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October 16, 2011

Marvel Snapshot: Character Spotlight: Jean Grey/Phoenix

Welcome back one and all to another Marvel Snapshot! Your friendly neighborhood Billy is too busy having fun at New York Comic Con to mind this column (Whatever! I’m not jealous at all), so I decided to hijack it. If I’m going to spotlight any character in the Marvel Universe, it’s going to be my personal favorite, Jean Grey-Summers (Phoenix).  Since Jean Grey sometimes possesses the awesome cosmic power of the Phoenix Force, it also ties into the Marvel “cosmic” theme that has been going on here for the last few weeks. (At least that’s how I’m justifying it.)

Jean Grey was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and first appeared in X-Men #1 (Sept., 1963). Jean first came to Professor Xavier’s attention after she experienced the death of a friend telepathically. Her father, who was a friend and colleague of Xavier’s, asked him to help her through this difficult time. Xavier decided that the best course of action would be to place mental blocks in Jean’s mind that only allowed her access to her powers gradually so she could learn to better control them. When Professor X formed the X-Men and opened his School for Gifted Youngsters, Jean was the only female X-Man chosen. As the only girl on the team, Jean soon gained the affections of both Warren Worthington III (Angel) and Scott “Slim” Summers (Cyclops). Jean ultimately chose Cyclops, and thus began one of the most complex and epic relationships ever.

On one mission, all the X-Men were captured, and Professor X was forced to recruit a new team to go rescue his old one. Among this second group was a Canadian mutant known as Wolverine (Logan). Wolverine almost immediately took a liking to Jean and she to him. Needless to say, this caused major tension between Scott and Logan that remains to this very day. A little while later, Jean nearly died while helping  the X-Men return home from a mission in space. The craft she was piloting crashed into the bay, and Jean emerged from the bay more powerful than ever and calling herself Phoenix. As Phoenix, Jean was instrumental in saving the universe from the mad Shi’ar ruler D’ken. Eventually, the Hellfire Club made a play to try and control Phoenix and her awesome abilities. By appealing to her darker desires, they temporarily succeeded in making her into their new Black Queen. Unfortunately for them, releasing the dark side of Phoenix’s mind only led to their defeat, and even worse, helped to unleash a massively powerful cosmic monster onto the universe. The Phoenix’s desire for power drove her to destroy an entire star system. With the help of Professor X and the X-Men, Jean was able to subdue the Phoenix persona and once again regain control. Tragically however,  it was too late, for the Shi’ar had already learned of her actions and the new Majestrix Lilandra had ordered that the Jean/Phoenix entity be terminated. The X-Men tried to fight off Lilandra’s Imperial Guard in an epic battle on the moon’s dark side, but they were out matched. When Cyclops was nearly killed by the Imperial Guard, Jean lost control and the Phoenix persona manifested once again. Jean overcame the Phoenix once again and decided that killing herself was the only way she could keep the Phoenix from hurting anyone ever again.

Years later, the Fantastic Four discovered a cocoon at the bottom of the ocean containing the body of Jean Grey. As it turns out, during that fateful space mission some years back, the Phoenix Force had taken on Jean Grey’s form and essence, and placed the real Jean Grey into a cocoon in suspended animation. Unbeknownst to Jean, while she was “away” Cyclops had gotten married to Madelyne Pryor (a clone of Jean Grey created by Mr. Sinister) and had a child with her named Nathan. Upon hearing the news that Jean was alive, Scott left his wife and son to be with Jean on a new team called X-Factor with the other original X-Men. Some time later, Madelyne uncovered her true twisted origin and went crazy. She made a deal with some demons and planed to sacrifice Nathan in order to open a gateway between earth and limbo. She was ultimately defeated by the combined might of X-Factor and the X-Men. Upon Madelyne’s death, Jean Grey learned that it was the Phoenix Force that had inadvertently given the clone life. The Phoenix Force then took the aspects of Jean that existed in itself and in Madelyne Pryor, and returned them to Jean, essentially making her whole once again.

Just as Jean was beginning to feel normal again, she encountered Rachel Summers, the daughter of  Cyclops and Jean Grey from an alternate future timeline who also has the ability to tap into the Phoenix Force. If that’s not enough, Jean and Cyclops were soon forced to send baby Nathan into the future in order to save his life after Apocalypse infected him with a techno-organic virus. Shortly there after, Jean and the other members of X-Factor rejoined the X-Men. During this time, Jean and Cyclops learned that Cable, the mercenary leader of X-Force, is in fact the future grown up version of  baby Nathan, and to make matters worse, the villainous Stryfe is his evil clone. Figuring that there will never be a stable time in their lives, Jean proposed to Cyclops, and the two were wed shortly after. While on their honeymoon, Rachel Summers, then an old woman in the future called Mother Askani, pulled both Jean’s and Scott’s essences into the same future that they had sent baby Nathan years earlier. They were placed in host bodies and took the guises of  “Redd” and “Slim.”  Rachel charged them with raising baby Nathan and keeping him safe from Apocalypse, the ruler of earth. Jean and Scott spent the next ten years teaching Nathan how to use his vast mutant abilities, and ended up helping him to defeat Apocalypse before being sent back to their original bodies only moments after they left.

After these events, Jean once again took on the code name “Phoenix” and her powers slowly started to increase to her previous Phoenix levels. Due to these changes and changes in Cyclops after he was temporarily possessed by Apocalypse, their marriage became strained.  These relationship issues reached their apex when Jean discovered that Scott was having a psychic affair with Emma Frost. Before any real resolution could be made on these matters, however, Jean and Wolverine got trapped in space on a vessel heading for the sun. Jean’s Phoenix powers were not yet strong enough to save them, so Wolverine killed her in order to spare her pain, but this “death” ended up causing her to resurrect will the full power of the Phoenix. Jean saved them both and returned to earth in time to stop Xorn, a faux-Magneto, before he could destroy the Earth. Unfortuantly, Xorn unleashed a planetary-scale magnetic pulse throughout her body, and she died in Scott’s arms. After her death, it was revealed that Jean was the prime host and an actual part of the Phoenix Force. When the Phoenix force is damaged, Jean takes refuge in the “white hot room” as the White Phoenix of the crown and helps to piece itself back together.

Although she has remained “dead” for some time now, Jean’s presence and legacy continue to be a focal point in many of the X-Men’s lives. Since her death, Jean has manipulated events and intervened to help the X-Men during critical moments. She pushed Cyclops to join with/date Emma Frost in order to keep a terrible future from coming to pass. In another instance, Jean helped to free Emma when her mind was trapped by Lady Mastermind. In her most bold move yet, Jean took back the Phoenix Force’s power from everyone who possessed some of it, and somehow used it to bring about the birth of the first mutant since “M-Day.” The birth of this “Mutant Messiah,” Hope Summers, has resulted in even more mutant births. It is unclear what connection Jean Grey and Hope have, but it has been speculated that Hope may in fact be Jean Grey reincarnated, or that Hope is somehow yet another wayward child of Jean Grey and Scott Summers. The only thing that is known for certain is that Jean warned Emma to “prepare” for Hope’s arrival, and that Hope has Jean’s trademark red hair and green eyes; and more importantly, seems to posses the Phoenix Force within her. Even more recently Jean was seen destroying demons that had taken residence in Wolverine’s mind. Whether it was actually Jean herself or just some aspect of Wolverine’s mind is still unclear. What is clear from the recent Schism and Regenesis story lines is that tension between Cyclops and Wolverine over Jean Grey is still very much alive. It will be interesting to see the implications of Wolverine opening up the “Jean Grey School of Higher Learning.” With such a deep history and strong ties to many of the X-Men, I am certain that Jean Grey will live up to her name sake and return to life once again…if she hasn’t already.

Recommended Reading
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga – Tpb
X-Men: Inferno – Tpb
X-Men: X-Cutioner’s Song – Tpb
The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix – Tpb
X-Men: The Search For Cyclops #1-4
New X-Men Ultimate Collection Book 3 – Tpb
X-Men: Phoenix Endsong – Tpb

Nick Zamora



  1. Moses

    Such a complicated history. The character of Jean Grey is forever resounded in the oft cried “JEAN!” of Cyclops in the 90’s X-Men Series.

    Good spotlight on her. Thanks.

  2. Billy

    Awesome spotlight Nick! I love 2 of those covers especially…UXM #136, and Endsong #1! Just fantastic!

  3. Jeff Jackson

    Ironically, I’m ready for Jean to come back. I just hope that when she does, someone does it in a really unique way.

  4. @Moses Thanks. No one can forget that “JEAN!” for sure.

    @Billy Thanks man. Those 2 are my favorite ones too. The Endsong one is just SICK!

    @Jeff It’s funny that you say that because many of the people that I know who would cringe at the idea of Jean coming back, now are kinda down for it. I think there is a big 90’s X-Men nostalgia thing going on right now that is the cause of this change of heart.

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