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