Jean Grey #1 is published by Marvel, written by Louise Simonson, art by Bernard Chang, colors by Marcelo Maiolo, and letters by Ariana Maher. Jean Grey is dying after the attack at the Hellfire Gala. In order to save herself, she tries to find out where things went wrong in her past.
This is an issue that takes a minute to grasp, perhaps even a second read through. Almost a what-if scenario, it takes a point of time in Jean’s history, then alters something to see how it changes her entire life. But all of this is happening within her mind, as she is actually dying. The first scenario, which leads to consequences throughout the entire issue, is when her younger self and the rest of the original five X-Men were sent back to their original point in time, then progresses from the viewpoint that their memories were never changed. It leads to some fascinating moral quandaries for a team that is now progressing through its future when they already know how it ends. The writing is exceptional because there are so many layers to the moment. But because the concept for this issue is so surprising and clever, the avenue is extremely difficult to see. A Jean Grey story always leads to a certain point, but how it gets there in this opening issue is a real adventure with a dark ending.
Jean Grey #1 is a mesmerising comic when it comes to character development and dialogue. It’s important to remember that what happens is in Jean’s head, but they are examples of what she believes she is capable of herself. Once Jean cuts loose she is monumentally dangerous and terrifying. It isn’t just her that is presented in this issue. It’s the first five, changed by their experiences with their older selves and in the modern Marvel Universe. It’s Professor X and Magneto when they were adversaries. It’s other mutants who you may have forgotten their origin stories because it has been so long since we’ve seen them. Names appear that haven’t been heard in ages. All of that with a voice is unsettling. The opening of the issue uses narration of Jean as she is passing away, but death is something of a formality for the woman. That soon fades when the potential future starts unfolding.
Jean Grey #1 has some incredible art. The first page is flawless, a full-page shot of modern-day Jean. It’s strangely peaceful, considering the subject matter. Following that is a montage of Jean’s life and her association with X-Men history. Her children, her friends, and her adventures all are laid out superbly in a barrage of small panels. Then come the 5 starting X-Men. When they first appear, they’re in the costume that they were sent home in, but quickly have to revert back to the classic uniforms. Chang’s adaptation of both is really interesting, recognising how those original suits might look on a modern superhero. There are revisits to some early X-Men moments, but with very different circumstances. Chang also beautifully lets Jean grow as the issue progresses, highlighting the passage of time, and by the end of the issue there are some really fascinating new designs.
The colors are stunning. It’s interesting how powers and characters can be instantly recognisable within the X-Men universe. Pink is always telepathy. Iceman’s cool blue. The red of Cyclops’ optic blasts. The yellow and black uniforms. All are on display as this classic era is relived in what might be the final moments of Jean’s life. The lettering is the same font used for every X comic.
Jean Grey #1 is a unique approach to the alternate futures concept. As the example of where Jean could make a difference in her life plays out, there is a terrifying realisation that it could have happened that way if Jean herself thinks that it could. What causes the change in history is just a simple, one-off choice, and yet it completely derails the entire history of the X-Men and the Marvel Universe as a whole. The outcome of these thought processes by Jean could have an impact on the present. The tone is dark yet contemplative, dramatic right up until the very last page. And it can be depressing to realise how futile Jean’s life can be, often leading to the same destination even if you change the journey.
Jean Grey #1
Jean Grey #1 is a unique approach to the alternate futures concept.