We all knew it was coming. The real question now is, will the story work? Your Major Spoilers review of Phoenix Resurrection: The Return Of Jean Grey #1 awaits!
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Penciler: Leinil Francis Yu
Inker: Gerry Alanguilan
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Previously in Phoenix Resurrection: The Return Of Jean Grey: “She will return, like a Phoenix from the ashes. Years ago, Jean Grey died and the X-Men mourned her. Since then, the world has changed, her teammates have lived without her and died without her. And now, when strange events start happening all over the world, those teammates can only come to one conclusion – the one true Jean Grey is back!”
This issue starts out with some really horrifying visuals, and I’ll be honest: I don’t know if it’s intentional. In a small hamlet in upstate New York (the very town where Jean Grey grew up, he said significantly) a pair of kids run into a strange girl speaking nonsense. Those who read backwards will note that her words are “We were better off dead”, but the sudden appearance of another child, this one with flaming red hair, makes things more complicated. Not long after, The X-Men arrive to investigate a Cerebra-scanned mutant incident, only to find the kids catatonic and floating, bleeding copiously but showing no injuries. That’s when the X-Men spring into action. ALL of the X-Men. It’s really overwhelming, to be honest, as we follow three different squads of characters to points around the globe, each one important in the history of Phoenix, only to find strange events happening in each location. Meanwhile, somewhere else, a young waitress named Jean sees a strange bird of flame overtaking the sun, going home to find her boyfriend Scott waiting at the door…
The first couple of pages are utterly terrifying, as one character suddenly has no eyes, but given the way Leinil Yu draws his eyes, this is the one character who ISN’T a terrifying vision from beyond. There are great visuals to be had in these pages (Rachel Grey-Summers getting a sudden nosebleed from proximity to whatever is going on is a lovely reveal), but they keep being undermined for me by Yu’s pencils. The story is maddeningly vague, counting on the reader’s knowledge of X-Men history to build the tension, without ever coming out and saying in the story that the heroes are worried about Phoenix. Add to it the sheer number of characters in play, and the issue feels very fragmented in plotting. There’s also not a lot to it, though I am interested in the “trapped in a small town diner” sequence, but it, too, feels like it’s being too oblique and precious about its secrets. Is this the afterlife? Is that why dead Banshee appears? Is everyone meant to be someone we know? Is this all-important or just set dressing?
THE BOTTOM LINE: HAS POTENTIAL, BUT DOESN’T FEEL COMPLETE
At the end of the day (or the issue, I guess), I feel very much adrift, as if I’ve read half of a story, with all the important bits that would make it all satisfying in the missing half. Granted, this is a weekly series, which will offset some of the vagueness/incomplete feeling with an almost immediate payoff, but it still doesn’t work for me in single-issue format. Phoenix Resurrection: The Return Of Jean Grey #1 seems to be over thought, working for the effect of the sizzle while withholding the metaphorical steak, and while it has some nice moments, the art is indistinct in some places and actually disturbing in others, leading to a right-down-the-middle 2.5 out of 5 stars overall. This seems like a story I might be interested in reading once it’s collected, but this single issue doesn’t give enough to be a satisfying read or to justify the five dollar price point…