Jean Grey #4
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Penciler: Harvey Tolibao
Cover Artist: David Yardin
Variant Cover Artist: June Brigman and Jim Lee
Inker: Dono Sanchez Almara & Jay David Ramos
What You Need to Know: Jean has sought advice from anyone still among the living who has hosted the cosmic entity Phoenix looking for the answer to one question. How do you avoid becoming the ultimate vessel for a primal force that leaves nothing in its wake but ash? Having learned that averting the eventual encounter is impossible, only one choice remains. Jean Grey is going to fight back.
What You’ll Find Out: Issue #4 is somewhat of a departure from the first 3 issues in which Jean is driven to seek the council of previous Phoenix hosts to gain knowledge and shifts direction to a more proactive approach of facing her inevitable fate. At the end of Issue #3 Jean saved Namor, the mutant king of Atlantis from a near fatal attack. (One in which I still believe the reader is left to interpret between the lines as to whether this was a very obscure and implied suicide attempt given the tremendous trauma Namor hides within.) It was at this moment that Jean recognized that running from mortality is pointless and makes a conscious choice to face her fate head on. Jean Grey must learn how to become more than just a fighter. She must become a warrior.
With new awareness, Jean decides to learn from the greatest of all warriors and makes her way to Jotunheim, (Gesundheit!) a remote mountain location to find Odinson, (the disgraced demi-god formerly known as Thor.) Just before reaching his location, Grey stumbles upon a pack of Orcs intent on killing the once thunder-god during a perceived period of weakness, and races to deliver the warning. Despite her best efforts to rouse the former hammer wielding hero, Thor is dismissive and makes it clear that regardless of her dire warnings, he could care less.
After a solid attempt to intervene on the intoxicated warrior and being immersed in his stories of past conflict conveyed through flashbacks, the horde arrives. In the midst of battle fought mostly by Grey, Thor remains unmotivated while his tales continue at the same rate as Jean’s pleas for defense and fears of her demise continue to mount. At the conclusion in which Odinson recalls the first time he summoned Mjölnir, Jean’s panic coupled with frustration reaches a fever pitch. In that key moment, Jean summons her own hammer, one in which appears to be the culmination of her telepathic and telekinetic might, and smites a significant portion of the assailants, save one, which her deceptively apathetic companion defeats with ease. In the aftermath, Odinson reveals that he is far from the defeated and lost figure Grey assumed he was and using their conflict as a fitting parallel encourages her to continue to fight no matter how impossible the odds.
What Just Happened? Dennis Hopeless delivers issue #4 as a stand-alone issue in which the reader is treated to numerous moments of humor and levity which provide balance and stark contrast to the dark overtones of issue #3 as well as a clear change in attitude in Jean’s fight or flight dilemma. The coupling of these two legendary Marvel figures was smart on the part of Hopeless. Though this issue does continue her quest of survival, the story doesn’t lean as heavily on previous issues or occurrences and serves as a self-contained story in which the modern era of Jean Grey is equated to Thor’s bygone past but still delivers a host of similarities between the tumult of her adult counterpart and Thor’s current standing as a dejected fallen god.
It is important to note that though the guests have been enjoyable, it’s essential that her solo series isn’t overtaken by a litany of character appearances resulting in crucial moments and central story becoming overshadowed because of a fear that the main character cannot carry an entire issue alone. Additionally, the exceptional quality displayed in issue #3 slips a little here as Tolibao’s skill is simply not as adept as Victor Ibanez’s ability to capture action through the depiction of imagery. My main criticisms lie in his lack of illustrating the surrounding environment and entire omission of backgrounds in favor or block color settings. I found much of his lines to be convoluted and broken apart only by the incorporation of Ramos and Sanchez colors.
Final thought: Jean Grey #4 is Hopeless’s modern day answer to the 80’s “Karate Kid,” where as a young woman has spent the majority of her life on the run. Realizing the climactic conflict is unavoidable, Thor takes on the role of Miyagi and teaches through self-awareness that no matter if you choose a hammer or the crane, the answer to survival is found within.
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