Uncanny X-Men: Diamond in the Rough

Matt Fraction discusses his love for the former White Queen, Emma Frost

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NEW MUTANTS #39 cover by Art Adams
By Kevin Mahadeo

Her signature thigh-high white boots and bustier first caught Matt Fraction's attention. To this day, the UNCANNY X-MEN writer remembers the striking image by artist Art Adams of the White Queen grinning wickedly gracing the cover of NEW MUTANTS #39. However, it didn't take Fraction long to see past Emma Frost's admittedly alluring outfit and fall in love with the character underneath.

"She was somewhat complicated as a villain," says Fraction. "She wasn't Arcade. She wasn't Nimrod. There was an agenda that I liked. There was more to her than just, 'I'm going to kill mutants.' She was shades of gray. It was hard to disagree with her all the time. You can disagree with her means, but with her goal you understood where she was coming from and why she was going it."

Since her original appearance in UNCANNY X-MEN #129, Emma Frost has journeyed across the moral chessboard from villain to teacher to current leader of the X-Men alongside Cyclops. Her icy demeanor and questionable methods often lead to mistrust from her fellow heroes and readers alike. But Fraction says he always saw the character less as "super

UNCANNY X-MEN #518 preview art by Terry Dodson
villain villainous" and more as someone headstrong and resilient in her goal to protect and train new mutants.

"That's always been her mission," emphasizes the writer. "Sometimes that puts her on the side of the X-Men and sometimes that puts her in direct opposition to them, but that's always been her ends. Her means have always been weird. For me, that's always been a consistent through line of who she is and what her character is. She is, much like Xavier, pretty singular in her mission. It's just how she's gone about accomplishing it that has evolved."

As always, the past shapes the present. After multiple stints as a mentor figure-from leader of the Hellions to co-founder of Generation X-Emma now finds herself as the headmistress of an entire race. Fraction says he has a lot of fun writing the character, especially when it comes to her somewhat abrasive and cynical personality.

"She's like [the lead character from the television show 'House'] or something," he offers with a laugh. "She's a jerk, but she's on the side of angels at the end of the day. Although, she's not really a jerk. She just

UNCANNY X-MEN #518 preview art by Terry Dodson
doesn't suffer fools gladly and considers pretty much the entire world to be full of fools."

In the upcoming UNCANNY X-MEN #518, due in stores December 3, Fraction explores Emma's inner psyche as Cyclops journeys into her mind to free his love from the Void. Fraction admits that when shaping Emma's mental reality he took a page from director Federico Fellini. Artist Terry Dodson even slightly alters Cyclops' hair in the upcoming issue to make him look more like actor Marcello Mastroianni, who starred in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita." Fraction also says that the upcoming issue plays a bit like the b-side to UNCANNY #504, which featured a similar psychic walkabout.

"This is very much a trip into Emma's mind as much as Emma went into Scott's mind," he explains. "It's a psychic rescue. She's cut off from her empathy and sympathy. It's made her cold and distant and this is a time in Scott's life where he needs her. He needs his partner. They need Emma back as a power set. They need their world-class psychic back. So, there's essential stuff, but emotionally, Scott needs his girlfriend back."

The Scott and Emma relationship serves as another enjoyable aspect of the title for Fraction. The two characters began their romance during Grant

UNCANNY X-MEN #518 cover by Terry Dodson
Morrison's NEW X-MEN run and have since become one of the most rock solid couples in the Marvel Universe.

"Jean [Grey] was the great love of Scott's youth," contends Fraction. "Emma is the love of his life. She brings out the best in him and he brings out the best in her. They work really well together. Between the two of them, you've got the perfect person. I love the way they function together. I love the way they bounce off each other. It strikes me as a really adult relationship. It's chance to really have fun doing a somewhat mature relationship-as much as you can describe a relationship as mature in which people wear ridiculous costumes and shoot rays out of their face."

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      9 comments
      X-Man_Cyclops
      X-Man_Cyclops

      [quote] So their relationship was one that had survived at least ten years of growth and change of both characters.[/quote] 20 years, actually. Don't forget the 10+ years they spent in the future raising Nathan. Yeah, I always find they "it was teenage love, which always dies" to be ridiculous, here. For one, teenage love can and does last. My own sister is proof of that. She married her very first boyfriend (who she started seeing when she was around 17 or 18 ) at the age of 22. 18 years later, they're still together, have a house, and are putting their first daughter through college. So yes, teenage love can and does survive well into old age. Second, the kind of teenage relationships that fail fail early on. That's not the case for Scott and Jean. Their relationship endured, as you say, for well over a decade. Scott lost her, grieved her, moved on, and fell in love with her all over again when they were already adults. Despite being drawn to others, they still married each other. They then spent over a decade of real time married to each other, raising their child in the future (And Nathan's is Jean's child in every way that counts. She raised him as her own when Madelyne died until he was sent to the future, and he raised him again, later on when she and Scott were sent to that future). These aren't two young 20somethings realizing that they just had teenage love going. These're two mature adults who've been with each other for over 20 years, and who mentally, are closer to 40 than 20. So yeah, the argument that "Jean was the love of Scott's youth" is bogus, because Scott loved her well past his youth, all the way into maturity and beyond. Not to mention that the "love of his life" argument flies in the face of everything else we've ever seen regarding them. If Emma were the love of his life, then shouldn't he be in love with her in damn near every What If reality there is out there? But nope, it's almost always Scott and Jean. Even in worlds like the Age of Apocalypse, where Jean got together with Logan, and they didn't meet until they were well into adulthood, they end up falling in love with each other, too. Even in 616, Scott ended up falling in love with two facsimiles of her. When you have two people consistently falling in love with each other across damn near every alternate reality there is, with every other iteration of each other there is, then something tells me that those two people are the loves of each others lives. And agreed on the other part. Emma makes him a better man? Really? Cause I haven't seen it. Scott it at his absolute worst, nowadays. I've been a fan of the man since I was six-years-old, and never have I seen a more terrible portrayal of Cyclops then I see right now.

      The_Greatest_Username
      The_Greatest_Username

      [quote@1LeftBehind I always found it ironic that, for years we were teased with the Jean, Cyclops, Wolverine love triangle and always led to believe that Jean would wind up leaving Cyclops for Wolverine, and in the end it was Cyclops that ended up cheating. That being said, I don't buy into the whole young love idea with Jean and Cyclops. Both had plenty of opportunities to end up with other people. Putting Wolverine aside, Jean had a run where she could have ended up with a handsome playboy millionaire, and Cyclops with a dead sexy purple haired ninja. They didn't though, they ended up with each other. They got married, they had a daughter (in an alternate timeline), and raised a son (in a future time line (anyone else's head starting to hurt from all this timeline stuff?)) together. Most importantly (it can't be the timeline stuff because it's way too complicated to warrant the title of MOST IMPORTANT) they had great chemistry, both on a personal level and in the field together. Why they were on different teams (Does anyone besides me miss the good old blue and gold team days?) I will never know. Here is my question ( I know it's about time I get to it). Are we going to start to see some more interaction from the surviving original 5 members? It's long over due. You see some of Beast talking to Iceman in the attached art work. Like this is a new era for mutants. Cyclops is running everything now, Chuckles and Mags are just hanging around the asteroid. Am I the only one who wants Scott, Hank, Warren, and Bobby to maybe have a sit down and be like, "How did we get here, and what are we going to do?" Those four have been together the longest. I just want more interaction between them. Oh yeah, Morrison was horrible [/quote]

      KiplingKat
      KiplingKat

      [quote@SuperheroesArePeopleToo Thanks for that bit of insight.So even then, if they didn't marry until their late 20s we'll say (is there a canonical age for anyone?),[/quote] Not stated outright, but the assumption of 12-15 years of panel time have passed since (Uncanny) X-Men #1 and shortly before their marriage, Jean mentioned that Beast was approaching "The Big 3-0". It is therefore assumed that the original team is now in their early 30's. [quote] there was still a period where they a part from one another while Jean was "dead". In that regard couldn't t be said that once they did come across one another that those feelings they had when they were youths would be central to their getting together? That strong, unresolved bit of longing they felt. I'm not sure of the exact timeline or what their relationship status was during the Phoenix Sagas, but feel free to fill me in.[/quote] Jean and Scott were together, as a couple, since the end of the Silver Age. Their longing had been fulfilled. And yet, Scott usually ended up taking up with someone else whenever he thought Jean was dead (which was a couple times), Colleen Wing, Lee Forrester. After DPS, Scott married Madelynne after dealing with those residual feelings for Jean and putting them behind him. (Read the "From the Ashes" TPB). While Scott and Jean were reunited as teammates in X-Factor, they did not get together again as a couple until the end of Inferno. So their relationship was one that had survived at least ten years of growth and change of both characters. [quote] The reality is though that they were having problems before Morrison even took hold of the franchise. I think his run highlighted that. I think there will always be a connection between them, but I think they also bring out the worst in each other. I'm saying this as I'm watching Wolverine and the X-Men mind you *gag* but Cyke's departure from the X-men after Jean's disappearance is no less factual. [/quote] Factual?We're not talking about that universe.[quote] I guess we'd have to define "better" first. He's not. He's flawed, yet in this regard he's grown as a character.He's definitely much more decisive in his actions.[/quote] No he hasn't, he's devolved. He's become a decisive thug. He tortures a guy while he has a telepath standing right there. He tries to create a "mutant nation" (something which Magneto already did with far more success) on a unsustainable rock floating inside the territorial waters of the most powerful (and SHIELD not withstanding) most advanced military in the world, while he conducts operations that would have the U.S. State Department pegging the X-Men as a terrorist organization, if they don't already. (Safer options to create a self sustaining mutant colony? Savage Land, Magneto's old Island base in the Bermudas', Genosha.) In the latest issue instead of having "freakin' Magneto" bring the plane down (he could not known Magneto was not as powerful as he once was) and keeping the threat contained, he blows it out of the sky so he has to deal with Predator X's running willy-nilly all over Utopia in hopes that there are people around like Rogue who just happened to be able to absorb the right combo of powers to deal with the threat before the Pedators got to the kids. There used to be many criticisms of Cyclops as a character. "Stupid" did not used to be among them until Matt Fraction.Where is the Cyclops of Whedon's run, the one that could out-think his enemies by being three steps ahead of them? I want to read about that guy. That guy was human, that guy was flawed, that guy was one I would actually follow out of a burning building.[quote] but it's hard to peg what his motivations are, because the running theme in Fraction's writing is to write Cyke as someone who's holding back his thoughts and feelings, and the true machinations of everything he's set into motion and has planned. [/quote] Actually, a couple issues ago he had Scott openly admit he has no idea what he is doing to his little "round table", but then he told Xavier he "has a plan". I have no idea what Fraction is doing, and he has made Scott so dumb I swiftly find myself not caring.[quote] But that calmness is manufactured; he's calm and reserved because he has to be, but what's going on underneath is what I find interesting. He's a leader, coming into his, making his own decisions for his people. [/quote] And as far as what is going on underneath, well bedroom scenes between he and Emma seem to be the "human side" Fraction wants us focus on...that and kicking Xavier like the family dog every once in a while to prove that Cyclops the Alpha Male.[quote] Emma is as equally flawed, neither are perfect, but they complement each other and that's why they work. I would agree that although I like Cyclops as a central fixture, he has toned Emma back a little too much. Less so regarding Morrison, but I much prefer how Emma was written by Whedon and Brubaker. In both cases Scott and Emma were on equal footing in terms of partnership, whereas that paradigm has shifted the more I think about it. The most recent examples being throughout the Utopia story, and as recent as issue 517. I like them together and don't think Jean should affect that, but as much as I like Fraction's writing, he needs to establish this as much an equal relationship and partnership. He's using Emma too much as another tool in Scott's larger gameplans, rather than his partner and girlfriend. That I don't like, because that's lead to her present condition - it does highlight how far they're willing to go for the other and how much they trust each other though. That I do like. I'm conflicted where Fraction's concerned. There are some things he's doing well, while the book also has its minor problems.[/quote] This is my problem with How Fraction is handling Emma.After the Hellions were killed and Lobdell started to examine her motivations, how she was raising mutant children to be hard in a hard world just as she had become hard in a hard world, I had no problem with Emma signing on with the X-Men in Generation X and then coming back to the team during Morrison's run. It made sense that, like Magneto's Reformation period in the 1980's, it was the case of having the same goals, it was just the methodology needed an overhaul. So I have no problem with Emma the Ex-Villaness becoming an X-man. While I think she fully deserved the swift kick Jean gave her in Morrison's run, she has always had a thing for "good boys" (she and Banshee had a teeny little flirtation during Generation X) so her being attracted to Scott worked, and Scott has shown signs of not exactly being the most constant man in the M.U. so his falling into an affair after his time being part of Apocalypse worked too. Though it was not until Whedon that the relationship really *worked*. What I do have problems with toothless Emma. Fraction has focused the book on Scott and Emma, but he can't write them well. [quote] Concluding on this point, I'll point you towards my username. People grow and people change. We never stay the same, nor should comic book characters.[/quote] I have been reading comics for 25 years now, and my favorite character has gone from being a super villain, to being an X-man/Headmaster of the New Mutants, to being a quasi religious-revolutionary, to a political gamester and nation builder, to an X-Man again, which makes sense in terms of character (all of it), though Fraction's characterization (like the rest of the book) is utterly awful in ways that do not even make sense of the context of that single issue, let alone in the context of the character. Characters changing is not the problem. Characters being written badly is the problem.

      SuperheroesArePeopleToo
      SuperheroesArePeopleToo

      [quote@KiplingKat [quote@SuperheroesArePeopleToo I kind of view the Jean-Scott relationship very much in terms of it being a "first love" scenario. They met while they were young, fell in love, fought together in more than one way, but it was very much that kind of relationship built on a love at first sight foundation. It never really had the legs to carry past that. They were both very inconsistent partners; Scott slipping in and out, Jean dying every 3rd day. I don't think there was ever that absolute emotional connection between them. Throw in Jean's omnipotence towards the end/during Morrison's run, combined with Cyke's run-in with Apocalypse, it just created a detachment between them. I'm not saying they don't love each other, but what I'm saying is that what they have is a very intimate friendship. They have history, and there will always be that mutual caring for the other, but that's as far as it goes. People grow and develop, no one stays the same. Every person you meet will not be as they were when you met them 10 years down the line. People change, and so do the nature of relationships.[/quote] Except Scot and Jean married when they were in their late twenties, and that Scott even had a marriage before that, so that idea that their relationship was only "young love" doesn't work. I can see problems in how Scott and Jean had grown apart as Morrison wrote it, and I loved the way Whedon actually made Scott and Emma really work. You understood why they were a couple, how they fit together.But truthfully, the way Fraction is so obviously in love with Cyclops yet so unable to write him well (Scott now is most definitely *not* "a better man", he is more violent and outright stupid than he ever has been), just as he has removed Emma's teeth and turned her into Scott's expensive arm candy, the way the comic has come to focus on their relationship, the 'ship is beginning to get some of the "Havok-Nurse Anne" stink about it.[/quote] Thanks for that bit of insight.So even then, if they didn't marry until their late 20s we'll say (is there a canonical age for anyone?), there was still a period where they a part from one another while Jean was "dead". In that regard couldn't t be said that once they did come across one another that those feelings they had when they were youths would be central to their getting together? That strong, unresolved bit of longing they felt. I'm not sure of the exact timeline or what their relationship status was during the Phoenix Sagas, but feel free to fill me in. The reality is though that they were having problems before Morrison even took hold of the franchise. I think his run highlighted that. I think there will always be a connection between them, but I think they also bring out the worst in each other. I'm saying this as I'm watching Wolverine and the X-Men mind you *gag* but Cyke's departure from the X-men after Jean's disappearance is no less factual. I guess we'd have to define "better" first. He's not. He's flawed, yet in this regard he's grown as a character. He's definitely much more decisive in his actions, but it's hard to peg what his motivations are, because the running theme in Fraction's writing is to write Cyke as someone who's holding back his thoughts and feelings, and the true machinations of everything he's set into motion and has planned. But that calmness is manufactured; he's calm and reserved because he has to be, but what's going on underneath is what I find interesting. He's a leader, coming into his, making his own decisions for his people. Emma is as equally flawed, neither are perfect, but they complement each other and that's why they work. I would agree that although I like Cyclops as a central fixture, he has toned Emma back a little too much. Less so regarding Morrison, but I much prefer how Emma was written by Whedon and Brubaker. In both cases Scott and Emma were on equal footing in terms of partnership, whereas that paradigm has shifted the more I think about it. The most recent examples being throughout the Utopia story, and as recent as issue 517. I like them together and don't think Jean should affect that, but as much as I like Fraction's writing, he needs to establish this as much an equal relationship and partnership. He's using Emma too much as another tool in Scott's larger gameplans, rather than his partner and girlfriend. That I don't like, because that's lead to her present condition - it does highlight how far they're willing to go for the other and how much they trust each other though. That I do like. I'm conflicted where Fraction's concerned. There are some things he's doing well, while the book also has its minor problems.Concluding on this point, I'll point you towards my username. People grow and people change. We never stay the same, nor should comic book characters.

      KiplingKat
      KiplingKat

      [quote@SuperheroesArePeopleToo I kind of view the Jean-Scott relationship very much in terms of it being a "first love" scenario. They met while they were young, fell in love, fought together in more than one way, but it was very much that kind of relationship built on a love at first sight foundation. It never really had the legs to carry past that. They were both very inconsistent partners; Scott slipping in and out, Jean dying every 3rd day. I don't think there was ever that absolute emotional connection between them. Throw in Jean's omnipotence towards the end/during Morrison's run, combined with Cyke's run-in with Apocalypse, it just created a detachment between them. I'm not saying they don't love each other, but what I'm saying is that what they have is a very intimate friendship. They have history, and there will always be that mutual caring for the other, but that's as far as it goes. People grow and develop, no one stays the same. Every person you meet will not be as they were when you met them 10 years down the line. People change, and so do the nature of relationships.[/quote] Except Scot and Jean married when they were in their late twenties, and that Scott even had a marriage before that, so that idea that their relationship was only "young love" doesn't work. I can see problems in how Scott and Jean had grown apart as Morrison wrote it, and I loved the way Whedon actually made Scott and Emma really work. You understood why they were a couple, how they fit together.But truthfully, the way Fraction is so obviously in love with Cyclops yet so unable to write him well (Scott now is most definitely *not* "a better man", he is more violent and outright stupid than he ever has been), just as he has removed Emma's teeth and turned her into Scott's expensive arm candy, the way the comic has come to focus on their relationship, the 'ship is beginning to get some of the "Havok-Nurse Anne" stink about it.

      joshtylen
      joshtylen

      Would of thought this would be a perfect time to bring Psylocke back up as another TP source. Guess not. Really glad he won't put Jean back with Cyclops. Kinda feel like Fraction's been listening lol. Just more :psylocke: please

      SuperheroesArePeopleToo
      SuperheroesArePeopleToo

      [quote@Elflore Jean as the love of Scott's youth, Emma as the love of his life?Argh.[/quote] I kind of view the Jean-Scott relationship very much in terms of it being a "first love" scenario. They met while they were young, fell in love, fought together in more than one way, but it was very much that kind of relationship built on a love at first sight foundation. It never really had the legs to carry past that. They were both very inconsistent partners; Scott slipping in and out, Jean dying every 3rd day. I don't think there was ever that absolute emotional connection between them. Throw in Jean's omnipotence towards the end/during Morrison's run, combined with Cyke's run-in with Apocalypse, it just created a detachment between them. I'm not saying they don't love each other, but what I'm saying is that what they have is a very intimate friendship. They have history, and there will always be that mutual caring for the other, but that's as far as it goes. People grow and develop, no one stays the same. Every person you meet will not be as they were when you met them 10 years down the line. People change, and so do the nature of relationships.

      alemander
      alemander

      Great article. Totally agree with everything Fraction said. Really looking forward to 518. Huge Emma fan and glad that Dodson is doing the art. Reminds me of Gen X.Never really got into Jean. Don't hate her, just don't much care one way or the other about her. I hope Scott and Emma's relationship progresses more while Fraction is on the book, hopefully into marriage at some point.

      Elflore
      Elflore

      Jean as the love of Scott's youth, Emma as the love of his life?Argh.As a 90s X-Men fan, and especially as a Scott/Jean fan, I really feel left out of the franchise these days. It's like every writer from Morrison on has completely ignored Scott's development in that decade. They talk about him being mature, adult "for the first time," but I definitely saw a mature leader coming into his own back in the 90s. They talk about the immature school-crush relationship Scott & Jean shared, which might be argued about their 60-80s arcs (especially when Phoenix was around, who modern writers love to forget wasn't Jean) but certainly not during the 90s, when they not only married, but spent 12 experiential years during their honeymoon raising a son together in the future.None of which seems to count towards the characters' emotional continuity these days.