It's possible the X-Men's new Marvel Girl isn't the real Jean Grey fans believe her to be. The X-Men have officially been rebooted by writer Jonathan Hickman, with Charles Xavier bringing mutants back from the dead - and it's been hinted that he's doing a lot more besides. Especially when it comes to Jean Grey, the former Phoenix.
One of the many mysteries of the Hickman relaunch is the fact that Jean Grey has reverted to her classic Marvel Girl costume, an outfit she last wore in the 1980s. In response to a fan Q&A, Hickman confirmed the new/old Marvel Girl costume is deliberately designed to evoke memories of the Dark Phoenix Saga. "While I’m not going to spoil the story for you," he observed, "I will say go back and look at the most famous time she put this costume back on. That should help." A strange statement--but one which raises the possibility this isn't the real Jean Grey at all.
For those unfamiliar with Hickman's reference, he's calling out the famous "Dark Phoenix Saga," one of the most unforgettable comic book stories of all time. In that era, the Phoenix-powered Jean Grey was going out of control, and the alien Shi'ar Empire sought to execute her for an act of genocide she'd conducted as Dark Phoenix. The X-Men struck a desperate deal that saw them engage in trial by combat against the Shi'ar Imperial Guard. Jean herself participated in the fight, and with the power of the Phoenix constrained, she chose to go back to her classic Marvel Girl look.
It all seems rather odd, especially given Jean has always been something of a fashion designer who quite enjoys making her own costumes. But it's important to remember that Hickman's X-Men relaunch conceals a lot of secrets; there's even a mystery six-month time jump between the end of the Rosenberg Uncanny X-Men run and Hickman's House of X #1, in which anything could have happened. In the same interview, Hickman suggests that there were a lot of changes to the status quo in that period. And he's particularly interested in the ethics of the X-Men's cloning/resurrection...
We’ve already shown a couple of interesting tweaks like Monet being able to assume a Penance form and Warren being able to be both regular angel and Archangel. So there seems to be some ability to tweak the finished version of a resurrected mutant. Is that also true about their age? Or about other aspects of their physical condition? What about their gender? What about if they want to be backed up from an earlier version? One that hasn’t suffered a particular trauma or had their heart broken?
This raises the interesting possibility that Hickman's X-Men relaunch features a past version of Jean Grey 'brought back to life,' potentially even the one who died on the surface of the Moon shortly after the above scene. This wouldn't mean Jean is Phoenix-powered again, since the Phoenix Force is an entirely separate cosmic entity, and it would be up to the Phoenix to inhabit a clone.
In fact, the Jean Grey of that era would be significantly weaker without the Phoenix, which corresponds with House of X, where Jean hardly seems like the experienced powerhouse of last year's X-Men Red. Even the amusing hints of a Cyclops-Jean-Wolverine love triangle fit, as the Jean of that era had only just begun to recognize her attraction to Wolverine, and the sparks were just beginning to fly.
But did Jean Grey choose to be reverted to this previous version, or has that decision been made for her? Charles Xavier has always been portrayed as morally ambiguous - sometimes an outright villain - and this portrayal of the Professor seems even darker than usual. One of Hickman's many retcons has implicitly suggested Xavier was essentially a reproductive predator when he sought to create a child with reality-warping powers. It's entirely possible Xavier killed off the present Jean and had her replaced with a more pliable version... or granted her wish of erasing the woman she became. Either way, it will be a controversial reveal if it does come to pass.
X-Men #1 is available now from your local comic book shop.