Jean Grey. We know her as Marvel Girl, Black Queen, Phoenix, and just plain Jean. She’s had a lot of costumes, codenames, and transformations over the years, most famously when she became the world-destroyer known as Dark Phoenix. The Dark Phoenix Saga looms large in the memories of X-Men fans as a story of triumph and tragedy, and while it’s Jean’s most famous transformation, it certainly isn’t the weirdest. Join me as I revisit some of Marvel Comics’ wildest takes on the mutant redhead! Sadly, I don’t think a Vampire Dark Phoenix movie is coming any time soon.
After most of the Ultimate Universe’s X-Men were wiped out in Ultimatum, the series Ultimate X introduced several new mutants, including Jimmy Hudson, Wolverine’s previously unknown son, and Karen Grant, a raven-haired beauty working at a mall in Baltimore. Karen also possesses formidable telekinetic powers, and no wonder—she’s really Jean Grey, hiding under a false human identity. Mystique and Sabretooth track her down, gutting her mall cop boyfriend in the process and proving she can run, but not hide. Perhaps Jean’s weirdest transformation was the one where she tried to be completely ordinary.
The Jean Grey from the Age of Apocalypse had a strange life. Married to Weapon X and genetic mother to Nate Grey, she becomes Phoenix, but later loses her powers. During the X-Termination event, the Nightcrawler of her world rips a hole between the Age of Apocalypse and Earth-616, threatening the entire multiverse. Jean takes the power of the Apocalypse Seed to fight the inter-dimensional monsters attacking her world, gaining not only Apocalypse’s power but also his blue and grey makeup palette. She takes the transformation surprisingly well given her previous experience with ultra-destructive cosmic power, noting, “Other than feeling intensely arrogant, I’m pretty much me.” She is last seen still fighting monsters as her dimension is permanently sealed off.
Vampire Dark Phoenix
Did you know there are multiple What If comics where Wolverine is Lord of the Vampires? Multiple, as in, more than one. In What If Vol. 2 #24, Wolverine and the X-Vampires terrorize New York City until the Punisher, now possessed by Dr. Strange’s ghost, shoots them all. It’s wild. What If #37 imagines a splinter timeline where the X-Vampires live and are involved in Inferno. The vampified Jean Grey fights the Goblin Queen, but there’s only one way to defeat Dormammu. (Oh yeah, Dormammu’s also involved.) Because what’s scarier than Dark Phoenix? VAMPIRE Dark Phoenix! Still sporting pointy teeth, she wins the day. And yes, I know about Zombie Phoenix in Marvel Zombies, but I hate those books, so I’m ignoring them. ANYWAY!
You’ve heard of Gray Hulk, but have you heard of Jean Grey Hulk? Alan Davis’ Savage Hulk series saw the Silver Age X-Men attempting to cure Bruce Banner of his raging hulkoholism, but an accident results in Jean absorbing the gamma energy inside Bruce, turning her into a jade giantess. Her telekinetic powers amplified along with her strength, she whips up a skimpy new costume and steals Polaris’ headdress. (Rude!) Unsurprisingly, this sudden surge in power brings out Jean’s anger, and we already know we wouldn’t like Jean when she’s angry. Before we can have a “Dark Hulk Saga,” Xavier realizes the whole drama was a mental construct Bruce Banner had pulled him into. This is not the last time a weird Jean transformation pulls a “jk!” on us, however…
Xorn killed Jean Grey. That’s a heavily simplified version of the events of New X-Men #150 and subsequent retcons, but Jean Grey’s second—and longest—death was at the hands of the man calling himself Xorn. So, it’s a shock when a new, female Xorn appears with the time-traveling X-Men from the future in the Battle of the Atom event, and takes off her mask to reveal Jean Grey. Xorn-Jean traveled to the past to warn her younger self to return to her past (Time travel! It’s complicated!) but oops, she’s actually a member of a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Wearing the Xorn mask to control her unstable powers, this Jean is bitter and hateful to the younger Jean, and the older, heroic Jean Grey she will never become. Xorn seemingly dies when her powers overwhelm her, but a younger version torments the X-Men again. They defeat the Brotherhood’s leader, Charles Xavier II, and Xorn disintegrates—apparently a psychic puppet who never existed at all. Jean Grey! She’s complicated!