This week Marvel is doubling down on Jean Grey as the hero makes her triumphant return to the Marvel Universe. What does Jean’s sudden return mean for Marvel’s younger version of the character and are these books any good? Find out this week in The Marvel Rundown!
Phoenix Resurrection #5
Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Illustrated by Leinil Francis Yu and Joe Bennett
Inked by Gerry Alanguilan and Belardino Brabo
Colored by Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
Jean Grey might be the closest thing Marvel currently has to a zombie. No matter how many times the publisher decides to kill Grey off she always seems to come back. While I’m not sure what major decision sparked The House of Ideas to think bringing back the character was the right idea for the franchise at this very moment, I do think Phoenix Resurrection #5 is another moment of progression even though the past couple weeks of this mini-series has only been inching forward plot-wise at a snail’s pace to get to this big moment. Compressed storytelling is a disease plaguing comics for years and lessens the impact this final chapter could have had if there was more plot or higher stakes between the different characters in these last couple of moments.
Writer Matthew Rosenberg and editorial give the Phoenix a lot of words in this chapter and personifying a force like this one with characterization takes the mystery away and reduces the awesome fear the Phoenix inspires. It has been disappointing over the past couple years to see the premiere X-Men villain squandered in such a manner. Gripes aside though, Rosenberg saves the script from redundancy and blandness by integrating a couple lovely sequences nailing the characterization of Grey and adds flair to this continuity-heavy exploration into the next phase of the X-Men as a series.
While the story never quite finds a way too utilize Jean’s new life in a manner that sparked the imagination of readers, the big scene between Grey and Old Man Logan brought the grit the writer intended for the moment to have. When the twists and larger scope of the issue start to form the tension naturally goes away. The worst moment as singled out above is the aggressively wordy take on the Phoenix bringing the comic to a grinding halt until Rosenberg stumbles into a deadly reunion between Grey and an old friend. The big moment deepens the characterization of Grey who can come off too stiff or be pushed to the sideline of X-Men stories too often. The last page ends the comic on the right note and restores what Jean was missing back to her in a sad, melancholy way.
Artists Leinil Yu and Joe Bennett both do exceptional work in the pages as the moments with Old Man Logan are truly filled with a regret and sadness in Yu’s facial expressions and subtle layouts. The different ways the artist draws Old Man Logan’s face vs. Grey’s is also a welcomed difference sticking out nicely. Yu nails the big splash page and the colors from Rachelle Rosenberg really make the moment start to come alive–I would love to have the original page from this scene. Most of Joe Bennett’s work retains a high level of quality until the last two pages which both seem slightly rushed at certain points. Bennett’s style shifts off from Yu’s fairly seamlessly despite the fact each member of the art team is such a different type of creator.
While it is easy to single this final installment of Phoenix Resurrection as a good issue, it is unclear if Grey’s full potential will be able to be realized in this life. Hopefully next week’s X-Men: Red will realign the board and provide a reason and role for Grey’s return. There are plenty of strong moments in the script but the highly compressed plotting likely made it very difficult for some fans to enjoy this issue. Devoted X-Men readers will probably appreciate some of the finer details of this story but this is hardly required reading even for those looking to pick up X-Men: Red #1 next week.
Final Verdict: BROWSE–Phoenix Resurrection #5 has good intentions and two wonderful scenes but carries lots of baggage & struggles to answer why Grey had to come back.
Jean Grey #11
Written by Dennis Hopeless
Illustrated by Victor Ibanez and Alberto Albuquerque
Colored by Jay David Ramos
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
Jean Grey #11 is a bittersweet comic for me, as my expectations for the book likely got in the way. With the return of the adult Grey and the enormous cliffhanger from the last issue, I thought the big revelation from the previous issue was going to stick and Marvel was going to chart the next foot forward for young Jean Grey. However, this tease was not permanent and this story became a beautiful and well-executed look into the young Grey’s mind, but also a sign Marvel as a whole may be afraid to take the risks needed to really bring the X-Men back to the forefront of comics. However, I can’t deny Jean Grey #11 is a good periodical comic book and a fine way to close out the series as a whole.
This story has charted interesting territory and documented fascinating psychically-inclined cast members from Magik to The Stepford Cuckoos. The ongoing as a whole has also been building to these final moments which feel climactic and intentional. However, the final answers to the mysteries introduced in the chapter deflate the tension in the issue and start to make me wonder how loose Marvel’s continuity can be as someone can be dead one month and alive the next. Stories like these are too obvious and end up doing damage to the expectations of the reader. For a franchise needing serious energy, it is highly disappointing Jean Grey #11 is as close as readers have gotten to something big happening for the X-Men in the past couple years.
This chapter in particular wisely covers lots of ground and explores interesting locales for Grey’s corner of the Marvel Universe. Writer Dennis Hopeless explores a full cast of psychic mutants making a tale has lots of variety and more than a few twists laced in for good measure. Seeing stories the younger Jean was never involved in intersecting with her life becomes fascinating. However, the last couple pages tie the narrative up neatly and have the same stumbling blocks as Phoenix Resurrection with the premiere X-Men villain now characterized as your average chatty Cathy. The last scene also reads a little hokey and cute for a comic threatening a huge death last month.
Artists Victor Ibanez and Alberto Alburqueque turn in exceptional work in the chapter. Grey’s facial features are well-defined and the demons lurking around the story look vivid and stick out. The art has a strong Yannick Paquette influences, offering the story a painterly loaded with detail and strong expressions. The story even switches up genres, evoking a period piece and dark sci-fi influence at one point. The full creative team shows a strong versatility and creative energy towards the medium of comics as a whole. The last couple pages cram detail, clarity and a unique flow which nicely illustrates the illusion of movement. Late in the issue, Grey throws her jack in the air and instead of seeing her toss the jacket, it is suspended in air–this dynamic panel is a wonderful addition to the comic.
If you are a massive X-Men fan this is a pretty important issue which you won’t want to miss but if you aren’t dedicated to the series or this particular installment this is an easy borrow. Also, this series still hasn’t quite captured the conservative nature the time-displaced X-Men should still have– they have not strayed from the future long enough to lose all their old habits and speech patterns and it was always disappointing to see this ongoing series not capture those elements correctly.
Final Verdict: BORROW! Jean Grey #11 has good ideas but doesn’t properly follow-up on the twist seen the last issue and also fails to justify why having two Jean’s is a good idea.
Next week we follow the pair of Grey’s into X-Men: Red #1 and catch a glimpse of a long-lost hero in Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock #1!