Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

X-amining Avengers #263 & Fantastic Four #286

"What Lurks Below?" / "Like a Phoenix!"
Jan 1986

In a Nutshell
Jean Grey returns from the dead. 

Avengers #263 
Writer: Roger Stern
Breakdowns: John Buscema
Finishes: Tom Palmer, 
Letterer: Jim Novak
Colorist: Christie Scheele
Editor: Mark Gruenwald
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Fantastic Four #286
Writer/Penciller: You Know Who
Guest Inker: Terry Austin
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Letterer: John Workman
Editor: Michael Carlin
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
With Special Thanks to R. Stern and K. Busek

Plot
Avengers #263: Investigating a crash at JFK airport, the Avengers discover a large cocoon-like object at the bottom of Jamaica Bay. Though the cocoon initially rebuffs their efforts to approach it via some kind of psychic force, they are eventually able to retrieve it from the bay and bring it back to Avengers Mansion. Left alone, the surface of the cocoon becomes transparent for a moment, revealing a redheaded woman inside. Fantastic Four #286: Returning from space, the Fantastic Four are told about the cocoon retrieved by the Avengers. Reed Richards proceeds to conduct some tests on it, and when Invisible Woman uses her power to make the interior of the cocoon visible, they discover the woman inside. Reed attempts to open the pod, and when he bombards it with bio-radiant stimulation, it opens, revealing Jean Grey.


Believing herself to still be under attack by Stephen Lang's Sentinels, she attacks the Avengers and Fantastic Four until they are able to convince her they are not robotic duplicates. Unable to remember anything past her battle with the Sentinels, the Avengers and Fantastic Four take Jean to her parents' home while Captain America remains behind. There, Jean discovers the holoempathic matrix and when she touches it, her memories come flooding back: how she was dying while piloting a shuttle home from Lang's space station and was contacted by the Phoenix Force, which agreed to heal her in exchange for copying her form and memories to become human. As Jean wonders if she's real or just another copy, Captain America arrives, having read the Avengers' files and learned the fate of Phoenix. He explains how Jean's humanity, even as a copy, was strong enough to eventually lead Phoenix to kill herself rather than endanger all existence. The following day, Jean ponders what to do next with her life, and Reed, having an idea, picks up the phone to make a call.  

Firsts and Other Notables
Combined, these two issues unfold the retcon that Jean Grey didn't die on the moon at the culmination of "The Dark Phoenix Saga", and that all the actions of the character we believed to be Jean Grey following X-Men #100 were actually performed by the Phoenix Force itself, while Jean was left in a cocoon to heal at the bottom of Jamaica Bay, where the X-Men's shuttle crashed (and Phoenix first emerged) in X-Men #101. As flashbacks in Fantastic Four #286 depict, the Phoenix Force, responding to Jean's distress while piloting the X-Men's shuttle home, took Jean's physical and mental form in exchange for healing her, and from that point forward acted as and believed herself to be Jean Grey, even killing herself after going mad with power, acting on the humanity copied from Jean.


This idea was actually put forth by Kurt Busiek, these days an accomplished and well known comic writer (he wrote Marvels, created Astro City, and had acclaimed runs on several different titles, including Avengers) who came up with the idea as a young fan and shared it with Roger Stern at a covention. Stern, in turn, shared it with John Byrne, and when Byrne heard of Marvel's desire to reunite the original X-Men in X-Factor, offered it up as a way to bring Jean back for the title as well. When Jim Shooter approved the idea, Stern and Byrne built a story around it to unfold in the two titles they were currently writing, with a special thanks to Busiek (spelled "Busek") appearing in Fantastic Four #286.

However, in a point of much contention, several pages of Fantastic Four #286 were, at Jim Shooter's allowance, rewritten by Chris Claremont and redrawn by Jackson Guice (X-Factor's penciller) in order to subtlety alter the relationship between Phoenix and Jean (Claremont, Byrne believes, lessened the impact of Phoenix being driven to sacrifice herself by Jean's copied humanity - in Byrne's original, Phoenix was more malevolent and Jean's humanity was more active in opposing it and asserting the control that ultimately led to its downfall). Some contend that Claremont was allowed to put his own stamp on the details of the retcon in order to placate him over Jean's return, while Byrne contends that Shooter allowed Claremont to rewrite the scene (after approving the original) in order to get back at Byrne for his plans to leave Marvel and relaunch Superman for DC. Either way, Byrne had his name removed from the credits of the issue as a result.   

Claremont would later further embellish the Jean/Phoenix interaction in the backup story to Classic X-Men #8.

The end of Fantastic Four #286 leads directly into X-Factor #1. It is also a "collectors edition", featuring thirty pages with no ads. 

A Work in Progress
At this time in their history, the Fantastic Four are living at Avengers Mansion (I believe the Baxter Building had recently been destroyed, but I'm not rote on my FF history), while former Avenger She-Hulk is a member of the team, having replaced the Thing after the first Secret Wars.

Due to the initial involvement of the Enclave in the crash at the airport, the Avengers spend most of Avengers #263 believing the cocoon to contain their old ally Adam Warlock, who was first created by the Enclave an emerged from a cocoon similar in appearance to the one containing Jean.   

In Avengers #263, Captain America vaguely recalls a shuttle crashing into Jamaica Bay, and decides to contact NASA about it, a reference to the crash in X-Men #101.


When Jean emerges from the cocoon, she is wearing the same tattered black dress she wore in X-Men #100, and believes herself to still be fighting Stephen Lang (she assumes the gathered Avengers and Fantastic Four to be Sentinels, in the vein of the X-Sentinels Lang pitted agains the X-Men in that issue).

Captain America tells Jean that the X-Men have been seen working with Magneto, much to her horror. He specifically cites the first Secret Wars, though they've presumably been seen together since as well (in Secret Wars II, if nowhere else).


Something that was never really made clear during "The Dark Phoenix Saga" that is made clear here: most other superheroes, at least, in this case, the Avengers and Fantastic Four, were largely unaware of the events of that story and Jean's ultimate apparent sacrifice. Captain America doesn't learn about until he watches a report filed by Beast (who was an Avenger at the time but present for the death of Phoenix).

Jean emerges from the cocoon bereft of her telepathic abilities (though she still has her telekinetic abilities), restoring her to a condition similar to her earliest appearances, a contrivance necessary for certain plot elements of X-Factor


I Love the 80s
Having decided to visit her parents, members of the Avengers and the FF go with Jean to her childhood home, yet no one apparently offered to give Jean a change of clothes, as she arrives in the same black dress she'd emerged from the cocoon wearing.


Artistic Achievements
In the course of the various flashbacks in Fantastic Four #286, Byrne essentially redraws several panels from X-Men #98-100, giving us a brief glimpse into what the Claremont/Byrne run might have looked like had it started sooner.


Young Love
Briefly revealing herself at the end of Avengers #263, Jean telepathically calls out for Scott.


Like a Phoenix, From the Ashes
In Fantastic Four #286, Jean is ultimately awakened when Reed Richards bombards the cocoon with "bio-radiant stimulation", suggesting the energy blast from the moon which occurred at the end of Uncanny X-Men #201 didn't play a role in reviving Jean. At the same time, while not made explicit, there's nothing that says that blast couldn't have played a role in reviving her. 

Later, Jean learns the truth about her interaction with Phoenix by holding the Shi'ar holo-empathic crystal that contains the essence of Phoenix' personality. Jean also senses another presence in the crystal, likely a reference to Rachel, who placed a bit of her own personality into the crystal in issue #201.


Kurt Busiek on the Phoenix retcon
"Richard Howell and Carol Kalish, another couple of fans who would go on to be pros, were friends of mine. And we'd get together when I was home from college to talk comics and whatever else… We were all fans of the original X-Men, and didn't like the idea that one of the original five would be killed and killed as a result of an editorial/creative foul-up, it seemed to us … [the friends] had a fine, fannish evening discussing the matter, griping about the event, and the miscommunication that had resulted in the state of affairs - but more, we were challenged by the idea of Jim's 'no resurrection without absolution' rule, and spent a lot of the evening talking over ways to satisfy that requirement."

Lamken, Brian Saner. "The Phoenix Effect: 25 Years of the All New Uncanny X-Men." Comicology Fall 2000: 36-37.

John Byrne on the return of Jean Grey
"The sequence went something like this: After the Phoenix Saga -- and long before it developed this retroactive titling -- Chris would simply Not Let Go. Not an issue of X-Men passed without SOME reference to Phoenix. (I still remember being annoyed when he wrote the Wendigo-eye-view scene with Nightcrawler in the second Alpha Flight appearance as if it was a sunset (I'd asked Glynis for red tones in my margin notes) and had NC launch into a whole schpiel about how the colors reminded him of Jean, etc, etc. He, of course, should not have been Seeing those colors! Thus the effect of the scene was lost.) Sideways from this, an annoying little eager-beaver fanboy named Kurt Busiek had come up with the idea that Phoenix was not, in fact, Jean, but a precise duplicate created by the Phoenix Force as a "housing" for itself, and the REAL Jean was in suspended animation at the bottom of Jamaica Bay, where the shuttle crashed. When [Bob] Layton came up with the idea for X-Factor, I was reminded of this notion and suggested it would be a way to put Jean back into the group. Shooter agreed, and Roger Stern and I concocted a two part crossover between The Avengers and Fantastic Four to accomplish just this end.

(Secrets behind the comics: It was at this time that I announced to Marvel, through a letter to boss Mike Hobson, Shooter, and FF editor Mike Carlin -- ah, the days before E-mail!! -- that I had accepted the Superman assignment at DC. The two Mikes wished me luck, which is what you would expect from professionals. Shooter's response was to suddenly realize that the FF story he had approved at every step, from plot, to pencils, to script -- after all, he had to have all his fingers in this very important pie -- was horribly flawed, and that a good third of it had to be redrawn by Jackson Guice and rewritten by Chris Claremont. Ah, well!! C'est la guerre!)"

Byrne, John. "What's the story behind the return of Jean Grey?" Byrne Robotics,8/1/2013 http://www.byrnerobotics.com/FAQ/listing.asp?ID=2&T1=Questions+about+Comic+Book+Projects#47

"As to whether she should have stayed dead…I thought Kurt Busiek's solution for bringing Jean back was brilliant, which is why Roger and I used it. I think Phoenix should have stayed dead, though."

Nickerson, Al. "Claremont and Byrne: The Team that Made the X-Men Uncanny." Back Issue August 2008: p10.

"My contribution was reminding everybody about Kurt Busiek's idea that the real Jean was lying in a pod at the bottom of Jamaica Bay, and that Phoenix wasn't really Jean. That allowed Jean to return and be in X-Factor … They thought X-Factor negated the death of Phoenix. Well, I maintain that Phoenix was a copy of Jean – and a copy of Jean committed suicide to save humanity – that makes the story even better. Because it means that the human spirit is so powerful that even a copy will make the ultimate sacrifice to save humanity. I think that's great. Very old-time marvel. Very Stan Lee."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p119

Chris Claremont on the possibility of Jean returning
“Anything is possible.”

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p41

Claremont on the return of Jean Grey
"It was a Friday night and Ann took us out to dinner and didn't tell us about a X-Factor until it was, like, 6:30-7:00 at night and the office switchboard was already closed. I wanted to call Shooter, but I couldn't remember his direct line. Ann knew his number, but she wouldn't tell me. She told me to just sit down, have another drink and relax. I mean, she played me beautifully. Since it was a Friday, I had the whole weekend to go berserk. I spent the weekend coming up with a whole new set of characters that they could use for X-Factor. I came in Monday morning and pitched the idea of using Jean's sister Sarah and making her a living Cerebro. She not only senses mutants, but has the power to work out what they'll become. Shooter sat there and said 'that's a great concept. I think it's wonderful. If you want to go with it, go with it, but we're bringing back Jean  Grey.' He felt the marketing oomph for the resurrection of Jean and the reformation of the original team sufficiently outweighed any objections and alternatives. The fact is, Ann did the smart thing. If I actually gone in to see Shooter on Friday night, I would've quit. I was so pissed off. I couldn't believe what they did to Cyclops. He was supposed to be a hero and they had him walking out on his wife and newborn child and not even thinking twice about it. No one was connecting the dots. It wasn't until Louise and Walter Simonson were on the book that we actually managed to massage the characters back to the way they should've been."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p71

Teebore's Take
And there it is: arguably one of the most significant retcons in superhero comics, and undoubtedly one of the most divisive. As retcons go, its certainly not as outrageous or clunky as some future retcons will be, as it manages to both conform to Jim Shooter's original edict that Jean Grey not get off easy for murder while also doing its best to not invalidate the ending of "The Dark Phoenix Saga" by making it clear that it was still Jean, in a way, who made the heroic sacrifice: it was her humanity which prevailed, her agency still driving the story. It is, perhaps and likely, the best possible retcon we could have gotten that would have brought Jean Grey back.

That of course begs the question of whether or not Jean should have been brought back, and objectively, the answer is no. "The Dark Phoenix Saga" is one of the seminal stories, not just for the X-Men but for superhero comics, and while these issues and the return of Jean don't absolutely destroy that story (as some critics argue) it does diminish it slightly, no matter how effective the retcon. We get plenty of good Jean Grey stories moving forward (well, plenty of good stories in which Jean Grey particpates, at the very least), but few if any are as well-crafted, impactful or significant as "Dark Phoenix" (and very few would suffer from an absence of Jean Grey).

"Dark Phoenix" works because it's the tale of a heroic woman who lost control of tremendous power, then sacrificed herself for the greater good, and it left its mark in part because the woman in question was one of Marvel's original Silver Age characters. Changing it so that the character was actually a cosmic force pretending to be human, and not one of Marvel's foundational characters, undeniably takes something away from one of superhero comics' finest stories.

But all that said, I've honestly never gotten too riled up about this retcon. It is divisive, and for the most part, that divide forms between people who first read "Dark Phoenix" before this story was published, and those who first read it after. Objectively, I know "Dark Phoenix" is a better story if it stars Jean and not the Phoenix Force, and that this retcon is, ultimately, kinda pointless. But at the same time, for as long as I've been reading comics, Jean Grey has been alive, her seeming death and subsequent return as much a part of the ongoing narrative as anything else. I've only ever read "Dark Phoenix" with the knowledge that the central character is not technically Jean Grey (and it's a testament to how well crafted it is that I've been able to read it while pretending otherwise with ease), and while the thought of that might send certain fans into fits of rage, sadness or both, for others, like myself, for better or worse, that's just the way it is, and always has been.

Next Issue
The X-Men head west in Uncanny X-Men #202, followed by more fun with the Beyonder in New Mutants #37, while the original band gets back together in X-Factor #1.

21 comments:

  1. Like you, that had always been the status quo for me (in fact, I only started reading Marvel stuff in 2006, after she'd died again), so I didn't get that emotional reaction at seeing a story I cared about be erased.

    But, I will say: it almost seems pointless to have a character called Phoenix, have them die, and then not bring them back. That's what phoenixes (phoenices? not often you need a plural for that, obviously) do, after all. Certainly, there's an argument to be made that the revolving doors of the afterlife engender a level of cynicism in the reader. (I'd argue that it's by now just a convention of the genre.) But with Phoenix, death and resurrection is part of the point of the character.

    In some ways it baffles me that they've left her dead for as long as they have - longer than she was "dead" the first time - although like Claremont during the 1980s they certainly enjoy teasing the return.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Several FF points:

    John Byrne thought the Baxter Building's canonical height made it too small compared to other skyscrapers, so he decided to get rid of it and put up a new taller building.
    Here is the plot:
    Kristoff, a child Doom adopted as his ward, was brainwashed by Doombots into believing himself to be Doom. However, the memory-washing stopped at the events of FF#6, when Doom and the Sub-Mariner sent the Baxter Building into space, an action reversed when Namor, double-crossed by Doom, defeated the Doctor and returned the building to Earth. Kristoff-Doom decided to repeat this act and actually succeeded in blowing up the Baxter Building in space, believing this time no chance of error. Unfortunately, Kristoff-Doom was not yet brainwashed with the knowledge of Invisible Girl later developing her shield powers, so he couldn't know Sue was able to use this power to save the team from the explosion. A combination of teamwork got the FF back to Earth where they defeated Kristoff-Doom.

    Right after, Sue was attacked by the Psycho-Man. His emotion-twisting powers transformed Sue's love for Reed into hate, transforming her into the black-leather Malice. After she practically OWNED her FF members, Reed was able to undo the brainwashing (he slapped her in the face, giving her a real reason to hate him, thus unbalancing the 'hate' that controlled her), but the damage was done: Sue viewed her experience as being raped. She wanted revenge, so she confronted the Psycho-Man and payed him back (it is unknown what she did, although no death took place). Realizing that getting her powers meant a loss of innocence, but not getting the point until this 'rape' experience, Sue renamed herself the Invisible Woman. Sue comments about this experience to help Jean.

    AVENGERS features the death of Melter by the assassin Scourge, who made appearances in many Marvel stories killing off seemingly lame supervillains (with his motto "Justice is Served!"). Pity, I liked Melter.

    The retcon has Reed mentioning that the Cosmic Rays proved deadly for Jean, but only gave the FF their powers. Was it ever explained how Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben were able to tolerate such radiation? I'm reminded how it was explained that Bruce Banner, Jennifer, and Doc Samson possessed some physical toleration to Gamma radiation that would be deadly for others.

    Teebore, which artistic vision of Jean's space descent do you prefer? This story's Jean dying of old-movie disease (where you still look beautiful as you expire) or John Bolton's Jean the Cryptkeeper?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think I'd be perfectly content if Jean had stayed dead, but she didn't, and these books are both really good, so it's hard to get too steamed about it. I love the Warlock fake-out, I love seeing Byrne draw Jean Grey again. Good comics can get away with a lot.

    I also miss the days when a group like the X-Men was not well known by a team like the Avengers. It's part of what made Nick Spencer's issues of "Secret Avengers" so infuriating [Black Widow argues with a TMZ style journalist over publishing super hero deaths, with the sleazy journalist pointing out sarcastically how often Jean Grey has died]. The fact is most people wouldn't have even heard of the Phoenix.

    Also, not surprisingly, the Byrne quotes are insufferable.

    I'd also like to make a cheap plug for my blog for fans of this blog: http://thepouchfiles.blogspot.com/
    I think you'll agree it's more exciting than a weekend with Batman!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I always liked the Classic X-Men story that explained how once the Phoenix took on Jean's human form/brain, it was instantly struck with a weird sentimentality & that's why she was saved. It's in line with DeFalco's quote about the human spirit infecting something that wasn't & elevating them, really. Stories & elements like that made this acceptable and much more affecting than the resurrections that followed (even if it did nerf #137's impact a bit). It all holds up... until X-Factor #1. Teebore, you have my sympathies.

    Also, not surprisingly, the Byrne quotes are insufferable.

    Oh, yes, totally agree. Can we get a Kickstarter or Indieagogo fund going called "Tell John Byrne to Stop Talking"? His big mouth can ruin his best work sometimes, I swear.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I started writing a rant about this before realizing that I don't have time to do that right now, so I'll need to return later to finish that. In the meantime...

    @Teebore: Not to nitpick, but I've noticed an uptick in small typos recently -- like writing "an" instead of "and" in the sentence about Adam Warlock. I can't really blame you considering the increased output, which is about to increase again with the introduction of X-Factor. I have a background in journalism and am available to edit your stuff for spelling / grammar before posting if you'd like the help.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Abigail echoes my sentiments exactly - Phoenixes are all about rebirth. Also, having discovered the X-Men in 1992 I only viewed Jean's death as just a small bump in her overall life narrative. I understand that her death was supposed to be permanent (Which made issues #137 and #175 so powerful) and I do wonder how the books would have been handled had she stayed dead all this time

    Amazingly, Jean died again in 2004 and is still dead today, which is surprising in this age of shocking deaths with resurrections less than a year later.

    I would've loved to have seen some Madelyne/Jean connections around this time, though. It's been hinted that Maddy is basically Jean 2.0, but it seems like a waste of the character and these plot points to just have Jean come back, leaving Maddy to be a background character without powers until she....Gasp...Is revealed to be a clone from Mr. Sinister! What if Maddy comes in contact with the crystal in Jean's parents' house and suddenly Jean's memories and powers flood back into her? It would've been a simpler and more straightforward plot point.

    But in the end the original 5 X-Men were reunited and one of my favorite comics of the 80's was created.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Abigail: But with Phoenix, death and resurrection is part of the point of the character.

    That is a good point - though not what they had in mind in creating the character, Claremont and Cockrum kind of unintentionally opened the door for constant deaths/resurrections by choosing that name.

    In some ways it baffles me that they've left her dead for as long as they have - longer than she was "dead" the first time - although like Claremont during the 1980s they certainly enjoy teasing the return.

    Me too - I'm continually flabbergasted every time I'm reminded of the fact that she's been dead the second time longer than the first, especially since A. I laughed it off at the time, saying she'd be back in six months like every other character that dies these days and B. Marvel swept so much else from Morrison's run under the rug so quickly after he left.

    There's an X-Men podcast I listen to, and every time they talk about whatever the upcoming X-Men event is, one of the co-hosts swears this is the event that'll bring Jean back. He's done it - and been wrong - so often now that it's become a running joke on the show.

    @angmc43: John Byrne thought the Baxter Building's canonical height made it too small compared to other skyscrapers, so he decided to get rid of it and put up a new taller building.

    I say this with the utmost respect, but that sounds exactly like a reason John Byrne would have for blowing up the Baxter Building. :)

    I knew he did that during his run, but didn't know why.

    Realizing that getting her powers meant a loss of innocence, but not getting the point until this 'rape' experience, Sue renamed herself the Invisible Woman.

    Huh. I knew about the whole Malice arc, and the change from "Invisible Girl" to Invisible Woman" (which was long overdue), but I never knew the latter was a result of the former. One of these days I should really read all of Byrne's FF run, and not just the bits and pieces I have so far.

    AVENGERS features the death of Melter by the assassin Scourge

    Melter was probably one of the more high profile guys killed by Scourge, wasn't he? Most of them were pretty C-list or less, but at least Melter was on a Masters of Evil and fought the various Avengers pretty regularly back in the day.

    which artistic vision of Jean's space descent do you prefer? This story's Jean dying of old-movie disease (where you still look beautiful as you expire) or John Bolton's Jean the Cryptkeeper?

    Hmm...probably this one, just for the novelty of "old-movie disease", but there's no denying the Bolton one is incredibly well drawn.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Dobson: The fact is most people wouldn't have even heard of the Phoenix.

    True. The other thing that bugs me about that line is that it reminds me of how Jean Grey is more or less the poster child for death and resurrection in comics, a shorthand used amongst comic fans for the seemingly endless and often meaningless cycle of death and rebirth in superhero comics, despite the fact that she's only died twice and thus far returned once, which puts on even footing with, what, at least dozens of other characters, if not more?

    Superman, Batman, Captain America, Cyclops, Colossus, Psylocke have all returned from the dead as often as she has, yet Jean Grey is constantly the punchline.

    Also, not surprisingly, the Byrne quotes are insufferable.

    Right? It's not that I even disagree with all of what he's saying, he just says it all in such a way that I'm like "get over yourself", even if I agree with the his sentiment.

    I'd also like to make a cheap plug for my blog for fans of this blog: http://thepouchfiles.blogspot.com/

    Hey hey! Glad to see you launched it. I'll head over soon to check it out, and give you a more prominent shoutout sometime in the near future.

    @Mela: Stories & elements like that made this acceptable and much more affecting than the resurrections that followed

    Definitely. Regardless of how one may feel about the outcome, you can tell a lot of thought and care went into making this the best possible retcon, something that can't be said of a lot of later deaths and resurrections.

    @Michael: I started writing a rant about this before realizing that I don't have time to do that right now, so I'll need to return later to finish that

    I'm looking forward to that :)

    I have a background in journalism and am available to edit your stuff for spelling / grammar before posting if you'd like the help.

    I might take you up on that (then again, my pride may not allow me to - got to use that English degree for something!). I was particularly rushed with this post, as I didn't get as much time with it as I had originally planned, knowing full well it was going to be enormous and significant, so I wasn't able to read through it as often as I'd have liked (which has been the case for more posts than I'd like lately).

    Even with the upcoming third weekly review, I'm starting to get ahead of things again, so hopefully it'll get better.

    @Ian: I would've loved to have seen some Madelyne/Jean connections around this time, though.

    Ditto. "Inferno" will eventually retcon in some connections to the characters, but it would have been nice to see some of that around this time. Frankly, those horrid early issues of X-Factor could have been a lot better (without taking away from what Layton wanted to do) if it had actually used Maddy in the book, instead of ignoring her so strongly.

    ReplyDelete
  9. At the time these issues came out I was pretty excited and intrigued, as mentioned before, Jean/Phoenix was regularly invoked in the years since she died. She became a martyr really for the X-Men's success, and an albatross in terms of storytelling. I didn't have a problem with the constant referrals since I became a regular reader with #137, I only got a living Jean for one issue. Of course when I realized the Jean in that issue (#137) wasn't the real Jean I felt a bit cheated.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Re: Jean resurrection, I watched the AvX panel at Kapow last year and it was fricking hilarious when someone asked the inevitable Jean Grey resurrection question.

    With everyone anticipating it all the time it seems to be a running joke at Marvel. I just can't see how they could do it. Unless they slipped it in randomly in one of the 3rd tier books. In fact, have I read X-Men vol 4 this week? Maybe it happened there!

    Oh dear, I'm having story ideas again. Must stop that.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have to agree with everyone that it makes perfect sense for a character name Phoenix to return from the dead. I've got no problems with that.

    I think it does lessen the original story to make Jean a copy though. What's funny is whenever I read the Dark Phoenix Saga, it's still always Jean the whole time to me. I generally just don't think about the retcon. The same goes for Morrison's X-Men run, where they revealed that "Magneto" was just a mutant who thought he was Magneto (which is way lamer). When I'm reading it, it' still the real Magneto. I think they were in a tough spot with Shooter's absolution remit though and did pretty well with what they could. Much better than restoring the destroyed planet or something.

    Those Byrne quotes are something else. I'd like to see him interviewed by Modern Frank Miller.

    ReplyDelete
  12. @Abigail: Unless they slipped it in randomly in one of the 3rd tier books.

    I would LOVE that. No hype, no event, just "well, here's Jean. She's back". It'd be great.

    @Jeff: The same goes for Morrison's X-Men run, where they revealed that "Magneto" was just a mutant who thought he was Magneto (which is way lamer).

    I really didn't like what Morrison did with Magneto (at least after the Xorn reveal, which was pretty great), so I tend to prefer the retcon, even though it's beyond ridiculous, stupid and convoluted.

    Much better than restoring the destroyed planet or something.

    Definitely.

    ReplyDelete
  13. @Teebore
    True. The other thing that bugs me about that line is that it reminds me of how Jean Grey is more or less the poster child for death and resurrection in comics, a shorthand used amongst comic fans for the seemingly endless and often meaningless cycle of death and rebirth in superhero comics, despite the fact that she's only died twice and thus far returned once, which puts on even footing with, what, at least dozens of other characters, if not more?


    I agree completely, although I think the events of UXM #281-282 were often counted as one of Jean's "deaths", although that story has probably been more or less forgotten by now.

    Even Jean's last words to Scott before dying, something akin to "Live, Scott... all I ever do is die on you..." don't make a whole lot of sense in universe when you think about it.

    Are you up on what's happening in recent X-Men events? As in Silver Age Jean recently coming to the present day (along with the rest of the team) and what not? I think it's absurd, but technically, Jean Grey is alive.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Also, I think Unus the Untouchable might actually have come back to life more times than Jean if I'm not mistaken. That's hilarious.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I think that the Phoenix coming back to life..as the PHOENIX (& not Jean Grey) makes sense. Jean Grey should have stayed dead.

    Profit driven retcons from Jim Shooter...'nuff said.

    ReplyDelete
  16. @Dan: I think the events of UXM #281-282 were often counted as one of Jean's "deaths", although that story has probably been more or less forgotten by now.

    I wonder about that too, but if people are counting it as a death, that's awfully convenient to their argument, as comic characters seemingly dying in the course of a story only to turn up alive and well by the end is a staple of the genre.

    I mean, Colossus died at the end of issue #155 but was said to be alive in issue #156 and back on his feet in #157, all in the course of the same story - does that count as a Colossus death? I really don't think so, any more than I count Jean's "death" at the end of issue #281 that's resolved by the end of the story.

    Even Jean's last words to Scott before dying, something akin to "Live, Scott... all I ever do is die on you..." don't make a whole lot of sense in universe when you think about it.

    True. Jean (not Phoenix) had never technically died on Scott at that point. He believed her to have died at one point, but that's not the same as her actually dying on him all the time.

    As in Silver Age Jean recently coming to the present day (along with the rest of the team) and what not? I think it's absurd, but technically, Jean Grey is alive.

    I'm aware of it, but haven't actually read any of those issues yet (I'm years behind in terms of current stuff). I've actually heard good things about that series (at least in terms of the central idea being pulled off far better than you'd expect) and while yes, technically, that means there's a Jean Grey hanging out with the X-Men again, I don't really count that as her being "back" anymore than I would if there was a Hidden Years-esque series featuring the character being published.

    Also, I think Unus the Untouchable might actually have come back to life more times than Jean if I'm not mistaken. That's hilarious.

    I think you may be right, and that is indeed hilarious.

    ReplyDelete
  17. @Reese: I think that the Phoenix coming back to life..as the PHOENIX (& not Jean Grey) makes sense. Jean Grey should have stayed dead.

    That's a good way of putting it.

    ReplyDelete

  18. I love that Cap refers to Jean as "Miss Grey".

    // Either way, Byrne had his name removed from the credits of the issue as a result. //

    This was almost certainly not the first and it was definitely not the last time such a thing would happen — Alan Smithee in comics form — but what I don't get is why, regardless of whether Byrne's name was removed, Claremont and Guice weren't credited in print for the pages they obviously did.

    // Captain America doesn't learn about until he watches a report filed by Beast //

    Way to keep up with battles involving alien entities on Earth's moon detailed in your computer system by a fellow Avenger, everybody!

    // yet no one apparently offered to give Jean a change of clothes //

    "I'm sure Reed can whip you up something, dear, if we can't raid Jan's closets. Maybe a little unstable-molecules number. Can't you, Reed? ... Reed? Eyes up here, Reed."
    "Sorry. I was, er, still marveling at how well that bio-radiant stimulation worked."
    "I'll bet."

    // also doing its best to not invalidate the ending of "The Dark Phoenix Saga" by making it clear that it was still Jean, in a way, who made the heroic sacrifice //

    So recently in looking up some thing or another and falling down the ol' hyperlink rabbit hole, I stumbled upon reference to the fact that one of the new Classic X-Men sequences retconned the retcon by stating that, more than just metaphorically or metaphysically, there really was some if not a lot of Jean in the entity that/who rose from Jamaica Bay and that we really can talk about Phoenix as Jean Grey herself. I'm not sure how much if any of the essence of that Phoenix made its way back into the original Jean in her cocoon — let alone how, period, that might work — but if it did that sure would explain some of the stuff that I've heard has happened to Jean since I last read the titles with any frequency. Not to mention that it would reconcile the fact that (as we've discussed here before) Rachel's mom has apparently never not been said to have been her timeline's Jean Grey and Phoenix, although it doesn't stop me from wanting to have seen a post-X-Factor scene in which Rachel freaks out that the mother she thought was Jean Grey was really some cosmic energy force and that the real version, her mom's genetic blueprint, might have lain in suspended animation at the bottom of Jamaica Bay for decades while the world blew itself up around her.

    // That of course begs the question of whether or not Jean should have been brought back, and objectively, the answer is no. //

    I tend to agree. Even though I'm probably more against the idea in spirit than you are, having lived at least for a little while with Jean Grey as a character early in my X-Men reading and bought #137 off the spinner rack, I also agree that her revival was probably done the best way it could have been if it was going to be done at all — notwithstanding how bad X-Factor was at the start and how the whole thing trashed Scott Summers' character. Bucky, on the other hand, should've remained absolutely 100% dead duh dead dead dead no matter how good the stories are.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Bucky, on the other hand, should've remained absolutely 100% dead duh dead dead dead no matter how good the stories are.

    Over at the Distinguished Competition, i feel exactly the same way about Jason Todd.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Comment from Harry Sewalski:Due to the initial involvement of the Enclave in the crash at the airport, the Avengers spend most of Avengers #263 believing the cocoon to contain their old ally Adam Warlock, who was first created by the Enclave an emerged from a cocoon similar in appearance to the one containing Jean.

    I always liked that bit - it feels logical for the Avengers to think so, and it also surprises the reader. I like that Roger Stern is one of those writers who can think outside the box as it were, and use elements from the wider Marvel Universe in his stories.

    When Jean emerges from the cocoon, she is wearing the same tattered black dress she wore in X-Men #100, and believes herself to still be fighting Stephen Lang (she assumes the gathered Avengers and Fantastic Four to be Sentinels, in the vein of the X-Sentinels Lang pitted agains the X-Men in that issue).

    Another small thing, but I like it. Nowadays, if we had a flashback to one year ago the artist would just draw the characters wearing whatever the hell he wanted (assuming they're in civvies, although I wouldn't be surprised if an artist got costumes wrong too).

    @angmc43@hotmail.com :John Byrne thought the Baxter Building's canonical height made it too small compared to other skyscrapers, so he decided to get rid of it and put up a new taller building.

    That reminds me of a blog I was reading about John Byrne's run on Namor the Sub-Mariner during the 90's. Someone commented on Byrne's removing of Namor's ankle-wings, and another person pointed out how silly they were to allow him to fly. The original commenter countered that as silly as they are, even sillier is the idea of Byrne seeing a story element he doesn't like, rolling up his sleeves and saying "Well, guess I'd better fix that, since no one else will!" That comment stuck with me, and when you think about it Byrne really has made a lot of unnecessary changes.

    AVENGERS features the death of Melter by the assassin Scourge, who made appearances in many Marvel stories killing off seemingly lame supervillains (with his motto "Justice is Served!"). Pity, I liked Melter.

    I too liked Melter - a logical foe for Iron Man to fight. I did like the way the Scourge story originally ended, and I further liked Mark Gruenwald's retconning the idea into being thanks to the Golden Age Angel. Man, Gruenwald was awesome.

    @Dobson:I'd also like to make a cheap plug for my blog for fans of this blog: http://thepouchfiles.blogspot.com/

    Every time I see a comment like this, I start internally debating whether or not I should start up a comics reviewing blog...

    @Teebore:There's an X-Men podcast I listen to, and every time they talk about whatever the upcoming X-Men event is, one of the co-hosts swears this is the event that'll bring Jean back. He's done it - and been wrong - so often now that it's become a running joke on the show.

    There's a comic book site I used to visit (which I still do, although with much less frequency), and for the past few years, whenever the next Marvel event would be announced (AvX, Age of Ultron, Infinity), there'd always be at least one or two people commenting saying, "AT THE END OF THIS THEY'RE GOING TO DO A NEW-52 STYLE REBOOT SERIOUSLY I'M TELLING YOU GUYS!"

    Oh, and for the record, Teebore, I'll pretty much be sticking to reading and commenting on X-Factor reviews from here, since I read the first Essential volume a few years back. Gotta avoid those 30+ year old spoilers! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  21. I've only read "Dark Phoenix" with the knowledge that the central character IS Jean Grey. I just ignore the ret-con.

    ReplyDelete

Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Am mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!