Thanks to recent installments like Apocalypse and Days of Future Past (not to mention Wolverine’s stand-alone films), the X-Men franchise is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. I’ve been a fan since I was seven, so I’m thrilled that a franchise I love is getting more recognition by fans and media. However, I’ve noticed that the character who has been my favorite since the second grade doesn’t get as much recognition as she deserves. For years, Marvel marketed its merchandise toward a male audience; a fan was more likely to find a lot of Wolverine, Cyclops, Cable, or any number of other male X-Men than Storm, Rogue, or my personal favorite, Jean Grey/Phoenix. Now that Disney has purchased Marvel, I’ve noticed an upswing in marketing toward female fans, which is fantastic. Superheroes appeal to people of every gender, and everyone should be able to find merchandise of their favorite characters. Still, though, Jean has played an important part in the X-Men franchise throughout the comics and the films, and she deserves more appreciation than she gets. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Jean was Professor Charles Xavier’s first student at his School for Gifted Youngsters.
Though she wasn’t the first person to be trained as one of the X-Men, a then-eleven-year-old Jean was the first person Xavier took under his wing to help with her telepathy, which awakened after she watched her best friend Annie be stricken by a car. Jean felt Annie’s emotions as she died, and Xavier helped her to understand and hone her telepathy, her telekinesis, and the goddess-like abilities the Phoenix bestowed upon her later in life.
2. She was the only female member of the original team of X-Men.
Along with Cyclops, Angel, Beast, and Iceman, Jean was one of the original five people Professor X trained to fight to protect mutants and humans alike. She was the only woman on the team until Polaris joined in issue #60.
3. She has always been selfless and willing sacrifice anything for the team.
Jean put her life in danger by entering the cabin to steer a space shuttle back to Earth; with her abilities protecting her, she could survive longer than the others, and she was willing to die to get the X-Men home safely. She was saved by the Phoenix, which created a clone body and assumed Jean’s identity. When the duplicate turned dark, Jean’s personality asserted itself long enough to cause her copy to commit suicide rather than let her endanger the lives of the X-Men.
4. She does the right thing even when it hurts.
Jean found out that her husband Scott Summers/Cyclops had been engaging in a telepathic affair with Emma Frost. When Emma turned up dead, Jean resurrected her instead of letting bitterness lead her to take revenge.
5. She regularly kicks death’s ass.
Since her merging with the Phoenix, Jean has been killed and resurrected more times than essentially anyone else in Marvel apart from Deadpool.
6. Jean is, to put it simply, an actual goddess.
The Phoenix Force, the all-powerful cosmic entity representing life itself, chose to save Jean’s life. It has used her as a host on multiple occasions and has stated that this is because Jean is as close to a human avatar as it possesses; Jean and the Phoenix are the same being, and as long as the Phoenix lives, Jean cannot truly die.