Tuesday, June 29, 2010
X-Force #28 Cover Released - Hints to Hope/Jean/Phoenix or Another Ruse?
There are only two chapters left in the X-men: Second Coming crossover and time is running out for answers. For the past few weeks I've been giving out less-than-stellar reviews to the likes of Uncanny, New Mutants, and Legacy. It's not that the story hasn't been moving forward. It just isn't moving forward with the same momentum of awesome of previous issues. There is plenty of action, but none of that action seems to point to any real answers as to how this is going to change the status quo for mutants or why Hope is the mutant messiah. Well there are only two comics left with which to answer these questions and the previously classified cover of X-Force #28 came out recently. And what it hints at could indicate we're finally close to getting the answers X-fans have been craving for the past three years.
This was a comic that was supposed to come out this week, but due to a personal issue with Mike Choi it was pushed back to July 8th. It seems almost cruel to release a teaser like this even if it does add to the excitement. Hope Summers is finally doing more than just crying, complaining, and fighting. This girl is supposed to revitalize an entire race and her powers have been a complete mystery since Messiah Complex. Not only that, there have been strong if not unavoidable hints that Hope Summers is connected to the Phoenix Force. And I'm not talking about subtle hints either. I'm sure everyone remembers this little teaser.
There was also the X-men Second Coming Prepare issue that was acted as a big trailer to the event. It did plenty of hyping, but the most curious part was the end where it gave a history of the Phoenix Force that included Hope at the end. It's one thing to just put her in a teaser, but to throw her into an actual account of the Phoenix Force's history? That's being way more overt than Marvel usually is. One little hint can be ignored. Years ago there was Cable #5 which showed baby Hope with Phoenix emblems in her eyes. That got the message boards fired up, but it was one of those hints that could be ignored just as it was done with Mutant Zero. Then it happened again in the mini-series A Girl Called Hope. Her words weren't very subtle either. "I would come back from the dead?" Could you get any more overt?
If that weren't enough, there was the cover of the damn book. It had the Phoenix in the backdrop. So that's not just one hint Marvel is dropping. It's not even two. It's getting to the point where you can't even count them all on one hand. At this point for the Phoenix not to show up, it would be a plot hole of galactic proportions.
So with all these hints and X-Force #28 on top of it, what could it mean? It seems almost unavoidable that Hope Summers has a connection to the Phoenix. It makes perfect sense that the mutant messiah would be able to tap this vast power. It has been established in the Phoenix stories by Grant Morrison and Greg Pak that the Phoenix works by burning away things that don't work. The aftermath of M-Day which basically doomed mutants to extinction could very well be something that doesn't work in the eyes of the Phoenix and must be fixed. Hope using the Phoenix would be one of the very few things in the Marvel universe that could undo a massive warping of reality. But that's the problem. It may make too much sense.
As many hints as there have been about Hope's powers, there have also been plenty of counter-hints as well. In the Cable series she did show some telepathy and telekinesis, which is eerily similar to another certain redhead who once wielded cosmic power. Going back even further, she healed Rogue of the strain-88 virus while also evading detection from Cerebro and as an infant no less. Then there was the recent issue of Uncanny X-men, which showed Hope's eyes flashing in a similar way to that of Cyclops. It's fueled speculation that Hope is a mimic of sorts. That would make some sense, but it wouldn't explain the Phoenix connotations nor would it explain how that would somehow revitalize the mutant race. Also, a mimic wouldn't technically be a mutant either and she was said to be the first mutant born after M-day. It's led to a lot of confusion and answers haven't even been hinted at throughout the Second Coming crossover.
There is also the other elephant in the room that is as unavoidable as the Phoenix. Hope has red hair, green eyes, Phoenix flashes in her eyes, and is being raised in the future. Who else shares those qualities that sets them apart from any other Marvel redhead? What other popular Marvel character with a rabid fanbase that constantly pesters Marvel shares those qualities? If Jean Grey didn't come to mind, then you need to fork over your fanboy card immediately.
I've been saying for months. Jean Grey has been "dead" in the comics for for six years now and I say "dead" with quotations because technically she's still active. Phoenix Endsong showed her dead corpse rising from the grave and merging with the Phoenix Force so that it could return to the White Hot Room and find it's missing pieces. That's basically where her story has been lately and it's only recently that it's been re-emerging again. She even made a brief appearance (at least it seems that way) in Uncanny X-men #510 where she showed up to Emma Frost in a vision. There was also the infamous Uncanny X-men #511 cover which turned out to be a total farce.
All this adds to the possibility and the likelihood that Hope is some incarnation of Jean Grey. Marvel could have made Hope look like anything they wanted, but they gave her red hair and green eyes so that she perfectly resembled Jean. Not only that, they had her raised by Cable in the future. Why is that important? Well conversely it was Jean who raised Cable as a child in the future along with Scott. So the parallels are definitely there. Not only that, as she has grown she's only grown more and more like Jean Grey in terms of appearance. She even adopted the same green and gold dress sense of Jean's Phoenix form in Second Coming for crying out loud! It couldn't be more overt if Marvel sent a letter to every fan's house that read "See! She could be Jean Grey!"
This of course begs the question of whether or not this is another ruse. Marvel has pulled them before like they did with Mutant Zero and Uncanny 511. Could they do it again? Well this time it would be a lot harder because there are so many hints they'll have to ignore. Even if they do, there's no getting around the Phoenix clues. Even if Hope becomes a vessel for the Phoenix Force without being Jean Grey, it still by default makes her a complete Jean Grey knock-off. How could it not? A red haired, green eyed woman with the Phoenix Force that isn't Jean Grey? That simply cannot last without being a gimmick.
The sad thing is that Marvel would certainly try something like this. They have shown in the past an uncanny tendency to avoid bringing back Jean at all cost, but there's no denying her star power. Sales of Phoenix Endsong and her origins comic are proof enough of that. So rather than bring her back, they may try to make Hope into a replacement of sorts. She looks and carries herself like Jean Grey in so many ways, but she isn't Jean Grey. For everything that has happened in Second Coming and for all the hints that have been dropped, that would be a huge push. Not only that, there's already a Jean Grey look-alike that's still alive and running around in 616. That's Rachel Summers. She's not currently in the books, but she is alive and making Hope Summers just like her would somewhat defeat the purpose.
It seems the only way to make this story truly salient is if Hope is some kind of incarnation or rebirth of Jean Grey. Perhaps she's that vital piece of humanity that Jean seemed to lose during the Grant Morrison run. It would make perfect sense and it would be a novel and unique way to bring Jean back into the fold without seeming cheesy or contrived. But again, it may make too much sense. Jean Grey is a character that appears in so many Marvel incarnations. She was in Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2 for crying out loud! Yet the medium that gave her life keeps trying to kill her off completely. This is probably the best chance Marvel will ever get to bring Jean back in a good way. If they blow it then it may be years before she appears in the fold again.
If Hope doesn't turn out to have some link to Jean Grey then Second Coming is officially a farce. If the Phoenix is completely ignored, then that would rank it right up there with the Clone Saga and Ultimatum as a total travesty to comic book storytelling. The answers seem close at hand and the aftermath already seems to be taking hold as future solicitations show that Hope Summers does survive Second Coming. Does that mean she used the Phoenix successfully? Does that mean she was revealed to be some aspect of Jean Grey? Only time will tell and that time is running out.
X-Force #28 comes out next week on July 8th and the finale of Second Coming comes out a week later. Stay tuned to this blog for the final revelations as they come in and the commentary/ranting that may follow. I wait with bated if not skeptical breath. Years of comics are culminating in these two issues. It's been a long time coming and hopefully it's worth the wait.