While it may be commonplace at this point for superhero stories, especially those published by Marvel and DC, to kill characters and then bring them back to life with ease, no one does it better then the X-Men. Heck, they practically invented the cliche back in the 80s, when writer Chris Claremont and artist John Bryne famously turned then hero Jean Grey into the evil Dark Phoenix in a multi-issue saga which eventually ended with her death. Brought back some years after to reunite with her original team in the pages of X-Factor, Jean Grey has since died and come back countless times, with her death occurring once again in last month’s Hellfire Gala. This time, however, fans did not have to wait long for her return, as just a mere 3 weeks after her death, Jean Grey is back in the pages of her own self-titled mini by veteran X-writer Louise Simonson and artist Bernard Chang. With her death at the gala as non-permanent as always, Jean Grey relives her life as she attempts to find the moment the struggle for mutant survival was lost. As Jean tries to change the past in order to rewrite the future, mutantkind’s last hope may lay with her.
In an issue full of many shocks and twists, the one thing that remained consistent with expectations (or perhaps exceeded them) was Louise Simonson’s masterful dialogue and character work. As X-fans know, this is far from Simonson’s first time writing Jean Grey, with her taking over X-Factor just a few issues into the original run, and she easily gets right back into the character’s head, writing her with so much power and agency. It is refreshing to see someone treat Jean with such respect, as even though her decisions in this issue may be a lot different than expected, they still feel real and understandable. She is not just an empty vessel for Cyclops’s feelings, or a plot device as Marvel so often treats her, but rather a fully fleshed-out character who truly takes the story into her own hands and makes choices for herself. Female characters are so often stripped of their agency and ability to truly drive a story forward, but Simonson does a fantastic job of ensuring that does not occur here.
Chang’s art is very sharp and clean, with a particular standout being an early splash page depicting Jean Grey’s intertwining memories. The clean lines are accompanied nicely by Marcelo Maiolo’s gorgeous coloring, with a particularly impressive use of lighting and shadows to make the many outdoor scenes in this issue really stand out. While the art is impressive, it does, however, leave a lot to be desired in my mind, due to the fact that it does not match the era in which the book is meant to take place. Without going into too many spoiler-filled specifics as to why (and how), this issue takes place in the classic 60s era of X-comics, and I really wish that the art reflected the style of the era. It seems as though each issue of this mini will be jumping into a new period of comics, and it would have been interesting if each issue had a new style to reflect that era. Rather than making it read like a modern comic full of retcons, the issue could have felt like it truly took place in the 60s, and the events would have felt more meaningful.
Issue one sets a lot of groundwork for what I am sure will be a series with many twists and turns, but it didn’t leave me dying to find out what happens next. While the writing was engaging and I appreciate the use of Jean Grey as a driving force for this era of X-comics, I can’t deny that I am tired of her constant deaths, retcons, and rebirths. Rather than focusing so much on the past, I wish Marvel would instead let us focus on Jean Grey’s future, but for now, I’m at least happy to see Louise Simonson make such a grand return.