Jean Grey #5
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Penciler: Anthony Piper
Cover Artist: David Yardin
Colorist: Jay David Ramos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
What You Need to Know:
In the beginning Jean Grey was under the delusion that she could actually hide from an omnipotent cosmic entity. All those who have hosted the Phoenix force assured her that she cannot. Having come to terms with the inevitable reality in which fate will force her to one day soon come face to face with life, death, and fire, Jean Grey has decided her only option is to fight back.
What You’ll Find Out:
The god of thunder (or used to be I guess,) told a young girl that one of the essential hallmarks of any great warrior is the weapon they wield. Being exceptionally resourceful, Jean seeks out the foremost weapons expert she knows. None other than the purple haired Brit locked inside of a Japanese body, telepathic femme fatale, Psylocke.
Having spent years training and mastering her technical abilities, Jean gets the crash course. Betsy teaches Jean that everyone’s power lies in a unique aspect of the individual and after a few attempts yield nothing, Betsy correctly surmises that Jean Grey is most powerful in moments of fear and tests the tenets of her theory by forcing an unexpected encounter with mole monsters. With her assumptions proven to be true, Psylocke knows that the next step is to refine her ability.
Returning to familiar territory, Psylocke uses the Hand, a collective of undead Ninjas, to provide ample opportunity to give Grey the same tools she received so many years ago. Grey enters the compound and utilizes her fear as a source of strength and though she is no ninja, she proves to be remarkably imaginative by creating numerous weapons, even going so far as to emulate Wolverine’s claws. Psylocke explains that her ability to do so in such a rapid manner is due squarely to being an omega level psionic with a unique mind which has proven time and again to be the Phoenix’s favored host.
The mission to cull the Hand’s restoration base continues to proceed well by Psylocke’s standards until Jean reaches a moment of distraction causing her to lose concentration and plummet into a room in which she is outnumbered by the dozens. Psylocke rushes to her aid but to her surprise her young pupil is not only unharmed but has defeated the horde and establishes with certainty that though her fear runs deep, so too does the depth of her power.
As the master and apprentice disembark Psylocke remarks to Jean’s utter shock that she knew the cause of the distraction in the ventilation shaft was actually a familiar presence attempting to communicate with her and urges Grey to find out exactly who.
What Just Happened?
Simply put, Jean Grey presents another superb issue, possibly the strongest one yet.
I started to wonder after my fondness and affection began to grow for Jean’s solo title that as so often with our favorite X-books, somehow things would take a sharp turn in direction and begin to miss a series of opportunities and shatter high expectations. With so much positive momentum I feared that it was very possible a peak may be coming early for book that has garnered so much attention. I am delighted to have been wrong.
The illustration in this issue rendered by newcomer Anthony Piper has the markings of a true artist. It was invigorating to turn each page and see the repertoire of methods used to create striking visuals. Piper demonstrates clean lines and clear depictions in a manner lost in a market that demands high productivity at the price of quality. Each panel conveys pleasing design both in moments of stillness or capturing high level action.
After the conclusion of the 4th issue and previewing the cover of the coming installment featuring Psylocke clearly teaching Jean her trademark skillset, I thought very distinctly that issue #5 was going to be a make or break moment for the fledgling series. The inclusion of another of the X-Men’s most popular telepaths and fan rival had to be executed with absolute perfection or the fallout would be immense. Whereas so many writers will use guest appearances for lackluster stories or instances to boost the main character and undercut the other, this is especially true with female characters who are so often portrayed sniping at one another or perpetuating a one dimensional, shallow, mean girl dynamic.
Hopeless rejects such tactics in favor of using these appearances with specific purpose and enhancements to further the plot while conveying truth to the reader. What Dennis Hopeless does so well is to clearly capture each character’s complex elements and strikes a balance between them all. After reading an issue scripted by Hopeless it is simple to communicate the distinct identities of each character. In this issue, the writer gets a chance to illustrate his own depiction of Psylocke. In the most recent Uncanny run, Betsy was rendered as angry, mistrusting, on constant edge, and devoid of any of her lighter aspects. Here we have a far more flexible representation which is likable, patient, smart, and clever. Her character has been trapped under the weight of darkness for so long that she would have been the last person I could envision doing anything other than killing or pining after Archangel. After seeing her interaction with the teenage Jean it is far more palatable for me to see her presented in the role of teacher and guide. Psylocke and Jean fans, like myself, will undoubtedly enjoy the exchange as Jean references her prior interaction with Odinson.
Hopeless’s primary achievement lies in the brilliance in which he has developed the identity of the main character with true authenticity. Jean’s personality is that of a headstrong young woman who more often than not leans toward a grounded morality yet wrestles with all the inherent self-conscious insecurities that are natural territory for a teenage girl who’s emotions can be unpredictable at any given time. Her inner dialogue is conveyed so realistically that fans gain clarity and understanding as she rationalizes questions about her own constant mortality that mystify even the most established adults.
I would strongly assert that Dennis Hopeless is perhaps one of the many writers assigned to an x-book that fans should have the reward of knowing but is also quite possibly providing the most exciting tales among his peers. It is my sincere hope that despite the practice of rotating creative teams, Dennis Hopeless’ tenure with Jean Grey is met with abundant longevity.
Final thought: The one thing X-Men fans love to do remarkably often is to compare, contrast, and contest the host of female telepaths within their ranks in a futile effort to flush out who among them is superior. Dennis Hopeless takes a higher road by using the bonds of friendship and unique character attributes to highlight the strengths of the two foremost among them and gives fans of both an abundance to celebrate in exchange for their dedication and faith. Though the solo title is central to Grey, Hopeless utilizes his stories to provide equal footing to all characters and brilliant moments for both Jean and the montage of guests wisely choosing to build up their contributions rather than tear them down.