Marvel’s all-powerful Phoenix Force is many things. The cosmic being is capable of causing great destruction, while simultaneously sowing the seeds of hope. Above all, the majestic Phoenix is a thing of beauty you can’t help but be in awe of.
Everything I’ve said so far can also be applied to Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey #5 by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artists Leinil Francis Yu and Joe Bennett–a true love letter to the first X-Woman.
Throughout the course of this five-issue miniseries, Rosenberg and his artistic collaborators have jerked readers around in the best way, planting multiple mysteries and misdirections so that you, like Jean inside her Phoenix’s egg-shaped prison, never quite knew what to believe. And much like the Phoenix, Rosenberg has been priming us for a final issue featuring one emotional gut punch after another.
Obviously, I’m not spoiling anything when I say that waitress Jean finally snaps out of it, thanks to a (surprisingly controversial) intervention from Old Man Logan, which began at the end of last issue. While some readers may have preferred to see Storm or Beast marching into Annie’s Diner rather than an alternate version of Wolverine, Rosenberg and Yu put the doubters to bed with an entertaining and effective opening scene.
Logan’s sipping coffee with one hand and slashing throats with the other. This is pitch-perfect aged Wolverine with a side of killer quippage. Remember, he’s the best there is at what he does. And what he does isn’t very nice.
It’s not long before Jean remembers everything, blows up her quaint diner cocoon and emerges in an all-new Phoenix uniform that borrows Phoenix Five Cyclops’ color scheme (heads-up, Hasbro!). But if you’ve been paying attention to the story Rosenberg’s been telling, this was never going to be yet another Phoenix vs. the X-Men epic. This is very much Marvel’s final statement on Jean Grey’s relationship with the Phoenix–among other characters.
At least, it should be.
And with that said, we are about to fly head-first into major spoilers and analysis, so if you want to save some surprises for the comic, do not read beyond this image.So, as I was saying, this comic is clearly set up to be the conclusion to the seemingly never-ending Phoenix saga. I kind of thought that’s what Avengers Vs. X-Men was meant to be, but apparently not. In this miniseries, Rosenberg has given us a Phoenix that is disturbingly obsessed with Jean Grey. It’s so obsessed with its favorite vessel, it can’t let her rest in peace. Rosenberg strips away all the action and excitement and reveals this relationship for what it is: abusive.
The Phoenix loves Jean–it wants Jean to understand how much they can accomplish together. But Jean doesn’t feel the same way. Jean has to make this space god realize this is a one-sided relationship that benefits neither of them. And what’s so moving about their exchange, is that it isn’t settled with yet another fastball special or magic. Jean Grey, the heart and soul of the X-Men, defeats the Phoenix with her words. With her compassion.
This comic carries so much emotional weight that, for Marvel to ignore its impact (just as the publisher found a way around Jean’s original death back in the 1980s), would undercut everything Rosenberg accomplishes here. To once again merge Jean and the Phoenix in time for the release of X-Men: Dark Phoenix would be a slap in Jean’s face. Respect your characters, Marvel–and the readers who love them.
And as I alluded to earlier, there is another final statement in this comic on Jean’s other iconic relationship. Yes, Rosenberg followed through with that first issue tease and did indeed bring back adult Cyclops… briefly.
As a fan of Scott and Jean, the emotional scene at the climax of this comic made the issue for me. This is closure fans of the couple–and Cyclops himself–probably never though they’d see, as so many creators post-Grant Morrison latched onto the nonstop sex fest that was the doomed Scott and Emma Frost relationship.
I feel as though, this is the first time we’re seeing the true Scott and Jean in a very long time. Maybe death provides a sense of clarity. While badass revolutionary Cyclops was cool, I can’t help but think that was a man who lost his way without Jean’s influence. Emma is certainly a strong figure, but she can’t hold a candle to Jean, who helped give Scott purpose time and time again. You could say that so much happened, such as the death of Charles Xavier, because Jean wasn’t alive to make things better.Either way, we’re treated to a deeply intimate scene between a husband and wife (beautifully rendered by Joe Bennett) that wipes away years of story shocks with just a simple conversation. Again, it’s that Jean effect.
There’s also a deep sense of sadness that unfolds throughout this scene. This is the same Scott and Jean who met and fell in love as teenagers, who felt so hopeful on their wedding day. Time has not been kind to them. Here, for a brief moment, they reclaim their happiness they lost so long ago, before it’s time for a final goodbye. In a cruel reversal, it’s Jean who has to watch Scott die.
Now, certainly, I have questions here. Why does Scott, who the Phoenix resurrected, have to die, but Jean can live? Isn’t she too better off dead? And–fanboy complaint–why, oh why, couldn’t Rosenberg let both characters live and lead the X-Men toward a new age of glory? Jean is the perfect person to help redeem him! Maybe some of my questions will be answered in X-Men Red. I certainly hope that at least a few of the events that transpired in Phoenix Resurrection aren’t forgotten in the comics ahead.
Ultimately, this miniseries far exceeded my expectations, making it one of the great X-Men events, in my opinion. It managed to bring back Jean and release her into the Marvel Universe free of the shackles that have defined her for so long–the Phoenix and Cyclops. I truly look forward to seeing who modern Jean Grey chooses to be.