SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Jean Grey #10 by Dennis Hopeless, Alberto Albuquerque, Jay David Ramos and Travis Lanham, on sale now.
The return of the adult Jean Grey in the upcoming Phoenix Resurrection has been touted as a big deal, but the latest issue of the younger Jean's ongoing series just raised the stakes in a whole new way. The closing pages of the comic set the stage for the miniseries by killing off one of the most important X-Men characters of the last few years. All in all, the end of Jean Grey signals a massive shift in the mutant landscape, and the team will be forever changed by the death of one of its most beloved members.
The previous issue of Jean Grey, released two weeks ago, ended with the young Jean backed by a host of former Phoenix Force wielders. Emma Frost, Quentin Quire, Hope Summers, The Stepford Cuckoos and even the spirit of the adult Jean Grey came together to help the teen Jean defy destiny and stop the Phoenix before it took her over and bent her to its will. With the Phoenix Force now on Earth, the team realizes it's going to take a lot more than they have to stop it. And while the young Jean is able to wound it with the aid of Cable's Psi-mitar, The Phoenix seems just too strong for anyone to overcome.
So, like many young heroes of destiny, Jean decides to stop running and face the cosmic force of nature on an even playing field. She manages to push it far away from her friends and allies, where a final battle can take place. Either she defeats The Phoenix, or she becomes The Phoenix: those are the two options presented to her. However, she soon learns how wrong she is.
The Phoenix was never coming for her, at least not like she believed. It has no connection to her, since she's from a time before Jean Grey becomes The Phoenix. In actuality, The Phoenix wants the adult Jean, but to do that it needs the young Jean out of the way. Thus, the force floods her body with flaming psychic energy, incinerating her from the inside out, leaving only a skeleton.
Ashes To Ashes
It's likely to be seen as a controversial move, killing off the young Jean Grey in favor of bringing back the adult incarnation when we have two Beasts, two Angels and two Icemen. However, this accomplishes something superhero comics struggle with in the current climate: It presents a genuinely shocking death. Not just that, it presents a genuinely shocking death for Jean Grey, who has died so many times it's become a meme. Due to the time travel nature of the character and her allies, it was assumed they wore the sturdiest of plot armor. Because they have to go back to the past to become the characters they are today, they can't really be harmed. Right?
Furthermore, the titling of the upcoming miniseries is the rather clunky Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of (Adult) Jean Grey, but while the parenthesis stands out, it also implies the younger Jean would be sticking around, though that's apparently not the case. The issue even goes out of the way to let you know there's no way Jean is going to die. Her adult self tells her the worst case scenario for her is to become possessed, so by the time the moment comes, it's a true, genuine shock.
Jean's death opens up a lot of different storytelling possibilities, and not just for the adult Jean set to return soon. What happens to her teammates on Magneto's X-Men when they learn that not only did their friend die, but they weren't there for her when she needed them? Does Beast feel any level of responsibility for Jean's death, dragging her to the future only to die so her adult self could live again? How will the adult Jean deal with the guilt over being brought back to life at the expense of someone so young?
It always seemed like the time-displaced X-Men were a temporary addition to the Marvel Universe. But they've been around so long now, it feels weird that one of them is gone. How that affects the X-Men is going to be a major plot point going forward, throughout the line.