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. It’s been a little while since I did one of these and in that time, the X-Men universe has gotten even bigger. In 2018, we’re going to keep up the same format but with a slight change. Each month, I’ll look at 7 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 December offered us. Obviously, spoilers are everywhere in this.
The Phoenix Has Arrived
“Jean Grey” #10 by Dennis Hopeless, Alberto Alburquerque, Jay David Ramos, Travis Lanham
I’ve been waiting a while to talk about this one so here we go. “Jean Grey” is ending at #11 and the reason for that is the ending of “Jean Grey” #10. In “Jean Grey” #10, everything comes to a head. The Phoenix Force is here and it has a target right on teen Jean. Most of this issue is a big fight through the point of view of teen Jean. With the help of Emma Frost, the Cuckoo sister, Hope Summers, Quentin Quire and ghost Jean, teen Jean is able to face the Phoenix Force. As far as everyone is concerned, worst case scenario is that teen Jean gets taken over by the Phoenix Force. That’s not a great situation but it’s better than what happens next. As teen Jean goes off to face the Phoenix alone, the Phoenix takes her with it. Teen Jean talks about how it didn’t come here to kill her, she’s its favorite puppet. Ghost Jean then appears as the fight reaches a climax. She faces the Phoenix Force herself and talks to it. She says to it that teen Jean is already so strong that if it takes her over, it’ll burn her up to which the Phoenix Force replies, “I know.” Ghost Jean screams and it becomes clear to teen Jean. Teen Jean is in the way. She looks like Phoenix’s Jean but isn’t her. She’s too strong and in the way so the Phoenix Force destroys teen Jean and she’s gone.
I have had a couple of weeks to think about this and I still feel very unsure about this whole thing. “Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey” isn’t over yet so it is still really unclear what this will all look like when it is said and done. There is a story here about destiny and failure is a part of that. Teen Jean, so determined to fight against what she was so sure was going to happen, was claimed by fate taking a detour. She was so sure that the Phoenix Force was here to take her as a new host that she never thought about how she doesn’t belong in this timeline. She never thought about being in the way of whatever is about to go down in “Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey” and whatever plans this cosmic entity actually has. It’s tragic and I’m not against tragic stories but I worry that this was a missed opportunity to keep a younger character around. The X-Men as a whole are old. “Generation X” is getting ready to wrap up and many of the series have relied on the same characters over and over. That runs the risk of growing stale but these characters are popular for a reason and keeping them around is the smart thing as far as sales go (presumably). I liked teen Jean a lot. She was so different than her older counterpart and over the last couple of years, she got to develop into her own character. She presented an opportunity for creators to tell different stories with Jean Grey but she’ll always be tied to the Phoenix and I think that’s part of what this series was trying to tell us. Whether I agree with it or not, “Jean Grey” was a story about destiny and destiny is hard to fight because it’ll always find a way to win.Continued below
“Jean Grey” #11 will be a book covered in a future column so I’ll wait on my final judgement of the whole series. You’ll have to come back for that.
“Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey” #1 by Matthew Rosenberg, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan and Rachelle Rosenberg
Way back when I first started this column, I talked about how much I liked Jean Grey. She’s a character I’ve always felt very connected to and one I’ve felt weirdly protective over. The Queen is back thanks to “Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey.” This series is primarily aimed at telling the story of OG Jean Grey’s return to the land of the living and I reviewed this last week so if you want the spoiler free breakdown, that’s what you should read. Here’s where we talk about spoilers. There is a lot to unpack here because I read this like 4 times just to pick apart the things mentioned. The X – Men are called to Annandale-On Hudson, home of the Grey family many years ago. They are called because a pair of children were found floating and bleeding but with no actual injuries. Rachel begins to feel strange and knows that something is weird here. She says “better off dead” backwards and is taken away by Nightcrawler. Kitty then gathers the forces and tells them that Cerebro picked something up in three locations. The three locations all have importance to Jean Grey. They are:
The North Pole: The last place Jean was seen in “Endsong.”
Hellfire Club: Obviously a big deal. This is where the Dark Phoenix drama began.
Mont Saint Francis: a place once used as a base for the Acolytes. Jean once had a meaningful conversation with Sheamus, who is alive in this issue.
Fights ensue here and we’re then taken to somewhere else where we see a very much alive Jean Grey working as a waitress as Annie’s Diner (this has to be a nod to her friend that died which is what awoke Jean’s powers). At this diner, Jean serves Banshee, who’s supposed to be dead. Jean’s shift ends and she walks past a church that has a quote on its sign that definitely references the apocalypse. When Jean gets home, she’s greeted by her parents, who are also supposed to be dead. And that’s when things get even wilder. Jean’s parents remind her that they have a guest coming and when she hears the door knock, she opens it and Scott mothaflippin Summers is there. He is also supposed to be dead.
What’s happening here?!?! I have a theory and I blame Twin Peaks for this. I believe this part of the issue is taking place inside the White Hot Room, a sort of heaven/pocket universe that the Phoenix Force lives inside of. It’s a nexus for the universe (sorta) and it’s where Jean Grey was supposed to seen last if my memory is right. I like to believe that these specific X-Men characters and related family are here because of Jean. What I don’t know is why there’s a ghost Jean running around in “Jean Grey” and why the Phoenix Force is suddenly interested in Earth again but I really, really, REALLY want to know why.
A Trip Through History
“X-Men: Grand Design” #1 by Ed Piskor
“X-Men: Grand Design”#1 is probably the most unique X-Men book to ever exist. Ed Piskor, known for “Hip-Hop Family Tree” brings that brand of storytelling and visuals to the Marvel Universe. Basically, “Grand Design” is a retelling of the X-Men’s history in linear form. The Watcher is recounting what he witnessed for his records and that’s what the story is. It’s a straight story that takes all the various stories and puts it together in one easy to follow, long narrative. I realize that may not sound like the most exciting thing but it’s actually very remarkable. Piskor is a cartoonist who does everything on his own. He’s writing, drawing, coloring and lettering this entire thing on his own. The amount of research and planning that had to go into a project like this is absolutely staggering. The final product is gorgeous and so clever in what it focuses in on and how it characterizes these heroes without having to do a whole lot. In the way Piskor tells the story, you learn everything you need about these characters and how everything fits together.Continued below
Despite not having anything to do with the current storylines, I felt compelled to include it this month. It’s so different and such a fantastic tribute to the X-Men, a group I love so much. You absolutely need to get this even if you’re a lapsed reader who’s only reading this column for spoilers.
“All-New Wolverine” #28 by Tom Taylor, Juann Cabal, Nolan Woodard and Corey Petit
Over the last few issues of “All-New Wolverine,” Gabby, Laura and Daken have had to deal with a really serious and deeply personal threat. A groups that calls themselves the Orphans of X have sought to destroy them. They are the children of Wolverine and in their eyes, he and they are responsible for the deaths and injuries of a countless number of people. They are here to end this “family” and to do that they need the Muramusa Blade, a blade that can pierce them and actually kill them. This issue is more of that fight as Laura, Gabby and Daken have to run from this group as they figure out how weaponize the Muramasa Blade in a new way – bullets. They run from a hailstorm of bullets and end up in Japan to talk to the man who made the original blade. He agrees to help them but as this happens, the Orphans of X capture Lady Deathstrike, Old Man Logan and Sabretooth and seemingly successfully gun them down and that’s our big cliffhanger for this issue.
The “Orphans of X” storyline has taken up most of the last few issues of “All-New Wolverine” but the big moment in this issue is that Gabby finally gets her code name and it’s great. After getting onto the Blackbird, Gabby meets Danger for a brief moment. She asks Danger if that’s her actual name and Danger replies that it is. Gabby gets upset again that she’s still just Gabby and says she needs a code name. Daken, almost instantly says Honey Badger, because “she’s sweet and has claws.” Gabby loves it and Juann Cabal gives us the most perfect panel for her as she realizes just how perfect it is and envisions classic Wolverine covers with her on them instead. It’s a moment that’s been a long time coming and the moment itself is absolutely perfect. Gabby, I mean HONEY BADGER, is the best new character in the X-Men books in years and I hope she’s around for a long time like Laura.
That Other Big Return
“Astonishing X-Men” #6 by Charles Soule, Mike Del Mundo, Marco D’Alfonso and Clayton Cowles
Back in the Astral Plane, this group of X-Men and Charles Xavier are making a last stand of sorts against the Shadow King. Xavier and he have been playing a game for a long time and in this issue, it culminates in an issue that is primarily told from the point of view of Xavier. He talks a lot about how the (he says HIS a lot) X-Men fight and why they fight. It’s a lot of posturing from a man who hasn’t been a part of any of these people’s lives in a long time. In the Astral Plane and in London, the fight continues. Angel has lost control of himself, the fallen X-Men are wreaking havoc and the military is ready to take out this whole area. Back in the Astral Plane, we watch the action as Xavier explains that this was always his plan. He was playing his own game from the beginning and we then cut to a conversation between Fantomex and Xavier. Fantomex regrets much of what he’s done and who’s he’s been. It’s all very meta given the criticism that is often lodged at the character. He’s nothing but a scoundrel and a thief and he’s never really done anything of value. He just hops from one scheme to the next and on the final page we are shown that Fantomex is no more. Fantomex has remained in the Astral Plane and Charles Xavier is reborn in his place.
I. Loathe. Charles. Xavier. That’s just a fact you’ll have to accept as you read this column. Charles Xavier is manipulative and selfish. Often times, his desire to do good for mutants is clouded by his own viewpoints and his own desires instead of concern for the greater good. Even in this story arc, he’s used the X-Men to get out of being dead and gone in the Astral Plane. It was all about what he wanted and what he needed. He could never truly accept that things moved on without him and that’s what’s so hilarious about his return. I think we’re supposed to be excited about this but it just screams desperation from the side of Xavier, which is what concerns me as a plot point. I don’t trust old man Xavier. I trust youthful, powerful Xavier even less.Continued below
Meet Your Parents…Again
“Iceman” #8 by Sina Grace, Robert Gill, Rachelle Rosenberg and Joe Sabino
“Iceman” #8 is a quick one and done story that brings Bobby face to face and heart to heart with his younger counterpart. Teen Bobby is still having trouble with his sort of boyfriend Romeo. Adult Bobby has a heartfelt conversation with teen Bobby about this and tells him about his move to the West Coast. This leads to adult Bobby inviting teen Bobby to dinner with their parents. At the dinner, teen Bobby literally freezes up because he’s so nervous about seeing the older versions of his parents. Adult Bobby’s parents dote on teen Bobby. They love him and the oohhh and aahhh over him. Then things get dark as their parents try to persuade teen Bobby to come live with them. It dawns on adult Bobby, and the reader, that they see teen Bobby as an opportunity to “start over.” They see a younger version of their son who can become the things they wanted for him instead of what Bobby wanted. They both leave after letting the parents get a piece of their mind. Teen Bobby, after all this, finds the courage to confront Romeo and adult Bobby gains the courage to take his leave to the west coast to start a new life.
It’s really, really unfair that this book has been cancelled. “Iceman” #8 is the kind of thing I love to see in an X-Men book. It had excellent characterization, humor, action and even romance. It does everything I want from a solo X-Men title but unfortunately was not given the time to do more. “Iceman” #8 doesn’t tie into the bigger plot points but it’s so fun and tells a story that Marvel hasn’t really told before. Bobby’s journey has been a great one to go on with him. The entire dinner scene with his parents is heartbreaking but Bobby has never been more endearing in the way that he handles the whole thing. Bobby is not the kid we once knew. He doesn’t need approval from anyone to be happy. He’s found happiness as an out gay man and that’s such a rare thing in fiction, especially comic books.
Lost In Time
“X-Men: Blue” #17 & 18 by Cullen Bunn, R.B. Silva, Adriano DiBenedetto, Rain Beredo and Joe Caramagna
Ever since the original five X-Men were pulled out of their timeline, it was just a matter of time until their being here became an issue. I am still confused about the timeline and where “Jean Grey” fits into this but let’s break these two issues down anyway. “Cross Time Capers” is basically centered around Magneto’s time machine that he had been working on in secret. Something is happening to time and it is centered around these time displaced characters. In “X-Men: Blue” #17, the original five plus Jimmy Hudson are stuck in the year 2099. They come up against the 2099 X-Men who bring them into their world. They discover that at some point, the five of them took over Alchemax and made things in 2099 way worse. There is a new Legacy Virus killing mutants and the mutant population is worse off than ever before. After seeing what they may have done, they are whisked away after a big fight to another point in time. In “X-Men Blue” #18, that time is revealed to be the era of the original Generation X team in Massachusetts. After another big fight (because that’s what you do when you appear in a time you don’t belong in, obviously), Jean and Scott sit down with Emma Frost and Banshee and talk about what’s been happening to them. Jean explains what they do and what happened and how Magneto plays into it and Emma reveals that they (the Blue team) killed him. It turns out that this school is an illusion. The X-Resistance fell, the original five ruined everything and Emma and Banshee, along with these kids, are all that’s left. They make one last jump and the issue ends with them making it to the fight that seemingly is where Magneto dies.Continued below
This has been a very hit or miss story arc because it has had to move so fast. What is does do though is bring a couple of lingering things to a head. Magneto’s relationship with this group and the fact that they are still here. Neither should be occurring so it’s really going to be interesting to see where this ends, especially with teen Jean seemingly dying in “Jean Grey” #10. This is one of the biggest issues with the X-Men. There are too many books and it becomes hard to figure out where each is taking place. These characters have always felt like they had an expiration date and I think we’re getting there sooner rather than later. With “X-Men: Red” starting up soon, does this really need to exist anymore?
Let’s get a conversation started! What do you think is going to come of this Jean Grey return? What were some of your favorite books in December? Any wild theories? Comment below.