I’m not gonna sugar-coat this. I hated Inhumans vs X-Men.
I hated it as much as I loved Death of X and possibly more. I hated it because of the way it wasted everything interesting that Death of X had set up in favor of perhaps the most cliched trope after “women in refrigerators.” The IvX writers didn’t fridge Emma Frost, which is some small comfort, but they did the absolute next worst thing: made her the poster child for love makes you evil.
Let’s recap a bit. At the close of Death of X, Scott Summers was dead and one of the Terrigen clouds that the Inhumans rely upon as the catalyst for their inhuman transformation had been destroyed. To the world, it looked like Scott had gone to war with the Inhumans and paid with his life. In reality, Emma Frost had been pulling the strings from behind the scenes after Scott died abruptly (and without fanfare) in the series’ first issue. Only Scott’s younger brother Alex, Emma’s Stepford Cuckoos, and a savvy Magneto knew the full truth.
With this brilliant premise established, I was looking forward to Inhumans vs X-Men with more enthusiasm than any of the post-Secret Wars X-books had managed to garner. I had missed having Emma Frost in the mix, and I was pleased with where the Death of X miniseries had left her.
In a review of the miniseries, I wrote:
I’m hopeful that this will be the start of a new era for Emma Frost. At the end of the series she was alive. Emotionally damaged and mentally exhausted, but alive. Unsinkable. And—and this bit’s important—free of Scott Summers in a way that she never would have been had he lived. Because as bad as things got, as cruelly as he sometimes rejected her, she could never break from him. And now she can. And if she does, she is going to be nothing less than fabulous.
But, of course, she didn’t break with him at all.
Perhaps in the minds of the men who wrote Emma’s story, it’s impossible to imagine a woman getting over the loss of a relationship with a man(1)—particularly when that relationship has been one of the most important and influential of their life—but I can only lament their lack of imagination. And it is a lack of imagination; one that surprised me after the promise of Death of X.
As extreme as you might argue Emma’s actions in Death of X were, they made sense in the context of her history and character. She and Scott Summers had been partners in the fight to save their species for years. She understood his role in the battle. She understood his function as a symbol for their people. And she understood that his death, were its true cause known, could be a detriment to their mission. With his dying breath, he asked her not to let their fight end in such an ignominious fashion. She acted accordingly, using her intelligence and skills as she always had—to further the agenda they both believed in.
Say what you will—and I suspect the X-Men will say plenty, no doubt transferring their hatred of Scott very neatly to Emma in the wake of her Death of X actions being revealed—but Emma’s actions (in Death of X) were fully rational and greatly in keeping with what the Scott Summers of the last few years would have done. This is the man, let us not forget, who got on national television and called for a mutant revolution, who told the rest of the world to back off or else. Taking out the Terrigen clouds is something he would have been on board with.
The same cannot be said of Emma’s actions in Inhumans vs X-Men, and particularly of her actions in the final issue—in which she inexplicably attempts to single-handedly exterminate the Inhumans in retribution for Scott’s death.
I could perhaps accept a story in which Emma sought revenge for the death of a loved one, provided that it was well-written. She’s certainly done it before. But she’s never sought revenge in such an irrational fashion,(2) and there’s no reason why she should do so now, even accepting the notion that she has been struggling with intense grief. Emma Frost, while not the most powerful mind in the Marvel universe, is perhaps the most controlled. Her utter discipline, and that discipline’s tactical advantage in the face of stronger psychic opponents, is a core component of her character. She’s simply much too controlled to fall into abject irrationality as she does in Inhumans vs X-Men. And that control is more than evident from what she managed to achieve in Death of X.
Fooling the entire world into thinking someone who is dead is actually alive (and actually running around commanding a guerilla army of multiple moving parts) is not an easy task. And it’s not for the faint of heart or fractured of mind.
At the end of Death of X, Emma Frost was in a position to emerge as an independent force to be reckoned with. Nevertheless, instead of having her grow into that independent force, she simply goes from upset to unpleasant to unhinged, getting more and more out-of-control (and more and more out-of-character) with every step. Despite having been romantically separated from Scott since the events of Avengers vs X-Men, despite having come to a sense of perspective about their relationship and its future, when he died she somehow couldn’t live with it. And couldn’t let anyone else live with it either.
Emma’s sense of self, which should have been free to redefine itself, was instead totally subsumed to Scott’s. Indeed, in our final glimpse of her, she has taken on the guise she will presumably present going forward: a Magnetoesque villain, whose defining characteristic is the adoption of a mask that resembles the most recent iteration of Cyclops’ uniform. In the end, Emma Frost is not even herself anymore. She is nothing more than a reflection of the last man to dominate her life.
I cannot imagine a worse fate for any woman.
1) “But wait!” I hear you say. “The same issue of IvX shows Medusa walking away from a relationship with Johnny Storm. Checkmate, motherfucker!” Yeah, she leaves Johnny for a life of duty and flirtation with Black Bolt. That is an epic level of independent womanhood right there. You totally got me on that one. ⇧
2) The most famous example of this is perhaps Emma’s killing of her sister Adrienne for orchestrating the death of one of Emma’s students, Everett Thomas—which was revealed in Generation X vol.1, no. 75 (2000). Emma’s actions cost her the trust of her other students. It was a sterling example of a questionable decision, but it was not an irrational act. ⇧