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Drawing Crazy Patterns – Jean Grey “Dying”

In this feature, I spotlight five scenes/moments from within comic book stories that fit under a specific theme (basically, stuff that happens frequently in comics).

Today, based on a suggestion by reader Deuel R., we look at five times that Jean Grey has, well, died.

Enjoy!

Jean’s first “death” was in X-Men #100, when she sacrificed herself to save the rest of the X-Men.

(By the way, I love how Banshee and Dr. Corbreau are totally cool with Jean sacrificing herself for the greater good. That’s impressively rash thinking from them both. It’s not like they don’t appreciate it, they just seem to get the idea that yeah, this is the only way any of us will live, so it makes sense for you to try it).

She appears to be reborn the next issue as the Phoenix. Eventually, we learn that this was “just” a cosmic entity taking Jean’s place.

So with that in mind, I’ll skip X-Men #137, where Phoenix apparently dies (just for the most anal of you continuity fans out there).

Jean’s next “death” came in Uncanny X-Men #281…

Jean survived by sending her mind into the body of the comatose Emma Frost.

Jean’s next “death” came in New X-Men #148…

Jean and Wolverine are trapped on Magneto’s old Asteroid M base and it is hurtling towards the sun. They have tried everything, but it does not look like they will make it out of there alive. Wolverine does what he feels is the honorable thing and kills Jean before they are vaporized.

This, of course, just kick starts the Phoenix force and it resurrects them both next issue.

This is just in time for Jean to die in New X-Men #150 at the hands (literally) of Magneto…

Later, the Phoenix force brings Jean Grey back in Phoenix: Endsong. In issue #3, Wolverine tries to save Jean from the Phoenix force by repeatedly stabbing her to death as the Phoenix force continues to resurrect her.

Some rough stuff right there. I like how Greg Pak can now honestly say that he’s killed off Jean Grey more than any other writer.

If you have suggestions for future installments, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

38 Comments

Anal continuity fans? No way!!!

Don`t you have to be a little bit wrong in your mind to come up with a story that has Wolverine stabbing Jean Grey to death during four pages?

Bernard the Poet

July 25, 2011 at 3:05 am

I remember reading a discussion online once about whether a Marvel fan and a DC fan could ever be happy as a couple.

A woman wrote in that she was a DC fan and her husband was a Marvel fan and most of the time this didn’t cause any friction, but every so often he would refer to “Jean” – “like they went to college together or something.” It drove her mad.

Funniest thing I’ve ever read on the internet.

Bernard the Poet

July 25, 2011 at 3:16 am

Why is it only Wolverine that is ever put in the position where he has to kill someone for the victim’s own good?

Another crazy pattern methinks.

One could argue though that since Phoenix entity had co-opted the identity of Jean Grey, the death of that identity is also a death of Jean Grey, even if it was physically separate being from the person doing the dying in other instances.

You realize, of course, that these are comics fans, so deliberately trying to AVOID the issue of Jean/Phoenix in X-Men #137 simply RAISES the issue of Jean/Phoenix in X-Men #137.

Personally, I’m impressed that our host managed to find five instances without needing to resort to #137. Slightly less impressed that so many of them are recent. That is, like Superman and the phone booth, the “Jean dies all the time” trope was more a legend than actual fact, as she’d only done it 2-3 times (depending on how you count) prior to Morrison’s run.

My first issue of Uncanny X-Men was 284. The letters column was full of readers nerdraging about Jean’s “death” in 281, which baffled the hell out of me, since she was right there in the main story.

Exactly why I don’t read Marvel anymore, if nothing truly ends, then nothing means anything. Boring.

Marvel have no choice but to mimic DC and reboot their entire universe into a brand new definitive canon.

Urgh. So much obsession with killing, in (ostensibly) super HERO books.

And Cronin? Could we stay away from these ones? No, seriously. Just the one where Wolverine kills Jean OVER AND OVER makes me sick.

What a coincidence. I was checking this a few hours earlier because I wanted to know how Jean REALLY died. The think the final time she really died was by Xorn/Magneto. If Jean ever comes back, she must come back without the Phoenix and should never die (at least for a while). This Phoenix/Madelyn Pryor/Clone story is getting old.

I don’ t know why anybody would ever have a problem with a character called the phoenix dying and coming back to life.

even though I made the suggestion (thanks Brian!) … I now regret it … the fact that we can so easily find five panels of a beloved female character dying, repeatedly and in increasingly brutal manner is pretty disgusting and sadistic … says a lot about the current state of comics … her first two deaths (counting #137) were meaningful … her third was bearable (if not pretty silly) … everything after that was pointlessly brutal …

Hugo Sleestak

July 25, 2011 at 7:13 am

My favorite disgusting comics are the ones where the heroes get their eyeballs eaten by the villain while they’re tied up or beaten senseless … but it’s all OK, because they’ll get better later. Yechhh …. rotten stuff.

Hey kids, Mort Weisinger is tanned, rested and ready …

It’s so ridiculous that X-Men #137 wouldn’t count, because when that came out it was the death of Jean Grey, and it’s still the one that people really remember. And, of course, at the time that the comic was written, it really was Jean Grey–until someone came along later and decided that it wasn’t. The retcon that it was just the Phoenix force all along retroactively robbed the whole Dark Phoenix Saga of its poignancy–to the point where the only Jean death that should really count doesn’t even count anymore. And sure, the story’s still there and still kinda holds up if you reread it pretending that the late-’80s and ’90s X-comics never happened (which is probably a good idea anyway, because they went off the rails around that time in general). I just think it’s a shame that that’s what it takes.

Taylor Porter

July 25, 2011 at 8:31 am

Didn’t she “die” in Uncanny X-Men #381? When Claremont first returned to the X-books, and all the titles got new creators and the characters got new costumes? I’m too lazy to check…..

Ethan Shuster

July 25, 2011 at 9:57 am

Ugh. That last one is just… well, it’s ri-goddamn-diculous. How can any author in good conscience kill her AGAIN? I mean, isn’t just terribly uncreative at this point? It’s become laughable.

By the way, what’s with all the black blood? I wouldn’t think a bunch of red blood was off limits these days, but are they trying to avoid being censored or something?

When I first started collecting comics, one of the first issues I bought was Fantastic Four where Jean Grey was resurrected. I didn’t know the whole story, but I just felt it was a bad idea. I read a few issues of X-Factor, I didn’t like her, and I dropped the book. Hindsight is always 20/20 and resurrecting Jean was and is a bad idea. She hasn’t been attached to any story that could rival the Phoenix Saga, and the constant retreads really diluted that original story.
What is worse, Jean destroyed good characters in her path. Scott abandoned his wife and child. Maddie is a clone turned villain. The X-Men, who were friends with Maddie, decide not to be her friend anymore and help kill her. (May my friends never turn on me, SHEESH). Don’t even get started with Cable or Rachel Summers.
With the above two deaths by Grant Morrison, I see what he was trying to do. He was removing Jean from the X-Men (along with Magneto, etc) to push the X-Men to a new level. To a rough extent, those deaths of Jean worked. It established that she was the Phoenix, had the power of resurrection and was (finally) gone. Scott moved on. Emma Frost took the place of Jean and Professor X. The X-Men were free of those shackles.
The final death with Wolverine…just tasteless. Truly trashy.
I hope Jean is dead for good.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. While I love Jean Grey, boy do I hate the Phoenix.

Why is Jean ressurrecting like that? Just because she is named Phoenix? Has any story touched on that?

John Trumbull

July 25, 2011 at 7:32 pm

That is, like Superman and the phone booth, the “Jean dies all the time” trope was more a legend than actual fact, as she’d only done it 2-3 times (depending on how you count) prior to Morrison’s run.

Only in comic books could a character be cited as “only” dying 2-3 times. :)

X-Men #100 wasn’t really a “death”, not even by superhero standards. A character appearing to die just to be revealed as alive the next couple of issue is essentialy the same as escaping from a death-trap or, in Jean’s case, more like the FF’s origin but an already superpowered subject being hyped-up.

Uncanny X-Men #281 is just a little more acceptable, because her body at least appeared to be dead (even though her mind had escaped the same moment, so no, not really dead).

We should consider that for a character to be “superhero dead” he should stay dead for at least one story arc?

I fell for X-Men 138 hook-line-and-sinker. Re-read the thing until the cover almost came off. It is amazing what punchline its central plot twist has turned into.

Wow. Uncanny #281 is such a weak story. It is sorely overdramatic, the storytelling is pedestrian, and the plot relies on Jean having an unsuspected power of possession over comatose bodies of female telepaths.

And that is before considering those ridiculous costumes of the time.

UXM #281 … never understood why everyone except Archangel managed to remember to wear their costume under their dresses/tuxedos … Warren is weird …

Wow, UXM #281, first issue after Claremont’s SEVENTEEN YEAR run. Don’t feel jealous of the guy having to follow THAT act.

Wolverine stabs a loved one seems to be a pattern as well, with these two here, stabbing the other phoenix back in #207, stabbing Mariko, and he’s about to stab the hell out of Cyclops in a couple months!

Uncanny X-Men #137 still counts as Jean because while the Phoenix force created a new body for Jean, it did NOT copy her mind/soul or pretend to be her, it absorbed a portion of her mind/soul (Classic X-Men #8 backstory said that all of Jean but a spark of her soul was transferred to the new body).

The X-Men Forever mini series from 2001 also said that while Jean’s original body was in the cocoon, her mind was with the Phoenix.

Classic X-Men #43 backstory and Inferno treated Jean Grey, the Phoenix/Dark Phoenix, and Madelyne Pryor as fragments of the same person that had been separated and then came back together in Inferno.

Some of the later stories may have interpreted the retcon as the Phoenix copying or pretending to be Jean, but the actual retcon story said that a part of the real Jean became one with the Phoenix force and became the Phoenix/Dark Phoenix character. That part of Jean later when into Madelyne Pryor and then finally back to Jean in Inferno.

Brian Mac:

the “Jean dies all the time” trope was more a legend than actual fact, as she’d only done it 2-3 times (depending on how you count) prior to Morrison’s run.

Rene:

We should consider that for a character to be “superhero dead” he should stay dead for at least one story arc?

Yeah, I agree with Rene that a character appearing to die in the course of a storyline doesn’t really count as a death.

As far as I’m concerned, Jean Grey has died twice: the end of the “Dark Phoenix Saga” (yes, technically it was the Phoenix force, but that’s the death everyone thinks of) and the end of “Planet X”. I mean, dying an issue before the end of “Planet X” only to be resurrected and killed “for real”? Yeah, she technically died, but its not like anyone spent that month between issues mourning her death when it occurred as the cliffhanger at the end penultimate issue of a story.

Maybe that’s the distinction: a character’s death doesn’t really “count” unless it isn’t reversed by the end of the story in which it occurs.

@Jeremy

Wow, UXM #281, first issue after Claremont’s SEVENTEEN YEAR run. Don’t feel jealous of the guy having to follow THAT act.

Well, technically (what? Pedantry on a comic book blog?!?) UXM #280 was the first issue after Claremont left the book, as his last issue was the first half of #279. But your point stands. :)

@Jeremy LOL I don’t know what differing views Cyke and Wolverine have on mutants (they’ve been {somewhat} aligned on the same team)

I feel bad for Scott though. We all know he’s going to get beat up in SCHISM. Then again all Scott has is optic lasers. He’s not had any development in quite a long time.

pedro de pacas

July 28, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Once Tom Orzechowski stopped lettering the X-Books they really went to shit.

Yikes, look at how that art devolved. Starts off great, then end with Greg Land and his tracings of porno.

137 counts. It was presented as Jean and always intended to be Jean. I’d say Madelyne Pryor’s death in Inferno ought to count as a Jean death too.

That’ s some fine artwork on the last page of 148. Must of took the penciller hours. Ho!

I just came across the Uncanny 281 in my collection last night. Didn’t think she really died that time as I remember.

I aways had a big problem with the Phoenix Saga.I love Jean Grey ‘coz she’s a Stan Lee creation.Phoenix is good idea for Jean’s new visual.But god ideas don’t means godd implementation.The destruction of a G class star; the 5 billion aspargus creatures genocide, the destruction of a Shiar battle ship.All the deaths and ressurections…Pointless.Chris Claremont, John Byrne , Jim Shooter, Grant Morrison and Matt Friction had some good moments…But they don’t have moral to talk or write about Jean Grey…They profanate her….I really hope for a Marvel Reboot. And a new chance…. For Jean Grey, Steve Rogers, Peter Parker, and the god artists for the comics market.And all Marvel’s fans arround the world.So,”… come bak Jean, and be welcome …” ;)

Bernard, I presume Wolverine is the one assigned the task of “killing people for their own good” because an bitterly immortal character is the only one who can be portrayed as BELIEVING that death is for the best. Otherwise you’re establishing that some hero regards euthanasia as an acceptable resolution for a problem. “Well, no way we’re getting outta THIS kettle of fish! Despite, you know, decades of last-minute escapes and unforeseen revelations. You’d clearly be better off if I just spared you the misery of these last few moments, so….”

Likewise, I’m both glad and pissed off whenever a character abandons teamwork and winds up martyred for k.o.-ing the one guy who probably would have thought up a last-minute solution that saved everyone. Heroic? No, it was a dick move and you got what you deserved. Heroes are supposed to be motivated by ideals higher than the raw calculus of pick-the-route-with-the-most-survivors. On the other hand, writers who compromise characters that way don’t deserve any better than to have the death retconned a year later.

I can’t believe this Phoenix angle has been going on for, what, 30 years? Current X-Men books are the worst I’ve read in a while. They seem to just regurgitate previous ideas. Why don’t the current writers take some time and craft another epic event? Oh, and while they’re at, killing off major characters has been cheapened by the big 2 so I don’t think that would fly either.

Jim Shooter was the EIC of marvel comics from 1978-1987. He gave his approval to a storyline that I am ETERNALLY grateful for. It was the storyline told in Avengers and Fantastic Four. That storyline revealed that the ‘Jean Grey’ that committed genocide and took her own life in Uncanny X-Men 137, was in fact the Phoenix-entity, that made a body for itself fashioned after Jean Grey down to the molecular level and with the same pheromone output.
This idea by the magnificent Kurt Busiek and then incorporated by Roger Stern in Avengers : earth’s mightiest heroes and John Byrne in Fantastic Four, ABSOLVED the true Jean Grey from the crime of genocide.
The true Jean Grey was once the secret identity of the super heroine Marvel Girl. Between Uncanny X-Men 100 and 101 she was thankfully replaced with a duplicate who went on as Jean Grey with the code name Phoenix.
Chris Claremont and John Byrne were ASSHOLES in the sense that they made the (what was intended by then) the true Jean Grey a super villainess and who died as such.
It was disgusting of Claremont and Byrne that they killed a marvel heroine not while she was performing a heroic deed but as a guilt-ridden-by-her-act-of-committing-genocide super villainess.
The comic book character Jean Grey deserved far better then that because she lived her life as a super heroine and if she were to meet her end than it is far more appropriate that she does so while performing her duty as a super heroine, NOT a super villainess.
So in closing THANK YOU Kurt Busiek, Jim Shooter, Roger Stern and John Byrne for the story that featured the return of the true Jean Grey.

Angelina Elisabeth McKnight

December 15, 2014 at 2:20 am

I’ve been an X-Men fan since my pre-teen years, though I lost touch with the series off & on during the early ’90s and completely since the late ’90s and after seeing these last few deaths…I’m actually glad I did. Jean has been a favourite of mine since she was a Marvel Girl, and this just proves once again, that Marvel is terrible with how they handle their female characters. Don’t mistake me for a hater – I’ve been the biggest Marvel fan for most of my life, but the way things have gotten lately, have made me question my fan status.

The constant killing & resurrection of characters has been ridiculous, and a really cheap tactic. And both Marvel & DC are both guilty of this. Whenever a book may be flagging in sales perhaps, “Hey, I know! Let’s kill a beloved major character in the most brutal, violent, horrific manner possible…and then just bring them back later so we can do it all over again!” Enough already! This last death has to be the most horrific, unnecessary thing I seen so far. Not only for the sheer violent brutality but the fact that someone being forced to constantly kill someone they care about over & over is completely horrifying! Now there’s the Jean from Ultimate X-Men and this young Jean from the past…how long before they too get sacrificed for a quick cash -in marketing ploy masquerading as an “epic story” ?

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