Jean Grey’s absence from the Marvel Universe is keenly felt by virtually all X-Men fans, so this one shot (out of continuity though it may be) offers some measure of respite for those of us who want to see more stories featuring the character, as she receives headline billing for the first time in years.
Set in the “First Class”-verse, the story chiefly deals with Jean’s attempt to properly come to terms with the death of her friend, the event that prematurely awakened her powers so many years before. It’s just a shame the issue itself doesn’t fully explain that aspect of the story, reducing the explanation to an early caption box where it should really have been made into a wider point during Xavier’s initial dressing down.
Still, if you can get past that, it’s an enjoyable little story, though with an oddly bleak tangent about the way Jean sees the people she left behind when she moved to Xavier’s. It’s particularly refreshing to see a Jean Grey story that doesn’t heavily involve her romantic relationships with Cyclops and/or Wolverine, and which isn’t explicitly about the Phoenix. Aside from the fact that the First Class universe shows Jean’s powers (and, for that matter, her personality) as far more developed than they were in the original X-Men run, there’s nothing here that couldn’t be considered canon if you want it to be. It’s recognizably the modern Jean Grey as she would have been as a teenager, rather than the teenage Jean Grey, if that distinction makes any sense.
While writer Joshua Hale Fialkov does a decent enough job with the writing (although the story does struggle to fit inside a single issue, resulting in some odd plot leaps on occasion) it’s Nuno Plati’s art that really sells it. Plati’s artwork is graceful and feminine without being overtly sexualised. The storytelling switches effortlessly from the dramatic to the subtle, every facial expression packed with emotion. Plati’s choice of palette, in particular, is fantastic: bright and airy, making fantastic use of computer effects. It has an almost animated look to it, which is certainly no bad thing.
Although this kind of story is never going to win an Eisner, it’s the sort of book that’ll scratch any itches you’ve got about seeing Jean Grey in action. It’s a competently executed and enjoyable read, and while it works as a stand-alone story, it also manages to inform the character in her other appearances. It’s likely that if you were ever interested in buying this, you already own it. If you’re still on the fence, give it a chance to entertain you.