Everyone knows that Jean Grey has bought the farm more times than a billionaire with an unhealthy interest in agriculture – but just how many times is that? Two? Four? Eight? Higher than that? It’s hard to keep track of the number of times various X-Men have died and come back to life, but of them all, only Jean Grey could fill a “Top 10″ deaths by herself. To clear up the matter once and for all, I’m going to look into the many deaths of the woman they sometimes call Marvel Girl, sometimes call Phoenix, and more frequently call “the deceased.” Finally, we’ll have a definitive answer the question – how many times has Jean Grey died?
This list excludes What If? issues, simply because 90% of those seem to end with everyone dying, and according to the title’s conceit, they’re things that COULD’VE happened, rather than things that did. I’ve tried to restrict myself entirely to 616 Jean. Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions of each image.
1. Dies Piloting a Crashing Space Shuttle
Uncanny X-Men #101 (October 1976)
This is the first, brief death of Jean Grey. In order to help the X-Men escape the Starcore space station, Jean pilots a space shuttle through lethal radiation from a solar flare, attempting to use her powers to shield her. After the shuttle crashes in the bay, Jean emerges, now exhibiting the powers appearance of “Phoenix.”
It would later be explained that Jean was actually saved by the Phoenix force, who placed her in a stasis pod underwater and, using a psychic link, assumed her life. It’s debatable whether there was any actual death here, but future instances of Jean’s Phoenix manifestation have required her to die first, so I’m get to say that’s retroactive confirmation that if she hadn’t died, she wouldn’t have become Phoenix.
2. Commits Suicide on the Moon
Uncanny X-Men #137 (September 1980)
Following the corruption of Phoenix into the Dark Phoenix, and her subsequent destruction of an inhabited star system, Jean was placed on trial by the Shi’ar for the murders she committed in the guise of Phoenix. During their attempts to win Jean’s life in a trial by combat, Phoenix re-emerges and Jean, wanting to take responsibility for the deaths she helped cause, uses her powers to activate Shi’ar weapons and vapourise herself.
Of course, this is actually a Phoenix-created duplicate of Jean who dies, but it was considered to be her at the time so I’m going to count it. It was later explained that Jean’s psychic link with the Phoenix was what caused her to sacrifice herself.
3. Erased from existence by Thanos
Infinity Gauntlet #1 (July 1991)
The real, undisputed Jean eventually returned, alive, in 1986′s Fantastic Four #286. It was a mere 5 years until the next time Jean bit the dust, though this was a brief one. After acquiring the complete power of the Infinity Gems, Thanos erases half of all life in the Universe to impress Death. Luckily, everyone gets restored later on.
Jean was one of the super-heroes that got blinked out of existence, as confirmed by her “missing” status in Infinity Gauntlet #2. It wasn’t necessarily intended to be permanent, but given that it did happen it inarguably makes the list.
4. Killed by Fitzroy’s Sentinels
Uncanny X-Men #281 (October 1991)
During an attack on the Hellfire Club, Trevor Fitzroy’s Sentinels kill the Hellions and Jean Grey – luckily, she had transferred her mind into Emma Frost before they delivered the final blow – the Sentinels declare their target dead at the scene.
Jean was eventually transferred back into her own body by Xavier a few issues later, though the question of how, exactly, you can transfer a living mind into a dead body was glossed over somewhat. Still, her body was braindead, if nothing else, and that’s what I call a technical death.
5. Age of Apocalypse Jean murdered by Havok
X-Men: Omega (June 1995)
I don’t want to start getting picky about alternate universes, but as we’re aware, this was no mere “What If?” story – the Marvel Universe timeline genuinely was altered, and as a result, Jean had the opportunity to die all over again. After hooking up with Cyclops, the AOA Jean was murdered by Havok in the closing pages of X-Men Omega in a revenge attack on his favoured brother.
Shortly afterwards, Wolverine killed Havok, Magneto killed Apocalypse and then the Human High Council’s atomic bombs destroyed most of America before the timeline was repaired – or so it seemed at the time, because there was a much worse miniseries much later on that revealed a bunch of new stuff after that scene. Let’s not talk about it.
6. Stabbed by Wolverine on remains of Asteroid M,
New X-Men #148 (October 2003)
After Magneto infiltrated the X-Men under the guise of Xorn (yes, that’s what happened, please ignore any Xorn material not written by Grant Morrison) he managed to trap Wolverine and Phoenix on the remains of Asteroid M. When his deception came to light, he plunged the asteroid into the sun.
Wolverine, trying to spare Jean the suffering of being burnt alive, stabbed her with his claws right through her gut and spine. Not a particularly clean kill, to be honest. Jean’s death awakened her Phoenix powers, and she was able to fly them both back to Earth to help confront Magneto…
7. Murdered by “Xorn” (Magneto)
New X-Men #150 (December 2003)
…which, unfortunately, did not end well for Jean. While it’s debatable whether this was actually Magneto, thanks to some increasingly screwed-up editorial wrangling which was supposed to “clear up” Morrison’s already clear plot about Magneto inventing “Xorn” to get into the X-Men, we do know that whoever it was, they did manage to kill Jean with a magnetic pulse that gave her a massive stroke.
This death lasted a solid 150 years before she returned, corrupted and under the control of Sublime, but eventually broke free and altered the timeline so that the future seen in the New X-Men arc “Here Comes Tomorrow” never happened.
8-13. Fatally stabbed SIX SEPERATE TIMES by Wolverine
Phoenix: Endsong #3 (April 2005)
When a wounded part of the Phoenix force makes it way to earth, it brings Jean back to life to help heal itself. Feeling the Phoenix power taking control, she asks Wolverine to repeatedly kill her to weaken the Phoenix. He attempts to do so, disembowelling her no less than 6 times – including four on one page. Each time, the Phoenix is able to help resurrect Jean almost immediately, but the entity is weakened enough for Jean to wrest back her faculties.
These are some seriously rapid-fire deaths, and the montage shown may even represent more than what I’ve counted. Still, they’re all valid – dead is dead, after all!
14. Submerges herself in glacier
Phoenix: Endsong #3 (April 2005)
This death is fairly unspectacular, as Jean submerges herself in a glacier, partly mirroring her final resting place in the then-recent X2: X-Men United. Even this fails to hold her, though, and she comes back once again. In Phoenix: Endsong #5, Jean decides that she’s not yet ready to come back to life, instead returning to the “White Hot Room” which is apparently where Phoenixes go to gestate, or something. It’s not entirely clear. She doesn’t seem to die at the end of that series, though, and disappears into another plane of existence leaving no corpse, so that’s it – she’s out there, somewhere.
So, what, call it 14 deaths then?
Yep! With her 14th death, we’ve followed Ms. Grey-Summers right up to her most recent dirt nap. It’s certain that she’ll be back eventually and – given the contents of this list – fairly likely that she’ll die somewhere along the way too.
But we’re not done yet! How about some more?
While these don’t really count because they didn’t happen to Jean Grey in-continuity, these deaths do explain why people expect Jean to keep dying.
15-16. Jean dies in the future, X-Men: The End, book 3 #6
In this potential future (and remember, potential futures aren’t the same as alternate universes, kids!) Jean and Cyclops are killed by a mind-controlled Marvel Girl. Luckily Jean is brought back to life by Madelyne Pryor and she and all the other dead X-Men become one with the universe. I’m counting that as two deaths, despite how ridiculous it all sounds.
17-18. Movie deaths: X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand
Movie Jean has, so far, died twice. First, at the end of X-Men 2 when she allowed the waters of Alkali Lake to crush/drown her after using her telekinesis to save the X-Men, and then at the end of X-Men 3 when, once again, Wolverine delivered the killing blow by stabbing her in the gut in order to stop the Phoenix from killing everyone.
19. John Grey dies of a (severe) headache, 1602-verse (1602 #7)
In Neil Gaiman’s “not an alternate universe” meta-fictional limited series, 1602, Jean posed as “John Grey” alongside the rest of the original X-Men as one of Carlos Javier’s “Witchbreed” students. Before dying. She suffered severe brain damage as a result of using her telekinesis to levitate the X-Men’s sea-faring vessel, and was cremated by the 1602 Johnny Storm, who witnessed a Phoenix firebird as the character was immolated.
20. Jean Grey explodes in Wolverine & the X-Men, episode 1
The start of the new X-Men cartoon series begins with the X-Men’s psychics – Professor Xavier and Jean Grey – coming under attack from an as-yet-unrevealed assailant. After an explosion, Xavier is left in a coma and awakens only in the far future, but Jean? She disappears altogether, presumed dead by all that know her. Even Cerebro can’t find her. While I don’t believe for a second that she’s gone for good, the question is, is she “dead” enough to count on this list. Well, yes. Yes she is.
Surely that’s it?
Yep. that’s as many as I can come up with so far. I’m not including deaths from the 90s X-Men cartoon because they’re essentially straight adaptations of what happened in the comics, and we’re only after discrete deaths here!
If you think I’ve missed anything of you’ve got any corrections to add, please feel free to get in touch by e-mailing in to firstname.lastname@example.org !