Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Jean Grey on Trial

Did you like Guardians of the Galaxy? I certainly did! I thought it was a fun and energetic entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Did you like X-Men: Days of Future Past? Well, I didn’t see that one for reasons I’m not going to get into here, but I hear it wasn’t as bad as X III: The Last Stand, so there’s that. Unable to (as of yet) have a team up between them on the big screen, Marvel has brought you the second best thing: a comic crossover! Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy meet All-New X-Men in a newly released collected trade, TheTrial of Jean Grey.

Now, I know what you’re going to ask: “Meredith! Who is this Jean Grey you speak of and why is she on trial?” And to that I say, “Wait, if you don’t even know who Jean Grey is, then why are we having this conversation?” Just kidding! But to really get at an answer, we have to go all the way back to the heady days of 1980. A simpler time – Chris Claremont was the longtime writer of Uncanny X-Men and the newest mutant to make their debut was disco singing sensation, Dazzler. Claremont’s writing has since gained the reputation of being overwrought and melodramatic, but you can’t argue that the man has written some of the most well-known comic arcs (the aforementioned Days of Future Past, my personal favorite God Loves, Man Kills, and the one that’s relevant to this conversation The Dark Phoenix Saga). 

Prior to the beginning of The Dark Phoenix Saga Jean Grey, a telepathic member of the X-Men, bonded with the mysterious cosmic specter known as the Phoenix Force. She was able to control the force and it allowed her to tap into the full depths of her psychic powers. However, a rival mutant started loosening Jean’s mental bond with the force and it eventually took her over completely, thus creating the villain Dark Phoenix. Now, Dark Phoenix is not one to be trifled with, in fact, she immediately started soaring through the galaxy, absorbing nuclear star energy and destroying planets inhabited by peaceful alien beings for really no reason at all. It’s awesome actually. Anyway, the series ends when Jean self-sacrifices herself to keep the Phoenix Force from destroying anything else. Seems pretty cut and dried, right? Well, these are comic books so, no, it gets way more confusing.

In All-New X-Men the original X-Men (made up of a young Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Iceman, and of course - Jean Grey) were brought forward in time to help remind the current iteration of the team of Professor Xavier’s vision for mutants. However, the Shi’ar galactic council (no, don’t even ask) caught wind of a Jean Grey in their timeline (the Jean Grey that actually belongs in this world has been dead for some time) and they feel she should stand trial for the crimes she will eventually commit as Dark Phoenix. So the Guardians of the Galaxy team up with the X-Men to rescue Jean Grey.

Phew! Y’all still with me? You are? Great! So, let’s talk about The Trial of Jean Grey. First of all, it finally answers the persistent question I’ve had regarding the relationship between Guardian Peter Quill (Star Lord) and X-Man Kitty Pryde.  Peter Quill has his own solo series Legendary Star-Lord where he’s traveling the galaxy and also somehow dating the very much earthbound Kitty. I could never figure out how they met. Well, Kitty is in charge of the young, time-displaced mutants so is also a part of this crossover. Mystery solved!

The artwork done by Sara Pichelli and Stuart Immonen is really top-notch.  They’ve managed to capture the innocence of the younger X-Men without making them look like totally out of place children. Brian Michael Bendis’ script work is coherent, which is impressive seeing as how he’s juggling four different casts while also being respectful of the source material. He even manages to inject a little bit of well needed humor. Overall, The Trial of Jean Grey makes for a thoughtful companion to The Dark Phoenix Saga. Jean Grey is a character who is perpetually dead, so it’s nice to see at least a version of her back in action. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t have a passing familiarity with The Dark Phoenix Saga or X-Men in general.  There are a few cameos that would make for a confusing read, for example: a pre-Asgard assassin Angela (Girl! What are you even doing here?), Cyclops’ flamboyant space pirate father (who looks like he was plucked directly from the pages of a 1977 issue of Uncanny X-Men), and X-23 (who seems to want nothing to do with anything happening around her). 

If you are interested in getting started with X-Men, the first trade of the All-New X-Men series, Yesterday’s X-Men is not a bad place to jump off from, especially if you want to get up to speed with the current timeline.


No comments:

Post a Comment