The latest in Marvel’s high-end retellings of mutant beginnings, this features probably the most iconic X-Man this side of (spit) Wolverine. I’ve no idea why it’s titled Jean Gray rather than the more obvious Marvel Girl. Yes, that’s how Marvel tends to refer to her in current continuity, there having been various Marvel Girls and Phoenixes since her heyday, but still, Jean was the first.
The cover’s striking, and a fair indication of what’s to come – Jean’s earliest days as a mutant rendered in photorealistic art. The comic does what it says on the tin, but it’s uninspiring stuff. Sean McKeever’s retelling is solid, but by definition we’re not going to get anything really new here, it’s more a question of putting a sheen on stuff we already knew. So there’s the visit to the Greys after Jean’s powers are activated following tragedy, the mind locks placed on Jean’s telekinesis, the first day at the School for Gifted Youngsters and so on.
I wasn’t keen on a clunky bit of foreshadowing (‘The act of healing her falls just short of a resurrection’) but it was good that there was no glossing over the fact that Xavier was wrong to take Jean away to the school; the girl was effectively cured and he was using her for his own agenda.
And McKeever flopped on my expectations, when Jean wasn’t feared and hated after saving a new pal from an out-of-control truck and revealing her powers – I was expected a cliched scene of rejection and tears, but no, there were thanks from the friend and cockiness from Jean. Nice.
The illustrations by Mike Mayhew are impressive, and often effective, but lack life – almost everything looks posed.
Also, I’m not keen on Xavier being drawn as a young Patrick Stewart, it’s not like he didn’t have a set face for several decades prior to the X-Men films. My gosh, he actually looks like he’s trimming those mutant eyebrows … Still, there were some lovely moments, such as a pastoral mindscape turning nightmarish, Jean losing control at the mall, and her first appearance in costume. Plus, shoe fetishists will be delighted by the focus on Xavier’s brogues.
All in all, a pretty comic, but pretty inconsequential. It’ll look great in a hardback collection, which seems to be a big motivation for Marvel these days.