Mutation in the Marvel Universe can happen in a number of different ways, both physical and psychic, but each mutation is unique and affects the human body quite differently. Colossus’s body is able to transform into solid steel and Amelia Vought is able to transform her body into a mist-like form, which are just two extreme examples of some of the strange differences in the X-Men‘s world.
For mutants like Jean Grey, whose abilities are mental and don’t come with a dramatic physical transformation, there are still quite a few unique facts about her anatomy that have intrigued villains like Mister Sinister and cosmic forces like the Phoenix for years, which we’ll be taking a closer look at in today’s Anatomy of an X-Man.
While Jean’s powers of telepathy and telekinesis had been growing on their own during her time with the X-Men, they were put to the test following a battle with Stephen Lang’s Sentinels (and robotic replications of the original five X-Men) that resulted in the X-Men being trapped in space during a severe solar flare. Jean used her abilities to help protect the X-Men and their shuttle as they attempted to return to Earth, though Jean began to succumb to the radiation from the storm and the extreme toll the re-entry into Earth’s orbit was taking on her body.
Sensing her determination to help her friends and the potential power hidden within Jean herself, the cosmic Phoenix Force witnessed Jean’s sacrifice and chose to grant her wish by saving the X-Men and landing their shuttle on Earth, where they crashed down on Jamaica Bay. As the team gathered after the crash, Jean rose from the water wearing a new costume and exhibiting new powers. She declared herself the Phoenix.
This was the beginning of the iconic Phoenix Saga, wherein the Phoenix became corrupted into the Dark Phoenix before memorably sacrificing herself on the moon in Uncanny X-Men #137. However, when a mysterious cocoon found by the Avengers in Jamaica Bay was later investigated by the Fantastic Four, they discovered Jean Grey was inside and the Phoenix had placed her there to heal. Jean was missing some of her memories, but her body was unharmed.
Mister Sinister had a dark obsession with Jean Grey, specifically with the potential of the Grey bloodline when mixed with another of Sinister’s obsessions, the Summers bloodline. Sinister knew something was different about Jean/Phoenix, so he cloned Jean Grey using her DNA. Later a small piece of the Phoenix Force that survived the Dark Phoenix’s sacrifice also bonded with the clone, creating Madelyne Pryor.
Pryor’s abilities eventually manifested and she became a pawn in Belasco’s demonic plans as the Goblin Queen, though Jean and the rest of the X-Men were able to stop the Inferno from happening. After a pitched psychic battle with Jean Grey, Pryor was defeated and as she died, the portion of the Phoenix Force residing within her returned to the original Jean — making her whole, giving her access to Madelyne’s memories and also increasing her potential power levels.
Her time in Jamaica Bay could be considered a resurrection of its own, but Jean technically didn’t die until New X-Men #150. Wolverine was forced to stab her to ease her pain after Magneto gave Jean a planet-sized stroke, following her reascension as the Phoenix. Jean stayed dead for over a decade before she finally returned in Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey.
The Phoenix was again responsible for Jean’s return, this time through the creation of a giant Phoenix Egg. However, Jean was tired of the constant cycle with the Phoenix and rejected its power, seemingly severing her connection with the cosmic entity.
As recently confirmed by Jonathan Hickman for his Dawn of X relaunch, Jean Grey is officially an Omega-level mutant. Jean is an incredibly powerful telekinetic (and was only able to access those abilities in her earliest days), but her Omega-level ability is telepathy, which makes her one of the most powerful telepaths on the planet. However, her abilities have often been in a state of flux as they were consistently developing or changing during her time with the X-Men.
Following her release from the cocoon in Jamaica Bay, Jean couldn’t access her telepathy, yet during the “Revolution” rebrand, Jean was left with only telepathy after apparently switching abilities with Psylocke. When teen Jean from the past was brought to the present day and her powers developed without influences like the Phoenix, she found she was able to transform into a new psionic form by draining the psychic energies of others, which passed on to her older self.
Jean’s abilities in the mainstream universe have been greatly affected by the cosmic Phoenix Force, but other versions of Jean Grey have dealt with their incredible potential in different ways. In the Ultimate Universe, which featured a modernized take on Marvel’s most popular characters, Jean was a powerful mutant whose abilities threatened to consume her at an early age. Charles Xavier created psychic blocks to limit Jean’s power levels.
These mental blocks were also implemented for Jean in the main Marvel Universe. They have also been used in various recreations of the Dark Phoenix story.
Jean Grey's unique connection to the Phoenix Force has led to some interesting developments over the years, both in her abilities and anatomy.