So far, the Phoenix Resurrection miniseries has been a bit mixed. All of the Jean Grey stuff is great. It’s confusing in the right ways. It’s mysterious. It’s dramatic. Meanwhile, the scenes with the rest of the X-Men, while still weird on a comparable level, are bloated. There are so many characters involved in this miniseries, with so little characterization among them that it feels like a complete waste. The previous issue ended with the X-Men finding some sort of energy dome, and then they opened a door to get inside. It leads to the hope that the X-Men side of the story is about to get more focused. Let’s see how that turned out.
Written by Matthew Rosenberg, Phoenix Resurrection 4 reveals a lot more about what’s going on. Without spoiling anything that isn’t obvious, the Phoenix Force is heavily involved here, and it’s got a specific plan in mind for Jean Grey. Jean doesn’t get as much focus here, although her scenes are still brilliantly weird and unnerving. Instead we get more of the X-Men. Unfortunately, it’s still as overcrowded as the rest of this miniseries. We don’t get any character moments – we only get exposition from Kitty Pryde, Beast and Old Man Logan, and maybe a handful of amusing lines. That said, the X-Men side of the comic is a bit better once they find Jean Grey, and there is one mildly dramatic moment towards the end.
Beyond that, we just get a bunch of action scenes between the X-men and the Phoenix Force’s constructs that are mostly told through the art. The problem I’ve always had with action scenes involving so many characters is that there’s rarely a sense of progress, and that’s also true here. There are a couple splash pages showing everyone, a couple panels of constructs being slashed or stabbed, and a couple panels of X-Men being ganged up on. And then the X-Men kind of just run away. Nobody seems to follow them. It’s hard to care when not only is there no sense of danger, but the X-Men are fighting people that might not even be real.
Speaking of Ramon Rosanas’s art. The art throughout the comic is great for the most part. The background images showing the differences between the pleasant neighborhoods that Jean sees and the fiery environment that truly exists is brilliant. You’ve got weird images of a normal looking boy riding a bike, only to become a flaming corpse as soon as he enters the fiery zone. Then he looks perfectly fine in the next panel. These backgrounds are well-detailed with a variety of nice looking houses, various suburban plants in both the foreground and background, and the cracks in the street in the half of the panel that’s on fire. These backgrounds seem to disappear during the fight scene, and characters have less detail than normal, but they still look smooth.
Facial expression generally do a great job at conveying emotion, like Jean’s fatigued confusion when she looks at a voice only to see nobody, and Beast’s thoughtful look when he’s figuring out what’s going on. When I say the art is mostly great, I don’t mean there’s anything particularly wrong with it. It’s just that it’s clear more effort was put into some panels than others, but even the other panels still look good. Rachelle Rosenberg’s colouring is brilliant. The shading difference between the environments that are on fire and those that are not further enhances the comic’s otherworldly mood. There’s great variety in characters’ uniforms, and the use of shadows is fantastic.
Like the rest of this series so far, this is mostly a good but very mixed comic. Jean Grey’s scenes are brilliant, but there are so many other X-Men that it’s hard to care about them. The main fight scene presents so many possibilities for deep, emotional reactions, but there are so many characters that there’s no room for that. This series would be much better with a smaller, more focused team of X-Men. Perhaps divide the team up between those who have a close history with Jean Grey and some of those who will be in the X-Men Red lineup. So far, the closest thing we’ve seen to an X-Men character who truly feels like they belong in this series is Old Man Logan, thanks to the end of this comic. And he grew up in a different universe with a different Jean Grey.
All criticisms aside, this is still worth reading if you’re looking forward to Jean Grey’s return. And the art is pleasant to look at, so that doesn’t hurt. Just read it before you buy it.