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Did Jean Grey's resurrection after the X-Men's Dark Phoenix saga ruin death in comics? One Marvel editor weighs in

The person leading the X-Men relaunch thinks Jean's resurrection "changed the rules" in comics, but undertsands there's a "flipside" to bringing her back

Phoenix
Image credit: Dave Cockrum/Marvel

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Death in superhero comics these days is "at best a minor inconvenience," writes Tom Brevoort, and one of the people to blame is Jean Grey.

Some context: the longtime Marvel executive editor and captain of the 2024 X-Men relaunch recently posted on his Substack a question from someone going by the name JV. JV brings up the events of classic 1980 storyline The Dark Phoenix, which ends with the death of founding member of the team, Jean Grey. Five years later, Jean was brought back to life to become a founding member of X-Factor, one of the first major times a character does this in superhero comics.

(Before anyone says it: yes, we know that, technically, the "real" Jean didn't actually die, but was alive the entire time in a cocoon at the bottom of the river, while the Phoenix Force created a fake Jean clone, and that is who "died"... but, really.)

"If you could travel back in time," JV writes, "What do you think the best creative decision [regarding Jean] would have been?"

"If it was me," begins Brevoort, "I would never have brought back Jean Grey after the Death of Phoenix."

Woah, sounds pretty harsh. But listen to Tom's reasoning before getting out the torches and pitchforks, Jean fans.

"I think that her return in particular," he continues, "opened up the floodgates and led us to the current state of play in which death is at best a minor inconvenience, an enforced vacation from the books for a couple of years until you inevitably come back. Jean being resurrected changed the rules."

I mean, the man has a point. Death in superhero comics is about as common as the cold, and fans expect it to go away just as quickly. In the past ten years, Marvel readers have seen major players like Ms. Marvel, Doctor Strange, and Wolverine end up six feet under, only to speculate when they'll make their triumphant return to the land of the living. Having made this point, though, Brevoort admits that having Jean Grey around for the past 39 years was a good thing, despite what it did to Death.

"[...]on the flipside of that, if Jean had remained dead since 1980, she wouldn’t have been in a lot of stories that made the present day coterie of fans love her. [...] And so maybe there’d have been some potential that wasn’t realized."

But on the whole, Brevoort stands by his time-travel-conditional decision.

"I genuinely think that the return of Jean in the mid-1980s was a top-three narrative mistake in the history of the company," he concludes, "so given a choice, I definitely wouldn’t have done it."

Somebody get this guy on record about Jason Todd.


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