Here we are with second issue of the first-ever solo title for one of the founding X-Men, Jean Grey. I was very intrigued by this idea from the get-go. It always seemed odd that she never really had a chance to strike out on her own in the past, though most of the X-Men have never really had that opportunity until recent years.
The first issue for the series was pretty good. It had action, character, and a solid art style. Young Jean Grey is a dynamic and likeable heroine, and while the comic didn't blow me away enough to immediately land on my pull list, it was a good enough read to try a second time.
Does the second issue hold up? Well, let's find out.
The plot is pretty straightforward in this issue. Jean, after making contact with what seemed to be the Phoenix Force at the end of the first issue, is seeking aid in figuring out what to do about it. First, she meets up with both young and old Beast, as well as Captain Marvel and Kitty Pryde. None seem particularly concerned, and old furry Beast even insinuates it might be due to a head injury or extreme stress.
She then uses Cerebro to contact previous Phoenix Force hosts, including Colossus, Rachel Summers, Quentin Quire, Magik, and Hope Summers — the last of which is in danger due to the cyborg Reavers, and Jean and the other contacts come to the rescue. During the meeting, Quentin Quire uses his abilities to link Jean with the mind of the others to see how their experiences with the Phoenix Force affected them.
Jean finds none of this helpful, and she opts to search out Namor at the end of the issue.
Between the myriad of guest stars in this issue, as well as the prominence of the young X-Men in the first, the comic reeks of a lack of confidence so far. The story almost seems afraid that Jean won't be able to stand on her on two feet, so the book is on co-star training wheels until it feels it can ride on its own.
I do understand that the X-Men are a close-knit community of teams, and Marvel has always been more proud of its shared universe than DC. However, the reason solo titles like this exist is to show what the character is like when they strike out on their own.
Dennis Hopeless is a talented writer, his run on Spider Woman being one of my favorite series in recent years. He keeps the dialogue entertaining, and even with the myriad of characters in this issue, Jean Grey as a personality still manages to stand out.
That being said, some of the guest stars can be a bit grating. Quentin Quire's punk-rocker persona can run on one's nerves, and Magik oddly resembles Hercules more than her regular self.
When the whole team gets there, the Reaver threat is downplayed quite a bit, to the point where you could forget they were in the story. They almost come off as more a comedic joke running in the background. It still provides for nice action set pieces, but it doesn't stop it from being a bit silly when entire conversations are transpiring between the X-Men while murderous cyborgs are actively trying to kill them.
The high point of the comic is definitely when Quire hooks Jean up to the minds of Rachel, Colossus, Hope, and himself. It's a really somber moment when you see the cocky Quire's headspace filled with burning effigies of himself, Colossus working farmlands outside a recreation of his family's farm on fire, and Hope entered in an eternal struggle with the entity. It's an effective way of showing the characters' scars that takes advantage of the visual medium.
This brings us back to the art, which is phenomenal. Victor Ibáñez's style is very detailed, and he demonstrates Jean Grey's powers in a very visually appealing manner. The aesthetic details of the aforementioned trips through people's minds also show a great deal of visual creativity as well. The colors by Jay David Ramos and Christ Sotomayor complement the art with popping and contrasting colors that really bring the tale to life.
There's also a joke in there about how similar Hope Summers and Jean Grey look, and that was pretty funny because, well, they look almost exactly alike.
As I've said, the story has flaws. There are too many guest stars in the series so far, and they come close to drowning out Jean Grey as a character. The Reaver threat of this particular issue is treated more as a joke than a conflict. However, the story is still entertaining and the characters engaging enough that it can be forgiven. In addition, the potential return of the Phoenix Force is a good first arc for this comic, as it tackles the fear about Jean Grey, which is always in the background head-on. If you're an X-Men or a Jean Grey fan, you should give it a try.