As crazy as it may sound to some, when I think of the most powerful X-Men character, I don’t normally think of people like Wolverine, Colossus, Rogue, Storm, or even the unstoppable Juggernaut. When I think of the powerful X-Men, the first and only character that comes to mind is the one and only Jean Grey.
Whether she’s Marvel Girl or the Phoenix, the fact remains that Jean Grey is one of the most powerful women in the Marvel universe. And no, it has nothing to do with Jean’s proclivity for the resurrection which has become a running joke among fans. The point is that as an original X-Man, Jean Grey has been involved in some of the most iconic X-Men story arcs ever. Not to mention the fact that she’s one of the most powerful psychics on Earth, something even Charles Xavier has alluded to a number of times.
Anyways, this week sees the release of “Dark Phoenix,” likely the last proper X-Men film before Kevin Feige fixes the franchise for the MCU. My expectations for the film aren’t very high, and the marketing campaign hasn’t done anything to help in that department. Nevertheless, I thought this would be a good time to tell you about some underrated X-Men comics. But more specifically, I’m gonna mention some underrated Jean Grey stories.
One last thing you should know: these comics are by no means necessary to enjoy “Dark Phoenix” on the big screen. Nor are they listen in any particular order. These are just good comic stories you might enjoy before or after seeing the 20th Century Fox X-Men franchise go out this weekend. Got it? good, and away we go:
5.X-Men #30 (1994)
Written by y Fabian Nicieza
Art by Andy Kubert and Matt Ryan
By the time Scott Summers and Jean Grey tied the knot, the couple had been together for over 30 freaking years! All right, that’s in real time and not in comic book time, but their union was definitely a welcomes site. This was one superhero marriage that felt earned, and its execution in X-Men #30 was a thing of beauty.
The story of Scott and Jean’s wedding, written by Fabian Nicieza and drawn by Andy Kubert, had a ton of cool moments like Bobby Drake and Beast laughing it out in the buffet line. But I have to say my favorite moment was a conversation between Jeah Grey and Rachel Summers. This was a moment that I had been waiting for ages for and it delivered and then some by having Rachel and Jean finally bonding. And by the time Jean shared a “dance” with Professor Xavier, I admit I was shedding a tear.
4.X-Men #28 (1994)
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Andy Kubert and Matt Ryan
In X-Men #28, the team is still adjusting to Sabretooth living in the mansion. While he’s not running loose in the mansion, he’s still making the X-Men feel uneasy. This is someone who has tried to kill many of them on multiple occasions after all. Jubilee, in particular, is having a difficult time dealing with Sabretooth, but surprisingly enough, so is Jean Grey.
Jean voices her concerns and accuses Charles Xavier of not thinking clearly. Eventually Jean decides that it’s time to face her fears. and heads to Sabretooth’s cell. The confrontation is not what you expect, but Jean Grey is brilliant at the moment and earns Sabretooth’s respect. She even gives Jubilee the encouragement to face her own fears.
X-Men #28 gets lost in the shuffle because it took place between major X-Men events Fatal Attractions and the Phalanx Covenant. But for a single issue story, I thought X-Men #28 packed a ton into 22 pages. This is one of those comics that made me an even bigger fan of Jean Grey.
3.The Uncanny X-Men #334
Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by Joe Madureira and Tim Townsend
When I was putting this list together, I debated between talking about Uncanny X-Men #334 or X-Men #53. Both are early chapters in 1996s Onslaught saga. That event is a mixed bag, but Uncanny #334 is one of the few tie-in issues that stood out for me.
This issue is chock full of great moments like Juggernaut swimming in the lake near Cyclops’ and Jean’s home, Xavier telling Cannonball to stop being such a whiner, Bishop and Gambit briefly teaming up only to have their asses handed to them. and Jean Grey coming face to face with Juggernaut on her front step.
One of my favorite moments in the issue happens when Juggernaut convinces Jean he’s there to help and takes off his helmet to prove he’s being honest. It was as shocking as it was touching.
Still reeling from her first encounter with Onslaught in X-Men #53, Jean decides to take Juggernaut to the bottom levels of the mansion to a psi-shielded chamber so they can discover the answer of Who Onslaught really is. All the while upstairs in the mansion, Professor Xavier begins to unravel and starts taking out his frustrations on Cannonball and Cyclops. But with the clock ticking, Jean and Juggernaut come to a startling conclusion.
Uncanny X-Men #334 might lack the action of other stories, but I love this comic for a couple of reasons: one is the cover by Joe Madureira. To me, this is an iconic Jean Grey Shot. Second, this is the only time that I can remember where Jean Grey finds herself one on one with the Juggernaut. Yeah, there’s no epic battle, but I like how their scenes together play out in the end.
2.X-Men Forever (2000-2001)
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Kevin Maguire
Nearly twenty years before the Jean Grey led her own team of X-Men in the short-lived (but excellent) X-Men Red, she lead a hastily put together band in the pages of X-Men Forever by Fabian Nicieza and Kevin Maguire.
The four-issue mini-series begins when Prosh returns to Earth to gather a group of key mutants who will go on a time trip through their pasts to learn the lessons needed to keep the Elders of the Universe from destroying dangerous humanity. Brought together are Jean Grey; Iceman; Mystique; Juggernaut; Toad.
This is an often forgotten mini-series, but I like it mainly because of Kevin Maguire’s art. But I was also cool to see Jean get a bit of the spotlight as she’s front and center in this story. I guess because of experience and maturity, Jean Grey becomes the team’s de facto leader. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but with this team, they might kill each other before they even get started.
1.The Fantastic Four #286 (1986)
Written by John Byrne
Art by John Byrne and Terry Austin
No matter how you feel about the first return of Jean Grey, you can’t deny John Byrne put a lot of thought into it. Fantastic Four #286 is a loaded issue with answers to some of the questions readers may have had at the time like How did Jean Grey survive, how much sleep does Jarvis need per night and where has Jean Grey been since her “death” way back in Uncanny X-Men #137?
The answers were shocking and surprising, and everything in this issue set the stage for the return of the original X-Men in the pages of X-Factor. I think one of my favorite things in this issue is that Jean first appears a mid-scene from just before she became Dark Phoenix. It showed that she had been in that cocoon all along, and the Jean we thought died on the moon was just the Phoenix itself
I also like how Fantastic Four leads into X-Factor but without being the usual backdoor pilot Marvel and other published would later do. Plus with appearances by the Avengers, it’s no wonder this issue was extra-sized and without ads. All in all a solid issue of Fantastic Four, and one you can still find cheap even after 30 something years.