Jean Gray and the Phoenix will always be intertwined, but with the help of the X-Men, she finally broke free from their clutches for the foreseeable future.
The Phoenix Force may currently be possessing various members of the Avengers, but the Marvel character most famous for hosting them will always be Jean Gray. She was the character through whom the Phoenix was introduced, and for many, Jean and the Phoenix are one and the same. However, that’s not really the case, and when Jean set out to part ways with the Phoenix when he returned from the dead in Matthew Rosenberg, Leinil Francis Yu, Joe Bennett, Carlos Pacheco, and Ramon Rosanas’ 2017 event miniseries Phoenix Resurrection: The El Jean Grey’s return, although recent events suggest they still share some kind of connection.
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Created by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, Phoenix Force first appeared on Uncanny X-Men # 101 in 1976. After a mission to space veered off, the X-Men ship made a crash landing. As her friends searched for her, a version of Jean suddenly emerged from the water in a new guise and announced that she was fire and life incarnate before collapsing. It was revealed that the Phoenix Force had sensed Jean’s mental screams for help during the accident and joined her.
Later retcons would complicate this explanation by saying that Jean’s actual body had actually been stored in a cocoon and that the one that emerged from the water was a creation of the Phoenix that took Jean’s place in the X-Men. In the days following the incident, Jean began calling herself Phoenix and was shown to have much greater power. Things turned tragic in Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s “Dark Phoenix Saga.” After Mastermind attempted to brainwash her into becoming the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, Jean was corrupted into the evil Dark Phoenix, who unleashed himself and caused universal chaos, with her even destroying an entire planet. After briefly regaining control of his body, Jean, the duplicate of Jean created by Phoenix, to be precise, committed suicide to save his fellow X-Men and the universe. He would later come back to life and eventually regain the power of the Phoenix and although they were able to live among themselves better than in the past, Jean never achieved full control over the power.
During the “Planet X” story on Grant Morrison and Phil Jimenez New X-Men # 150, Wolverine stabbed Jean to free the Phoenix in hopes that it would save them from diving into the sun. He did so and helped the X-Men defeat Magneto, but not before he struck Jean with an electromagnetic pulse that killed her.
The adult Jean lay dead for a surprisingly long time before returning in Phoenix Resurrection. While the X-Men must deal with the return of the Phoenix Force to Earth, Jean is alive but unknown to her story. He lives in a kind of altered reality that presents him with an ideal version of his life, which turns out to be a Phoenix Egg. The team realizes that the Phoenix brought Jean back and is trying to make her a perfect host before joining her once more. After Old Man Logan forces her to realize that her world is an illusion, Jean rejects the Phoenix and convinces him to stay away from her.
Although the Phoenix is leaving and Jean is currently making an impact on the world as a leading citizen of Krakoa, it has been shown that she still has some sort of connection to the entity, albeit a minor one. When the Phoenix recently returned to Earth, Jean told Wolverine that he was sorry, prompting him to set out to kill him.
The misconception that Jean and the Phoenix are irrevocably linked is perpetuated by the portrayal of the character in other media. In the live action movie X-Men: The Final DecisionJean, played by Famke Janssen, is brought back to life by the Phoenix, who soon after embarks on an increasingly destructive rampage. From 2019 Dark fenix featured a relatively more comical version of the story, in which a younger Jean Gray is exposed to the Phoenix Force, which is an independent entity, in space just like in the comics. The alien Vuk also claims that only Jean is capable of serving as the host of the Phoenix without being destroyed.
Given the Phoenix’s long-expressed interest in Jean Gray, it’s likely only a matter of time before the two cross paths again. But at the moment, Jean is in Krakoa, and the Phoenix is seeing other people in “Enter the Phoenix”.
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