Jean Grey #6
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Penciler: Paul Davidson
Cover Artist: David Yardin
Colorist: Jay David Ramos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
What You Need to Know:
The story of Jean Grey is the definition of fight or flight. Upon arriving from the past, it wasn’t long before providence demanded her to fill a role she never wanted or deserved. The forces that commanded the life and fortune of her adult counterpart have invaded and continue to hound the young girl who, unlike her predecessor, does not have the luxury which events unfold naturally. This Jean did not have decades of preparation and life experience which still cost the woman her life. Instead, now only a child, she has been thrust into a desperate search to find a means of survival.
What You’ll Find Out:
After Psylocke confirmed that an unknown presence was trying to make contact, Jean has sought the help of the world’s foremost expert in sorcery, Dr. Strange, who performs an exorcism to ferret out the concealed influence.
Released from the binds of their corporeal forms, the pair are quickly swept away onto the pathway of Jean’s very soul, and defended by her cosmic nemesis, the Phoenix. As journey’s go, Phoenix acts both as guide and guardian determined to force a variety of tests designed to drive the young woman to face her deepest fears and greatest weaknesses.
Finding herself in familiar territory at first, Jean revisits past events in which she is dismissive and earns the ire of her inner spirit who intern casts them out. The pair arrive at the next phase in which Jean and Wolverine are the only remaining X-Men facing the Acolytes. Again, adult Jean challenges the youth’s preconceived notions and conventions that her adult life is nothing but mired in tragedy and misfortune and that if she is to have any chance in surviving what’s to come let alone change it, she will be required to admit the merits of the existence of the woman she wholly rejects. Jean’s youthful immaturity supersedes reason and patience quickly turns to heated anger. As she lashes out, the setting shatters. Jean’s fury turns into humiliation as she is forced to watch the confrontation resulting from the romantic triangle between her husband, his lover, and herself. Frost launches a barrage of her trademark barbs as the teenager continues to resist and deny the life and importance of her adult counterpart. Her pride and disdain incite the entity to goad her further and Jean reaches the apex of her test. Strange warns the stubborn teen that this is the moment of critical importance. Jeans continued condemnation can no longer continue and she has no other choice but to face the truth. Everything she is, everything she will become, the woman who she so fervently rejects are all one and the same. As Jean finally surrenders to her newfound enlightenment, the Phoenix explodes returning she and Strange to the mortal realm where the spirit of the adult Jean Grey is waiting for her, clearly affirming there are more lessons to be learned.
What Just Happened?
In the beginning, Jean sought out the knowledge of the Phoenix through its prior hosts in a vain attempt to flee an inescapable fate. Then she decided to fight the cosmic force by training with the strongest fighters she could find. It seems however that her survival can only be found by going to the source itself. Hopeless initiates another chapter by wryly utilizing mysticism and spiritual journey which Jean will be forced one way or another to not just accept the woman who came before her, but to know and acknowledge her. The question will be if the original Jean will act as more sadistic version of Yoda while Teen Jean assumes the mantle of a less compliant Skywalker.
Just when I began to wonder what other possible avenues were left for Jean before the story would force itself to reach its inevitable climax, Hopeless spins the reader around in the most unexpected of ways and gives the tale a clever new terrain to explore while at the same time realizing a truly career defining moment.
Many have speculated what a Jean Grey solo book would be without the Phoenix and how long can such a plot last. With uncanny diligence and carefully planned forethought, Dennis Hopeless has just achieved a significant accomplishment. Not only does the story of Jean’s mortal and transcendent struggle with the Phoenix receive a renewed and prolonged expiration date, but the scope of the legend itself has perhaps just unveiled what fans will reflect on as a milestone in Jean Grey history in the years to come. It is quite possible that the 6th installment of the solo title which by all accounts would chronicle the journey of “Teen Jean,” will candidly challenge the reader to reexamine what we truly think and know about who Jean Grey really was in her roles as the standard feminine figure as the first female member, and may conceivably defy the archetypes we have come to believe about her since her introduction in 1963.
There have been many authors who have endeavored to truly break new ground in X-Men history in the same magnitude as era’s known as the Claremont, Morrison, or Whedon runs, but have had mixed too little success. Dennis Hopeless stands on the precipice of something truly great as he could potentially redefine the essence of Jean Grey in the issues ahead and create a new mold in which all other writers’ hereafter will both acknowledge and build from.
Then again, equal risk of failure could occur if fans reject what is considered cannon. If the pendulum swings too far from the center in an effort to be too edgy, bold, and daring, the results could be disastrous. We all have seen the unfortunate consequences of creative narcissism over the years such as the botched origin of Xorn, the irrelevant melodrama of Schism, or extreme discomfort most felt by Xavier’s confession of love for Jean during the debacle of Onslaught. I am optimistic for the former as Hopeless has consistently taken risks and navigated one of Marvel’s key figures with strong positive critical reception and continued success.
However, it’s unfortunate that such a benchmark was not supported by supplying Hopeless in such a vital issue with the competency of a better artist. The work of Paul Davidson is likely the lowest illustrative point from the volume thus far. Part of me wanted to believe that he was selected to lend a whimsical, surreal, or trippy, visual context to a story that takes place on the landscape of the soul and core of the inner being. Davidson has moments that are reminiscent of Alan Davis’s work and ideas depicting the Phoenix literally consuming Strange and Teen Jean, roasting Scott, and torching the classroom as malevolence strides toward its prey are well-intentioned. However, Davidson simply is not up to the task and fails to match Hopeless’s energy through sloppy, juvenile depictions in which physical proportions aren’t consistent and the range is entirely one dimensional. Jay David Ramos certainly earned his supper by providing what little support he could by giving highlights and shadowing to the few scenes of impact, but overall doesn’t have much to work with in the awkward pairing with Davidson.
Final Thought: Issue #6 is potentially a decisive crossroad in which Dennis Hopeless continues his ambitious bid to explore new territory. While maintaining the evolution of the teenage adaptation in the coming issues through inventive and creative methods, Hopeless may possibly pioneer a totally new context to fundamental events spanning decades through her own suppressed and censored perspective, and for some fans utterly smashing the iconography and paradigm of everything we thought we knew about Jean Grey.