X-Men ‘97’s Wild Clone Twist Sets Up a Major Villain, and Major Relationship Drama

It’s time to explain some comic book weirdness.

Cyclops (voiced by Ray Chase) and Jean Grey (voiced by Jennifer Hale) in X-Men '97
Marvel Animation

X-Men ’97 shocked a lot of fans, casual or otherwise, by introducing a bruised and battered Jean Grey in its second episode. “I need the X-Men,” Jean insists, before doing what she does best and fainting in Morph’s arms.

This cliffhanger is shocking enough on its own, but we can’t forget that the X-Men already have a Jean Grey, one who just welcomed a child with Scott Summers. She’s served the team for years... or has she? Is the Jean we know the real Jean Grey? It’s a twist that X-Men ’97 eventually explains in its third episode, “Fire Made Flesh,” but it also takes inspiration from a major comic book storyline. Spoilers for X-Men ’97 ahead.

Who’s the real Jean Grey?

Marvel Animation

“Fire Made Flesh” picks up with Beast examining the “new” Jean Grey by scanning her cells and comparing them with the “old” Jean. He discovers that new-Jean’s cells are actually older, meaning the Jean we’ve been following these past two episodes (and maybe for a few seasons) is an imposter.

“Old” Jean learns she was cloned by the villain Mr. Sinister, a biologist obsessed with Scott and his family line. He somehow knows that Jean and Scott’s children have the potential to become the most powerful mutants ever, so he created a clone of Jean in order to take her child and create the ultimate mutant (through experimentation, of course).

The discovery shatters clone-Jean’s psyche, allowing Mr. Sinister’s influence to take hold. She aligns with the villain, names herself the Goblin Queen, and briefly fights the X-Men. The team eventually thwarts Mr. Sinister’s plan by appealing to Goblin Jean’s maternal instinct, and together they defeat the villain. With the issue more or less resolved, the cloned Jean gives herself a new name, Madelyne Pryor, and promptly says her goodbyes.

The Goblin Queen — aka Madelyne Pryor — has a twisty comic book history.

Marvel Comics

If that moniker rings a bell, that’s because Madelyne and Jean have a weird history in the comics, too. As the story goes, Scott marries Madelyne shortly after the demise of Jean Grey, mainly because she looks exactly like his long-lost love. He realizes she’s literally Jean’s doppelgänger when Jean returns from the dead, and he promptly dumps Madelyne to be with her again. A scorned, heartbroken Madelyne makes a deal with some demons to get him back, and becomes the Goblin Queen when that deal inevitably backfires.

X-Men ’97 takes a few liberties with that story, but it still manages to set up a lot of potential conflicts for future seasons. Madelyne may not be the evil Goblin Queen anymore, but she still shares Jean’s Omega-level powers. Will she eventually return to the X-Men, or continue to use her powers for good? Is this the last we’ll see of her, or of Mr. Sinister? The latter is a major antagonist for Scott and Jean, and his introduction could kickstart a huge conflict. Time will tell, but X-Men ’97 is wasting very little time establishing the mutant superteam and its roster of villains anew.

X-Men ’97 is streaming on Disney+.

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