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Jun 6

X-Men Red Annual #1

Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Or, as the logo has it, Annual X-Men Red.  I haven’t actually reviewed the first arc of X-Men Red yet, because it’s still going.  But this turns out to be a sensible place to start, because it’s a transition issue by regular writer Tom Taylor that bridges the gap from Phoenix Resurrection #5 to X-Men Red #1.  It’s the connective tissue that gets Jean Grey in place for the start of the series, shunted off into an annual to stop it bogging down those early issues.

Let’s start with the art.  It’s… well, it’s got its problems.  Pascal Alixe has been around for a while, though it’s been getting on for twenty years since he did anything on the X-books.  He’s a pro.  And page one looks nicely dramatic.  He does a really nice firebird for the Phoenix.  Once we get into the story proper, though, things get a bit clumsier.

There’s something a little over-rendered and awkward about Alixe’s figures that moves in the direction of photorealism but misses the mark just slightly too often.  There are some good character bits scattered throughout the issue; there’s a really nice double-page montage of Jean finding out what happened while she was away; the panel of Rachel waiting for Jean to enter the room is great.  But there are also panels where the expressions are a little off, or just a little too stiff… and for most of the issue, he really does do quite a bad Jean Grey.  It can’t help that he’s saddled with drawing her in her ugly late-sixties costume (because that’s what she was wearing at the end of Resurrection, and the story picks up immediately after), but she really does look like a middle aged cosplayer who needs to be gently told that perhaps she can’t carry this off as well as she could ten years ago.

But anyway.  The point of this issue is two fold – motivate Jean to make the world a better place, since that’s her agenda in X-Men Red, and establish Taylor’s take on Jean, which tries to detach her from her years of continuity baggage (and even from her veteran status) and position her as the leader figure who’s going to shake things up.  There’s an intriguing idea that in some ways Jean is more formidable without the Phoenix, because she no longer has to spend so much effort thinking about pulling her punches.

It’s not hard to make a case that Jean is an underdeveloped character who has unexplored potential if you use her the right way.  She may have been the star of the Dark Phoenix Saga, but for most of her history she was the token girl, or a character defined by her relationship with Scott and put on a pedestal by both him and the book, or just one half of the X-Men’s royal couple who served mainly as an iconic elder statesperson and team mother-figure.  So with Scott out of the picture, and Phoenix expressly taken off the board at the end of Phoenix Resurrection, the way is clear to do something else with her.  Traditionally you could do “this clears the way for Logan”, but Taylor sensibly makes a point of getting an exchange with Old Man Logan out of the way early, and moving on.

So Jean’s take from everything that’s been happening while she was away is that the heroes have lost their way on internal squabbling and need to be better; that the X-Men are now living openly in the big city, which is surely a good thing and a sign that society is on the right path; and that at the same time, something dark and hateful is growing in society and emboldening hatred around it, which needs to be dealt with.  The point is fairly blatant: in so many ways, the world is getting more tolerant, But Also Trump.

This leads to… well, in terms of this particular issue, something of a miscellany of scenes.  She meets Rachel, largely because that’s something which ought to be gotten out of the way.  She’s introduced to Laura and Gabby, because they’re going to be in the cast of X-Men Red.  She goes to see Black Bolt to build bridges with the Inhumans and forgive him for the death of Scott.  That’s clearly intended as the big “let’s put this behind us and move on” pay-off for the issue.  Trouble is, the X-books actually did move on from the Inhumans, and draw a line under it, a while back.  Sure, Jean wasn’t there to do that, and she could plausibly be angry that Black Bolt accidentally released poison gas that killed her husband, but from the reader’s standpoint she’s re-opening a closed story just to close it again instantly, and that’s not a particularly compelling piece of resolution.  So it kind of just stops.

In many ways, this idealist / activist version of Jean makes perfect sense as an extrapolation of the character; it’s something of the role Scott used to play, but with less of the middle manager, more of the dream of a better world, and a hint of his more recent rebel persona.  Jean was always united with all that, but without Scott around, she can come to the fore instead of standing around in the background being supportive.  If anything, there’s a risk of her becoming a bit too wise and morally flawless, as she often feels like an authorial mouthpiece.  But Taylor is finding a new angle on her, and that’s all for the best.

Bring on the comments

  1. Moo says:

    I really think someone should have Jean and Logan finally sleep together just to get it out of the way for good. Relationship. No relationship. Whatever. It’s a shoe that’s been waiting to drop for forty years now, so just drop the shoe already while the shoe-dropping’s good so that tension can finally go away.

  2. SanityOrMadness says:

    @Moo

    You really think that would work? REALLY?

  3. MIkey says:

    “so just drop the shoe already while the shoe-dropping’s good so that tension can finally go away.”

    Wait, what? Jean hasn’t been in the books for over a decade, and Logan is only just coming back to life? How would having two characters have sex do anything besides baffle readers?

  4. Moo says:

    @Sanity

    What do you mean by “work”? Work, as in do I think a Jean/Logan extended romance would work? I don’t honestly care. I just see them sleeping together as in inevitability somewhere down the line because you just KNOW that some writer wants to be the one to write that story. And I mean, an in-continuity, “yes, this is really happening” version, not a What If scenario or an another alternate reality thing as has been done numerous times in past.

    Just get it over and done with, even if it’s just to have one or both of them wake up the next morning and say “It was a mistake.” and then go back to being friends (however awkwardly). Because I don’t think Jean is going to really be able to move on romantically with anyone for any great length until the sex-with-Logan thing finally transitions once and for all from a “will they someday?” thing to a “been there, done that.” thing.

  5. Moo says:

    @Mikey

    Why would two characters who have harbored and held back romantic feelings for each other for YEARS because one of them was in a relationship throughout that time suddenly deciding to have sex in the spur of the moment be “baffling” to anyone? Do these two really need to go through an extended courting ritual?

  6. Luis Dantas says:

    Actually, Wolverine was never a good match for Jean (or anyone that comes to mind, but that is another tale). It is amazing how far that fanfic dream spread.

    But what strikes me now remembering the end of Phoenix: Ressurrection is how vague the Phoenix Force still is after so many decades of overexposition and overplotting. It has no clear role, no clear nature, no clear goals.

    For something that time and again it has become the core of some plot or another, it is remarkably (and insufferably) cypherlike.

    It is odd to think that at one time a whole crossover was made in the Malibu comics specifically to introduce a character (Foxfire) that people went out of their way to introduce as the “Scion of the Phoenix”.

    Does anyone even have any idea of who the Phoenix is? I sure don’t. I just remember a lot of stories that seemed to attempt to answer that question and somehow all fell short, in mutually exclusive ways even. And I can’t say that I care to learn. It is just too transparently an overused plot tool of unwieldly shape.

  7. PersonofCon says:

    Wolverine’s last major relationship was a series of hook ups with Storm, right? While I liked the sex-positivity aspect, that not everything has to be a relationship, it really solidified to me that out of possibly all X-Characters, there is no one whose relationships I am less interested in than Wolverine’s. They just all feel so perfunctory and transitional. (Which is maybe an issue for most DC/Marvel superheroes, but it feels particularly so with Wolverine to me.)

    Maybe if he started dating Hercules…

  8. Moo says:

    Luis Dantas says: “It is amazing how far that fanfic dream spread.”

    It’s not my fanfic dream, just to be clear. I’m not pushing for a Logan/Jean hookup because I desperately want it to happen. I just think it needs to happen so that fandom (including current and future writers), and especially Jean as a character, can move on.

    For as long as Wolverine’s origin was shrouded in mystery, writers wanted to tell that story. For as long as Bucky was dead, writers wanted to bring him back. Both of these things eventually happened. I feel this is similar. Something that’s always going to be hanging over the heads of these two characters until Marvel finally goes ahead and just lets someone do it. So, let’s be done with it already while the planets are aligned.

  9. wwk5d says:

    I agree. Just let them pork each other and move on.

  10. Si says:

    Note that Chris Claremont stated on X-Plain the X-Men that he wants Wolverine and Jean together. That said, it was only ever really a thing from the early 90s. It is the perfect love triangle, the girl trying to choose between the stable provider and the bad boy with strong genes. But without Cyclops, there’s really nothing to gain from them being a couple. We definitely don’t need some guy travelling from the future with red hair and psychic claws.

    I don’t think it will resolve anything if the pair had sex, because that’s not how the comics work. We never move forward, ever. No resolution sticks, ever. But if they must have sex, I’d love it if it was really bad, and both of them end up horribly disappointed and everything’s made really awkward for months afterward. It won’t resolve anything, but damn it would be funny.

  11. the comments section of this review perfectly demonstrates how apt and on point Taylor’s take is. a perspective on the importance of shifting Jean Grey out of the stale position of soul mate/significant other/dream girl is followed by… an extended discussion on whether Jean and Logan should fuck or not.

    christ.

  12. Moo says:

    “…an extended discussion on whether Jean and Logan should fuck or not.”

    That you’ve misread. Also, do you honestly believe Taylor’s writing of a brief exchange between Jean and Golden Years of Future Past Logan is going to finally draw a line under the whole thing? It won’t. It’s still the pre-landing moon. You know someone’s going to go there someday. All I’m suggesting is that they let someone go there now so it can move to the “it’s been done” column. Then maybe other writers besides Taylor (who isn’t going to be Jean’s permanent creative caretaker) will start thinking of other things to do with Jean.

  13. Brendan says:

    If there is a 2018 Homie for funniest HtA burn, Daniel Lourenço has my vote.

  14. SanityOrMadness says:

    @Moo

    When I said “work”, I meant “work as a way to shut it down.” Of course it wouldn’t. It would turn it up to 11.

  15. Mikey says:

    I can confidently say that this was one of the dumber tangents these discussions have ever gone down, and I’m glad it was only a one-off Annual where it apparently had to happen.

    Jean getting a fresh start is a good thing.

  16. Moo says:

    11 isn’t sustainable. See: practically every other romantic pairing. It might, and very likely would, turn into an on/off thing. But the “still attracted/not doing anything about it” routine has been an on/off thing since it began. The off periods due largely to Jean taking her little death vacations.

    Look, if Taylor or any other writer can successfully march Jean off in a bold new direction without the Jean/Logan attraction deal ever surfacing again, then yay. God knows she needs to be defined by something other than “Phoenix”, “relationship to Scott”, and “attraction to Logan”. But I still maintain that Marvel’s gonna do the Jean/Logan thing someday. They’ve done pretty much everything else that was previously unallowable (the revealing of Logan’s origin, Bucky coming back from the dead).

  17. Kreniigh says:

    Luis Dantas says: “Does anyone even have any idea of who the Phoenix is?”

    Sure, according to Jason Aaron, it’s a legacy identity like Starman or the Flash, but going back one million years. I personally cannot wait to read the adventures of Golden Age Phoenix, or Wild Wild West Phoenix. (Or that time Pirate Age Phoenix ran into the Thing disguised as Blackbeard. What a yarn!)

  18. Brian says:

    THE ADVENTURES OF GOLDEN AGE PHOENIX, AND HER YOUTHFUL WARD KID COSMOS!

    “Gallopin’ Galaxies, Phoenix! Those lousy Shi’arFfifth Columnists are gonna blow up the rail depot if we don’t give ‘em a hot foot fast!”

  19. Alastair Binyon says:

    Silver age jean: vulnerable and scared is drawn to scott as the both need each other’s support. A teen romance that is chaste rather then passionate.

    Giant size to Jamaica bay: able to step out on her own jean and scott move on to a more normal dating relationship not living and working together means they have time to test there feelings for each other jean starts to feel true love for scott she is uncertain but it is enough for Phoenix to hook on to.

    Pheonix: wanting to feel the strongest emotions Phoenix emphasis jean love for scott, pheonix loved scott more then jean . Be

  20. Alastair Binyon says:

    Because she wanted extreme emotions.

    Madylene: feelings for scott are preprogrammed and not just bbecause she is a clone

    Rebirth to inferno: jean is back to pre crash feelings she likes scottb butb is unsure it is love made more confusing by the secrets over maddie and not knowing how much his feelings are for pheonix. She rejects his proposals but want to see if they still. Have something.

    Inferno to genosha: logan Sexually assults her in the middle of a battle. She merges minds with Maddy. From this point on we move towards the marriage but jean as aspects of maddy and pheonix in her subconscious so her growing feelings for scott may not be her own. She also meets Rachael which as got to start her thinking about destiny

    Genosha to wedding: jean is placed in a cell with a dying logan being powerless herself and sensing. His need for comfort she embraces him. Apart from this she works on relationship with scott. Logan nearly dies using her powers to soothe his pain is the most intense sensation but it does not draw her to logan but makes her realise how important her fellings for scott are they marryt.

    Marriage to the 12: they have a strong marriage with no hint. Of remorse or feelings elsewhere.

    12 to here comes tomorrow: scott dies jean mournes but does not try to move on logan is suprisingly respectful and not a sex pest. Scott comes scarred and they both find it hard to rekindle the old flame. Scott turns to Emma initially for counselling but finds himself more comfortable with her the against his better judgement the psychic affair begins. Jean also looks to Logan for support the share a brief kiss but she wants to save the marriage. After the affair is exposed jean and logan look to dieing as their craft burnsb up in the sun. Thinking its their last moments they embrace. Logan having got what he wants chops her head off an advanced form. Of love you and leave you.

    Young jean: young jean pushes Scott away as to fight against destiny and starts jeans second relationship in the comics with hank. (Although hank grows up worse then scott) she shows no attraction to Logan although there are some creepy scenes were old man logan seems to act like a 70 radio dj around this teen girl.

    In short there is no basis for jean logan. Jean scott is not destiny but more cosmic and sinister manipulation.

    Jean if she must have anu relationship should be with someone show new ideas

  21. wwk5d says:

    “She rejects his proposals but want to see if they still. Have something.”

    Didn’t that happen post-Inferno, not pre-Inferno?

    “In short there is no basis for jean logan.”

    Initially there wasn’t (it was mostly Logan having one-sided feelings for Jean), but CC later retconned that Jean did have *some* feelings and attraction to Logan. The first time we saw that was in the back-up stories in Classic X-men. Louise Simonson also made mention of that too during her run on X-factor as well.

  22. Luis Dantas says:

    I must read more of the latest Phoenix: Endsong series someday (the one that preceded this Annual).

    I wonder if there was an attempt at reconciling this apparently so humanlike Phoenix Force with the Dark Phoenix Saga (which made it clear that Phoenix is well unlike human in feelings), the Jamaica Bay cocoon retcon in Fantastic Four #286 (1986) that had Phoenix as very unfamiliar with humans, Alan Davis mishappen attempt at an origin for Phoenix in Excalibur #52 (1992) or even 2012’s role of Phoenix Force in “Avengers vs X-Men”. I am sure that there are many other stories that can’t be reconciled with each other or with Jason Aaron’s take, but I still wonder if he tried to.

    Maybe with all those reboots since 2015’s “Secret Wars” that continuity no longer applies and Aaron is attempting to redefine the Phoenix Force as something more inherently tied to Earth and to humans?

  23. Christopher says:

    If the numerous “Hank Pym is psycho” resolutions refuse to stick then no Jean Logan wrapping will hold either

  24. jpw says:

    Alistair – IIRC, Logan stabbed Jean in the chest. He decapitated Magneto.

  25. i agree, Jean and Ororo should totally hook up.

  26. FUBAR007 says:

    wwk5d: Didn’t that happen post-Inferno, not pre-Inferno?

    Post-Inferno. Scott proposed to Jean in X-Factor vol. 1 #53. She turned him down.

    Luis Dantas: Maybe with all those reboots since 2015’s “Secret Wars” that continuity no longer applies and Aaron is attempting to redefine the Phoenix Force as something more inherently tied to Earth and to humans?

    I don’t think it’s that the old stories are technically out of continuity so much as that Aaron and the editor(s) he’s working under are either unaware of them or ignoring them.

  27. Kreniigh says:

    FUBAR007 says:
    “I don’t think it’s that the old stories are technically out of continuity so much as that Aaron and the editor(s) he’s working under are either unaware of them or ignoring them.”

    It’s rumored that Secret Wars 2015 was actually caused by Superboy punching reality, but actually a wizard did it.

  28. Chris says:

    A wizard?

    Gareb Shamus?

  29. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    My own view is that at this point the Phoenix Force is like Gallifrey; it’s been shown so many different ways that if you follow one portrayal, you’ll just be contradicting another, so you might as well just do what you like with it.

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