Comic books have some of the greatest female characters and so I have decided to start a new series where I will occasionally talk about some of the most awesome characters and highlight them. To start off, I thought it would be awesome to talk about one of the greatest female characters in Marvel who also happens to be a vital figure in my favourite superhero series, the X-Men and that is of course the great Jean Grey. Jean Grey has been a cornerstone of Marvel comics and of the X-Men for more than 60 years and is one, if not the most iconic character in that franchise. She has died and come back to life more times than I can count and has proven to be, in part thanks to the Phoenix, the most powerful mutant in the Marvel Universe (well depends on the writer).
Jean Grey has evolved throughout the years. As one of the original X-Men her role in those early comics was to basically play the “damsel in distress”, always being captured by the enemies of the group. However slowly as the character developed she became more than just a damsel in distress and Cyclops love interest. She became this kickass heroine, not just capable of standing her ground but actually becoming the most powerful member of the team. Her character growth really kicked off with the addition of the new X-Men (Storm, Wolverine, Colossus etc…) and it hit its highest point with the Dark Phoenix Saga.
The Dark Phoenix Saga is to this date, still considered the landmark of all X-Men stories. Written by Chris Claremont, it explored how Jean Grey, under the influence of the Phoenix slowly became crazy and after destroying a planet ended up sacrificing herself. Despite this story being retconned later on several times, the influence it had on the character of Jean Grey was immense. This was her first (of many) deaths and it established her ongoing relationship with the cosmic entity the Phoenix. Her return with X-Factor showed her as an even more powerful and assertive character, growing to lead the X-Men in several occasions and eventually to even become the Headmistress of the school (also married Scott, raised Cable (the son of Scott and a clone of Jean Grey) in the future, battled Apocalypse and had many more adventures).
Jean Grey would eventually die again, this time at the hands of Magneto in 2006 and for the better part of the last 10+ years she has remained so, beyond alternate universe appearances. However her influence has been felt throughout the years, and every time the Phoenix makes an appearance or Hope Summer showed up (who looks weirdly similar to her and that has yet to be explained), we inevitably think of Jean Grey. Recently we have had the young Jean Grey and that has been a (sometimes) fun ride, but in the past few months we have seen the return, after 12 long years, of the original Jean Grey thanks to the Phoenix whilst simultaneously finally getting rid of it (at least until they bring it back). This time she is leading her own team of X-Men and for the almost the first time since the inception of her character is going at it without Cyclops, Wolverine or Xavier.
Jean Grey is and always will be one of the most iconic comic book characters and one of the most important characters in the X-Men universe. In a universe filled with many strong female characters, Jean Grey has always been a standout. Her character has transcended the comic book medium becoming a pop culture icon. Thanks to her appearances in the films she has even gained even more fame and it will not end anytime soon. Jean Grey will probably die and return many more times in the comics but she will forever be the heart and soul of the X-Men stories and will remain “fire incarnate”.