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Some Reflecting on Recent Phoenix-y…Stuff

phoenix_resurrection_0005I’d had high hopes for Phoenix Resurrection/The Return of Jean Grey series. I was especially looking forward to the return of the character, period. But this 5-issue "event comic," quasi-weekly series gave me two $4.99 books with three $3.99s tossed in, and other than "Psychics disappear, X-Men encounter several foes thought dead, and find out Jean is living in a Phoenix-created artificial reality," not much seemed to really happen. Add to that some half-arsed (to me) marketing about a Jean Grey tie-in issue where I thought I had missed something at the start of the ‘event’ and then made darned sure to grab when it actually came out the week of the finale, and I wasn’t overly keen on it.

Then for that supposed-tie-in to basically have nothing at all to actually do with the Phoenix Resurrection series/event itself, it’s like…why, exactly, was I just conned into buying the final issue of a series, when it’s not the end of the character, not about the character I wanted, and doesn’t offer anything meaningful to my reading of the earlier issues of Phoenix Resurrection? It seems that the Psych Wars arc had stuff earlier that did pertain to Phoenix Resurrection, and I didn’t get those; but this is tangential at best.

jean_grey_0011Once several issues were out, I wasn’t going to "just" hold off for a paperback–gotta give Marvel "credit" for that–pumping this out as a weekly thing rather than monthly. Rather than "have to" wait even just a couple months for a collected edition, seemed simpler to just continue with the singles, getting to read the serialized story closer together at least. But there’s also the fact that we knew blatantly from the start well before the first issue even hit that yes, this WOULD actually have the REAL return of the REAL Jean Grey…so it’s not like it was, say, a decade-later third mini to go with Phoenix: Endsong and Phoenix: Warsong, where we could "wonder" if it would actually end with Jean back among the living or not, or leave her dead. Like reading something called The Death of Superman, you know the outcome…and so the journey there, the details become all the more important. And for me, frankly, this series failed to deliver on that. Nothing much in it was singularly memorable, really; except the confirmation that yeah, Jean’s back, and a brief cameo near the end of the final issue..

We had the surprise of a temporarily-resurrected Cyclops (and then being left with a corpse, not even "just" the renewed absence of the character). Sure, Jean wanted "one last talk" with her husband/former husband/whatever they considered themselves. But how fitting would it have been to have also brought him back, with her? Resurrecting her, bringing him back, them having to learn to deal with each other again after how things were going with them just before her death, to say nothing of the actions Cyclops himself took after M-Day and AvX and all of that? (‘course, with Xavier apparently being back, too…almost seems "no harm, no foul" or such…) But it was basically "just" a cameo.

jean_grey_10_psych_warsI suppose I figured with a weekly 5-issue series titled with The Return of Jean Grey, we’d get MORE in the way of a contained "struggle" with her of simply being back; like they’d find her during issue 2, have 3-4 with stuff going on and her re-meeting the still-living, and perhaps by 5 have some big crisis come about because she IS back, where she’d have to face it and maybe face the likelihood of being killed again or something. As such, with the various X-characters dealing with missing psychics, the appearance of characters thought dead, etc. it seems like this would have worked far better as a bunch of subplots perhaps scattered across several titles, that would all then lead together into a one-shot issue; where the characters–having been brought together by events–would be there, and Phoenix Resurrection #5 could have been the oneshot or whatever.

A couple weeks back–the week after Phoenix Resurrection #5–I saw a lone copy of Jean Grey #10 remaining, and flipped through it and saw Phoenix stuff, so went ahead and bought it, feeling rather curious/suspicious. Sure enough, that one issue, not even branded as part of Phoenix Resurrection, had more conflict with the Phoenix Force and such, was more satisfying (BRIEF though it seemed!) than the entirety of the actual Phoenix Resurrection event/mini-series.

xmen_red_0001Then there was X-Men: Red #1. A bit larger physically, and $4.99 as a single issue…like last year’s X-Men: Prime, X-Men: Gold, and X-Men: Blue #1s. It’s got Nightcrawler, and our returned "real" Jean Grey, the adult, original, non-time-traveling character. Something to the issue as a whole has me considering getting #2, though I was not overly impressed with the issue or this newer take on Jean. I wanted her back as part of a team, back interacting with Cyclops, Wolverine, and various other ’90s mainstays…or something. On the five issue mini-series and now "headlining" a new series…I’m not seeing anything but "nostalgia" to "sell" me on the character. Like…great, now she’s back, but now what? What makes her singularly interesting and worthwhile TO get this sort of treatment?

I guess time will tell.

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Phoenix Resurrection (2017) #1 [Review]

phoenixresurrection2017_0001Chapter One: Frustrate the Sun

Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Penciler: Leinil Francis Yu
Inker: Gerry Alanguilan
Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Main Cover: Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen & Anthony Gambino
Assistant Editors: Christina Harrington & Chris Robinson
Associate Editor: Darren Shan
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 2018
Cover Price: $4.99

I read the first couple issues of Morrison‘s NEW X MEN run, along with the first issue or two of that "new era" of Uncanny X-Men as well (and I think same for X-Force and/or X-Statix and Soldier X) before trailing off for awhile. I got back in toward the latter part of the run, having obtained the first two "deluxe oversized hardcovers" and not wanting to wait (then) for another. I remember making a special trip to the Toledo comic shop while visiting a friend for her graduation in December 2003, largely to get #150…and reading it left me with quite a surprise. Jean…dead? Well, SURELY, being Marvel, she’d be back pretty darned quick. A year, maybe two? Endsong kinda let me down, and I’m not sure if I ever actually read Warsong.

Move through time–2004, 2008, 2012…the Jean from the past was brought to the present (how long would THAT last? A year or two? The premise of the "original five" coming to the present sucked me into All-New X-Men for a bit!). 20012 to 2016, still the "original five." Into 2017…now the very tail-end of 2017, and we have this issue. Phoenix Resurrection #1 (never mind that 1995 gave us a Phoenix Resurrection in the Ultraverse books!).

Unlike the anecdotal "disaster" of the ordering requirements for the main wave of Legacy Lenticulars (LL, anyone?), this one’s "main cover" is *A* lenticular…but this one is actually done "right." Gone is the blurred mess of two static images blended together to approximate a real-life "gif," here we have an image of several of our mutants reacting to the flaming appearance of Dark Phoenix–Jean Grey–in the Red Costume…and we get that 3D/slight movement effect that DC has used to great effect and that had put to shame Marvel‘s versions. My main complaint with the cover is that it is at best symbolic, or some sort of prelim for use with an eventual collected edition…as has become the "norm" for modern comics, the cover does not necessarily depict what’s contained within the issue itself.

Visually, this is a pretty book, and I enjoyed the art itself throughout. As I’m no longer closely familiar with much of the X-verse, and am aware of plenty of recent changes and such, nothing much stood out in a negative way for me, and I marked inconsistencies up to my unfamiliarity; nothing seemed horrendous or off-putting to me.

Where I have problems with the visuals is layouts: the issue has 30 pages of story, 32 content pages if you count the "cinematic" double-page splash with the series’ logo and credits for the issue (in place of an opening/frontispiece to be simply omitted in collected format). While I applaud the relatively "strict" panels/gutters–a "classic" sort of page layout rather than EVERYTHING being full-bleed quasi-panels and such, I was not thrilled at so few panels per page–many pages having a mere 3-4 panels, a number of them having only 2, with very few words to a page. One page has a whopping THREE WORDS: "Elsewhere," "Well," and "fudge." (18 letters, not 18 words!). Yeah, the art is an integral part of telling (selling?) the story, but given this IS a comic book and not actually cinematic video, I’m rarely keen on "wasted space" trying to imitate another medium.

Story-wise, I did not feel that this issue remotely lived up to the hype or expectation–at least not the hype and expectation that I personally laid at its feet. Phoenix Resurrection. The Return of Jean Grey. Dark Phoenix (not Phoenix) depicted on the cover. Shiny cover. Surely Jean would appear in this issue, with plenty of questions as to her authenticity, what brought her back, why she’s back, what it means for "Young Jean," how it’ll affect other characters, if it has anything to do with "Regular Real Not-Old-Man Logan/Wolverine" being back, etc. Appear in this issue, set up questions and four more issues to dig into the details, the effects, push this story itself forward, etc.

While I can guess that the Jean we see toward the end of the issue is supposed to be "our" Jean (though whether it implies she’s been alive awhile–long enough to have a job and home and life with no overt recollection of life as one of the X-Men, or is some sort of dream-sequence or illusion or some sort of alternate life in her mind as her body heals/comes back/whatever) is not clear to me as of this single issue, on a typical single-read-through that I give whatever (new) issue(s) I read. I don’t see THAT she’s back (or not). I don’t see if there’s actually another force behind her return (the Phoenix Force) or if this is some sort of self-resurrection from her having BEEN one with the Phoenix Force in the past. Is there likely some other Big Bad waiting in the wings? Other than Jean maybe showing up/being back and having to figure out for herself what it means to her as herself, what’s the driving conflict of this title? What makes it justify five weekly issues (and I think a tie-in for a sixth issue) vs. Jean just showing up again/being a subplot in some sort of main title?

I’m curious about stuff–especially given I was there when she died back in 2003’s New X Men #150, and expected her return at least a decade ago–so will get the next issue, at least. And I would not be surprised if this was a good opening chapter to the eventual "graphic novel" when this series is collected into hardback, deluxe oversized hardback, and/or TPB. But as a single-issue, as a first issue of a mini-series, I’m not impressed with this, and would not recommend it if you’re looking just to do a toe-dip on stuff…especially at $4.99 instead of $3.99. As an art piece, the cover wouldn’t be bad to hang on a wall or such. Unless you’re eager to read/follow along in "real time" as issues are released (and given the title/subtitle, it’s not like there’s really any mystery as to whether or not it’s actually Jean, if she’ll actually be back, etc.) you’re probably better off waiting a couple months for the inevitable collected edition, if anything.

Otherwise, if you’re willing to invest in a 6 issue story within about 5 weeks, and you’re a fan of Jean herself, I’d say this is worth getting, as an opening chapter, that is by no means a stand-alone issue/story.

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