When you think of powerhouse superheroines, you wouldn’t normally think of Marvel Girl. However, Jean Grey is, on top of undoubtedly being one of the X-Men’s legacy characters, actually one of the most powerful women in the marvel universe. While one might be prone to a series of eye rolls because of Jean’s proclivity for resurrection, you can’t deny Jean Grey’s involvement in some of the most iconic X-Men story arcs, nor the fact that she’s one of the most powerful psychics on Earth.
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Things are looking bright for everyone’s favorite host of the Phoenix Force. Jean’s success in the “All-New X-Men” series must not have gone unnoticed, as she’ll have her own title in 2017. Not to mention Fox is rumored to have their eyes set on “The Phoenix Saga” as the next X-film narrative. To celebrate Jean’s expansive X-history, we’ve chronicled her best 15 moments, in no particular order, to help you relive all of your Phoenix feels.
15. Teenage Jean Can’t Throw A T-Rex
It’s a beautiful day for the X-Men when Dennis Hopeless and Jamie McKelvie join forces to chronicle the modern take on the original five X-Men in “X-Men: Season One.” There’s a lot to celebrate in this book. Despite it being an origin story, it truly makes the original team feel like teenagers. Case in point, young Jean (who doesn’t need to be a telepath to be supernaturally sassy) and Angel are separated from the rest of the group on a mission gone awry in the Savage Land. They’ve been tied up for days on, they’re exhausted and Jean’s in an awkward teen love triangle between Scott and Warren.
Since the Savage Land wouldn’t be as savage without roaming T-Rexes, one charges towards the two! In standard bird-brain fashion, Warren asks Jean to throw the dino over the ledge. Still too weak to perform basic telepathy, Jean can’t. Warren makes a fuss about having previously seen Jean “toss around fighter jets with her mind.” Jean’s response? “We’ve been awake for two days– I’m SO sorry I can’t throw a dinosaur for you!” Classic.
14. Jean Controls Scott’s Optic Blasts
“The Dark Phoenix Saga” isn’t without its moments of glory. If you’re an X-fan, you’re privy to the destructive power the Dark Phoenix brings with her, but one of Jean’s quieter but nonetheless more impressive moments takes place in “Uncanny X-Men” issue #132. The X-Men narrowly escape a team of coordinated attacks compliments of Emma Frost and The Hellfire Club. Normally, the band of merry mutants would head back to HQ in Westchester, but The Hellfire Club’s intel is if nothing else, thorough and the mansion isn’t safe to return to.
It’s Cyclops’ idea to take the team to hide out in Angel’s lavish, New Mexico estate where Scott and Jean get some scenic alone time on top of a desert mountain top. Showing another impressive display of power, Jean removes Scott’s visor while telekinetically suppressing his optic blast so she can look into his eyes. Too bad this tender moment is later followed by some galactic destruction.
13. Jean Telekinetically Rearranges The Molecules Of Her Clothing
In “Uncanny X-Men” issue #125, readers get a taste of Chris Claremont’s “long game” style of storytelling. While this issue and following issues after tackle the “Proteus” arc, we see the early stages of the Dark Phoenix saga as Mastermind, a mutant with mind control abilities and a member of the Hellfire Club, subtly breaches Jean’s psyche, causing her to occasionally have a few out-of-character moments.
In one of these moments, Jean and Lorna/Polaris are having a heart-to-heart. In an effort to lighten the mood, Jean gives Lorna a chic mini-fashion show by telekinetically rearranging the molecules of her clothing to show not one, but five different outfits. The fact that this is scene is not about Jean using her incredibly powerful abilities to thwart an attack or to save a life, but rather simply show young woman having fun with some rather impressive mutant powers is a unique and refreshing moment to see, and we thank Chris Claremont for that.
12. The Wedding Of Cyclops & Phoenix
Talk about seminal moments in X-history! One could easily argue the wedding of Scott and Jean is one of the biggest weddings in comic book history. The wedding was so big, in fact, that the real-life renowned gown designer, Nicole Miller, was selected to design Jean’s wedding dress. “X-Men” issue #30 is drenched in equal parts feels and action, but let’s be honest, we’re here for the feels.
The book opens with an open letter from Wolverine on why he won’t be attending, writing she and Scott go together “like fire and ice,” because “one can’t exist without the other.” Who knew Logan was such a poet? Aside from the marriage of Scott and Jean, there are some nuanced character beats. My personal fave? Jean telekinetically lifting Xavier out of his chair to dance with the bride. However, fans may appreciate the first dance of the bride & groom to U2’s “The One,” performed by Lila Chaney. Cosmic feels anyone?
11. Jean Grey vs Sabretooth
Phoenix Force aside, Jean hasn’t always gotten the respect she deserves in and outside of the comic panels, so it’s always a seismic treat when she demands some recognition. Enter in X-Men issue #28. Xavier, against better judgement decided to take in Wolverine’s classic nemesis, Sabretooth and keep him in the lower levels of the X-mansion for rehabilitation, against the wishes of some of the X-Men.
Jean’s concerns for the team’s safety prompts her to call a late night meeting off-site of the mansion. The team is split on what to do, and Creed subsequently stays in the mansion, playing mind games with several X-members including Rogue and Psylocke. Jean gets fed up with Creed’s behavior and confronts him, resulting in the throw down that blessed fans with this lovely burn: “You’re a firecracker, Creed — and I’m an atom bomb!” In case you didn’t know, Jean doesn’t need the Phoenix to bring the fire.
10. Jean’s Death
“The Phoenix Saga’s” galactic and tragic scope makes it one of the most poignant and incredible comic arcs to date. We could even make an entire list of its own out of its hallmark moments, but there’s one that was by far the most earth shattering at the time: the unceremonious death of Jean Grey. “The Phoenix Saga” concludes in “Uncanny X-Men” issue #138 and by stars and garters does it end on a heavy note.
Jean Grey/Phoenix, after doing some cosmic damage, (you know of the solar-system destroying kind) must pay for her actions by decree of the Shi’ar empire. Luckily, Xavier uses his existing relationship with Lilandra to intervene and demand a trial by combat. The X-Men go head-to-head with members of the Imperial Guard on the moon and most of them are defeated by their Shi’ar counterparts. Jean and Scott are the last stand, but Jean can feel the Phoenix’s power swell in her. Knowing this will never end, Jean activates an ancient Kree canon which destroys her, but not before saying a heartfelt goodbye to Cyclops.
9. Young Jean Grey Sees Her Future
Most X-fans would say “All-New X-Men’s” Jean Grey makes more of a compelling character than her older original counterpart, and in some ways I’d have to agree. “All-New X-Men” centers around the original five X-Men catapulted into the future by Beast. The result sees a few duplicate sets of the original and modern-day X-Men coexisting in the same timeline. This is without older Jean, as she’s dead.
In “All-New X-Men” issue #5, things come to a head as the original five X-Men are still reeling from their time displacement. Beast, basically on his deathbed, shows Jean her future — all of it. Rightfully so, the teenaged Jean is freaked out. She saw and felt herself die, she saw a marriage with Scott (someone she doesn’t even like at the moment), and she saw her actions as the Dark Phoenix. The panel is pain and awe in perfect union, and Stuart Immonen captures it perfectly.
8. The Phoenix Force Nightmare
Young Jean goes through her fair share of trauma. Not only does she have to acclimate to a new era, but also she has to adjust to her peers making preconceived notions about her, which later plays into the “Trial of Jean Grey” arc. In short, the entire Marvel universe is alerted to the presence of a potential Phoenix host, and to most, that’s a terrifying possibility.
In “All-New X-Men” issue #26, Jean’s having a fever dream that she’s consumed by the Phoenix Force nearly destroying everything and everyone around her. It’s a scene that looks all too familiar and real. Luckily, Scott wakes her up from the nightmare, but one has to wonder if these panels are prophecy. Either way, Stuart Immomen creates a gorgeous splash panel showing the Phoenix at peak power, as well as gives readers a glimpse to what could have been had Jean fully embraced becoming the Dark Phoenix instead of rejecting her inner darkness.
7. Jean Takes Control Of The Phoenix
Greg Pak and Greg Land teamed up for a modern tale of epic proportions in the limited five-part series “X-Men: Phoenix Endsong.” One of the most integral elements to this arc is differentiation between Jean Grey as a host and Phoenix as a cosmic, parasitic entity. It also teased fans with the possibility of Jean finally returning from the dead, as well as showed us just how powerful she actually is. The Shi’ar empire mistakenly awakens the Phoenix force without a host. This results in the Phoenix entity seeking out her “ideal host,” Jean Grey, and resurrecting the late telepath.
In an attempt to subdue herself, Jean embeds herself in ice, but the Phoenix escapes, looking to possess the body of one of Jean’s teammates. The Phoenix succeeds as she possesses Emma Frost, but Jean isn’t backing down. After being freed from the ice by Cyclops, Jean forces the Phoenix Force out of Emma Frost. Phoenix is genuinely surprised by Jean’s will power, but Jean’s responds saying “Don’t you remember? I am you.”
6. Jean Grey Meets Invisible Woman
“X-Men: First Class” (not to be mixed up with the 2011 movie) mirrors “X-Men: Season One” in the sense it’s a retelling of the origins of the original five members. There’s a ton of fantastic breakout moments for each character in the book, with Jean having a few stellar moments of her own. “First Class” introduces the original five to the rest of the Marvel universe. Everyone from Doctor Strange to the Fantastic Four made appearances, and it’s in the latter where Jean stumbles upon some unsolicited advice.
Xavier notices Jean’s frustration with being the only girl member on the team, so who better to connect her with than a fellow superheroine who works with a team of boys like Sue Storm? Though the meeting is mostly light-hearted, Sue and Jean truly bond in a way that helps the young telepath cope with working with a group of men, resulting in a more confident and assertive Jean Grey.
5. Jean Transports Scott To The White Hot Room
In the closing chapter of “X-Men: Phoenix Endsong,” both Phoenix and Jean show various displays of power. Inevitably, Jean gains dominion over the Phoenix force with the help of Cyclops as he has Emma & The Stepford Cuckoos make a telepathic link between Jean and everyone she’s touched on the planet. Allowing Jean to regain her strength through the literal power of love, she transports herself and Scott to the White Hot Room, a sanctuary for the Phoenix host and a nexus of realities found only inside the M’Kraan Crystal.
Again, we see Jean asking Scott to remove his visor so that she may see his eyes. This is undoubtedly a signature move at this point. Jean then leaves to do what Phoenix does best: reforge herself in fire for a new awakening further down the road. Jean and Scott’s quieter moments are truly some of the most impactful, particularly in this case when Jean doesn’t have much power (or desire) to save herself.
4. Jean & Scott Escape from Stryfe
“The X-Cutioner’s Song” holds some of the richest history for the Summers line. Everything from Mr. Sinister to the legacy virus ties in some part to Jean & Scott. Because of this, X-villain Stryfe has the couple kidnapped and keeps them for genetic experimentation and the sadistic pleasure of torturing the two of them, for “ruining” his life. Once Jean & Scott managed to get free, their passion-fuelled escape could be argued what prompted Jean’s wedding proposal.
The panel you see is exceptionally drawn, showing an eruption of emotion for the two. Rightfully so, as they were just tortured lab rats seconds ago. But like several moments in this list, the beauty isn’t that she’s saving a fellow X-member. Jean has proven herself countless times as a reliable part of the X-team, whether she’s imbued with the Phoenix force or is 100% Jean Grey, she makes for a fierce addition to any team.
3. Jean Deflects A Barrage Of Nuclear Missiles
“The Age of Apocalypse” timeline held some great character moments. Like most alternate storylines, these characters are still imbued with basic “core” traits but placed in extreme circumstances. Under the care of Magneto, Jean trained as an Alpha-class mutant and the sole telepath of the X-Men. Jean and Weapon X (Wolverine) get wind Apocalypse has an impending nuclear missile attack aimed directly at the U.S. Jean splits up from Weapon X in an attempt to warn everyone about the impending strike. In doing so, she’s caught and imprisoned by Alex Summers (an agent of Apocalypse in this timeline) along with Scott Summers who’s thought to be working with Jean. In typical Scott & Jean fashion, the two escape.
Realizing the nuclear warheads from Europe were on their way, Jean created a large telekinetic shield in the sky. While Jean focused her efforts on the shield, she was killed by a plasma blast fired by Alex Summers. And even though Jean’s no stranger to death, her courage in this moment is a reflection of her core character traits. Even in a dystopian future, Jean remains selfless and powerful.
2. Jean Belongs to Nobody
“X-Factor” is chalked full of great character moments, and most of the flirtatious chemistry Jean & Wolverine have seen in other X-Men media (films, animated series, etc) have taken inspiration from her days with the X-Factor team. In the X-Men/X-Factor crossover, “Inferno,” (“Uncanny X-Men” #242 and “X-Factor” #37), Wolverine can’t believe Jean is alive. You know, after being dead and all? So how does Logan confirm this Jean is the real thing? He kisses her, enraging both Jean and Cyclops in the process.
Wolverine and Scott began arguing over Jean, as Wolverine reminds Cyclops he has a redheaded wife of his own. As Wolverine antagonizes Scott further, Jean swiftly reminds both men that she’s nobody’s property, hurling Wolverine backwards, as she’s had enough of the machismo match. Jean’s relationships with both men have always been complicated, but nobody puts Jeanie in a corner, not even Wolverine.
1. “I AM PHOENIX!”
“Uncanny X-Men” issue #101 is another seminal moment in X-Men lore. In the previous issue, Jean sacrifices herself by piloting a space shuttle through radioactive energy to save the rest of her team. In a cry for help, Jean garners the interest of the Phoenix Force, who not only helps her save the team, but also transforms her into the cosmic-powered Phoenix. Jean’s stunning emergence from the waters of Jamaica Bay may be one of Dave Cockrum’s finest contributions to comics. In the panel, Jean declares, “ No longer am I the woman you knew! I am fire! And life incarnate! Now and forever – I AM PHOENIX!”
Jean’s evolution marks her transition into a true character of substance. When created, Jean’s characterization wasn’t given much thought, but here, Chris Claremont went on to create one of the most complexed narratives in comic book history. Jean’s ascent to goddesshood is by far her most definitive moment and “The Phoenix Saga” is a beloved classic fans will never forget.
Which stories about Jean Grey do you think were her best? Let us know in the comments!
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