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Feb 8

Phoenix Resurrection

Posted on Thursday, February 8, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

You might think that Phoenix Resurrection – or Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey, if you must – would form a good companion piece to the Jean Grey review one post down.  After all, Jean Grey was an entire series devoted to setting up this book.

In fact, the most jarring thing about Resurrection is how irrelevant it makes Jean Grey seem.  That book devoted months to establishing the ghost of the original Jean as a hard-ass mentor for the younger Jean, determined to prepare her younger self for the coming of the Phoenix.  What we get here is Jean as the everywoman innocent, living in a fictional small town created for her by Phoenix, as it tries to prepare her for host duties.  If it wasn’t for a couple of passing references, you’d think writer Matthew Rosenberg was completely unaware that Jean Grey was even out there.

This is, shall we say, annoying.  But let’s take the series on its own terms.

In one sense, the point of this story is clear: get Jean from point A (dead) to point B (starring in X-Men: Red). Use the Phoenix as the device to get her there, and then clear it the hell out of the way.  And fair enough, that’s the remit.  But does it do anything beyond that?

We’re firmly in the “less than the sum of its parts” file here.  A weekly release schedule means a bunch of different artists, though there are at least big names.  Issue #1 has Leinil Francis Yu, who does a rather good leafy suburbia.  Weird things are happening in Jean’s home town – two kids are found floating unconscious, bleeding, and floating off the ground.  (The art doesn’t sell this very well; judging from the script, they ought to be a lot higher up, and on a first reading it’s easy to miss the fact that they’re floating at all.)  Fearing the return of the Phoenix, Kitty rounds up a bunch of X-Men and, in time-honoured crossover style, packs them all off into teams to investigate possible leads.

Some running around ensues, but it’s largely busy work to keep the cast occupied for a couple of issues while the main plot develops.  The hook is that each team encounters villains who are meant to be dead, these dead X-characters also making up most of the inhabitants of Jean’s little world.  Rosenberg deserves credit for trawling for the obscurities here, instead of reaching for the old standards – Seamus Melloncamp is a pretty minor bad guy to dust off.

Jean’s world is one of those familiar picket-fence, old-style diner locations that used to signify “a more innocent age” but now signifies “something terrible beneath the surface”.  She’s a waitress, and she seems oblivious to the strange things happening around her; they start gently with Madrox as a neighbour, but by the end of the series the place is on fire.  At the same time, Jean is unsettled by bad dreams about the Phoenix, and she’s certainly bothered about that.

This dreamlike creepiness is the book’s strongest feature, and the various artists get the atmosphere nicely.  It’s probably a good thing that Jean’s plotline doesn’t really come into focus until issue #2, because Carlos Pacheco draws that one, and his clean lines are especially suited to this schtick.  Joe Bennett, on issue #3, is alright as well – a bit heavy handed on the melodrama, mind you.  Ramon Rosanas, in #4, pushes us into full-on surrealist nightmare, and gets the need to keep Jean understated as she fails to notice the book burning around her.  And then with issue #5 we get Yu back, but by then everything’s on fire and it’s time for Jean to tell the Phoenix to get lost.

Where all this seems to be heading, though, is a fairly conventional showdown in which the Phoenix tries to persuade Jean to be its host, and Jean turns it down and gets it to go away.  Phoenix keeps trying to push the idea that with cosmic power, Jean can remake the world the way she wants, and bring back all the people who died in her life.  When Jean dismisses most of that as illusion, Phoenix wheels out Cyclops – apparently the real Cyclops – for a reunion, but in a pleasant twist Jean simply takes the chance to give him a proper goodbye, and then lets him die again.  That’s very well done.  So, for that matter, is an earlier scene where the X-Men decide to pick the member who’s best suited to get through to Jean, and go for Logan – to the obvious distress of the young Cyclops.

Still, this all boils down to Jean telling the Phoenix that she needs to feel pain and loss because that’s how life is, and the Phoenix is trying to shield her from the things that make life worthwhile, and you get the drift.  And she tells the Phoenix to forget about her and leave, and the Phoenix just kind of does, which is something of an anticlimax.

None of this really seems to be about very much; the Phoenix is serving here just as a well-meaning alien that needs to stop obsessing about Jean and find out what it’s really meant to be doing.  But there are a lot of good bits in this, and it does at least set out to send a clear message that this is meant to be a fresh start for the Jean Grey character, without Scott, and (now that it’s served its function) without Phoenix.  We’ll see how long that lasts, but it’s a mission statement for a baggage-free Jean, and that’s something.

Bring on the comments

  1. Is it me or Jean’s story really like Laura Palmer’s towards the end of Twin Peaks The Return?

  2. Andrew says:

    Ah Seamus Melloncamp. One of those terrible Accolyte characters who got thrown out there for no huge reason as a go-to henchman. Ah memories.

  3. Matt C. says:

    I found this to be a waste of $20. Certainly, what it actually accomplished (resurrecting Jean and giving her a fresh start sans Phoenix) could’ve been done in less than five issues. And if it had to be five issues, I wish the cast had been smaller, and more time spent on the other characters’ reactions to Jean coming back. The cast is far too large by making this an ‘event’ that needed every X-Man ever, and the story ends immediately upon Jean returning to the fold, with no coda.

    It also basically renders the Jean Grey comic irrelevant. You can just feel the editorial feeling of “well we got regular Jean back, O5 Jean can join the others the space bus now” coming off the page. Which is funny because I’d be fine with getting rid of the O5, but the Jean Grey comic actually made me find O5 Jean to be more interesting character with more interesting struggles than regular Jean ever did.

  4. Chris V says:

    I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this comic book, to be honest.
    These big events and cross-overs constantly put out by Marvel are usually terribly written, and often infuriating to attempt to read.
    I felt like Rosenberg actually put some effort in to this book.
    It read more like an event book that DC would put out over something like Civil War or Secret Empire.

    I still have zero desire to see where Jean Grey goes from here, and think that bringing back (another) Jean Grey isn’t an idea that’s really worth pursuing.
    However, the plot of this mini-series, by itself, kept my interest.

  5. Niall says:

    This was a decent story which could have been stronger if it was an issue or two shorter.

    The final issue was excellent but there were full scenes that were pointless. We didn’t need full scenes of the various X-teams fighting Phoenix related folks around the world.

  6. Voord 99 says:

    I’ll be curious to see if, when this turns up on Unlimited, I feel that it does the most important thing that it would need to do for me: answer the question of what the *point* of a living (adult) Jean is. Like many Silver Age characters (see also Allen, Barry), she’s more interesting when she’s dead than when she’s alive.

    She’s an illustration of the power of the iconic death, though — it’s occurred to me that on an emotional level Hopeless’s Jean Grey was written as if the Dark Phoenix story was actually Jean’s last appearance.

  7. Flinkman says:

    I didn’t have a lot of thoughts about Phoenix Resurrection when I was reading it week-to-week but, once it wrapped, I sat down and read it all in one sitting and ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT.

    Mostly eschewing MAJOR! PLOT! TWISTS! and widescreen action was a wonderful change from how these types of event comics usually go. This was more akin to a relatively subdued murder mystery comic than a status quo changing event. Plus Rosenberg gets major points from me for using such random characters as Tag from Academy X, Wolfsbane’s son Tier, Wither, Onyxxx, etc. instead of just focusing on the familiars like Cyclops, Madrox, Banshee, etc.

    Random, but why was Dazzler suddenly dressed like it’s 2005 and she’s in New Excalibur? And how sad is it that that look, which I once hated with a fiery passion, suddenly doesn’t look so bad when compared to her last several?

    Jumping back to the first comment by Donnacha DeLong…I too got major Twin Peaks vibes from it…and that is NEVER a bad thing IMO!

    Yes, it’s a bit frustrating that it basically in no way aligned with what the Jean Grey solo has been doing for the last year…but, sadly, that’s just the state of Marvel Comics in 2018. I’ll take my wins where I can find them…and this was a win for me!

  8. Daniel Lourenço says:

    that last issue’s script was embarassingly clichéd… can’t say i see much merit to this other than the two first issues, which do hold some appeal. if it’s any kind of “murder mystery”, it has a tremendously poor plot mechanic at its heart, with the Phoenix “egg” construct nonsense. and the use of so many X-Men characters (not a single one of which written with a voice of their own) just diluted the book’s qualities – it’s odd ambience and its better narrative moves – into a stagerringly unfocused framework for what ought to be a key event in the context of current X-Men storylines. i deeply, deeply disliked it.

  9. Psycho Andy says:

    I enjoyed this series more than I expected I would, but my one complaint is that I feel it should have just been 4-5 issues of one of the ongoing monthly X-Men titles — Probably X-Men Gold, but also potentially just the first arc of X-Men Red — rather than its own weekly series.

    It’s a nitpick from a long-time, single issue collector, sure. But as a comics retailer, having to put in orders for all 5 issues of the weekly series BEFORE issue 1 even comes out meant that we were sold out of random issues along the way, and not getting reorders for those issues until after the NEXT issue had already shipped, and it was all just kind of a mess. Sure, we could have ordered higher, but given how poorly the rest of Marvel Legacy has been selling, ALL Marvel titles are ordered VERY conservatively, these days.

    But the story was fine, even if it was probably an issue too long, to pad out the eventual TPB collection.

  10. Moo says:

    “Jean simply takes the chance to give him a proper goodbye”

    I could have sworn they already did the proper goodbye thing back in Phoenix: Endsong. Pretty sure the first issue had Scott lamenting to Emma that he never got to say goodbye to Jean, and the last issue had them doing just that.

  11. Nu-D says:

    Last time Jean Grey was resurrected, it happened in one issue of Avengers and one issue of FF. When Xavier was brought back into the fold after years in space (believed likely dead by the X-Men), it happened in a five-issue arc of Uncanny which split time with the ill-conceived Rogue/Magneto Savage Land story.

    What’s notable about both of these stories is that they were just standard story arcs, built into the ongoing saga of the MU. They were not treated as some kind of special event, dragged out over too many issues and semi-isolated from the ongoing history of the MU. They were part and parcel of the soap opera fans were invested in.

  12. wwk5d says:

    I liked the Rogue/Magneto Savage Land story.

  13. Chris V says:

    When Galactus was introduced in the Ultimate Universe, it took up three entire mini-series.
    When Lee and Kirby introduced Galactus, it took two and an half issues.

  14. Moo says:

    I don’t think it’s fair to compare the publishing strategies of today to those of twenty-five to fifty years ago when the industry, the retail market, and format considerations (nobody was thinking “TPB” back then) were entirely different. Of course they’re not doing things the same way as they did back in the ’80s and the ’60s.

    That said, I agree that Jean’s return storyline should have been woven into the flagship title rather than set apart as a side project. But near as I can tell, Marvel doesn’t seem to have an X-Men flagship title. Or at least, if they do, I don’t have a clue which one it’s supposed to be. I waved bye-bye to the X-Men back once Decimation came along and broke the franchise. Paul’s reviews of everything since have only reinforced my belief that I made the right decision.

  15. Moo says:

    I also can’t fathom how a newcomer can navigate through all of this. I followed X-Men semi-religiously from ’79 to ’04. But even with that experience under my belt, I look at the books today and I’m genuinely confused by them. This is not an accessible line. I see X-Men Red, Blue and Gold and I don’t know what the hell these signify. From my perspective, it looks like Marvel is doing a cross-promotion with Skittles.

  16. Chris V says:

    I believe that Marvel’s strategy of publishing big events separate from the other titles is the idea that these are the only books which sell well in comics today.

    Secret Empire #1 was the top-selling book in comics when it was published.
    The Marvel Legacy special was the top-selling comic book of 2017.
    Meanwhile, Marvel’s other titles are facing anemic sales.
    Phoenix Resurrection #1 was probably the top-selling book for that month in comics.

    Maybe it would have boosted sales for whatever X-title the story-arc was published in, but Marvel probably doesn’t want to take the chance.
    Publishing it separately, as its own big event mini-series is a guaranteed top-seller for Marvel.
    That’s what Marvel mainly seems to be concerned with in today’s market.

  17. wwk5d says:

    Imagine how Dark Phoenix or Days of Future, Past, would be published today.

  18. Moo says:

    “When Lee and Kirby introduced Galactus, it took two and an half issues.”

    True, but how were Lee and Kirby meant to know at the time they made the thing that they were about to create an iconic, epic moment in Marvel history and that Galactus and the Silver Surfer would become hugely significant characters? It just turned out that way, and that’s why the same event in the Ultimate universe was marketed and presented as being a really big deal. As far as Stan and Jack were probably concerned at the time, they were just telling an FF story. You can’t know how things are going to turn out.

  19. Col_Fury says:

    Re: Chris V

    Yeah, Marvel seems to have forgotten how to promote ongoing titles. Maybe that’s why they’ve had to many corporate-level changes lately…

  20. Voord 99 says:

    Well, the Fantastic Four was, by that point, enough of a pop-culture phenomenon (by comics standards) that I think some awareness of the possible significance of Galactus is not unlikely, especially on Kirby’s part (and I’m in the camp that thinks that Kirby was responsible for most of this). Certainly, the way that the story is told is self-consciously “epic” and “significant” in a way that communicates confidence in its importance to me and a sense that this is meant to be more than a normal superhero story.

    However, this is a long story by the standards of the time. Only a few years earlier, it was assumed that it would be a very bad idea for a comic not to be entirely self-contained. I think DC was still calling any comic that only contained one story a “novel.”

    I suppose one could argue that Lee and Kirby were setting us on the path towards decompression, by cultivating a new older audience of devoted “Marvel” readers who would diligently come back next issue for the conclusion of a story — pursue that trend far enough, and you end up with the readership of middle-aged completists that we have now.

  21. FUBAR007 says:

    Moo: I could have sworn they already did the proper goodbye thing back in Phoenix: Endsong. Pretty sure the first issue had Scott lamenting to Emma that he never got to say goodbye to Jean, and the last issue had them doing just that.

    Endsong was annoyingly meta, beating us over the head with how supposedly awesome and sophisticated the pairing of Scott and Emma was, that it was the future, and that Scott and Jean were the past. There was no real conversation between Scott and Jean about the collapse of their marriage. No reaching of mutual understanding, no real mea culpa from Scott to Jean, no true closure. Instead, it was “Scott loves Emma now” and a bunch of running around fighting the Phoenix punctuated by sending Jean off to the White Hot Room.

    The conclusion of Phoenix Resurrection, at least, had Scott giving Jean a proper apology and the two of them reconciling before he died again.

    TL;DR: Endsong didn’t provide closure for Jott; Phoenix Resurrection did.

  22. Drew says:

    “Plus Rosenberg gets major points from me for using such random characters as Tag from Academy X, Wolfsbane’s son Tier, Wither, Onyxxx, etc. instead of just focusing on the familiars like Cyclops, Madrox, Banshee, etc.”

    Speaking of which, do any of the resurrectees stay alive, or do they all shuffle back loose at the end of this mini?

    Between Necrosha’s ambiguous “We think some of the dead guys escaped before Selene ate ’em but we’re really not sure, lol oh well, guess we’ll see!”, Apocalypse resurrecting dudes as horsemen every other year, Secret Wars rewriting reality, and now this, I honestly have no damn idea which villains and heroes are supposedly “dead” and which aren’t. Until further notice, I’m just assuming everyone’s back alive until indicated otherwise. Seems safer that way.

  23. Moo says:

    I can see how Endsong might have annoyed readers who weren’t keen on Scott/Emma to begin with, but that wasn’t my case. I absolutely loved Scott/Emma. Endsong wasn’t beating me over the head with anything. It was preaching to the choir.

  24. wwk5d says:

    One person’s choir preaching is another person’s bruised and battered head.

    But yeah, I agree with “Endsong didn’t provide closure for Jott; Phoenix Resurrection did.”

  25. Voord 99 says:

    Endsong didn’t provide closure for Jott; Phoenix Resurrection did.

    I initially read this as “Edsong didb’t provide closure for *Jolt*.

    Which would have been quite an interesting approach to either series.

  26. Chris V says:

    Drew-I seem to remember Marvel solicitations pointing towards the fact that this mini would pave the way for the return of some other formerly-dead X-characters.

    I’m guessing Marvel will use it as an excuse to bring back some other characters in future story-arcs.

    Well, at least the ambiguity of everything makes an excuse for ignoring continuity, as creators can bring in any characters. If they were formerly dead, the creator has an excuse for why they’re alive again.

  27. PersonofCon says:

    “Between Necrosha’s ambiguous “We think some of the dead guys escaped before Selene ate ’em but we’re really not sure, lol oh well, guess we’ll see!”, Apocalypse resurrecting dudes as horsemen every other year, Secret Wars rewriting reality, and now this, I honestly have no damn idea which villains and heroes are supposedly “dead” and which aren’t. ”

    “Well, at least the ambiguity of everything makes an excuse for ignoring continuity, as creators can bring in any characters. If they were formerly dead, the creator has an excuse for why they’re alive again.”

    Exactly–I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a deliberate move on some editor’s part, so that they don’t need to assign anyone to keep track or coordinate.

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