Marvel Legacy #1 is the great big one-shot issue that is meant to give readers a big splash sense of what Marvel Legacy will be, and set up plot lines that will be felt in all the Marvel titles for a while to come. And part of what is so big and important about it is apparently the return of a long-lost fan-favourite character.
For a while, ideas were bandied about regarding who it could actually be. The Fantastic Four? Bruce Banner Hulk? Professor X? And then, we posted another possibility. Spoilers ahead, and potential spoilers too I guess, so if you want to remain completely unspoiled and fresh, don't read further.
Oh, and probably don't read the New York Times or look at social media or watch TV from Monday, September 25th onwards.
We theorised that the returning character was in fact the Phoenix, and likely the adult Jean Grey. And frankly, with the announcement of a new series, Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey by Matthew Rosenberg and Leinil Yu coming in December, and now this Art Adams variant cover to Marvel Legacy #1, they might as well have confirmed it already.
Now, as a huge X-Men fan and in particular a fan of the Phoenix (and generally feeling the character and concept of the Phoenix has been a little mixed up over the years of late), part of me is naturally very excited.
However, another can't help but feel a little let down. After all, the Phoenix was already announced as part of the event, in the form of a member of the Avengers 1,000,000 BC, and then there's this other variant cover by Art Adams. So it feels like this secret long-missed fan favourite character's return was already sneakily spoiled by Marvel from the start.
But hey, my beloved Phoenix is coming back, and more importantly, the adult Jean Grey — about damn time.
But again, we maybe can feel a little short changed by the fact that the Phoenix has hardly been missing from Marvel of late. In fact, the Jean Grey series, following the adventures of the time-displaced teen Jean Grey, has specifically been about her knowing the Phoenix Force is coming back and making sure it doesn't completely take her over.
However, this perhaps could be all part of the plan. After all, Jason Aaron, the writer of Marvel Legacy #1, has been using the Phoenix a fair bit of late himself, in The Mighty Thor and Generations: Thor. He obviously has plans for the character. And with rumours that Aaron is taking over Avengers in the future with a big event in mind, perhaps it's safe to say that Phoenix factors into that in a big way.
So, how and why does the Phoenix return, exactly?
It could, of course, be as simple as "It's the Phoenix." Life Incarnate. It just outright resurrects Jean Grey and that's it. Maybe a Phoenix Egg or cocoon could be involved, too, but a simple resurrection — that wouldn't make for a great deal of story, would it? However, a cocoon would certainly be reminiscent of a past story, and Marvel is all about that of late.
Also, if the Phoenix Force was coming back, and teen Jean assumes for her, is she simply wrong? Or is there more connection between what is going on with her and the return of the adult Jean Grey?
Perhaps more importantly, however, is why the Phoenix returns. The Phoenix tends to come back either to destroy or renew. Sometimes, those actions are one and the same. The last time the Phoenix Force made a beeline for Earth, it was because mutants were facing extinction and it sought to revive the species (albeit it got a major stumbling block along the way due to the interference of the Avengers).
Would the entity of life itself in the Marvel Universe really come back to Earth just because of the fallout of Secret Empire? Or is there a bigger threat at play here that we don't yet know? And with a Jean Grey already alive and waiting on Earth (and a Rachel Grey, who has also played host to it), why does the Phoenix decide to resurrect the adult version?
Or maybe it's not even the Phoenix in charge. What if Jean Grey is in the driving seat, and is coming back to Earth with a purpose herself, Phoenix in tow? Maybe that explains why the spirit of Jean Grey has been very vocal for the first time in an age within the pages of Jean Grey.
So with all those questions in mind: what could be so big and dark and threatening as to send the Phoenix running back to Earth?
(And I know there's a movie out next year, but please, Marvel, don't say Thanos.)