Today I’m here with a Patron’s Choice guide for all Patrons of CK that I originally intended to launch back in September, before life got in the way. I always love a deep dive into an X-Men character’s history, and after reading 40+ years and over 1,200 issues of this queen of the X-Men franchise I love her even more than before! I’m happy to share the February 2023 Patron’s Choice: Guide to Emma Frost, The White Queen!
Guide to Emma Frost, The White Queen
This Emma Frost Guide was unique for me to put together in a way few other guides will ever be.
That’s because I knew Emma Frost as a villain – or, at least, an antagonist – from my initial comic reading years that ended in 1996. But, at the time I never had access to all of her exploits beyond the Dark Phoenix Saga since back issues were so pricey. I more knew her by reputation – and, of course, from fighting her in the classic X-Men arcade game!
Later, I knew about her as an X-Men from my return to reading Astonishing X-Men in the 00s before diving full-time back into X-Men in 2010 starting from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. But, I remained ignorant of anything that happened with her in the five years from 1996 to 2005.
That meant my White Queen knowledge was sort of a figure-eight-shaped, with a pair of big holes in the 80s and the latter half of the 90s. And, those are two periods that were huge for Emma Frost!
As of today, I’ve reached Uncanny X-Men (1963) #300 in my ongoing X-Men read with my daughter, which means I’ve now read every Emma Frost appearance from 1980 to 1993 in perfect reading order (thanks to my Definitive X-Men Reading Order).
From that read, I finally understand that Emma was never truly a full-on villain beyond her first four issues of Uncanny X-Men appearances. She was an antagonist, but her devotion to her students at the Massachusetts Academy was always real – even if she spent a lot of her time gaslighting them into helping her solidify her power in the Hellfire Club.
I had no idea that most of Emma’s 80s history wasn’t even in Uncanny X-Men, but in The New Mutants! And, in none of those appearances is she trying to hurt the New Mutants. Mostly, she is trying to recruit them – and prove that Xavier’s tutelage is insufficient.
As Jonathan Hickman had Emma say in his House of X and Powers of X, she has always been “for the children.”
With that knowledge in place, reading Uncanny X-Men (1963) #281 with the kid last year was a bigger gut punch than it ever had been before. When I read that issue back in 1991 (at the same age she is now!), the story that stuck out to me was Jean Grey nearly dying again just as her life was finally fully back in order.
Now when I re-read it, I see that same story for Emma Frost. She had finally muscled her competition out of the Hellfire Club’s inner circle, including the abusive Sebastian Shaw. She had been a part of destabilizing the X-Men, including Magneto’s departure. She had given up on recruiting the New Mutants and Firestar and focused on her own Hellions.
Emma’s life was finally in order, and just as it was a bunch of mutant nonsense arrived on her doorstep to slaughter every single aspect of her dream. As she later explains during her re-awakening, she never had the resources of Xavier (which we now know were augmented by Moira). All she had was a dream and a purpose born out of her own experiences as a new mutant.
All she had was her vow: “For the Children.”
The other piece of Emma’s history that I’ve been critically missing from my personal reading was the full run of Generation X, which was home to Emma from 1994 to 2001. I was just stepping away from reading comics as the title hit the one year mark, which meant I miss years of her being gradually softened – plus the origin of her relationship with her sister Adrienne.
Now I’ve caught up with all of that in my guide, and married it to New X-Men (2001) and New X-Men: Academy X (2001) on the other side, which I’ve read in full. Finally, I can appreciate that Emma has an arc across X-Men comics just as epic and tragic as Magneto’s, and how it has been punctuated repeatedly with loss – of her Hellions, of members of Generation X, of all of Genosha, and of Academy X students on M-Day.
Emma had already hardened into her diamond form by the time of that fourth tragedy, but understanding the recurring theme of losing the children she was trying to protect lends even more significance to her ability to harden herself and turn off her psychic powers. Her secondary mutant is about self-defense in more ways than one.
All of that history is what makes Emma such a believable leader of the X-Men from 2004 to present, even with a few slips into villainy along the way. In retrospect, none of those returns to being The White Queen or The Black King were ever about evil. They were about hardness and control.
They were “For the Children.”
I’m incredibly proud of this guide, which includes a complete Emma Frost reading order. I suggest multiple places to start, highlight every issue of her Greatest Hits, explain every featured story, and weave in each guest appearance and cameo if you’re doing a read as exhaustive as mine.
All Patrons of Crushing Krisis can enjoy the Guide to Emma Frost, White Queen, a part of Crushing Comics Guide to Reading & Collecting to Marvel Comic Books. For as little as $1 a month or $10.20 a year, Patrons currently have access to…
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