Comic Book Review: Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey #5
As the final issue for Phoenix Resurrection: Return of Jean Grey, this is where we expect that all cards should be laid on the table, and in hopes that this creative team makes all of the build-up to this point worth the investment put into this story. Especially when they tease the possibility of the X-Men either being reunited with their long-lost teammate, or something darker. From the announcement of X-Men: Red it seems they find what they are looking for, but it is this moment where we look forward to an explanation of how Jean will be saved.
The only time in these five issues of Phoenix Resurrection where they had me questioning a story choice, was when Old Man Logan was sent to confront Jean. This Logan is from a different universe, and the Jean he knew was from a lifetime ago. It felt odd that they would have chosen him over the younger Cyclops, despite him technically being from an alternate timeline. It wasn’t until Old Man Logan actually engaged Jean in conversation where you could understand why it was probably best that he went in. After a decade of not having Jean around, it was easy to forget who we are dealing with here, memories or not. In that very moment they set the tone for what was to come through Logan’s approach. He could have tried to get through to her any number of ways, but I like that he stuck to what is most known about him mentally and emotionally. Compared to the Logan we are used to, this one gets straight to business which is not a trait to overlook.
Jean’s war with the Phoenix this time around was more exciting than any other time she had to fight this entity. Other times in the past, the struggle was anti-climatic. She wasn’t putting up as much of a fight because the story demanded that she needed to become the monster. This creative team shook things up where there can actually be a choice in this relationship. There can only be so many times Jean will be written as practically the only one who can’t control the Phoenix despite being so powerful. Impressed is the best word I can use for Jean this time around. Her younger self took some time to adjust to, but this version of Jean was quick to win our hearts through being able to learn from her past.
How Jean handles herself with this power at her fingertips was powerful. For the restraint, for the expression of growth, and for the sharing of an emotional moment with someone I would have loved to see make a permanent return. It made a big difference to even give an active voice to the Phoenix itself. This was a first and it meant the world that someone was bold enough to let the Phoenix explain itself. It really should never have taken a decade for this to happen.
They went all out with the art team for this issue. It was all hands on deck with Leinil Francis Yu, Joe Bennett, Gerry Alanguilan, Belardino Brabo, and Rachelle Rosenberg. As I’ve pointed out before, things were indeed shaky in the first few issues of Phoenix Resurrection, but they turned things around quick. It was smart that there was the added assistance that came from Alanguilan and Brabo on inks. The depth they added to the pencils, the darkness they added to the atmosphere, and the separation they gave to things that would have blended was just what the book needed at this stage. With that said, the focus for this issue was the emotional weight given to character moments and decisions. That was why I found myself excited that Leinil Francis Yu was on for this finale. He has a sharp touch to his drawings and does not skip a beat head to toe. Whether it was the imposing presence of Logan, the fear from Jean, or her newfound confidence, he made the characters stand out for the mental state that this story puts them in. While I was impressed by the rendering of the Phoenix by Rosenberg before, this issue took that beauty to a new level. There was a stronger glow and the warm colors were more radiant. It helped that there was a smoother flow to the Phoenix flames as well. While they gave the Phoenix personality in this story, it was the visual that sold the moment when normally it might be challenging to give expression to something composed of fire. What helped with the colors was the room given to get every detail of these characters and settings.
Did Phoenix Resurrection: Return of Jean Grey #5 make this search for Jean worth it? It damn well did. Some writers out there can take a few pointers on how to bring a hero back to life. This was a beautiful story told where they could finally break the cycle for Jean after so many years. Habits can kill, and they did time after time because Jean never confronted the Phoenix on this level. Whatever the future holds for Jean after this story, it is good to know that she moves forward with acknowledgment of everything that was, everything that she lost, and everything that she has to live for.