Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

You ever hear that phrase, "the only people who stay dead in comics are Bucky, Uncle Ben, and Jason Todd?" Well, I’m afraid this doesn’t even hold up anymore: Bucky and Jason Todd have both returned (both as anti-hero/ shadowy types, interestingly enough) in recent years. So I guess now it’s just Uncle Ben we waiting for some writer to bring back from the dead and become Peter Parker’s greatest nemesis?

Hopefully it won’t come to that- but you see the lesson here, right? Comic book death doesn’t mean much. With the X-men? Doubly so. It’s quoted best in the comic Nextwave by Warren Ellis- referring to the X-Men, "They come back to life more than Jesus."

So, if we’re keeping score, who’s had the weirdest, longest running series of deaths and returns in comic history? Well, I think Doom, probably. But Jean Grey has got to be in the top five. This is kind of obvious. I mean, her code name IS (er, or has been, at times) Phoenix. Literally "I come back from the dead in a big, fiery way."

Now, those who’ve been paying attention know that Jean is headed back to the Marvel Universe (although the writers are taking their time to make her resurrection a big DEAL- something I like). Hope, the mutant savior that everyone has been running around through time after, has read hair, green eyes, and vast power; Occam’s Razor says that the smart money is on Hope BEING Jean. Of course, knowing the Marvel writers, the truth may turn out to be a bit more complex than that.

And speaking of complicated? If Jean isn’t the most resurrected character, than she has to at least win the award for the "weirdest, longest history in an ongoing comic." They’ve toned Jean’s story down quite a bit for television and video game purposes- Jean Grey done simple goes something like this: as a kid, Jean was so scared that her power might rage out of control that she had to over-control all of her negative feelings. These feelings eventually became a sperate personality named Phoenix. Charles Xavier may have tampered with Jean in some way, lending to Phoenix’s creation.

Now, for the purposes of telling a concise, clear story? I get why they went with this. STILL, being the fanboy that I am, I just can’t give up on the long strange trip that is Jean’s life circa 1975-2010! This is part of what makes me a Jean fan, actually. I think she gets pegged as being personality-less. But I think it’s more cautious, with just a hint of wild, savageness hinting underneath (making her a better match for Wolverine’s love interest than she appears at a glance). Because if you had lived through the things that she has lived (died?) through, you’d be careful to keep your dark side in check too.

So, here is a BRIEF (if you can believe that) recap of what Jean has been through:

Originally, Jean is telekinetic with latent telepathic powers.

Dark Phoenix Saga
On one particularly frightful mission, the X-Men are trapped onboard a space shuttle in Earth’s orbit. The shuttle has no radiation shielding in the cockpit- entering the atmosphere would kill the pilot. Jean telepathically scans an onboard crew members mind and learns how to fly the shuttle, willingly exposing herself to radiation. When the shuttle crash lands, the X-Men expect Jean to be dead. Instead, she bursts from the wreckage with ridiculous wielding ridiculous psionic power.

It’s slowly revealed that Jean has become a vessel for a cosmic entity of immense power called the Phoenix. The Phoenix is the embodiment of rebirth, hope, and all living beings' psionic force- so it’s literally connected to the entire universe. It’s purpose, however, is to judge and purify entire parts of the universe, to reshape it into a new, stronger form. A force for good (or at least, balance), it’s accepted but greatly feared by the Shi’ar (vast, interstellar alien empire central to the Marvel U.).

Jean has more and more trouble keeping her power and feelings in check. In a wild fit of hunger, Jean/Phoenix consume an entire sun in a distant solar system (which the Phoenix feeds on). Billions of living creatures on a nearby planet are killed. The Shi’ar condemn Jean to die. The X-Men fight to protect her. Ultimately, realizing the destruction she’s caused, Jean commits suicide. NOW, fast forward a year or so- Scott Summers (A.K.A. Cyclops), distraught over Jean’s death, meets Madelyne Pryor, a woman who looks IDENTITICAL to Jean Grey. Madelyne appears totally human. Knows nothing about the X-Men.

A year or so after that- the Avengers uncover a bizarre cocoon at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. They open it up to reveal- TA DA- Jean Grey, alive and well. Only this Jean knows nothing about any of the events following the shuttle crash that imbued her with the power of the phoenix. The Avengers and the F.F. put her back in contact with the original X-Men (Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman).

Long story short is this- the Jean that commited suicide wasn’t the real Jean. When the Phoenix chose Jean as a vessel, it created a psionic copy of her to live through. In fact, the Phoenix sort of made a deal with Jean- it contacted her and asked to USE her as a vessel, to experience the world through her. In return, Jean would be kept safe. Hence, the Phoenix took Jean’s form (it didn’t just posses’ her) and tucked her away, safe, in a cocoon at the bottom of the ocean.

So, Jean Grey is alive and well with telekinetic (but no telepathic) powers. The death of her Phoenix-self might explain why she loses her telepathy at this time.

This begs the question- where the hell did Madelyne Pryor come from?

WELL, funny story- Madelyne IS Jean, sort of. But has nothing to do with the Phoenix. Mr. Sinister, mutant-genetics-enthusiast and all around very bad man, has taken it upon himself to shape the future of mutantkind for years and years. It was very important to Sinister that Jean and Scott, well, breed. When Jean died, Sinister got worried. He knew their DNA, together, would yield a powerful kid (just look at Rachel Summers A.K.A. Phoenix II or Nathan Summers A.K.A. Cable, right?). He decided to clone Jean (a process Sinister is disturbingly good at), in order to make sure Scott and Jean still cranked out some pumped up mutant babies.

Of course, Madelyne didn’t turn out to be half as stable as Sinister planned. As we all know, clones have a way of going crazy because cloning is BAD and IMPERFECT and all that jazz, right? When Scott leaves Madelyne for Jean, things start to get out of control. Eventually, Madelyne makes a deal with a demon who found a way to manifest on earth in a techno-organic body (N’astirh). Calling herself the Goblin Queen, Madelyne tries to grab Jean and Scott’s newborn son Nathan and kill the X-Men all off once and for all. It wasn’t a pretty picture (all detailed in "Inferno," one of my favorite X-Men storylines). In the late 80’s, horror movies were ‘in’, and X-Men had the feel of films like Aliens and A Nightmare on Elm Street).

Jean and Madelyne go one on one, and with the help of the Phoenix, Jean gets the upper hand and saves everybody. Madelyne dies in a blaze of glory. Jean gets ALL of Jean/Phoenix’s memories as well as Madelyne’s, to go along with hers (it’s like she has three people’s worth of experiences). Eventually, she gets her telepathy back too.

But, like the original, Madelyne just won’t stay dead. An ALTERNATE Nathan Summers from a parallel universe (X-mMn- like Cable, but without all the techno stuff in the way) accidently revives a psychic ghost of Madelyne. Jean and Madelyne fight, again. Jean, along with her son, defeat Madelyne- again.

New X-men
Jean has a lot of up and downs, as Mr. Morrison quickly turns our heroine’s long-sought after marriage into a disaster. Ultimately, the run concludes with JEAN- not Phoenix- but JEAN tapping into the Phoenix Force herself. In complete control, Jean finally learns to wield just as much power as Phoenix without succumbing to being controlled by the entity.

Unfortunately, her newfound power doesn’t last long. Magento (or some incarnation or other- Magneto would be in the top five for dying and recurring characters himself) kills Jean. She’s still mortal, after all, Phoenix Force or not.

Phoenix - Endsong
The Phoenix Force tries to resurrect Jean, again- and actually? Jean resists. Jean’s spirit helps the X-Men defeat (or at least, subdue) the Phoenix from this course of action. And Jean transcends to a new plane of existence (possibly merging with the souls/counsciousness of other Phoenix Force hosts as part of the Phoenix itself- it’s unclear), wishing the best to the family and friends that she’s loved.

Messiah Complex and Second Coming
Which leads us up to today. Hope is the name of the first mutant child born since M-Day (where Wanda Maximoff stripped almost every mutant on the planet of their powers). I know it’s been done to death- no pun intended- but frankly, I’ll be excited to see her come back to the fold. I’m sorry, but X-Men just doesn’t feel right without her.

But what role she’s going to play on her return- savior or destroyer, possibly both- is anybody’s guess.