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White Queen Wednesday: Heroic Age X-Men

An Emma Frost Salon
by Ken Kneisel

Emma Frost Heroic Age Profile

Welcome to White Queen Wednesday, gentle reader. This week we turn our attention to Emma Frost’s latest evaluation by former Captain America and current head of all things Avengers, Steve Rogers. Having previously scrutinized the entire super-powered community of the Marvel Universe at length, heroes and villains alike, Steve has now decided to specifically size up the remaining mutants among the X-Men and their affiliates and enemies. However, his new profile of Emma Frost leaves something to be desired.

The last time Steve Rogers examined Emma Frost’s place in the Marvel Universe, I was impressed by the fact that he chose not to dwell on her history as a villain. But this time Steve takes Emma to task for her time as the wicked White Queen of the corrupt Hellfire Club and suggests that her X-Men teammates also view her with suspicion, even going so far as to implicitly call into question her committed relationship with Cyclops. This is such a tired trope and especially disappointing coming from Steve, considering he was previously so willing to overlook her villainous history and even suggested she might deserve a spot on the prestigious Avengers.

One of the primary reasons I find this kind of specious accusation and baseless suspicion to be so tedious and tiresome is that if you objectively look at the facts, Emma has now spent substantially more publication time as a hero than as a villain. Allow me to break it down. Emma first appeared as the evil White Queen in 1980’s Uncanny X-Men #129 and remained a villain until her Hellions were slaughtered and she fell into a coma in 1991’s Uncanny X-Men #281. So she was a villain for roughly eleven years. She remained in a coma and was watched over by the X-Men until she revived and repented of her villainous past in 1994’s Uncanny X-Men #314. Since then she has been an ally of Professor Xavier and the X-Men, first transforming her Massachusetts Academy into a subsidiary of Xavier’s school in the pages of Generation X for a number of years and later joining the X-Men proper in 2001’s New X-Men #116. So altogether she has been an ally or outright member of the X-Men for damn near seventeen years now. I don’t mean to be so pedantic about this point, but do I find it irksome when Emma’s past with the Hellfire Club is used to besmirch her character when she has proven herself for so many years as a hero.

I also find it bothersome that Steve seems to think the fact that Emma once slept with Iron Man and Namor the Sub-Mariner during her debauched days with the Hellfire Club could be considered some kind of positive mark in her favor. This once again speaks to Steve’s sexist double standards in concerning himself so much with the intimate details of a woman like Emma’s personal life while saying absolutely nothing about, just for example, a man like Wolverine’s notorious bed-hopping reputation. But even beyond that, I’m not entirely convinced that Emma being intimate with a couple of superheroes while she was a villain says anything about her trustworthiness now that she is a heroine herself. In fact I would suggest that those casual relationships speak more ill of Iron Man and Namor’s judgment than anything, since they chose to involve themselves with a villainess. Well maybe not Namor, since he always inhabited more of a moral gray area. But I imagine the fact that Tony Stark slept with Emma during her time as the White Queen would be considered more of a scandal for him than some kind of positive aspect of her character. It really boggles my mind that Steve Rogers would even suggest such a thing.

Anyway, I do like the characteristic quote chosen for Emma from New X-Men #122. Although they didn’t get the exact quote precisely right. Take it away, Emma!

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3 Comments

  1. NB

    Seems to me that Steve Rogers has a multiple personality problem, or maybe he just signs off on reports without reading them? Either way, this report was rather hilarious. Captain A using an expression like “for crying out loud”?! What’s up with that? His view on her relationships with Stark and Namor is also a real eye popper as you rightly pointed out.

    As for Emma’s period as a villain, most seems to believe that it was Grant Morrison who suddenly decided to make her “good”, totally forgetting the entire Generation X period. For example: http://coronacomingattractions.com/news/january-jones-talks-emma-frost-x-men-first-class

    It can also be pointed out that she wasn’t really an outright enemy of Xavier’s School after helping heal New Mutants (#40) after the Beyonder ordeal in 1986 and the X-Men/HFC alliance against Nimrod in 1987. This period also had Magneto/Storm joining the Inner Circle and Magma transferring to Emma’s school. The X-Men even arrived on her request to help against the Upstarts (those incredibly compelling villains that fans can’t wait to see again), but unfortunately were not of much use, except for watching the Hellions get slaughtered and nearly getting killed themselves.

    Personally I don’t mind if people (fictional or not) are a bit suspicious of her motives at times, can’t have her get too domesticated and “safe”, now can we?

  2. Ingonyama

    He admits himself that he doesn’t want to have these concerns about Emma. And he thinks she seems genuine.

    But we all know alignments in the Marvel Universe are tricky things. Magneto is a prime example…starting out as a psychotic would-be mutant dictator in the 60s and 70s, to undergo an astonishing renovation of his character in the early 80s, which lasted that entire decade, until the 90s and new writers turned him back into one of the X-Men’s worst enemies. After that character arc reached its nadir in “Planet X,” the writers finally seemed to realize they’d gone too far, and he seemed to undergo a Renaissance, culminating in a second turn as X-Man today. But no matter how many times he goes good, and how much good he does while he’s there, his most iconic representation is as the X-Men’s archenemy, and that’s unfortunately how people are going to remember him.

    Emma Frost’s problem is similar…no matter how much good she does as Headmistess of Xavier’s, be it in Massachusetts, Westchester, or San Francisco, she started off, not just bad, but fabulously bad, and that’s the image that will continue to strike readers first: the White Queen in lingerie, thigh-high stilettos, and a floor-length fur cape, holding a flute of champagne in one hand while she eyes the reader critically, her ruthlessness and cold calculation in full evidence on her face. Her character hasn’t changed all that much on the surface, even if her motivations are completely different, so I can see where people would find her side-switch hard to believe.

    And honestly, I hope that doesn’t change. Emma Frost is the X-Men’s resident “bad girl gone good,” more so than Rogue, Psylocke, X-23, or anyone else who’s ever switched sides…she carries a good healthy dose of ‘bad’ with her, and her unique modus operandi does not engender trust, nor should it. The day Emma Frost stops being bad is the day she becomes a bland, boring Jean Grey clone, as Matt Fraction’s slipshod writing inadvertently illustrates. Like Gambit before her, Emma is “the untrustworthy one,” and I feel writers should embrace that, and put it to use, because it opens up all kinds of avenues for her character that the more standard superheroics of the X-Men wouldn’t normally allow.

  3. Ingonyama

    Rereading my post, I should hasten to add that I find neither Jean Grey nor Emma Frost either bland or boring…it’s just when Emma is written as a poor man’s Jean that those traits come out.

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