Since time traveling to the present day, the teen X-Man known as Jean Grey has done battle with a number of powerful foes, including some of the heaviest hitters the Marvel Universe has to offer. But perhaps her most formidable adversary is her destiny to become a vessel for the cosmic entity known as the Phoenix, like her deceased adult self once was. This August, Jean will get a chance to see exactly what that destiny would look like as time travel brings her face to face with her older self shortly after she became the Phoenix. It all happens in the one-shot Generations: Phoenix and Jean Grey by writer Cullen Bunn and artist R.B. Silva.
But before that happens, July’s X-Men Blue #7, by Bunn and artist Cory Smith, kicks off a Secret Empire tie-in arc pitting Jean and the team of time displaced original X-Men she leads against the forces of Hydra. CBR spoke with Bunn about both projects, the dynamic between Jean and her adult self, and the adventure they’ll embark on. We also dig into the turmoil the original X-Men will have to navigate as they strike back against the Steve Rogers-led forces of Hydra that have seized control of America.
CBR: Teen Jean Grey is a big part of your X-Men Blue series, but with your Generations one-shot you’re getting to dive into her as a solo character. Which elements of Jean are you especially interested in exploring?
Cullen Bunn: As much as I like writing the whole team, it’s nice to really do a deep dive into Jean’s thoughts. With this story, I wanted to explore Jean’s fears, not only of becoming the Phoenix, but of becoming adult Jean Grey. Since she arrived in this time period, she’s been hearing comparisons to her adult self, this woman who was so perfect and at the same time so flawed. It’s a lot to live up to and a lot to dread.
Your story pairs teen Jean with her older self from a time when she just became the Phoenix. How would you describe their dynamic?
Their dynamic is interesting, because young Jean comes into the story with a specific goal — she wants to learn about the Phoenix so she can defeat it when she has to face the entity. Older Jean has answers, but that dynamic shifts quite a bit as the story continues.
They go on a pretty wild adventure together. It’s an encounter between Phoenix and someone that has been on my mind since my earliest days reading X-Men comics. It was the subject of many debates in my local comic shop when I was a kid.
R.B. Silva is showing his knack for the world of the X-Men with his work over on X-Men Gold What’s it like collaborating with him on this story? What do you enjoy most about his style?
R.B. is a delight to work with, and he elevates any story he illustrates. I love how he takes these complicated pages that I’ve written and works some sort of art-magic on them, shaping them into something that’s both dynamic and simply gorgeous. Seeing adult Jean Grey on the page again after so long — it thrills me that R.B. is just knocking it out of the park with these pages.
The adventures and interaction teen Jean has with Phoenix in your one-shot should have some impact and connection to both your work on X-Men Blue , and Dennis Hopeless’ Jean Grey series. For readers who follow all those books, will there be some connective tissue between those titles and this story?
Yes, there will be some connective tissue. This story is absolutely following what my arch-nemesis Hopeless is writing in the Jean Grey series. In that book, Jean is trying to avoid becoming host to the Phoenix, and this picks up on that thread. Jean will come away with something at the end of this story that helps shape who she will be in the days to come. You don’t have to read X-Men Blue or the Jean Grey series to follow this story, but the books all inform one another.
Teen Jean will also have her hands full in upcoming issues of X-Men Blue, as she and her team deal with the rise of Hydra as Steve Rogers’ Secret Empire. Can you talk about how she’ll react to that? What kind of emotional space will she be in when you pick up with her in X-Men Blue#7?
Going into Secret Empire, Jean is confused and upset and worried that nothing the X-Men do will help. We’re seeing a mutant homeland rising up, but one of the rulers of that homeland is Emma Frost, a woman Jean feels needs to be brought to justice. Emma has a ruthless way of dealing with dissenting voices that Jean (and the other X-Men) simply can’t abide.
We start issue 7 right in the thick of things. I don’t waste a lot of time showing the “origins” of New Tian. I let readers know what has happened in the world, and we jump right into the action. The X-Men team is acting sort of like rebel forces against a hostile regime. This world is sort of like their Days of Futures Past.
You’re collaborating with Cory Smith, who is probably best known for his work on IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, on the Secret Empire arc of X-Men Blue. What has Cory brought to this story in particular?
I’m sure it is a challenge, because there are so many moving parts, so many characters, so many jam-packed action sequences. This is a story that moves and picks up a lot of passengers and plot threads along the way. But Cory’s work is lovely here.
Can you leave us with some hints and teases about the type of action we’ll see in the Secret Empire arc that runs through X-Men: Blue #7-9, and then beyond into the late summer/early fall months?
Even though issues 7 though 9 are Secret Empire crossovers, there will be a few things happening in the arc that play into something big coming in the future. I’ve already planted some of the seeds of this bigger, crazier story. In this arc, you’ll start to see them sprout.
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