The X-Men have always found different ways to use telepathic abilities. Whether it is to find people, address subconscious issues, or to get information, telepathy has its uses. Telepathy is so important that many enemies have found ways to avoid being affected by it, such as Magneto’s helmet or some species having more resistance to it naturally. The latest issue of X-Men explores not how to avoid telepathy, but how a telepath can get around some of those barriers.
Jean Grey is one of the strongest and most recognizable telepaths in the Marvel universe. She has long been seen as one of Charles Xavier’s top students and a very strong member of the X-Men. She has been a team staple since her appearance back in 1963. Whenever it seems like Jean has no more tricks up her sleeve, she does something new. Her latest use of telepathy hones a technique used by one of the greatest detectives of all time.
In X-Men #17, the X-Men are called in to try to find the ruling Shi’ar princess. Storm, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Smasher jump into action. Oracle, a telepathic member of the Shi’ar Empire’s Imperial Guard, has already telepathically scanned everyone who was around on the night the princess disappeared and found nothing. Jean gives it a try anyway and proves that she is innovative with her powers and ready to look at the problem from more angles than one. While scanning through the minds of everyone assembled, she knows what to look for – or rather, NOT to look for. Trained assassins and foes can avoid telepathic detection by hiding their natures, but they have left out an important detail and so have many other telepaths.
In the film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Sherlock Holmes is able to locate the person he is seeking by unconventional means. He drops a tray and looks for the person who fails to react to the sudden action. Everyone who reacts is acting normally, while the one who doesn’t is controlling themselves beyond what is normal. So how does this apply to the X-Men in this instance? Instead of seeking out someone who knows where the princess is or for other obvious signs of treachery, Jean looks for the most subtle, yet obvious, giveaway. She looks for someone who isn’t engaged with the standard background thoughts that everyone tends to have to go through their minds. Instead of trying to rip the mask off of or see through a mask of her suspect, she simply looks for the mask itself. The suspect will naturally be the person who holds it up too well and ends up acting unnaturally as a result.
While this trick appears simple and obvious now, it has rarely ever been seen applied by telepaths. Jean is also often seen as being highly powerful as a result of channeling the Phoenix Force. The thing that is so refreshing about her at this moment is how casual this method is. This ability isn’t one that she needed high levels of power for or that she needed extra power to do. She was able to use her base abilities in a creative way. Moments like this remind fans that they don’t know everything about a character. New things can still happen and old, familiar powers can be used with new techniques. It is also a reminder that the best detective work is looking at things from a new angle, even if done very simply. Complexity doesn’t always equal efficacy. Jean Grey and the X-Men are still full of plenty of surprises.