Storm Arcana

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White Queen Wednesday: Like a Phoenix

An Emma Frost Salon
by Ken Kneisel

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Welcome to White Queen Wednesday, gentle reader. This week I would like to discuss Emma Frost’s tempestuous relationship with her dear departed fiery fellow telepath and teammate Jean Grey, sometimes known as Phoenix. Theirs was an intense rivalry stretching back to Emma’s earliest appearances, deeply intertwined with notions of life and death and resurrection just like Phoenix herself.

When they first tangled way back during the Dark Phoenix Saga, their psychic battle left Emma seemingly dead. Although obviously this apparent demise would prove to be less permanent than it initially appeared.

The next time they interacted was when Emma invited the X-Men to her Hellfire Club to propose a truce and alliance against the Upstarts whose deadly game threatened both organizations. However, this proposed arrangement was strangled in the crib when the Upstart Trevor Fitzroy and his Sentinels invaded the Hellfire Club, massacred Emma’s beloved Hellions and seemingly killed both Emma and Jean. Keeping both of their bodies in stasis, Professor X would later discover that Jean saved herself by swapping minds with Emma, who remained in a coma for a good long while after Jean’s psyche was restored to her rightful body.

But perhaps the most significant interactions between Jean and Emma occurred during Grant Morrison’s New X-Men era. These stories redefined Emma and the X-Men and their effects can still be felt today. When they first became teammates, Emma and Jean were far from friends. As should be expected based on their adversarial history, Jean harbored a healthy suspicion of Emma’s motives and attitude.

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But it wasn’t long before the two telepaths were compelled by circumstance to cooperate in attempting to rescue the consciousness of Professor X from the dying body of his bizarre twin sister Cassandra Nova. I love the way Emma kicks back a swig of a stiff drink before entering Cassandra Nova’s booby-trapped mind, although I couldn’t begin to guess where she had that flask stashed in her barely there cutout costume.

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It wasn’t long before old rivalries resurfaced, when Jean was made aware of Emma’s telepathic tryst with Jean’s husband Cyclops. Jean flew into a fiery rage and invaded Emma’s mind, causing Emma to recall the first time she fought Jean during the Dark Phoenix Saga.

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Emma was uncharacteristically emotional and disconsolate after Jean confronted her about her psychic affair with Scott, and later that evening Emma was shot by an unknown assailant while in her diamond form which left her shattered all over her bedroom floor. Beast carefully collected every diamond shard and attempted to put Emma back together again, but she remained dead until Jean forgave Emma for her romantic transgression and resurrected her in an act of cosmic benevolence using the omnipotent Phoenix Force.

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Jean later died (again), leaving Scott to brood over her grave and initially reject Emma’s offer to reopen Xavier’s school as co-headmasters. However, Jean had transcended to a higher plane of consciousness after her most recent death and was able to perceive that the X-Men would face a horribly disastrous future if Scott remained committed in his refusal to take up Emma’s offer. So Jean reached back through the spacetime continuum and changed Scott’s mind on the matter so that he accepted Emma’s proposal to reopen the school, thus ensuring his happiness after Jean’s death and the survival of the X-Men.

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Jean and Emma went through a lot, and these stories are still talked about and hotly debated among fans today. What is generally agreed upon is that it is only a matter of time before Jean Grey once again rises from the dead like the Phoenix that is her namesake. Although I wouldn’t like to see Scott rush right back into Jean’s embrace upon her inevitable resurrection. That would be entirely too predictable and repetitive after he already did the same thing once before when he abandoned his then-wife Madelyne Pryor (in actuality a clone of Jean Grey) the first time Jean returned to the land of the living. Plus if Scott reunited with Jean, I feel like that would undo all the advancements that have been made to his and Emma’s characters since their relationship began. Personally I would find it far more intriguing if Jean and Wolverine were allowed to pursue their long-standing flirtation after her impending resurrection. Such a scenario would open up all kinds of dramatic possibilities for all characters involved.

What do you think, gentle reader? Would you like to see Jean and Scott rekindle their relationship upon her inevitable resurrection or do you think she would be better off pursuing other romantic avenues instead?

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4 Comments

  1. Ingonyama

    I think Scott has changed far too much as a character for Jean to be happy with him anymore. He and Emma were good for each other for a while, before the writers decided Scott can Never Be Wrong Anymore Ever. He’s done some really dickish things and alienated pretty much everyone who ever used to be his friend, and Jean was always about treating the X-Men more as a family than a fighting unit.

    Sadly, Wolverine’s gone the same way…everything Jean used to admire about him is gone. He’s regressed into a thug, a hired killer without a moral code beyond what the writers consider “edgy.” In Children’s Crusade, he’s even advocating killing Wiccan, a 16-year-old boy (and a fellow hero to boot!), just because he has the same powers as the Scarlet Witch. A man like that isn’t a man the Jean Grey I knew and loved could fall in love with.

    I’ve said this countless times and I’ll probably say it countless more…when Jean comes back, whether Phoenix or no, I want to see her stand on her own for a change, without a boyfriend or husband. She could bring a strong moral compass back to the X-Men, or rebel against what they’ve turned into like Hank did and become an Avenger.

    Regarding her relationship with Emma, I like to think they’ve buried the hatchet. I still want to see them banter and bicker, but I’d personally prefer it if their snarking took a more good-natured tone, like Emma’s did with Storm. They could be friends if the writers allowed it…and I for one would love to see it happen.

  2. cbaker

    Thanks for the excellent post Storm. Those Morrison issues were so much fun and talk about kinky sexual tension in a mainstream comic. Anyway, I’m with Ingonyama. I would like to see Emma & a resurrected Jean stand on their own. Jean could be a great leader– whatever dark phoenix, it’s 2010, that metaphor for repressing desire doesn’t stand anymore.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Chris! I love your last line especially about how far we’ve come as a society. Just so you know, while I do write the majority of this blog’s posts, White Queen Wednesday’s are truly Ken Kneisel’s territory:) Every week you can count on him to give great Emma. Storm Sundays and Heroic Tarot Tuesdays are all mine:) Oh yeah, it is difficult to not agree with Ingonyama. He definitely knows of what he speaks!

      Cheers!
      ~S

  3. cbaker

    Apologies Ken.

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