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Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey #1

by Charles Martin on December 31, 2017

Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey #1
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Inker: Gerry Alanguilan
Colourist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The Phoenix Force has been a busy little birdie this year. It's been a power-up in the Thanos solo (meh), fought a boss battle in the Mighty Thor (cool), and smooched with Odin in Legacy's weird Cave-vengers story (yikes). 

Before it became an over-utilized and weirdly sassy deus ex machina, the Phoenix was a person. Now it wants to be again, and that means Jean Grey - the real Jean Grey - is coming back. Strap in!

Things kick off with frightening phenomena happening in Jean's hometown of Annandale-on-Hudson. Kitty Pryde organizes the all-hands-on-deck response. Three all-star X-teams are dispatched to Cerebro-flagged hotspots, all of which have historic Jean Grey connections. (Jubilee is off of babysitting duty and gets to be a real X-Man again! Yay!)

The teams find surprising opposition and scary omens waiting for them, and though Kitty was trying to avoid saying it, by the end of the issue, they can't deny they're dealing with the Phoenix and/or Jean Grey.

Even if I wanted to get spoilery here about the how and why of Jean Grey's return, I wouldn't be able to. So far we've gotten just a tiny peek behind the curtain, and the peek delivers more questions than answers. The questions are, fortunately, fascinating. Foremost among them: If Jean Grey is indeed coming back, who might be coming with her?

Our chief curtain-puller is Matthew Rosenberg, a relative newcomer who's already done some primo Marvel writing. His Secret Warriors run was one of the best things to come out of Secret Empire, and here he's eager to prove that he's just as good at big-budget X-Men spectaculars as he is at character-driven Inhuman road trips. (Put the pitchforks away, die-hard X-fans! He's nailing it so far.)

The story and cast are so vast here that Mr. Rosenberg gets limited opportunities to dive into characterization. Instead, busy (maybe a little too busy) plotting and intriguing mysteries take center stage. The opening scene has a fascinating David-Lynch-esque menace, and that dread comes back with a vengeance when Jean herself shows up with a few surprise guests in the dreamlike final scene.

In between these two servings of "Twin X-Peaks," storytelling duty falls into the capable hands of penciler Leinil Francis Yu and inker Gerry Alanguilan. Epic fights with tons of characters are Mr. Yu's bread and butter, and he's definitely brought his A game here. The finishes are clean, the action is exciting, and if the dozens of faces on display are sometimes unemotional, the overall effect is not nearly as phoned-in as some of Mr. Yu's other recent work. Colourist Rachelle Rosenberg also does a fantastic job distinguishing the comic's diverse settings by giving each one a unique palette.

It's in the central globe-trotting section, with its dizzying intercuts and resolution-lacking fights, where this issue is at its weakest. Even that weakness serves a purpose. "Split up into teams and go looking for trouble" is a giant cliché for capital-E-events, and just when this example starts to drag, both the characters and us readers discover that the challenge facing the X-Men is bigger and weirder than normal. 

I'm tremendously impressed by the way that all the creative aspects of the book - the writing, the art, and the colours - become more intense and more passionate when portraying the super-weird opening and closing scenes. The globe-trotting middle is standard-issue event content, but the start and finish are special. They're creepy (good creepy) and memorable and fascinating. In a word, they feel uncanny - and what feeling could be more appropriate for the momentous revival of one of the original X-Men?

Our Score:


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