There have been quite a few different incarnations of Jean Grey. Mostly because she’s died. A lot. Jean didn’t start the trend of dying and coming back in comic books, but she sure perfected it. But Jean was evolving and changing even before the Dark Phoenix Saga and continues to, even now.
Jean Grey has been an integral part of the X-Men from the beginning, and as a result, she’s seen a lot of versions across multiple comic books, TV shows, and films. Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst versions of Marvel Girl, Jean Grey.
10 Worst: X-Men: The Animated Series
Though X-Men: The Animated Series to date contains the best screen adaption of the Dark Phoenix Saga (spoilers for the rest of this list) its portrayal of Jean Grey wasn’t the best. Jean is one of the most powerful and capable X-Men around, underlined by her status as an Omega-level mutant, but in the series, she was generally… inept.
Her powers didn’t always benefit her (um, she gets owned by Nimrod before Jubilee), she was always getting rescued bu someone else and when she did turn to the Phoenix, it was on a dime.
9 Best: X-Men Red
After returning from the dead (again), Jean takes command of her own X-team, X-Men Red. One of the better X-titles of recent years, Jean is in full force here. Taking not just leadership of a team but the mutant cause, she lobbies the United Nations to recognize mutantkind as their own nation, an idea that prefigures the emergence of the mutant nation on Krakoa in the new X-Men titles.
Jean stands up, and stands proud, using her powers not as a weapon of mass destruction but in a wiser, more benevolent way, averting disaster through one of the slyest tricks in recent comics.
8 Worst: Ultimate Jean Grey
Marvel created a separate, unique continuity for its characters in the Marvel Universe back in the early 2000s, and the X-Men were no exception. Jean’s role in the story was a lot different than it had been in Marvel-616 continuity. More rebellious and mischievous than her original counterpart, she loses her edge a bit in contrast to some of the other characters she’s paired with.
The impact of the Phoenix, which inevitably rears its head in the Ultimates timeline as well, is less because the shock of good-natured and conservative Jean turning evil is dampened by a more gradual, expected transition.
7 Best: X-Men Evolution
In contrast to her depiction in X-Men: The Animated Series, the Jean Grey as seen in the early aughts series X-Men: Evolution was much more successful. Primarily because the show avoided the damned if you do and damned if you don’t choose to adapt the Dark Phoenix Saga.
In this series, which ran on Kids WB from 2000 to 2003, Jean is a teacher and leader at the X-Mansion. She’s a nuanced character with positive attributes and flaws, and she isn’t a damsel in distress like she was much of the time in the previous show (she even saves Cyclops from Mystique).
6 Worst: Madeline Pryor
Dying and coming back isn’t clean or pretty. There are consequences. Oh, so many consequences. Madeline Pryor is famous – infamous? – for being a clone of Jean Grey, created by Mr. Sinister for the express purpose of having a child with Cyclops – check – Madeline became a loose thread when Jean came back from the dead the first time in 1986.
The solution was to turn her into a supervillain and kill her off. Unlike her progenitor, Madeline Pryor hasn’t had nearly the same tenacity when it comes to dying.
5 Best: X2
Perhaps the best onscreen version of Jean yet, Famke Janssen delivers a smart, sexy and conflicted performance as Jean in the 2003 X-sequel. Torn between Scott Summers (yawn) and Logan (yay!), struggling with her growing powers, Jean is tough but vulnerable throughout. X2 gives us the Jean Grey we want: competent, no-nonsense and at war with herself.
She uses her powers to contain, defend and ultimately save the lives of her teammates, setting up what would surely be the long-anticipated and spectacular big-screen adaptation of the Dark Phoenix Saga. Right?
4 Worst: X-Men: The Last Stand
Nope! Rather than a cosmic fall from grace, we get a slapdash introduction to a murderous Jean Grey who despite her power and hunger, tags along with Magneto and his crew as they deal with what is supposed to be the plot of the third Fox X-film, X-Men: The Last Stand.
All the setup invested in Jean and the Phoenix in X2 is squandered here, turning Jean into a one-note femme fatale who either wants to kiss or kill you. Thankfully, Wolverine puts her and the audience out of their collective misery. But we’d get another shot at Jean and the Phoneix. Because she’s Jean.
3 Best: Dawn of X
Pretty much the first thing Jean does in the new Johnathan Hickman era of the X-Men is die and come right back, but this time, her unique ability isn’t so unique anymore. Surviving death becomes the mysterious, captivating luxury of all mutants, but Jean isn’t diminished at all.
Jean’s shared resistance to the inevitability of death seems to have liberated her, in more ways than one. First, she continues to be at the forefront of the new mutant nation of Krakoa, and she’s much more open, like a lot more open, about herself and her relationships.
2 Worst: Dark Phoenix
Young, old, animated, live-action, Jean Grey can’t catch a break. Jean’s classic transformation into the Dark Phoenix gets a rare do-over in the aptly named Dark Phoenix film, but once again, the storyline and Jean are lost in translation. But hey, at least they got her red hair right.
Once again, the development of Jean, her powers and conflict are rushed and jammed into two hours – well, not even that – and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that the Dark Phoenix Saga requires a bit more narrative real estate. Unfortunately for Sophie Turner and fans everywhere, we didn’t get the adaptation we deserved. Again.
1 Best: The Original
There’s a reason the Dark Phoenix Saga keeps coming up on this list. That’s because the original iteration of Jean Grey, her gradual ascension in power and descent into villainy is a hallmark of her character as much as it is a legendary moment in comic book history.
Kind, considerate and selfless Jean transforms monstrously into a star-destroying cosmic entity, paving the way for her eventual death and sacrifice. Everything after really is an echo of that moment and that version of the character, sometimes figuratively, and many times, literally.
X-Men's Jean Grey is infamous for dying often, resulting in different incarnations. Here are the best and worst versions of the Marvel character!