I spend a lot of time thinking about the X-Men. More time than is probably healthy. And one of my favorite mutants is Jean Grey. So even before Marvel gave us an image to speculate over, I was already thinking about what would happen if Jean came back.
What initially got me thinking about it was reading the Phoenix Rising collection, which cobbles together the mish-mash of issues that cover Jean Grey’s return after her death in the Dark Phoenix Saga. Jean’s return “happens” over two issues: Avengers #263 and Fantastic Four #286, and then she’s off to the races in the all new X-Factor. Two issues. That’s it. I mean, you could kind of call it cross-over, but it was a non-event.
I couldn’t help but think how brilliant it would be if that happened now. Imagine reading an issue of Avengers one month and BAM! Jean’s back! A genuine, out-of-the-blue surprise. But comics don’t work like that anymore. Readers have access to solicits three months out. Publishers release vague teaser images to generate buzz and sell more books. Nothing, especially something as big as a character returning, is a surprise.
As you can probably tell from the title, the recent X-event Schism has left the merry mutants split into two camps (Team Cyclops and Team Wolverine, as I call them). An ideological difference turned into a physical brawl between Scott and Logan has caused the rest of the X-Men to pick sides. IF Jean were to come back now, she’d find Scott politically in bed with Magneto and literally in bed with Emma Frost. I can’t imagine her being too pleased about that. While back in Westchester she’d find Logan, along with Bobby, Warren, and Hank, at a school bearing her name.
Bringing Jean back in the next year could be a very compelling story. At the time of her death in New X-Men, things were pretty rocky with her and Scott, and she’d be coming back to a divided mutant community. While it would definitely be interesting to see which side of the Schism Jean would choose, I think having her act as the catalyst that brings the teams back together would be a stronger story. It’s a task that only Jean Grey could accomplish, and it would be much more original than just having them all reunite to find some big, world-threatening force.
The timing is also right. There were six years between the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga and the start of X-Factor. This time around, Jean’s been dead since 2004–well, 2006 if you count Phoenix: Endsong. That’s eight (or six) years, practically a generation in terms of comics.
So do I think they’re bringing Jean back?
Honestly, as much as I’d love to see it, I think the “It” that’s coming is the Phoenix Force via Hope Summers. They’ve been dropping hints and laying the ground work for Phoenix Hope for a while now. We’ve seen a lot of fire in Hope’s eyes, and Scott has been keeping a particularly close on on her for signs of the “city in Arizona”.
There are quite a few ties between Hope and the bramble that is the Summers-Grey family tree. Her surrogate father was Cable – the son of Scott Summers and Jean’s clone Madelyne Pryor. And Hope was born in Alaska, home to three generations of the Summers family and the same place Madelyne was “born”. It’s also where Mister Sinister has worked his special brand of manipulation on the breeding habits of the Greys and Summerses. Sure Alaska’s a huge state, but there are no coincidences in comics. We’ve already seen previews of Sinister in the new Uncanny X-men. I have a feeling his long-time plans to create the strongest mutant are going to manifest with Hope Summers.
Of course, the teaser could also be something completely different. Conspicuously absent from the list of creators in the image is Kieron Gillen. I know Marvel is plugging
their boy band the Architects, but it’s extremely odd that the current writer of Uncanny is not listed on a promotion for what will most likely be a huge event for the X-Men. Could Marvel be doing a comic adaptation of Reign of Fire? It’d be awesome but somehow I don’t think so.
Were I the gambling type, I’d put money on the Phoenix Hope theory – it’s got the best odds. But getting Jean Grey back is still nice to think about. How about you guys? I’m sure you’ve got theories, so have at it in the comments.