Second coming is only a month or so away and Marvel is stepping up the hype like always. Today they released yet another teaser, this time focusing on Hope. The message is "One Will Rise" and in the world of X-men there are only so many characters that can do so. Even fewer have red hair, green eyes, and a history with Phoenix powers.
As I have posted before, Marvel has been hinting at the return of Jean Grey for quite a while now. There was the rumors that she would return after Phoenix Endsong that were fruitless. There were the rumors that she was Mutant Zero, but that turned out to be nothing as it ended up being Typhoid Mary. Most recently there was the rumor that she would be the mysterious character to return in Uncanny 522. Again, it was not her. It ended up being Kitty Pryde. It should come as no surprise that another hint is being dropped so soon afterwards, this time involving Hope Summers.
The theory that Hope is Jean is not new. It has been speculated over ever since Hope was born in Messiah Complex. Her interacting with Cyclops and the locket he had of him and Jean was the first. Her having red hair, green eyes, and displaying the Phoenix emblem added to the hints. In recent issues of Cable her appearance is even more similar to Jean Grey. Add to that there was another moment where the Phoenix emblem showed in her eyes. All this comes on the cusp of an increase in Phoenix activity. The Phoenix Force left Rachel and it recently left the Cuckoos too in Uncanny 518. It is almost a given that Phoenix will be involved at some point. What isn't so clear is whether or not Jean Grey will follow.
It seems to be following a growing trend. Jean Grey has fallen to the wayside recently in favor of the Phoenix being an actual character. In the last major Phoenix story, Phoenix Warsong, Jean Grey wasn't even mentioned. It was only the Phoenix that took center stage. That appears to have continued as Rachel and the Cuckoos continue to interact with the Phoenix. The writers seem favor using Phoenix more than Jean Grey because Jean Grey brings with her a certain amount of baggage and doing so will muff some of the developments between certain characters, namely Scott and Emma.
The problem with this is that Phoenix and Jean cannot be separated. Their history is so intrinsically woven together that it's foolish to try. The poor sales of Phoenix Warsong compared to Phoenix Endsong show this. If you take Phoenix out of Jean Grey then you're not left with a very compelling character. It may be for that reason they're focusing on Phoenix for Second Coming because it allows for Hope to stay Hope and not be Jean Grey. This can be good for those who are fans of Hope, but it will certainly irk Jean fans because it will bring in yet another Jean Grey look-a-like when there are already characters like Rachel who fill the same role.
It's like Marvel wants to have their cake and eat it too. They don't want to bring Jean back to mess up Scott and Emma, but they want to bring her star power back into the books. She's constantly voted as being one of the top X-men and there's no denying her appeal. It's just a matter of the writers being willing to let her back. If history is any indication, it probably won't happen. Writers like Fraction and Quesada are so heavily vested in keeping Jean dead and not threatening the Scott/Emma relationship that they'll bend all the comic book rules they can to keep her dead while trying to tap her potential. My Spider-Sense tells me this will NOT end well.
It's inevitable that Jean will come back. She can't die by her own nature. But if ever there was a good opportunity for her to come back, Second Coming is it. If the writers don't use this chance to bring her back into the fold, it may be a LONG time before she shows up in the X-men again as a main player. We may get a new Jean-substitute in Hope, but she's still NOT Jean. You can't replace Jean with Hope anymore than you can replace Wolverine with Dakan or Iron Man with War Machine or Spider-Man with the Scarlet Spider (Clone Saga). If Marvel tries they'll be doing themselves a disservice. It wouldn't be the first time.
In the end I do hope Marvel surprises me and brings Jean back in Second Coming. She could only help the X-men as a whole. She died in a powerful moment at the end of Morrison's run with the seeds already planted for her return. It's time those seeds finally grow. But knowing Marvel, I'm not holding my breath. It appears we'll be getting a new Jean-replacement soon. I wish I could say it's better than nothing, but honestly? It's a joke.