with Jean Grey and said …”who said the two are mutually exclusive?” Jean thought that the Phoenix was a separate entity….technically it is…Cosmic entities are a part of EVERYTHING…but Death itself said Jean’s soul was the closest match that came from the Phoenix…Technically, Jean’s own soul was one of the Phoenix’s missing pieces all along….The Phoenix ….All that the Phoenix did ….with Xavier’s presumed Death, destruction of d’bari system was to set certain events into motion…


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