Subverting Dickens in Jean Grey 6

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only.”

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me.”

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

The point of A Christmas Carol is that Ebenezer Scrooge could — and should — abandon his avarice, and become a better man. The moral about the dangers of greed have aged remarkably well, but there’s something about the message “change who you are” that feels a little less virtuous in 2017. In Jean Grey 6, the titular X-Man has to come to nearly the opposite conclusion: there is no changing who you are, so you’d better find a way to accept yourself.

Writer Dennis Hopeless borrows a lot of storytelling techniques directly from Dickens. And he’s not shy about it: Young Jean even refers to the whole process of visiting Old Jean’s memories as “Ghost-of-Christmas-Past-ing”. The thing is, Jean doesn’t really need another reminder of dangers in her potential futures. Everywhere she looks, there’s a someone who loved, fought, and lost the original Jean Grey. So, rather than using moments from Jean’s life to illustrate what kind of behavior is to be avoided, Hopeless and artist Paul Davidson simply present the moments, free of moralization.

A lot of those beats come from famous X-Men stories, and Davidson is quick to tap into the iconography of specific moments in the team’s history. It’s amazing how quickly a new set of costumes can orient the reader in a specific era of X-Men comics, even if — like me — you’re not able to pin down the exact stories.

Ah, yes: now we’re in the Morrison era, where shit gets really weird and really dark.

But “really weird” and “really dark” are not the qualities that Jean Grey should be exorcising. Earlier in the issue, Old Jean claims that people refer to her as “real” because they knew her, while the Young Jean Grey is “confusing”. That’s a nice meta jab about the time-displaced OG X-Men, but it’s also just a true statement about the diegetic connections between these characters. Jean needs to accept and embrace who she is, rather than resist it. Old Jean Grey is not an immovable spirit to be routed around, but a vital spirit that can lead our Jeanie to actualization.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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