In Marvel comics, the psychic entity known as the Phoenix Force is the embodiment of the cycle of creation and destruction. It consumes what it possesses, only for it to move on to a new host, or for a past host to be born again.
And so it is that, after 14 years, the Phoenix Force’s most famous host, the X-Man Jean Grey, is being born again in a new miniseries launching this week, “Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey.”
The five-issue story — written by Matthew Rosenberg (“4 Kids Walk into a Bank”) and drawn by Leinil Yu (“Secret Invasion”) and other artists — sets the stage for a new team book, “X-Men Red,” starring Grey and due to debut in February. It joins a couple other new X-series announced for next year, including “Legion,” starring the same character featured on the FX TV show, and “Rogue & Gambit.”
But, in keeping with the cyclical nature of the Phoenix Force, there can be no creation without destruction. And Marvel just revealed a whole wave of editorial destruction coming in 2018.
Specific to the X-line, the publisher is canceling “Jean Grey,” starring the younger, time-displaced version, not the adult one just coming back from the dead; “Iceman,” in which the longtime X-Man rediscovers himself as an adult gay man; and “Generation X,” a team-in-training book.
They join “Luke Cage,” “The Unbelievable Gwenpool” and “Hawkeye” on the new year’s chopping block, effective in March.
None of these series was selling well. All were fronted by women, minorities and LGBTQ characters.
Problems with diversity and representation are not unique to Marvel, but when a company makes up more than a third of the industry, it sure feels that way sometimes.
Part of the problem is when you flood the market with roughly 90 books a month, you’re quite frankly asking a lot from a) the local comics shops that pre-order the books and b) readers whose wallets cannot support that many books. This makes it difficult for less-entrenched characters to strike a chord.
Quite frankly, smaller publishers do a better job of marketing directly to those groups. For example, Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime imprint is an explicitly diverse superhero universe. And BOOM Studios pretty much has the young-adult LGBTQ audience nailed, with titles such as “Lumberjanes,” “Heavy Vinyl” and “Fence.”
But that doesn’t give Marvel a pass on reaching out to those audiences. Yes, the company should regularly cull its low-selling titles, but that destruction should be in service of creating a better universe, reflective of its potential readership. Here’s hoping April’s solicits bear that out.
P.S., now that Jean and Wolverine are both back from the dead, do you think they take advantage of the fact that Cyclops is still six feet under?
Also out this week
Star Wars The Last Jedi: Storms of Crait #1: Find out what happened the last time Luke and Leia visited the red sands of Crait in a tie-in story by writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker (The Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast) and artist Marco Checchetto.
Doomsday Clock #2: The worlds of the DC Universe and “Watchmen” get a little closer as Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s 12-part series continues.
Scarlett’s Strike Force #1 of 8: G.I. Joe’s Scarlett assembles a team made up of Hasbro’s mightiest plastic heroes (Yup, they’ve got a Transformer) against a revitalized Cobra in an IDW miniseries by writer Aubrey Sitterson and artist Nelson Daniel.