Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey #1
Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Art by Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
In comic book, no one stays dead forever. That may even be doubly or triply true for the X-Men, a team that will stop at almost nothing to bring back their loved ones (or just find out they were faking it all along). With Marvel’s "Legacy" initiative aiming to put major players back on the board, it was only a matter of time before we saw the return of Jean Grey (not counting that younger version of the character that was brought to the present in All-New X-Men). But the return of Marvel’s most fiery redhead is a tough undertaking, and even a team as talented as Matthew Rosenberg and Leinil Francis Yu have a hard time getting this one off the ground. It’s not that bringing back one of the most iconic characters in Marvel history is a bad idea, but telling a story that is cohesive and honors her legacy is a pretty tall order for anyone.
Rosenberg kicks things off in Jean’s hometown with the X-Men investigating a weird happening involving two kids found floating in mid-air, their heads mysteriously bleeding despite not having a single wound. This is the start of the mystery about Jean’s return and it sends Kitty Pryde into full-on leader mode. Rosenberg’s strength as a writer is his ability to nail down the voices of the characters that he’s working with from the jump. Kitty’s evolution into the leader of the X-Men has been swift and well-deserved, and she sounds as in-charge as ever here. Old Man Logan making a reference to the Andy Griffith Show is spot-on. The humor Rosenberg sprinkles throughout the dialogue feels natural.
But the plotting is a little awkward. Kitty’s briefing scene does showcase her leadership, but considering we don’t really learn anything from it, it’s wasted space. The locations that she sends her three teams to should be obviously significant to any X-fans, but there’s a missed opportunity to have the characters demonstrate that importance, partly because there’s a breakdown between the art and dialogue within the story. Characters are telling Kitty to hurry up her briefing and then she tells us of their concern when she reveals important information. We don’t get to gauge their reaction at all because Yu positions the shot looking only at Kitty and the back of the rest of the X-Men’s heads. So while this is supposed to be a big deal, it’s hard to feel like it does sometimes.
The fight scenes work well in a sort of “we can’t have them all just talking the entire time” kind of way, and it’s fun that Rosenberg’s script directly references "The Dark Phoenix Saga," Uncanny X-Men #300 and Phoenix Endsong. But Yu is not at the top of his game here. He frequently under-renders certain medium shots or just gives every character the same blank action figure expression, robbing readers of characters’ facial reactions to what’s going on in a panel. It’s a shame, because I think the book generally laid out well and Yu’s fight choreography works. But he skimps on the details that should be the heart of a story like this.
We end up at a location referred to only as “Elsewhere” that seems as though it could only be the White Hot Room. Here Rosenberg lays the groundwork for a number of possible resurrections that would hew pretty well with the X-Line’s almost-’90s bent. If "Legacy" has been about getting big pieces back on the board, Jean is far from the only Phoenix missing.
Phoenix Resurrection #1 is an okay start. The art holds it back, while the plotting is a bit too utilitarian. Rosenberg includes a sweet letter about how much Jean Grey means to him in the back matter but we don’t really get to see any of that in the book itself. I feel like we’ll get there eventually, but we really aren’t there yet. Right now, we’ve got a large cast and a lot of questions. We’ve got no answers but the creative team has yet to make it feel like there’s anything more to this book than its title. And moving forward, that’s going to be the key.