Jean Grey #5 Review: A Just-OK Story Hindered By Low Stakes
Continuing her quest to master her telekinetic abilities, Jean Grey seeks out the tutelage of Psylocke, one of the X-Men's most skilled TK warriors. However, they run into trouble in learning what is the best way Jean learns. They try meditation, chaos, and conflict, with the last being the most effective.
Psylocke decides having Jean Grey help her clear out a Hand enclave may be the best learning experience. Psylocke has Jean take it alone while she stays behind and offers advice telepathically. However, another voice continues to intervene on Jean's thoughts. Can she keep focus long enough to survive the Hand?
If you find the Hand to be an odd "training experience" for a young mutant attempting to master her powers, then you've already landed on one of the main problems with this comic. Trivializing the life-and-death situations in which your main character finds herself within shatters any tension you may be able to establish. The second issue of this series had the same problem in the way it treated the Reavers almost killing Hope Summers.
I would also go into how the Hand is supposed to be one of the most dangerous and skilled organizations on the Earth, and I doubt Jean Grey would be able to get the drop on them in this manner. However, that is some geek raving that really doesn't have any place in this review.
It is worth saying that this story will belittle the threat of the Hand next time they harass anyone like Wolverine, Psylocke, or Daredevil.
I am being a bit facetious here, obviously; if the comic worked, then that detail of the plot would not have been a problem.
This isn't supposed to be a comedic comic, so it is a detriment that this threat can't be taken seriously. This is supposed to be the tale of Jean Grey preparing herself for the coming of the Phoenix. A lot of one-liners or an upbeat tone wouldn't be bad, but it is the way that this comic takes that idea to the nth degree while not providing a feeling of consequence is the real problem.
The past two issues of Jean Grey as well as the first issue provide a good contrast to this. The orc assassins out for the Odinson felt like a threat, the kraken almost killed Namor in #3, and the Wrecking Crew almost killed a lot of people in #1. They all felt like genuine threats that could cause real consequences, even if the nature of the medium would imply that they could never succeed in that. Fool me into believing the characters are really in danger — don't just faff about and vaguely gesture towards plot advancement.
Hopeless's own Spider Woman was way better about this, too. Hell, it even fooled me into believing that it actually killed one of its main characters for a couple of issues towards the end of the series.
All this aside, the comic does manage to retain much of its charm for the majority of the run time. Jean Grey is still a lovable character, and Psylocke is easily one of the coolest X-Men. She maintains her zen warrior motif while even showing a fun side and a sense of humor at moments. They make for a really good duo.
Jean Grey even touches on some themes of anxiety and the problems of having a hyperactive mind when Psylocke attempts to get Jean to meditate. Jean talks about how, when things are quite and calm, it causes her mind to be more cluttered and active to fill the space. You don't really see many comics outside of Sam Humphries's Green Lanterns actually talk about this.
Apparently, that voice in her head isn't necessarily the Phoenix. Psylocke hears it and says it sounds familiar. I just assumed it was the Phoenix. Since it may not be, my working theory is Emma Frost.
Antony Piper's artwork is a nice touch on the book. He's really good at expressing depth on the figures, and both Jean and Psylocke look really cool. There are even these demonic mole creatures shown for a brief scene that look genuinely freaky. Jean does have oddly pouty lips in some scenes, though. Also, the Hand compound is really underdrawn as a setting. There's really nothing in the background to denote it as a Hand base. The walls are bare and gray, and there's nothing going on in the background.
The color work is functional in this issue. The TK constructs look sweet. Psylocke's costume looks awesome. Beyond that, there's nothing particularly stunning nor exciting about the coloring. It's well balanced, though, and it works as intended.
This isn't a particularly bad issue, but it is wildly mediocre in the grand scheme of things. It's fun in some moments, but it feels inconsequential in the story of Jean Grey. The next issue promises Doctor Strange, so, once again, Jean Grey will be a walking tour of the Marvel Universe while not setting time aside for Jean Grey herself.