Storm Arcana

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White Queen Wednesday: Storm Before The Calm

An Emma Frost Salon
by Ken Kneisel

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Art by Simone Bianchi. (Astonishing X-Men #29)

Welcome, gentle reader. Thank you for joining me for another installment of White Queen Wednesday. This week I would like to discuss Emma’s history with our favorite friendly neighborhood weather goddess, Ororo Munroe AKA Storm.

It’s not surprising that Emma and Storm would initially butt heads and then become close friends when you stop to consider how truly similar they are. Similar yet not identical. They both left their families behind at an early age, Storm’s parents died in a tragic building collapse which left her with a claustrophobia that haunts her to this day and Emma having walked out on her father and family to make her own way in the world. They both began with next to nothing, Emma as a runaway rich girl determined to prove herself in the big city and Storm as an orphaned street urchin on the mean streets of Cairo. They both began their careers as self-made women in less than illustrious ways, Emma as an exotic dancer (to put it politely) at the Hellfire Club and Storm as a common thief. They both eventually found their way into positions of power, Emma as a corporate CEO in the world of big business and boardrooms and Storm as a tribal weather goddess. They both translated those talents for leadership into roles as leaders of men and mutants, Emma leading her Hellions and Storm leading the X-Men. And they are both seemingly allergic to clothes, with their original costumes consisting of little more than a few scraps of lacy lingerie in Emma’s case and a daring cutout bathing suit in Storm’s case along with some thigh high hooker boots and a billowing cape for them both; although for very different reasons, Storm normally gets nude to strengthen her connection with nature and for the sense of freedom it confers while Emma shows off to give her a tactical advantage by distracting her opponents and also because she seems to be something of an exhibitionist as well.

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Art by Bob McLeod. (Uncanny X-Men #152)

They first met when Emma kidnapped the X-Men, stripped them to their underwear and kept them locked up in cages when she wasn’t telepathically torturing them during the Dark Phoenix Saga. But Emma really left an impression on Storm when she later used a body-swapping gun she devised to trade minds with Storm in order to infiltrate the X-Men and enroll Kitty Pryde in her Massachusetts Academy. In a classic example of Chris Claremont’s frequent kinkiness, Emma seemed to take perverse delight in the violation of Storm’s body and mutant weather manipulating powers, rapturously lighting a cigarette after unleashing a violent tempest over the peaceful Massachusetts countryside. Of course Storm was not pleased with these proceedings and was driven into a murderous rage after she managed to take control of Emma’s telepathic abilities and switch their minds back into their rightful bodies. Ironically enough, it was the X-Men’s resident wild man Wolverine who talked Storm out of killing Emma on the spot for this outrage. Interestingly, when Kitty Pryde then asked Storm if she should call the police, Ororo replied “No, Kitten. We cannot expose the Hellfire Club without exposing ourselves. But neither can they expose us. In our mutual fear of discovery lies mutual… safety. Is that not so, Emma?” to which Emma vowed to keep silent about the X-Men. There’s a certain poignance in their mutual fear of being outed as mutants that gay readers especially might find familiar.

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Art by Bob McLeod. (Uncanny X-Men #152)

Much later, Emma invited Storm’s X-Men to the Hellfire Club in order to propose an alliance against their mutual enemy the Upstarts, whose murderous game threatened both organizations. This was not a magnanimous offer, but one born out of cynical self-preservation. However, it’s still interesting to note that it was Emma who initially offered the olive branch. Perhaps the seed of her eventual reformation can be traced back to this moment. But Emma was still not quite ready to join up with the team just yet. Her tactics were still much too brutal for the X-Men as Ororo objected to Emma’s cruel telepathic torture of this Upstart.

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Art by Whilce Portacio. (Uncanny X-Men #281)

When next they met in the pages of X-Treme X-Men, Emma was no longer the villainous White Queen of the Hellfire Club. But she was still very much the conniving Bad Girl of the X-Men, and Storm was struggling to find a new purpose for her offshoot X-Treme team of X-Men. Again they clashed spectacularly while Emma was possessed by the evil Bogan, which allowed Ororo to unleash all of her pent up frustrations and remind Emma once more that she could easily kill her if she so chose. While this was by no means my favorite chapter in Emma and Storm’s storied history, I do appreciate the fact that it seems to have proven cathartic for Ororo to get all of those negative feelings out once and for all.

These days Emma and Storm enjoy a supportive friendship in the pages of Warren Ellis’s Astonishing X-Men. It began when Storm complained that she had grown bored with her glamorous new life of “guilt-free shopping and constant lovemaking” as the Queen of Wakanda with her King the Black Panther. Emma was surprised to hear someone else voice those sentiments, with which she obviously agreed, but also suggested that Storm had returned to the team to reconnect with everyone else and not her. Storm corrected her, explaining how much she had missed Emma’s catty remarks while ruling in Wakanda where none dared argue with her, and promised to “drink champagne with you and let you insult me until the sun grows dark”. I admire this new dynamic which is not beholden to ancient animosities but instead acknowledges them and then moves beyond them. Then in a later issue, Storm and Emma found themselves in the presence of some kind of power inhibitor which gradually robbed them both of their mutant abilities. Storm expressed concern for Emma and how she might cope without her telepathic powers and diamond form. Then Emma reassured Ororo when her creeping claustrophobia kicked in. It was all very sweet and I’m so happy these two queens finally get along!

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Art by STORM!

Finally, I would like to spotlight this wonderful sketch which STORM was kind enough to draw for me on Free Comic Book Day at the Isotope Comic Book Lounge last year in which Storm and Emma have swapped costumes in a callback to that earlier story where they traded bodies. The caption “Scissor Sisters Forever” is also a reference to the cover of Uncanny X-Men #152. I love this sketch and it hangs in a place of honor on my bedroom wall.

Well that’s it for this week’s White Queen Wednesday! Come back next week when I examine Emma’s complicated relationship with a fiery redhead who Emma crossed long ago but who has since grudgingly forgiven our White Queen.

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5 Comments

  1. Ingonyama

    Storm pretty much was my proxy for interacting with Emma Frost.

    Every time she showed up as a villainess, I contrasted her smug, blatant attempts at flaunting her sexuality with Storm’s natural approach to her own beauty (did she even wear makeup before the Mohawk phase?) . Compared to Storm, who managed to be beautiful and sensual without actually trying, Emma came off as cheap to me, having to resort to extreme measures to accomplish what the X-Woman did just by being who she was. It actually made her seem almost insecure, somehow, by comparison.

    At the same time, Emma’s cool, calculated manipulations of events (particularly when she swapped bodies with Storm) bespoke a confidence her wardrobe did not display. She was scary back then because you never knew, facing her, just how much she could survive, except that it would always be more than you thought she could.

    Example: At the end of the X-Men’s first fight with her, Emma came head-on against Jean in the full-on Phoenix mode. She was almost but not quite Dark Phoenix by that point, though I doubt Emma would have known the difference from the way Jean lashed out at her. Not only did Emma survive that confrontation against all odds, even managing to fool Phoenix into thinking she’d perished, but she came back for more against the X-Men, time and again, despite the fact that she’d gotten so royally (no pun intended) curb-stomped.

    It made her massively compelling, even though I hated her at the time.

    The Phalanx arc was the first time I really started thinking of her in a non-villainous light, and I started seeing different sides of her in Generation X, but I didn’t really come to like her until after X-Treme X-Men, when Storm (who, aside from Jean, I viewed as the X-Man Emma had most grievously wronged) finally came out and forgave her. Personally, I felt they should have had it out years ago, but Storm was too busy in the ’90s being an all but total non-entity in the pages of X-MEN and Uncanny.

    The fact that they’re friends now strikes me as confusing and heartwarming by turns…it speaks well of Ororo’s compassion and capacity for forgiveness and truly helps sell the fact that, yes Virginia, Emma IS a good guy now. The more I relate to Emma through Ororo, the more I see her character development in a light I find believable.

  2. Great thoughts, Ingonyama! Thanks for another well articulated post! I too, find Emma and Storm’s interactions in Astonishing X-Men to be amazing and I think they are great mirrors for one another.

  3. Ken Kneisel

    Thank you so much for the incredibly thoughtful comment, Ingonyama! You bring up many excellent points!

    Emma is nothing if not a tenacious survivor. She could probably even give Jean a good run for her money insofar as how many times she has met her apparent demise and come back for more. In fact that is a subject I plan on exploring in a future edition of White Queen Wednesday, “The Many Deaths of Emma Frost”.

    And I definitely agree that, while her newfound friendship with Storm seems to have come like a sudden lightning strike out of the blue, it also speaks very highly of Ororo’s compassion and capacity for forgiveness that she was able to get over those old grudges and leave the past in the past in order to finally accept and embrace Emma’s role on the team.

    STORM, you know how much I love Emma and Storm in Astonishing X-Men. I hope to see their friendship grow and develop over time because I think a bad girl like Emma works best with a good girl like Storm (or Jean in New X-Men and Kitty in Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men) to bounce off of instead of in a vacuum.

  4. StORmBrInGeR

    Would hardly consider Ororo and Emma close friends. We all know that she’s a Jean loyalist. lol

  5. Ken Kneisel

    Well I wouldn’t call them close friends either, at least not just yet. But I like to think that they are getting there. 🙂

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