The structure of the Marvel universe makes the core concept behind these Generations one shots a bit odd. In most cases, the current “kid” version of a character has interacted with their predecessor. And since it’s comics, and most characters either never die, or at least, stay dead, most of these characters do their superhero adventuring side by side. Hawkeye’s Clint Barton and Kate Bishop for example. Or Spider-Men Peter Parker and Miles Morales.
Looking back at last week’s Generations: Hulk story, much was made about the Totally Awesome Hulk and the Incredible Hulk meeting up. But it looses some of it’s zing when we think about the fact that Amadeus Cho and Bruce Banner have known each other for years. And Cho, before he took up the Hulk mantle himself, was the one that cured Bruce Banner of being the Hulk. Granted, thanks to time travel and vanishing points, the Bruce Banner in this story does not know Cho, giving the relationship a somewhat different dynamic, but these stories are being sold as a once in a…uh…generation type of meeting, and in many cases they really aren’t.
Which brings us to this weeks meeting of the Jean Grey’s. What’s weird about this one is thanks to copious amounts of time travel, this is not a meeting of current version of the Phoenix with their old school 80’s predecessor, but young Jean Grey meeting up with her actual future self…in the past. Comics.
If you’ve come this far, you may not care, but spoilers for Generations: The Phoenix from here on out.
The story is structured almost identically to Generations: Hulk. Young Jean finds herself mysteriously transported to an unknown place that appears to be the past. She meets up with the version of her character in that time period, goes out to the coast, has a few laughs, fights a big bad, learns a lesson and then disappears back to…Secret Empire? We can’t answer that just yet.
Much like Generations: Hulk (yes, I know that is not the real title), there’s really not much substance here at a base level. Much of the issue focuses on young Jean trying to get information about the Phoenix out of older Jean until the tables are turned and older Jean wants to know why young Jean wants to know so much about the Phoenix. What happens to her in the future?
While young Jean contemplates answering this question and old Jean looks at her and the numerous captions on the page wondering what is taking her so long to answer, Uatu The Watcher shows up. He tells young Jean that only she can see him, and he is there to tell her that the decision she makes now will decide the fate of the universe (or something), but he can’t tell her what decision to make. To quote young Jean, “No Pressure.”
What got me wondering though was where this Uatu was from? As far as I know, I don’t think The Watcher’s can see the future. If he is The Watcher from this late 70’s/early 80’s era time period they appear to be in, how does he know that young Jean telling older Jean anything is a good or bad thing? (And c’mon, you know it’s a bad thing just by him showing up there right?) Maybe it is just a gut feeling from a guy three days from retiring with lots of experience that has a bad feeling about this. It’s clearly not a time travelling Watcher from young Jean’s time since he is currently deader than fried chicken. Or maybe it is simply one of those things about Vanishing Point were time has no meaning, so the Watcher can know the future. (And they keep touting Vanishing Point being this big thing where these old and new heroes can co-exist, but both stories so far have really been straight forward time travel into the past, be careful not to disrupt the time stream, stories.)
Another interesting ramification of this story, if we believe the hype that all of this is “in continuity” and not some figment of Steve Rogers or sentient Cosmic Cube Kobik’s imagination, is the question of whether it actually retcons the 80’s retcon that Jean Grey was never actually Phoenix, but that the Phoenix hid Jean away in a cocoon and just masqueraded as her. Allowing Jean to return years later and join the original team of X-Men as X-Factor. The writer quite possibly hasn’t given this much thought, and given the properties of Vanishing Point, the entire scenario may be irrelevant if older Jean and the “past” are not real. They’ve also got enough going on with the fact that young Jean is from the past, but trapped in the present and now gone into the past to meet with a future version of herself.
One aspect of all of this that writer Cullen Bunn did seem to pay attention to was the circumstances that currently surrounded the time period from which older Jean was from. I think if you have a greater knowledge of the classic Dark Phoenix Saga as a whole, that there is a layer here that will appeal more to you than the casual fan or fans of young Jean who know very little about Claremont and Byrne’s 80’s run.
Much like Generations: Hulk, Generations: The Phoenix doesn’t really live up to the hype and as I feared in my Hulk review, the stories are essentially the same, giving us no further information about Secret Empire, Vanishing Point or the upcoming (don’t call it a reboot) Marvel Legacy. Maybe it will all make sense when everything is pulled together, but for now, Generations is ok, but perfectly skippable.