by Dennis Hopeless, Victor Ibanez & Chris Sotomayar
Imagine placing Grant Morrison created characters into a Christopher Nolan written film. Sounds awesome, I know. Then imagine the story revolving around a teenage girl being telepathically guided by an older, dead version of herself. Throw in some expressive art and perfectly restrained coloring and you have Jean Grey #8.
This is the first issue of Jean Grey which is considered part of the Marvel Legacy initiative. Now, Marvel Legacy may look scary to both new readers and long time fans I assure you it is nothing to be afraid of. The book you are reading may have jumped hundreds of issues forward, or you were thinking of catching up to a series and now you don’t know where to start. Take my advice; don’t worry about all that numbering garbage. Find out which issue starts Marvel Legacy and pick up there. Marvel has created easy jumping on points without slapping #1s all over their books. Jean Grey #8 is the first issue marked Marvel Legacy, and also the first part its Psych Wars arc.
The inner demon of young Jean Grey has, and always will be, the imminent future of the Phoenix force possession. Issue #8 picks up with young Jean in the head of an unconscious Emma Frost. I keep saying young Jean because the long-deceased Jean of the current time has in fact returned in spirit form. She is also in the head of Emma Frost simultaneously. So, what you have is a young Jean physically walking through the memories of Emma Frost while an older Jean is coaching her through it telepathically. Right away we find ourselves reading an Inception style plot as Jean does her best to fit in with the subconscious of Emma. Where does Grant Morrison fit into all this? The Emma memory Jean finds herself in is from the New X-Men days.
I recently read the entire New X-Men run by Grant Morrison so it was a treat seeing the comic open on the Stepford cuckoos giving Jean attitude. Things go south fast as Emma’s subconscious begins to detect the intruder and much like in Inception, they begin to attack her. One of the character beats I really appreciate is young Jean being very tentative in combat with the X-Men. Older Jean is yelling in her ear that it doesn’t matter because they aren’t really her friends and just Emma’s subconscious memories. This succeeds at both separating the two Jean characters and also giving the reader a sense of how real things feel inside the mind of Emma.
The art by Victor Ibáñez is fantastic. From page one you can see that Victor excels at character expressions. He is especially impressive with Jean who is clearly nervous and out of her element here. But, Ibáñez isn’t just a one trick pony. The issue is packed with action and he is able to create a feeling of intensity during these sequences. The pages are laid out with interesting panel designs, sometimes having overlapping panels bringing the action to the foreground or leaving it in the background while the characters reacting are more in the foreground. I expected an issue with this much action to have a big payoff splash page but it never came. Ibáñez was able to fit 3, 4 sometimes 5 detailed action panels per page which helped aid the flow of the story and captured the panic of the issue. It is hard to create stakes in a dreamlike world or a virtual reality scenario when you really don’t feel like your hero is in trouble. However, this comic surprisingly does not suffer from that common downfall even though there is no exposition dump about the real danger Jean is in, and I attest that to the fast pace and emoting Ibáñez is bringing to this book.
I can’t continue praising the art without tipping my cap (good thing I put on my review cap today) to colorist Chris Sotomayor. When I think of great colorist in the industry today I think of Jordie Bellaire, Matt Wilson, Elizabeth Breitweiser and Dave Stewart. I will be adding Chris Sotomayor to that list. I have heard that a good score for a film is one you don’t even notice. Sure, I can get on board with that. However, a great score for a film is one I specifically have to stop and point out. I would say the same principle applies to comics and coloring. A comic that has a good coloring job is one I don’t notice but a comic that has a great coloring job is one I stop just to admire. Sotomayor does a great job on this book. He matched the feel of the New X-Men era perfectly for me. A lot of muted colors in the character work tiptoeing the line between dreamlike and realistic but also a lot of vibrant colors to really pop the vivid moments off the page. Fantastic work by this art duo to bring the correct feel to a tricky story.
In the movie Inception, there is this concept created that if a safe exists in your dream your mind will subconsciously fill it with all your important information. A great idea that turns Inception into a heist style movie. Hopeless and Ibáñez have also created this same feel in this issue. Jean is searching Emma’s mind for a puzzle piece related to the Phoenix. As this is very valuable information Emma would be storing it in a very secure place. Jean spends some time questioning the subconscious X-Men trying to get some hint where this puzzle piece might be while also trying not to raise too many red flags. While Inception lets you know they are looking for a safe, this comic keeps that part of the story a secret until the very end. Without any spoilers I think the hiding place pays off and when you combine it with the logic of Inception, it’s a really interesting idea.
It’s well known I’m a long time Hopeless fan. When he gets his hands on a character, I find he usually focuses on aspects and characteristics that resonate with me. Jean is a long time favorite character of mine. It has been terrific these last couple years to have a young Jean running around the Marvel Universe. Since her return, she’s been in the hands of some fantastic creators, and whether it is because she now has her own series or because Hopeless is writing it, I find myself enjoying Jean now more than ever. With this arc, I even have the pleasure of reading Hopeless balance two Jean’s constantly playing off each other. It really is an incredibly enjoyable read, and throw in an Inception style plot in the Grant Morrison era X-Men, forget about it!
Jean Grey #8 is a great jumping on point. So, don’t let Marvel Legacy scare you or the #8 on the cover. Just pick it up and enjoy the ride.