It’s official — after her demise in NEW X-MEN 13 years ago, Jean Grey is finally coming back from the dead. Whatever you may feel about that, this is undeniably huge. Love her or hate her, you definitely know who Jean Grey is. In celebration of her fantastic return in PHOENIX RESURRECTION, we gathered our Jean Grey experts — Maite Molina-Muniz, Jamie Rice, Peyton Hinckle, and Alex Bisignaro — to share some of their favorite badass Jean Grey moments! — Jordan Parrish
1. UNCANNY X-MEN #100
Some of Jean Grey’s most iconic moments occur during her most heroic ones. UNCANNY X-MEN #100 is certainly a notable issue as it features Jean encompassing staunch bravery. While attempting to escape imprisonment from Stephen Lang, Jean and her team find themselves in a serious predicament. They discover that their ship’s autopilot controls have been damaged. As a result, they will be unable to pass through Earth’s solar flare alive due to the intense radiation. So, Jean takes it upon herself to use her telekinetic abilities to fly the ship through the flare. Despite opposition from the other X-Men, including Cyclops, she remains resolute in her decision. In the process of flying the ship through the flare, the radiation consumes Jean. This results in a heroic sacrifice.
Not only is this moment one that exemplifies Jean’s heroism, it’s also one that captures the vastness of her abilities. To this day, when someone asks me what superpower I wish I had, I always say telekinesis, partially due to the fact that Jean Grey is one of my all-time favorite heroes. She is insanely powerful and an inspiring leader, as UNCANNY X-MEN #100 shows. Jean takes into her own hands the responsibility of rescuing the X-Men without a hint of hesitation. What’s more heroic than that?
2. X-MEN ORIGINS: JEAN GREY #1
In 2008, writer Sean McKeever and artist Mike Mayhew collaborated on a one-shot called X-MEN ORIGINS: JEAN GREY #1. When I first read it, the photorealistic artwork took me back. It immediately gave me Alex Ross vibes, so I totally fell in love with the work’s imagery. In addition to the incredible artwork, there is a rich narrative that presents an innovative look at Jean Grey’s world before she became a notable member of the X-Men. We witness her first encounter with chaos when her childhood best friend, Annie, is struck and killed by a car. In Annie’s final moments, Jean’s psychic abilities manifest. As a result, she experiences Annie’s final thoughts, resulting in some traumatic consequences.
Jean finds herself incapable of being in the presence of too many people, as the thoughts of others grow too loud in her mind. So, she begins training with Professor Xavier. He eventually decides to implement a psychic barrier that will block out her traumatic experiences. Following this, Jean’s world grows brighter. We see her become inspired to grow into her early role as Marvel Girl and the origins of the hero she was destined to become.
True Self-Sacrificing Nature
I love McKeever’s fresh take on Jean’s beginnings. It is exciting to see a more hopeful depiction of Jean Grey’s story despite the focus on her previous traumas. It is a work that certainly foreshadows her future challenges, but at the same, it is a heartfelt tale. We witness a wide-eyed, youthful Jean maintaining a sincere desire to be a hero. Despite her trauma and awareness that being a hero is challenging, she still believes that this is her destiny. This desire truly showcases Jean’s self-sacrificial nature, which makes her even more admirable as a hero and an individual. In this awesome one-shot, Jean is about to begin her heroic history with the X-Men, and that brings out some touching nostalgia.
3. UNCANNY X-MEN #137
“The Dark Phoenix Saga” is perhaps the most notable Jean Grey storyline within her mythos. So, it is inevitable that the story arc contains some of her most badass moments. For me, UNCANNY X-MEN #137 exemplifies the unique duality of Jean Grey. She embodies vast, god-like power because of the Phoenix Force. Simultaneously, though, she possesses humanity through her humility and self-awareness.
The issue commences with Jean donning her original Marvel Girl uniform. It is a moment in which she expresses pride in her abilities as well as her self-control. She is asserting her authority over her nature despite her previous struggles with her powers. Of course, the most poignant moments of UNCANNY X-MEN #137 begin with Jean’s realization that she and the Phoenix are one. “Neither can exist without the other,” she bemoans. As a result, Jean sacrifices herself in order to protect the universe from the inescapable wrath of the Dark Phoenix.
Though I have read this work multiple times, Jean’s sacrifice never fails to be poignant. It is the epitome of heroism as she gives up the opportunity to be a god and possess unlimited power for the sake of her humanity and the lives of others. In addition, I love the complexity of her nature. There exists a deep-seated evil within Jean that has become a part of her identity. So there is a tension with Jean’s own nature that is incredibly compelling to analyze. Despite these negative aspects, though, she still manages to be a hero in this situation as she saves the entire universe through her sacrifice.
1. NEW X-MEN #138-139
Jean Grey and Emma Frost are polar opposites. In some ways, they are fire and ice. That is why it is so much fun to watch them clash.
Grant Morrison’s NEW X-MEN contains my favorite version of said clash. Strewn across NEW X-MEN #138 and #139, Grant Morrison’s magnum opus of Jean Grey and Emma Frost tension is on grand display. Here, Jean Grey comes home to discover her husband having a psychic affair with Emma Frost…dressed up as Jean Grey. This causes Jean to invade and parse through Emma’s mind as they exchange heated words and icy stares.
X-ME comics often treat Jean Grey as pure and perfect; Emma even says as much in NEW X-MEN #139. However, this issue really looks at Jean Grey’s pure strength and occasional cruelty. Jean does not just attempt to upset Emma. Unlike Emma, she does not just throw out a few comments about how Emma is so last year.
Instead, Jean Grey searches through Emma’s brain to find the images and memories that will cause her the most heartbreak. She’s looking for the same level of pain that Emma has put Jean in through this affair. This moment shows that Jean Grey does not only possess amazing power, but also the capacity to be a true villain. That potential was often forgotten and is now something Grant Morrison has made sure we will never forget.
2. UNCANNY X-MEN #132
I have rarely watched or read anything and thought “this is both beautiful and terrifying.” However, that is exactly the combination of emotions evoked by Jean Grey using the power of the Phoenix to hold back Scott’s eyebeams long enough to look deeply into his eyes.
“The Dark Phoenix Saga” is generally acknowledged as a masterpiece with more than one memorable moment. However, this moment truly takes the cake. In this scene, Jean Grey has begun to turn into what we all now know to be the Dark Phoenix. Power is coursing through her veins, and as a result, Jean has gained a newfound confidence. After returning from a successful mission, Jean and Scott enjoy a quiet moment together. Then Jean asks Scott to take off his glasses so she can see his eyes. Of course, Scott resists for fear of killing her, but Jean is able to hold back his power to look into the eyes of the only man she has ever loved.
It is rare that a moment combines a plethora of emotions that are not usually experienced together: awe, fear, love, and hubris. Because this short scene manages to say so much with so little, it is without a doubt one of the greatest Jean Grey moments.
1. X-MEN #28
The Jean Grey of the 90s rarely gets the credit she deserved. The X-MEN comic series, started in 1991, tended to focus on other characters who hadn’t been on the team for as long, which meant sometimes cutting the Omega’s characterization short. But, the series still had some memorable Jean moments as seen in X-MEN #28, when Jean fights Victor Creed, the X-Men’s longtime adversary known as Sabretooth. A few issues before, Professor X mistakenly thought Victor’s murderous rage was a cry for help. He brought him to the X-Mansion and tried to control his damaged psyche. Not surprisingly, Sabretooth wasn’t affected by the Professor’s attempts and easily deflected anyone who tried to control him, including the skilled telepath Psylocke.
Finally, in X-MEN #28, Jean decides to intervene since no one else is capable of subduing the feral mutant. At first, Creed taunts Jean in an attempt to distract her. However, that ends quickly when he becomes overwhelmed by her physic abilities. In the battle, Jean only uses telepathy, making the feat even more impressive. Within a few panels, Creed is defeated and Jean walks away without having ever moved. Checkmate.
A Firecracker Versus an Atom Bomb
Part of what makes Jean such a badass character is how she’s commonly used as a “last resort.” She isn’t the first or the second person to visit Creed. No, she’s the last because all of the X-Men know if no one else can do it, Jean can. And not only can she do it, she’ll have it done within a few minutes and without having to do a single round-house kick. Her character shows how comic book battles don’t have to have a strong physical element. Instead, a psychological lens can show immense power. She may not have the bulging, unrealistic muscles of Sabretooth, but, as Jean says, “You’re a firecracker, Creed…and I’m an atom bomb!”
2. NEW X-MEN #154
The death of Jean Grey is never really the end of Jean, as seen in the many, many times she’s been brought back from the grave thanks to a particular fiery bird. Even though Jean was killed by Magneto in Grant Morrison’s 2001 NEW X-MEN series, her epitaph — “She will rise again” — was a clue to readers. No matter what, Jean is able to come back, as seen in PHOENIX RESURRECTION. This is because Jean is immortal and when her physical body dies, her “soul” goes to the White Hot Room (a sort of intersection between different realities and universes) to do Phoenix work.
This is first seen in NEW X-MEN #154, when Jean is reborn after dying in NEW X-MEN #150. Jean is reborn in a new body 150 years in the future, after all of humanity is gone and the Earth is in ruins. To stop the future from becoming a mess, Jean returns to the White Hot Room, taking the dying future reality with her. While there, it is revealed that she is the White Phoenix of the Crown and has the ability to heal (or destroy) entire galaxies.
Jean takes the wounded universe in her hands and, with the help of the Phoenix’s consciousness, diagnoses the problem. Her death at the hands of Magneto caused Scott to turn away from the X-Men. This ultimately led to the villains and a broken-hearted Beast taking over the world. With the words “Live, Scott” Jean rewrites the future and encourages Scott to have a relationship with Emma, which changes the future for the better.
Phoenix Jean Kicks Ass
NEW X-MEN shows the most powerful and badass side of Jean: the side that has merged with the Phoenix. Not only is she immortal, she can hold an entire universe in her hands and do whatever she wants with it. Even when supposedly “dead,” Jean is still an active player in the lives of the X-Men. She can manipulate events before they happen. Her allegiance is with the Phoenix Force, but her helping Scott and the other X-Men shows that she’s still the same character first seen in UNCANNY X-MEN…just an insanely powerful, badass version.
3. X-MEN: PHOENIX ENDSONG #5
People often think of Jean Grey and the Phoenix as two separate entities. But in reality, they are one and the same, even when they don’t want to admit it. In the X-MEN: PHOENIX ENDSONG miniseries, Jean Grey returns from the dead as the Dark Phoenix, with seemingly little control over the ruthless Phoenix’s consciousness. It takes the Phoenix Force leaving Jean’s body and entering Emma Frost’s to get the “real” Jean back.
In a spectacular show of pure badassery, Jean reminds the Phoenix that they are the same before physically ripping the fiery cosmic being from Emma’s body. After a conversation with the Phoenix, Jean realizes that it is her own desires for her old life on Earth that have prompted the Phoenix to resurrect her body. Jean’s human emotions were too much for the godly Phoenix and caused the Force to become aggressive. A reminder of Jean’s humanity is the only thing that allows her and the Phoenix’s consciousnesses to peacefully merge and return to the White Hot Room.
PHOENIX ENDSONG proves that Jean is, hands down, one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. Even when the Phoenix isn’t within her, she can still overpower the cosmic being thanks to their unbreakable bond. While Emma finds it difficult to withstand the painful flames of the Phoenix’s possession, Jean can peacefully merge with the Force, becoming both the Phoenix and Jean Grey. Her powers are limitless and her incredible will to tame the unruly Phoenix is her unique feature. Perhaps more than anything, this moment reminds readers, years after her “death” in NEW X-MEN, that Jean is still a badass member of the X-Men no matter what form she takes.
1. ULTIMATE NIGHTMARE #4
One of my favorite comic storylines from my teenage years is the ULTIMATE GALACTUS Trilogy. The three books that make up this story are fun and intriguing reads. My personal favorite is the first: ULTIMATE NIGHTMARE. The details of this storyline are critical for the trilogy, but for the sake of this article, it’s key to simply know that Jean Grey travels to Russia with Wolverine and Colossus after a telepathic distress call.
As the team gets closer and closer to the signal in ULTIMATE NIGHTMARE #4, Jean’s mind slowly begins to alter. She becomes more aggressive and cynical, even pointing out her awful affair with Wolverine when he attempts to quell her emotions. She’s burrowing through the underground prison to find the distress signal, doing all the heavy lifting herself. Plus, she’s calling out Wolverine and Colossus in the process. Before succumbing completely to the alien signal, her final original thought is, “No one cares. Nothing matters.”
Aggressive Teenage Angst
This is the Jean Grey I like: where she taps into her powers and becomes aggressive. She flexes those brain muscles. Sure, it’s an alien force triggering her to reach her full potential, but that potential is still there. The wonderful thing about Jean Grey’s iterations is that she never taps into her full power in fear of being consumed by it. She acknowledges the various levels and limits of her power. It’s when she loses control that she becomes really dangerous.
And, of course, I like her pessimism. It’s less “woe is me” like the Earth-616 Jean Grey and more “the world is awful but I’m doing what I can while hating it.” It’s true teenage angst, and it makes for solid character development.
This representation of Jean is one that cuts loose. She says the things we all keep in the back of our mind — those angry and dark thoughts. And, honestly, aggressive Jean Grey is pretty kickass.
2. WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #36
In 2013, Brian Michael Bendis created ALL-NEW X-MEN, its title a bit of a spin-off of Grant Morrison’s NEW X-MEN run. In ALL-NEW X-MEN, Beast brings the original X-Men to contemporary times in an attempt to convince Cyclops of his wrong ways. Weird? You bet it is! But Bendis’ story is almost completely different from Morrison’s.
Well, until the time-displaced X-Men battle mutants of the future. One of those mutants is a Jean Grey wearing the mask of Xorn. For those of you who don’t know: Xorn was a persona Magneto took over to infiltrate Xavier’s X-Men during Morrison’s run. This mask has significance in the X-Men Universe, so Bendis’ decision to use it was not only a nod towards Morrison but a nod towards the mythos as a whole. And, truly, the fact that Bendis has an older young Jean Grey (confusing, I know) don the mask shows the recognition of Jean’s role in the world of mutants.
Legendary Force to be Reckoned With
During the “Battle of the Atom” story arc, this new Lady Xorn does battle with Emma Frost in WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #36. It’s reminiscent of when Jean caught Cyclops mentally cheating with Emma in NEW X-MEN. Except, this time, Emma has her Cuckoos and a young Jean Grey to help her fight off Jean Grey’s telepathic rampage. But does it help? No, no it doesn’t. Jean quickly and efficiently takes out Cuckoo after Cuckoo until only Emma and young Jean Grey are left. Emma shouts her anger towards Lady Xorn (“Why won’t you ever stay dead?”) and then she is promptly defeated. All the while, Lady Xorn explains what the White Queen can look forward to if she continues to disrupt her mission.
This older Jean Grey, this Lady Xorn, is terrifying. She’s harrowing. She’s as lethal as Jean Grey can be without the Phoenix Force. “Battle of the Atom” reminds us X-MEN fans how legendary the character of Jean Grey is, and that it’s not only her ties with the Phoenix that make her a force to be reckoned with.
We Love Jean Grey and her Badassery
Jean Grey has faced countless struggles throughout her history, but she never fails to be an inspiration. She continuously finds a way to overcome her seemingly insurmountable struggles and kicks a lot of ass in the process. These are just a few of our favorite moments so far. We can’t wait to see more of her badassery in X-MEN RED!