Instead of going through The Phoenix Resurrection #1 – 5 sequentially, as I usually do in my reviews, I’m just covering the whole story as one.
Which is fine in this case, as the quality level doesn’t really fluctuate between the chapters and it’s all best taken in as one story.
First up, I’m a big fan of the Jean Grey character and the Jean Grey mythology (and the Phoenix mythology).
I have been ever since my formative comic-book reading days, which was in the late end of the Claremont era and then through the early-to-mid 90s. Jean Grey has always been a favorite of mine, in various incarnations. I’ve also been a big fan of the time-displaced kid Jean Grey: and I thoroughly loved the recent Jean Grey solo title that she was the subject of (a series that was essentially paving the way for this Phoenix Resurrection story).
So I’m generally happy with a return of ‘our’ old Jean Grey. Both because I have a lot of affection for that character and because the X-Men books have gotten a little stale in recent times and could use something new in the mix.
The (sort of) return of Professor X to the living realm (in the pages of Astonishing X-Men – reviewed here) was a mixed bag of positive and negative: I was hoping the return of Jean Grey would be something a little more epic and a little more cogent.
What we get isn’t necessarily ‘epic’ in the sense I was expecting.
Instead, Mathew Rosenberg‘s story is more of a down-beat, low-key storyline that is firmly focused on character and less on action or comic-book antics.
That’s probably a good thing, on balance. Phoenix Resurrection #1 – 5 isn’t the most exciting or compelling thing I’ve read lately: but it arguably plays things the right way. Across five chapters, there’s certainly enough to engage and please if you’re a long-time X-Men fan – for non X-Men-fanatics it might not be so engaging.
Having ‘our’ Jean appear in this strange, surreal small-town situation, apparently living out an innocent, hum-drum life, provides us with slow-building intrigue. The question of just what on earth is going on carries us as readers (and the X-Men as characters) through these books until we eventually culminate in a decisive ‘return’ of Jean Grey.
The early chapters here were reminding me a lot of Pleasant Hill. Arguably, this mysterious, surreal day-to-day life scenario didn’t really need to be stretched out across five comic books: but, even so, it keeps you guessing. And because we (I presume I speak for all of us) have an attachment to Jean Grey, it holds our attention.
What I also really enjoyed in this series though was seeing such a big coming-together of X-Men characters – all of them focused on the mystery of Jean and the Phoenix. It’s rare that so many longstanding characters in the X-Men universe are all together like this: not just the big players like McCoy, Kitty, Rogue, Logan and co, but everyone from Boomer, Guido and Shatterstar to Jubilee. Maybe it’s the 90s nostalgist in me, but I really liked seeing so many of these guys come together. It felt like a family reunion – and it was all for a lady named Jean.
This nostalgia-heavy undercurrent also includes a sequence with various deceased X-Men, including Jamie Maddrox.
The nostalgia touch was also discernible in the choice of locations that Kitty sends her teams out to (Mt St. Francis, Genosha, the Savage Land, etc), which all evoked old X-Men stories: Mon St. Francis Monastery in particular had this effect. In fact in one of the early scenes in Phoenix Resurrection #1 where Kitty is addressing a massive who’s-who of X-Men characters – it transported me immediately back to Charles addressing the same mass gathering of mutants way back in The Phalanx Covenant story (X-Factor ninety-something-or-other, I think in 1993 or 1994?) at the Mon St. Francis Monastery. I have to assume these are deliberate connections by the writers.
It does also highlight that the X-Men books all-too-often leave so many characters, with such long histories, out in the cold for too long.
The whole thing ultimately culminates in emergence of ‘our’ Jean Grey into the real world.
We learn that the Phoenix has been keeping her in an illusory world in order to maintain/renew its bond with her. There’s aspects of this that I don’t really understand fully: it doesn’t help that – as someone who only has limited time every month to read comics – I haven’t fully gotten a handle on the whole Marvel Legacy thing yet.
But I’ve gotten that the Phoenix has essentially brought Jean back to life and has built this surreal/imaginary world and life to keep her in until it can merge with her again.
But, admittedly, the conclusion – Jean essentially separating herself from the Phoenix – is fairly poignant. I mean, it’s a touch underwhelming (and it’s certainly underwhelming when you factor in the full context of Jean’s whole history with the Phoenix): but as far as this book and this moment in time are concerned, it’s quite poignant.
The result is that ‘our’ Jean is now back and is her own person – the Phoenix no longer linked to her.
And that’s basically where we end.
All of this was, essentially, to set up the new X-Men title – ‘X-Men: Red‘ – in which Jean is the central character.
Putting all of the various related books or events aside and just staying focused on Phoenix Resurrection #1 – 5, it does a good enough job of establishing and maintaining intrigue and building us to a necessary – albeit rather predictable – conclusion.
I’m not sure it needed five chapters to do that. But I’m happy to have ‘our’ Jean back: and if you’re a long-time X-Men person (and, needless to say, if you’re a Jean Grey fan), then this book is obviously a must-read.