X-Men Vignettes #24 (1988)
Writer – Chris Claremont
Art – John Bolton
Letters – Tom Orzechowski
Colors – Glynis Oliver
Edits – Edelman, Harras, DeFalco
From: Classic X-Men #24 (August, 1988)
Don’t have much of a pre-ramble today… which is likely pretty good news to most of the folks who accidentally happened upon this page while looking for pirated scans of old X-Men comics… and/or the folks who still do not know how to spell “crisis”!
Let’s turn Jean into da Black Queen!
We open with Jean Grey’s arrival in Kirinos, Greece. She’s chosen to get away for awhile to distract herself from the apparent deaths of her friends, teammates, and lover. Remember, Jean and Xavier were left believing the X-Men were dead when they were actually whisked away to the Savage Land. I’m honestly not sure which fate is worse! Anyway, she’s kind of lost in her own thoughts… and, in fairness… when you speak in full-on, unfiltered, Claremontian, it’s easy to become too distracted to pay attention to what’s going on around you. While lost in her captions, she is knocked into the drink by a group of Greek delinquents, who swipe all of her belongings before fleeing the scene. Jean is fished outta the sea by some dude in a canoe, and brought back ashore so she can file a police report. The Greek Police weren’t much help… and so, our gal goes out front to pout on the steps. There, she’s met by a handsome stranger…
This stranger’s name is Nikos — and, suddenly we’re in the middle of a romantic comedy. He takes her out to lunch where they engage in a bit of flirting. She promises to pay him back just as soon as her belongings are recovered — to which, ol’ Nik informs her that her company is more than sufficient compensation. He then brings up the subject that she’s going to be needing a place to stay. Jean immediately smells a rat… and I ain’t talkin’ bout the mystery meat filling her gyro. Nikos clarifies that he has an extra bedroom, so there’s no ulterior motive here. Uh-huh.
From here, we jump ahead a bit — where it’s revealed that those street rats who swiped Jean’s bags did so at the behest of… Jason Wyngarde — Mastermind! What’s more, and hold onto yer socks, cuz none’ya saw this coming — our new pal Nikos… is actually Mastermind! He takes Jean’s valuables and identification… and burns them.
It’s here that his intentions for Jean are made clear… er. He’s looking to mold her into a worthy Black Queen. The following morning, he-as-Nikos rouses Jean from her slumber with a breakfast in bed platter. He promises that they’ll make the best of this day, given the “odd circumstances” that they’re even acquainted in the first place. He’ll take her to all the non-touristy sites… and, he’ll even give her a kinda skanky, two-sizes-too-small dress to where about the island!
And so, they spend the day together… ultimately winding up having a snorkling sesh. It’s there where Jean begins to forget about all of her worries and recent loss… and loses herself in the moment. She and Nikos begin to make out… before she pulls away while stammering out an apology.
That evening, Jean watches from the balcony of Niko’s home while the town below celebrates the Festival of Aphrodite. Nikos joins her, sitting next to her while kissing her neck and shoulder. Ya know, John Bolton could’a very well been a “modern day” romance comic artist, as this is really good stuff. I mean, that’s not much of a surprise, considering how great all’a Bolton’s stuff is. Anyway, Nikos tries to get to the bottom of Jean’s malaise, and we learn that she’s pretty much just trying to defend herself from pain. She talks of her recently-deceased lover… and says that if she doesn’t allow herself to “feel” anymore… it stands to reason that she can no longer “hurt” either, ya dig? Nikos gives her a rousing speech, inspiring her to “Live!” Jean figures, “eh, what da hell?”
And so, next we know — they’re dancing the night away at the Aphrodisia. Night turns to… even later night, and our couple heads up to some ancient ruins of a temple mount to be alone and talk s’more. Discussion turns to the time of the Gods, and the power and glory they commanded… and the fear and worship they inspired. Jean says in times like that, Mutants would no longer have to hide… X-Men would no longer have to die. So… I guess she’s already told ol’ Nikos that she’s a Mutant then? To further clarify, Jean takes to the skies. Nikos, upon seeing this, claims that Mutants ARE the modern Gods.
But then… that pesky Phoenix entity shows up to remind us that this isn’t Jean… but Jeanix! Once in the sky, Jeanix emits a wall of bird-shaped flame… and starts speaking in those scary word balloons. After spouting a bit of scariness, it would appear as thought the “real” Jean personality returns… and she’s pretty freaked out. She runs from Nikos, embarrassed and ashamed. Our creepy new pal, however, only smiles — he now knows that this woman isn’t only destined to be his Black Queen — deep down, she already is.
It isn’t often in dealing with our Vignettes where we come upon a story that actually feels like a “missing piece” to the lore that we actually needed to see. I’d say, out of the two-dozen we’ve looked at to this point (can ya believe there are only twenty more of these?), the Jeanix-focused and Magneto-focused stories are the only ones that I would really press ya to track down. The rest are fine-to-great, but (relatively speaking) somewhat inessential.
This one though? It’s a missing piece that I’d encourage everybody to insert into their Jeanix-lore, as it’s the start of the “grooming process”. Stop me if you’ve heard me say this, but — it’s been an absolute age since the last time I read stories of this era — as such, I cannot remember if any pre-Hellfire Club Wyngarde/Grey acquainting had been hinted or alluded to. Even if that isn’t/wasn’t the case, I still think this is a great addition to the overall story. It’s basically Wyngarde testing to see if Jean is the right person to take the mantle of Black Queen.
As such, he needs to see how far he’s going to have to “break her down”. Thing of it is, she already kinda is broken by the time they meet here in Greece. She’s pretty much ripe for the picking here… plus, there’s that whole pesky “she’s not actually Jean” thing we have to contend with.
Which brings me to my next takeaway… the ending, where the Phoenix entity/personality/persona takes over. This was a great bit of business, which works in any comics “reality”: Jean and the Phoenix are wrestling for dominance over the same body, Jean is losing herself to the insane power of the Phoenix, or the Phoenix is all there is — but, there’s still a “presence” or whisper of Jean that it must contend with. There’s a struggle, yes? The Phoenix is all about power… but, that (for lack of a better term) Jean “residue”, is keeping it somewhat “grounded”.
This internal crisis facilitates Wyngarde’s designs for her… molding her to fit the role he has planned for her. It’s pretty great stuff. Jeanix has just faced challenge after challenge… crisis after crisis, and it’s left her wide open to be exploited. Like I said a few paragraphs ago, this is a worthy addition to the lore, and one I’d encourage every X-Fan to insert into their overall Jeanix head-canon.
(Not the) Letters Page: