After four columns about Watchmen, I hope you're ready for a change of pace – and a bit of fantasy fulfillment. Keep in mind the last time I begged for a character comeback, it actually happened. Such is the power of the Geek Beat. (Not really, but let's pretend.)

Now, it's no secret Fox is looking at every single character in their arsenal and pondering how best to reboot or stage a spin-off. When they're reportedly looking at reviving the Fantastic Four, you know they're just desperate for more of that Marvel gold. (Here's where you can jump to the comments and just slag off Fox if you want, I won't mind.) Well, I have a Marvel character that was grievously mishandled, one that's perfect for rebooting by the very nature of her being, and whose return would earn the studio some major geek girl cred. I'm talking about Jean Gray, the Phoenix.

Here I should back up and say that if you've never read The Dark Phoenix Saga, you owe it to yourself to get a copy. It's dated, but it's pretty special, unique for the time it was penned and all that. Follow it up with a little Grant Morrison New X-Men and Phoenix: Endsong, dodging all the Madeleine Pryor and clone retcons that popped up in between. The Jean Gray story that lies at the heart of all these is a rich one -- a nice normal X-Girl who ends up possessed by an alien entity she can barely control.

She ends up destroying an entire universe by eating its sun, which leaves her friends and loved ones just a tad uncomfortable around her. The powers may be alien, but the story is very human. How do you live with yourself after committing atrocities? How does your husband cope when you have better mutant powers than he does? What do you do if your powers reveal he was mentally cheating on you? How do you ask a man who loves you passionately to stab you repeatedly with his claws? Stuff any woman can identify with, really.

It's still infuriating to watch X2 and its pitch perfect Phoenix setup only to get ... what? I don't know who Famke Janssen was playing in X3, but it wasn't the Phoenix or the Dark Phoenix. It was just a pissed off chick who sported zombie CGI (a "fiery phoenix" being a concept no one at Fox had heard of) and a really ugly costume. Poor Janssen. It wasn't her fault, and I'd like to think she was really looking forward to eating the sun. How much would it suck to get handed that script when you had signed on to be fire incarnate?

It's an easy thing to bring back Jean Gray. They've set the precedent in the movies already, so there's no need to spoon-feed it to mainstream audiences. Since Gray has died and come back several times in the comics, (undoubtedly will return a dozen more before we're all old and gray), there's dozens of good stories to cherry-pick from. A story like Phoenix: Endsong makes it easy even for the stupidest screenwriter since it starts with Gray actually clawing her way out of the grave and being discovered by Wolverine. A beginning like that even leaves it a little flexible for recasting should Janssen be uninterested in returning.

You don't even need to make a big deal out of reviving the X-Men to frame her story. You can just use Wolverine's fledgling franchise. After all, he stabbed her at the end of X3, so an appearance sans X-Men wouldn't be that big of a deal. (Considering who all they stuck in his origin movie, Jean is a sensible choice.) The storyline could be all rife with guilt and torment, drawing on all the best "unrequited love" story arcs Jean and Logan shared. It's not pandering to date night crowds, either, since all the best Wolverine storylines are laced with killing and failed romances. A trilogy that tortures him individually with Silver Fox, Mariko Yashida, and Jean Gray would be cool, authentic, and sexy. Plus it solves his pesky problem of where to go cinematically once his origins are exposed to the world.

And while it's popularly assumed that no girl gives a crap about a superhero flick, we do. Every bit of Wonder Woman news sends girls clamoring for a live-action movie, and for Marvel girls, Jean Gray is the equivalent of Wonder Woman. Bringing her back right would make Fox pretty damn popular even with the Jezebel crowd. And think of the merchandising! Even non-geek girls sport Wonder Woman and Supergirl pajama sets and sports bras – they'd sport a Dark Phoenix set if you made it. You could probably even get Too-Faced to launch a themed lip gloss. (Yes, that's right – I'm pandering by mentioning boobs and make-up. Besides, I love lip gloss and a good tie-in never hurt anyone.)

So, there you are, Fox. A reboot that not only makes sense thematically, but one that I think fans would welcome with open arms as opposed to the Fantastic Four. After all, it's been nine years since the first X-Men movie, and 2 out of 3 installments left fans pretty unsatisfied. If you want some redemption and franchise rebirth, you could do worse than going for blatant symbolism.
categories Cinematical