I want to start this review by saying, I am not a Jean Grey fan.
“Why would you review this?” you might ask. I’ll get to that. Suffice to say that, I’m not a fan of Jean Grey, but I don’t dislike her either. She’s always just been kind of one-note to me. OK, maybe two notes. There is Jean Grey, who is a pretty powerful telekinetic and telepath, but for some reason seems to have been relegated to the background, or as love triangle fodder for Cyclops and Wolverine. Then there is the Phoenix.
I did go back and read the Dark Phoenix saga in X-Men comics (and for anyone who hasn’t, Comic Book Girl 19 has an outstanding recap on her Youtube channel). That story was good, but…weird. Poor Jean was being gaslit by some prick, and turned to evil to join the Hellfire club. Then the Phoenix entity took her over completely and she blew up a planet. It went from a supernatural melodrama to full-on cosmic war pretty darn quick. (Hey, at least she didn’t join Hydra.) Through it all though, I never really got a sense of who Jean Grey is as a person. She was either being manipulated or was literally a puppet of the Phoenix.
Jean hasn’t been much better in the X-Men cartoons or the movies. I got so sick of her in the cartoons when I was a kid. Every other episode was either Scott or Logan shouting JEAN! JEEEAN! Let’s not even talk about X3: The Last Stand. As far as I was concerned, Jean has always just been Xavier Lite: Same telepathic powers without all the arrogant dickishness.
More recently though, I’ve read some newer X-Men books, and it seems like they are really trying with new young Jean, and I’m interested to see where they are going with her and her time-displaced X-Men team. Also, I’m here for Dennis Hopeless, whose work is pretty great (Avengers Arena, and Spider-Woman to name a few). With Spider-Woman cancelled, and Captain Marvel fully in Secret Empire territory, I need something to fill that void, and who better than Jean?
Not Your Mom’s Jean Grey
Jean Grey #1 benefits greatly from the fact that it doesn’t have to do any setup. The time-displaced young X-Men team has been bouncing around the Marvel universe for long enough now that most readers are familiar with what’s happening. Most recently, the young team has their own ongoing story in X-Men Blue. For those who don’t read that, there is a quick recap from Jean herself while she enjoys ramen in Kyoto courtesy of one of the Bamfs.
The short version is, yes she is Jean Grey. No, not the one who became the Phoenix. No, absolutely not the one who blew up a planet. Also not the age-ified Jean who she would have become if she went back to her original timeline. That ship has sailed. This is still the original Stan Lee-era Jean Grey, marooned in the future, trying to make sense of 2017 with the rest of her team (which also happens to be all boys, so yeah, that’s a whole other thing).
Who can blame her for wanting to pop over to Japan for a little secluded meal with her teleporting friend Pickles?
Brunch Gets Wrecked
Unfortunately, Japan has a much lighter concentration of superheroes, so a couple of badguys get an idea to go looting Kyoto’s banks. This is long-time Marvel supervillain outfit the Wrecking Crew. Their plan presumably would have worked (and we’re surprised more small-time crooks haven’t already thought of this), except for Jean’s quiet me-time.
Being the hero she is, Jean fouls up the Wrecking Crew’s nefarious plot (complete with big sacks of loot with a Yen symbol on them, which is a nice touch). Of course, being as young and inexperienced as she is, she causes a bit of collateral damage. While she’s trying to rectify things, a mysterious voice starts chiming in on her progress with the baddies. Chalking it up to her telepathic powers picking up some stray thoughts from somewhere, she continues stalling the Crew until the blackbird can arrive. This begs the question, how fast can the blackbird fly, anyway? Can they really circumvent the globe in a matter of a few minutes? Nevermind. Comics!
Before the rest of the X-Men can arrive, the wrecking crew manages to re-steal some of their bags of loot and skedaddle. Jean hunts them down with her powers, but just as she’s about to do some justice, an old acquaintance of hers shows up; one she was dreading. Well, it’s not really an acquaintance of hers specifically, but of a different version of Jean. She is still Jean though, even if time-displaced, so she’s fair game.
The Wrecking Crewman uses Jean’s hesitation against her and wallops her upside the noggin with his bag of Yen. When Jean comes to, she’s surrounded by her team, and gives them the news of who’s come calling. It’s not good news.
Hit the Ground Running
As previously stated, this comic has the benefit of an already established hero, so things get going with the briefest of introductions. All a new reader needs to know is summed up in a page or three, and then we’re off to the races.
As artwork goes, Victor Ibáñez and Jay David Ramos do a wonderful job. Both have a strong X-Men pedigree, having worked on Astonishing X-Men, Extroardinary X-Men, and Storm among others. The art is strong throughout the issue, but the best parts are in the beginning when several panels hearken back to famous moments in Jean Grey history, including the iconic cover of Uncanny X-Men #135. Later, when Jean is trying to rescue an innocent bystander, she resorts to using her powers to make herself look friendly, and then when that doesn’t work, makes herself look scary as hell. It’s one of the best moments in the issue, and largely due to the art.
Of course, Dennis Hopeless is in top form as well. His run on Spider-Woman was wonderful and was over too soon. He really captured Jessica Drew’s voice to perfection in that run, and we can’t recommend it highly enough. Jean Grey is a much younger, much less jaded hero, but Hopeless proves he can handle a younger voice just as well (as we already knew form his run on Avengers: Arena). Jean’s youth and inexperience are apparent, as is her quick temper. The villain-hero banter is well done and funny as well making the issue a fun and engaging ride right up to its climactic reveal.
Jean Grey is off to a very strong start, which is great for this new crop of X-books (but bad for our wallets). Despite what you might have felt about Jean Grey before now, we suggest you pick this one up ASAP. It really feels like she’s in good hands with this creative team, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.
Fanfinite rating: 9/10 Bamfs
Jean Grey #1
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Victor Ibáñez
Colorist: Jay David Ramos
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Images courtesy of Marvel Comics and FOX