Welcome back to another installment of Mutantversity! Mutantversity is your home for all things X-Men. In Mutantversity, I, your loyal X-Men tutor, will look at all the things happening in the mutant universe. Each month, I’ll look at a handful of titles and rotate around each month. I’ll keep focus on the most important books or what I consider the most noteworthy. That’ll include crossovers, events, new creative teams and first issues. To kick off the new year, let’s take a look at what January offered us. Obviously, spoilers are everywhere in this.
“Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey” #2,3,4,5 by Matthew Rosenberg, Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Fonteriz, Joe Bennett, Lorenzo Ruggeiro, Ramon Rosanas, Leinil Francis Yu, Rachelle Rosenberg and Travis Lanham
Let’s start off with the big one. I’ll be covering most of this event here so in an effort to keep it short and get to the point, I’ll be as brief as possible without skipping the big details. The other reason for this is that the Make Mine Multiversity team have an episode (coming up very soon) that’s all about this with tons of analysis from people other than myself. It is a great discussion and you should listen to it if you want something even more in depth. “Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey” #2-5 is the big stuff you’ve wanted to see. The X-men are scattered a little bit visiting different places that meant something in the history of Jean and the Phoenix Force. They investigate and come back with nothing but they know that something is going on here. Their investigation continues until they come up to a sort of sphere in New Mexico that opens up for them. When they get there, they are right in the middle of the place that Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force has inhabiting. As this happens, Jean’s idyllic world is crumbling around her. She’s having bad dreams again and while she still sees nice things going on, her mind is scattered and the world around her is literally on flames. Jean is struggling and when she gets to work, these two worlds are starting to converge. The X-Men have made it to Annie’s diner and they want to talk to Jean. Teen Cyclops attempts to go in but is stopped by Old Man Logan. Old Man Logan tells him that that’s not his Jean in there. He doesn’t know her so he goes in to talk with Jean. It turns out that Annie is the image that the Phoenix Force has decided to take and in the last issue, Jean is being talked to by both Old Man Logan and Annie and it ends with Annie getting her throat cut by Logan. This pushes Jean to remember who he is and this wakes Jean up and she’s back. Jean and the Phoenix Force now have a conversation. Jean remembers all of her life and the Phoenix Force tries to trick her into going along with it again. It shows her everything she could have. It could bring her parents to life, her childhood friend Annie, her fallen X-Men teammates and her husband, Cyclops. The Phoenix Force brings back Cyclops for her and tells all about how they can offer each other something once again but Jean stands her ground. After all these years, Jean breaks up with the Phoenix Force. She is no longer scared of her powers, she isn’t scared of losing anyone and she isn’t willing to let the Phoenix take over anymore. The Phoenix Force is gone for now because Jean was finally able to will herself away and force it to understand that they can’t give each other the things they want. Jean breaks down crying after accepting all this loss and turns to her X-men family for support. She’s back and things will be different.
Jean and the Phoenix played this game for so many years. Each gave the other something they wanted but the Phoenix Force manipulated Jean Grey for so long and gave her the things she wanted. It catered to her insecurities and it got chaos and passion in exchange. Rosenberg writes a story where Jean finally stands up against all that. It’s a battle of willpower and Jean ultimately wins that and that’s something she’s never done before. Jean was told for so long by herself and the Phoenix Force that she would be nothing without all this power. She could use her power not for good but to fix the things that have gone wrong for her. Her final pushing away of this huge power is the strongest thing she’s ever done because she’s right. Pain, sadness, loss are all things we go through in life. It always hurts but this is what happens. We can’t play God because that power is corruptible and none of us would ever be able to use that without causing damage. The Phoenix Force is a cosmic entity that Jean wanted to control instead of understand that it was trying to control her. When she did realize this, it would always be too late.Continued below
What I can’t wait for is Jean interacting with this new world that she’s in. The teen version of her is still here, Cyclops is dead, Xavier is a young man again and Kitty Pryde leads the X-Men. I want to see her interact with these characters and I want to see her interact with the Logan she knows when he eventually takes his place back in the X-Men universe. What comes next for Jean Grey? I don’t know but I can’t wait to find out.
A Decent Start
“Legion” #1 by Peter Milligan, Wilfredo Torres, Dan Brown and Travis Lanham
With Legion making his way to television in the AMAZING Legion, it’s a no brainer to try and capitalize on some of that with a comic book series. “Legion” #1 doesn’t start with too much of an introduction to David Haller. When the issue opens up, we see him running away from someone. He’s trying to get somewhere while the personalities in his head fight with him. He ends up in a hospital and they run some tests on him that feel very similar to a scene in the television show (which is probably on purpose) and this goes wrong when his powers begin to act up. One of the personalities harms the hospital workers and so David in on the run again. As this is happening, Dr. Hannah Jones, a psychotherapist, is getting ready to do a tv interview. She’s a therapist to the stars and she’s helped rock stars, athletes politicians and more. Her interview is going well until she’s suddenly visited by visions of David trying to get a message to her. Her day gets weirder when she’s shown more visions that get wilder and wilder including tentacles in her limo. “Legion” #1 ends with her and David finally meeting.
“Legion” #1 is pure introduction so there isn’t a lot here to dissect just yet. I wanted to talk about it though because it’s a new title and people will surely be curious about it. If you’re looking for something similar to the tv show, this isn’t it. That’s not a bad thing though because the comics should be their own thing as comics are limitless. “Legion” #1 doesn’t have a ton of substance but the characterization and how it actually introduces us to David’s power is cool. It doesn’t act as his origin story but instead relies on the context in the action to give us enough of what we need to know. Legion is a character that you can do lots of different things with so I’m interested to see how this shakes out.
Not Quite A Honeymoon
“Rogue & Gambit” #1 by Kelly Thompson, Pere Perez, Frank D’Armata and Joe Caramagna
There are few couples in the long history of the X-Men with a more complicated history than Rogue and Gambit. However, despite all that, they always seem like a pair that’s destined to keep going back to each other. They’re also one of the more popular of all the X-Men pairings. They’re kind of trashy and so sexually charged despite Rogue’s powers. There’s just something so charming about these two and so this series really hits a soft spot for a lot of readers. “Rogue & Gambit” #1 begins with Rogue in the Danger Room. She’s working on some drills when Gambit shows up and starts his whole charming song and dance. He tries to be overly friendly with her despite Rogue’s desire to keep things a little distant and so, she shuts him down. Kitty Pryde calls her into her office to tell about her a pretty serious situation happening. Mutants have basically vanished off of Cerebra. Kitty believes it might involve telepaths. Kitty has found a therapy resort that may be where the incidents are stemming from but to get in, she thinks that it would be wise to send a couple in who could pass for romantic. That’s where Rogue and Gambit come in. They are sent to this resort to pose as a married couple and as they get acclimated, they share some important moments where they talk about their relationship. The issue ends with the two of them on a beach and Gambit says something about how they should enjoy paradise and maybe this will be an easy mission. The next page cuts to the two of them suddenly strapped to tables in a very bad situation.Continued below
“Rogue & Gambit” #1 is a really cute comic book because in all honesty, the mission takes a back seat. There is this discussion surrounding fan fic and comics that people love to have online and as someone who adores really good fan fic, this story feels like something from that part of the internet. It’s flirty and sexy. It relies on the characters and their history to tell a story and that’s what made it fun for me. Thompson’s writing is clearly coming from a place of love. The tension between the two is palpable but so is the attraction and that’s not easy to pull off in a tasteful way. It isn’t going to change the bigger X-Men universe but it’s the kind of smaller story that I wish this franchise would embrace more.
Is This Nonsense Finally Over?
“Generation X” #86 by Christina Strain, Amilcar Pinna, Felipe Sobreiro and Clayton Cowles
Years ago, Scarlet Witch lost control of herself on a personal mental level and she used her powers to take away all mutant powers. Jubilee was one of the characters who lost her powers. It was supposed to be everyone but through all kinds of shenanigans, M-Day (as it was called) didn’t really have the impact that it should have. So much of it got undone, which is the case for most of Marvel’s big events. Jubilee, for a long time, has not actually had mutant powers. She’s worked for the X-Men and taught at the various incarnations of the schools but Jubilee is actually a vampire. The Curse of the Mutants storyline saw a big vampire virus sent out into the world and it turned Jubilee into a vampire. For a while, she struggled between being “good” and giving into the curse she now lived with. The X-Men helped her and she’s been able to live peacefully as a vampire for years now with the help of an amulet that she can’t take off. “Generation X” #86, however, seemingly ends that. In “Generation X” #86, the fight against Monet (who’s been taken over by her vampire brother) is wreaking havoc and has taken the school into another dimension. Jubilee has gone to find Quentin Quire and Krakoa, who have left to simply just not be a part of this anymore. Jubilee finds Quentin and they have a heart to heart. Jubilee wants him to know that he has a home there but Quentin, after all he’s been through, rejects this at first. Quentin isn’t a host to the Phoenix but he does have a piece of it inside him and he’s been having trouble with that. As this conversation happens, Monet is giving our main cast a hard time at the now displaced school. As Monet keeps the fight up, Nathaniel and Ben finally give in to their feelings and kiss. This is fiction, folks, romance and danger go hand it hand. Jubilee arrives and Monet remembers that Jubilee is just a vampire now so she rips off the amulet around her neck and throw her into the sunlight outside. Quentin gets there just in time and in a panic, he makes his choice. He wants to stay at the school and he uses his Phoenix shard to save Jubilee and by doing this, he gives Jubilee her powers back.
“Generation X” doesn’t get enough love and this issue is a good example of all the things the series does right. It isn’t the big headliner but it has lots of drama with a healthy heaping of superhero action thrown in. “Generation X” is also another series that actually makes an attempt to give Quentin Quire character development instead of just being a teenage punk with a bad attitude. I adore Quentin but eventually he has to be more than that. Forcing his hand and making him make this decision is excellent and I’m really sad the series is ending so soon after this decision. It’s important to see here that he’s not making the choice to be a hero or even an X-Man. He’s making the choice to accept this group of kids he’s in as his family. He’s allowing himself to feel something and connect with people again and that’s so important and very well executed. Obviously the big thing here is Jubilee getting her powers back which is something that’s needed to happen for a long time. Vampire Jubilee stopped making sense a long time ago when every major X-Men character had their powers retained or gotten back after M-Day. Jubilee sat on the sidelines so much and this may just be me but it always sat so weirdly with me. Jubilee has always deserved better and I wish this series were getting a little more time because it’s introduced so many cool plots and won’t get the time to go into them more. “Generation X” finally settled in and now it’s gone.Continued below
Systemic Abuse Impacts Everyone
“All New Wolverine” #29 & #30 by Tom Taylor, Juann Cabal, Nolan Woodard and Cory Petit
“All-New Wolverine” #29 picks up right after the assassinations of Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike and Old Man Logan. The Orphans of X are jubilant but as this happens, Wolverine, Honey Badger and Daken have one last trick up their sleeve. They are with Muramasa getting a weapon made to combat the blade the Orphans of X have that will kill them for good. As they all recover from what it took to get the contents needed for their weapon, they are attacked by The Hand and have a big fight against them. The Orphans of X close in and they shoot at Daken but Wolverine steps in with brand new armor made by Muramasa to combat their bullet. They are told that Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike and Old Man Logan are all dead and they fight once again. Daken gets himself caught but not before he takes a cell phone and sticks it inside his body so they can track him. They need help getting there and Muramusa talks with The Gorgon, the leader of this part of The Hand, who apologizes and takes them where they need to go. Wolverine and Honey Badger are taken to where the signal says Daken is and they see the bodies of their friends. “All-New Wolverine” #30 picks up right from here with Wolverine doing some brain surgery of her on the bodies of Daken, Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike and Old Man Logan. Once they’re all back in the world of the living, it’s time to figure out why the Orphans of X hate them all so much. It turns out this whole thing was created by Henry Sutter. Henry Sutter’s father, Martin, created Laura and she was turned and forced to kill him and his wife. She was supposed to kill Henry too but she didn’t. When Wolverine realizes this, she goes directly to the Orphans of X to confront them. After a fight to their main holding room, she confronts them all nonviolently. She explains that they have been hurt and she has too. All of them have been forced into situations they didn’t want to be in by the same people. She apologizes for the actions she took when she wasn’t in control of herself but she refuses to apologize for being abused by the same system that they were all abused by. She explains that Henry’s father bred her to kill and he (and the people who worked with him) are responsible for what happened. She tells them she wants to join them and take down everyone who is responsible for them all being there but she won’t kill them. She wants justice to be done right by the system. They vote yes and the issue ends on Laura finally burying her mother properly and getting to say goodbye.
The “Orphans of X” story arc has been one of the very best arcs of “All-New Wolverine” and that’s saying a lot. This could have been a very by the numbers slice ’em and dice ’em Wolverine story but it wasn’t. It put a spotlight on systemic abuse and how wide that spreads. These people were angry with Laura but they didn’t realize that much of what she did in those days was forced upon her literally by biology (trigger scent). “All-New Wolverine” has been a story that’s gone far and beyond what Logan centric stories were. This is a Wolverine who’s allowed to feel without shame and is allowed to evolve past stabbing everything. “Orphans of X” is another storyline that put a focus on her past but it doesn’t dwell there. It uses that history to build something new for Laura and for Gabby and even Daken. This ended up being a story line about healing and building a new, brighter future and it’s amazing. I continue to love this series so much and I’d really want Taylor to take a bigger role in the X-Men universe.
They’re Here To Stay
“X-Men: Blue” #19 & #20 by Cullen Bunn, R.B Silva, Adriano DiBenedetto, Rain Beredo and Joe CaramagnaContinued below
“X-Men: Blue” #19 brings the time displaced original five to the place that they’ve been destined to get to. The Brotherhood of Mutants are dead and they are in the middle of a fight with Magneto. This fight is far more brutal than the X-Men remember but something is off. No one is behaving like they usually do and at one point Cyclops says “next time I get to be Angel.” We then see the actual Professor X stuck in Cerebro and this group of X-Men are actually impostors. These X-Men are the future Brotherhood of Mutants from the “Battle of the Atom” storyline. Raze, Charles Xavier II (not junior), Beast, Xorn, Bruiser, Ice Thing and Old Man Deadpool are back bay bay. “X-Men: Blue” #20 picks up with this. The future Brotherhood has been traveling through time, messing things up as they fight the X-Men. They finally stumbled to the time displaced team’s original timeline and made that their home. Both teams fight and Jean is able to get away to wake up Charles Xavier. Xavier looks at his students and sees how different they are now but tells them they can’t stay. For reality and history to eventually be fixed, they have to go back to the moment they initially disappeared and it must be then because it’ll be like nothing happened. Time is fixed so at some point they have to go back to their original time. To top all this off, the future Brotherhood finds Magneto and they seemingly come to some kind of agreement but we don’t know what either of them really want to do. It’s a big cliffhanger that will surely get picked up at some point in the future.
“X-Men: Blue” is weird because this series keeps finding reasons to keep these characters around. I think there is some really good storytelling that can be done with them and we’ve seen it in “Jean Grey” and “Iceman” but eventually, even by fictional time travel rules, they’ll have to go back. That’s how all time travel stories end. This arc was just a lot of generic action with some glimmers of good characterization but it flew by so fast only to accomplish nothing in the end. “X-Men: Blue” is a lot of spinning wheels but I find myself constantly coming back just to find out how they’ll continue to keep these original five around.