You’re a big blue feline. You’re a genius. Your race is under threat of genocide. You are on your death-bed. What do you do? Well, I certainly do not head back in time and grab a hold of Jean Grey, world destroyer extraordinaire, and hope for the best. That, however, is exactly what Hank McCoy chooses to do. That’s his last roll of the dice, and boy, are the odds stacked against him. Cyclops, free of the Phoenix Force, is stirring up a revolution and irritating a lot of powerful people. His merry band of misguided mutants will now be pitted against Jean Grey and the original X-men, brought with her from the past; Iceman, Cyclops, Angel and a considerably better looking Hank McCoy. What does this mean for Marvel’s 616 universe? Well, we’re going to find out.
Thrust into this new, altogether alien, world, Jean Grey has undergone some pretty significant changes in a significantly short period of time. Perhaps most alarming among these is the early onset of her telepathic powers; a year early, to be precise. Confronted with these powers, Jean has adapted to their presence very quickly. This is not a good thing. It has led to the deterioration of her moral standards; her sense of what is right has become warped. In All New X-Men #8, we are offered a chilling glimpse into what Jean is capable of. Angel is, quite rightly, panicking; in the future, his wings have been replaced by sharpened, metallic abominations, and no explanation is forthcoming. He wants to go home. Jean, however, has no such plans. Rather than take the diplomatic approach, she takes control of his mind and steers him towards talking about lunch. With no regrets, Jean tells everyone not to worry; that she is ‘in total control’. That is possibly the most terrifying concept in all of comics; is Jean in control of her powers, or is she in control of everything else?
It’s not just the strength of her telepathy that is on the rise; her telekinesis has followed suit. Prior to her arrival in the future, Jean Grey’s powers were under relative control. Without Charles Xavier’s guidance and training, however, there is no way of knowing how her powers and her character will develop. With the onset of her telepathy, her telekinesis is impacted. Having suffered through a murderous nightmare in #6, Jean awakes to the total destruction of her bedroom. In #9, we see Jean single-handedly tear down a sentinel generated by the school’s danger room; an act of such immense power that even her fellow time-travelling X-Men express their shock and surprise. It’s fairly clear that the increases in Jean’s powers, in this new environment, are following a whole new trajectory. How long can she feasibly grow stronger at this rate, without succumbing to some degree of corruption?
Slapped on top of all of this, is the issue of containment. Jean Grey is an immensely powerful individual, in any context. Traditionally, however, Charles Xavier sought to contain Jean’s power through telepathic conditioning and training. Scott Summers, too, played his role in rooting Jean in reality and forcing her to address her own humanity. These characters were largely responsible for the long-term containment of Jean Grey; they kept her in check. Now, though, these cards are off the table. Charles Xavier is dead, by Scott Summers’ hand (Or, well, eyes). Scott himself is now on the run from the authorities, looking to instigate a mutant revolution. He is, however, without his powers; the phoenix force altered his physiology and, thus, they are now defunct. What about the time-travelling Scott Summers? Jean has made is clear that she has little time for him; she appears to hold him responsible for his future sins. Without these individuals to force Jean to retain her sanity, her humanity and her compassion, the deterioration of Jean’s character is likely to accelerate further.
However, Jean is not entirely ignorant of her past, nor can she be accused of naivety regarding the use of her ever-growing power. Delving into the depths of Hank McCoy’s memories, Jean bore witness to her personal history in its entirety. From her marriage to Scott Summers, to her encounters with the Phoenix Force and her ultimate demise, Jean is exposed to the realities of her past (Or her future. It’s complicated). With this in mind, Jean might well have decided to right her wrongs and tackle her past head on. She is aware of the extent of her powers and, more significantly, the impact that they can have on the world and its denizens. This may well steel Jean against corruption and allow her to utilise her talents as a force for good.
It’s all up in the air right now. Regardless of what Bendis has planned for Jean Grey at this stage, you can colour me captivated. With Cyclops’ arrival at the school in #9, new possibilities abound. Jean may well openly reject him, or resort to violence; he killed her father-figure and mentor. Perhaps more interesting, however, is the possibility of conversion to Cyclops’ cause. Having been exposed to the events of the past, Jean will be well aware of the effects of the Phoenix Force upon the mind; she has caused untold devastation herself, all whilst under the control of the very same entity. There is therefore room for empathy on her behalf. She may well find that her own quest for personal redemption, or personal discovery, is not so different from Scott’s own. They have committed the same sins, are virtually inseparable as characters, and both are currently feared and misunderstood by their peers. Could this be the start of a period of reconciliation? Could we be witnessing the inception of a new mutant age, one led by Jean and Scott? Only time will tell!
Welcome to the new age…