2017 is here and Marvel is closing out the year with a potent flame. X-Men founding hero Jean Grey is making her return to the Marvel Universe and you’re kidding yourself if you think we weren’t going to be here to celebrate the series and the return of the Marvel mainstay!
Phoenix Resurrection: The Return Of Jean Grey #1
Written by Matthew Rosenberg Illustrated by Leinil Francis Yu Inked by Gerry Alanguilan Colored by Rachelle Rosenberg Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Some publishers just want to watch the year burn. Please excuse me while I once again, reflect on the past couple years of X-Men publishing. The X-Franchise as a whole has been finally trying to move forward with huge storylines like 2011’s Schism and 2012 Avengers Vs. X-Men which introduced sweeping deaths and status quo changes that ushered readers into the modern X-Men Universe. That time seems to be over now and Marvel appears to be looking more closely into the past instead of forward. Readers seem to be ready for this change and want to see a more classic version of the team take center stage. Marvel Legacy #1 was a step in that direction, then the publisher announced plans to bring back founding X-Men Jean Grey. Thankfully Phoenix Resurrection: The Return Of Jean Grey #1 doesn’t seem like it is going to be a cut and dry version of an infamous comic book resurrection storyline. After all, killing characters is easy but keeping them around and generating the interest in bringing the hero back to life is the tricky part. The full creative team also has to brave a feeling of been-there, done-that which lots of X-Men books are battling right now with varying degrees of success.
From the opening pages, Phoenix Resurrection keeps you on your toes by introducing new characters in a disturbed, dramatic opening scene. Moments like these almost make me wonder if someone forgot to tell writer Matthew Rosenberg the return of Jean Grey is supposed to be a happy concept? After the return of the Phoenix, Jean Grey #10 and the horrific year of 2017, I think the tone of the comic starts to make more sense. The worst sin which this book could have committed is to be boring and thankfully this doesn’t seem to be the case for this installment. Across the board, the comic keep readers guessing and introduces new aspects of the character and circumstances to bring the hero back which should even keep longtime X-Men fans happy. However, even this issue isn’t without some of the trademark Marvel event weirdness planting Kitty Pryde to assemble a horde of X-Men on moments notice without really showing why or how she got all of these famous mutants together in one room so quickly. Also, this brings out another huge flaw in the comic overall being that the stakes of this story are barely established until the very end of the book.
Thankfully, of all the characters to die and come back, Jean Grey feels worth making some fuss about. Grey has been dead for over a decade now which is the equivalent of 1,000,000 years in Marvel Universe continuity time. Even for all its faults, this issue really mixes the typical hero returning-to-life storyline by bringing so many mystical elements and strange narratives together. This comic ties into a major plot point from Marvel Legacy #1 in an extraordinary manner. The element the last couple pages bring to the story is another high point, showing the ambition the narrative has and a vast array of tones the comic can stitch together very quickly. The penultimate sequence seems to be the biggest indicator of what’s coming for the rest of the series and has me very excited at the prospect of X-Men: Red and every story still to come with Jean.
Leinil Yu is a stellar artist and continues to lend his strong artistic talents to the X-Men. However, it is hard to not be slightly disappointed to see Marvel having an artist draw the series who hasn’t tackled the X-Men in an event setting so soon. Yu’s pencils are sharp-as-ever as the artist does a fantastic job differentiating each character in the massive group scenes. The sprawling action sequences also account for a large group of X-Men continue to look fantastic. With some of the scenes towards the end of the book, there’s a certain majesty and sense of scale Rosenberg’s script calls for that Yu brings out with stoic poses. The artist is more than up to the task of drawing an epic event storyline, but it would be great to see him do something completely out of his wheelhouse at the publisher.
At the end of the day, I want the X-Men to really challenge me or show me something new with the additional asset of characters I already love. For so long this franchise has been blazing forward, and then the overall direction began to stagnate when the time-displaced X-Men lingered on for multiple years. The publisher is once again at a turning point for these characters and must find a happy medium between keeping stories the same and giving readers what they want. Change is in the air for the X-Men and I have hope Phoenix Resurrection: The Return Of Jean Grey will be a step back and forward to the publisher to make everyone happy.
Verdict: Buy. X-Men fans are not going to want to miss this promising debut.
This week seemed to be quite solid for Marvel even being so close to the end of the year. I have my eyes on the last of the Bendis books with this week’s Spider-Men II #5 and Invincible Iron Man #595 but can’t find anything to say about them. I’m late to the party here but Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw’s take on Thanos has been a blast so far and there’s still no risk Max Bemis and Jacen Burrow’s won’t take on there bold, brash Moon Knight run. Also, did you guys here Dan Slott is leaving Amazing Spider-Man?
Be here with us next week to celebrate the return of Adam Warlock!
Fruit snack aficionado. @AlexandComics