To celebrate the release of Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost, AIPT proudly presents JEAN GREY + EMMA FROST WEEK – seven days of original articles and interviews about two X-Women so eXtraordinary, they don’t need codenames!
Kate Pryde here. As you may know, I’m currently dead, or presumed dead, and drowned, in the comics…
Soon, other mutants will find my body in the deep, conduct a funeral (if previews are to be believed), and then they’ll find a way to bring me back, even if the Krakoan Resurrection Protocols don’t work for me. Honestly, when you’ve been shot into space, forever fused to Joss Whedon’s giant otherworldly ding-dong, everything else can feel like a nap after dinner. I’ll be OK. I may even get to kiss a girl on panel someday, though frankly, I’m not holding my breath. So to speak.
For now, though, I’m in the space between the panels, where temporarily dead characters like me get to hang out with those who don’t have new stories, like Gwenpool or Doop. Last time I saw Doop, he came out to me as intersex and as nonbinary, and he encouraged me to break up with Bobby and get back with Rachel. And he was right! [All-New Doop #1-3 – Attentive Auth.]
Now that I’m back here, and now that I’ve been a proud and alienated pirate queen, and now that I’ve spent the better part of “Dawn of X” hanging out with, listening respectfully to, and taking orders from Emma Frost, it’s a good time to look back at me and Emma.
How did we get that close?
Why does she trust me?
And why would I ever, ever trust her?
First thing to say is… how little there is to say: for two characters with this much chemistry and this much history in mutant comics, we haven’t interacted all that much. OK, she was the very first mutant I met, in Uncanny X-Men #129, where her first line was “We’re going to be great friends.” But she gave me the creeps. It was easy for me to choose Charles and Ororo and the Xavier School over her Massachusetts Academy.
And then she tried to kidnap me. Twice. When I followed Doug to her school, she held me captive in her basement and made villain speeches, and when I wouldn’t team up with her she told me I had, and I quote, “a streak of nastiness in you that rivals my own!” It’s a good thing Illyana showed up for me. She always does. [That would be New Mutants vol. 1 #15-16 – Apprehensive Auth.] She saw something in me that I didn’t want to see, but at the time she was pretty thoroughly evil. I had no reason to take her advice!
I didn’t see the White Queen again for a long time. A really long time. Like, such a long time that when we were on the same team [Astonishing X-Men #1 – Astonishing Auth.] she made a whole point of how we hadn’t seen each other in aeons, how we had never worked together, how she relied on me to keep her honest and make sure she wouldn’t go back to the dark side. And we fought so much. Like, Beatrice-and-Benedick level so much. I made fun of her for not wearing clothes, and she called me “nonthreatening” and a “little tart,” which in retrospect, I’m not even sure was an insult. I felt so manipulated. Not so much by the White Queen as by the plot, which seemed designed to get me back together with Piotr, separate me from the rest of my friends, and then rocket me into deep space (where Emma, come to think of it, was the last person to speak with me: I remember how she offered to shut my mind off, so I wouldn’t go nuts in space).
Looking back, I think she knew more than she let on. She knew she was more important to me than I could ever be to her, for starters. She knew that I wished I could be a pirate queen: that’s how I cast myself in “Kitty’s Fairy Tale” [ Uncanny X-Men #153 – Avast, me Auth.] all the way back when I was 14. Since back then she would have had no trouble reading my mind, she also knew about my romantic life: not just that I’m bi—I mean, duh—but also that I’ve got this history of problematic attachments to powerful older women, especially when I’m not dating someone my own age. Look at Courtney Ross. Who dresses like Emma, and has Emma’s hair. Even when she’s really Opal-Luna-Satyr-Nine dressed up as Courtney. [Excalibur #24 – Anglophile Auth.] She brought me a birthday cake and talked all superior and fed me the cake with her fingers and then took me out to her favorite fancy restaurant and took me to Paris on her private jet. In retrospect, OMG it was super creepy. But at the time? I loved it to death.
And when Emma showed up in my life after Magneto brought me back from space, when she was teasing me even while we worked together, during the “Schism” era—I welcomed it. I liked it. Readers did too. Like when she told me the Jean Grey School looked “like every 13-year-old girl’s dream.” Or when she, Illyana and I were on Scott’s team together and she kept joking about buying everyone bondage gear.
Because this is the thing: I’ve spent almost my whole life being a teacher or a student or somebody’s girl-next-door supercrush. Following scripts that made me lawful good. “Predictably dependable,” as Emma herself put it recently [Marauders #1 – Answerable Auth.]
And I’ve enjoyed being those things. When I’ve hit the eject button on one of them, it was in favor of another. Like when I quit the X-Men to go study at the University of Chicago. Or when I quit the X-Men to go into space with Peter Quill. Or when I was a Cincinnati high school teacher in House of M. Even when I played secret agent with Pete Wisdom (worst boyfriend everrr, by the way, and I can’t believe he’s back in mutant continuity), I was playing the role that he and his team expected: the sweet to his sour, the naïf to his grizzled detective Gary Stu. I’m the responsible one, the A student, the girl who will do the right thing.
That’s why it makes sense—to readers, and sometimes to me—to pair me with someone who won’t let me be the good girl, who’s been an authority figure but also been wild. Someone who won’t ask me to keep her safe, or to follow the rules, or to set a good example, or (like Logan) to do as they say, not as they do. Somebody who will respect me as an adult.
Emma was the first person to use my right name: “the X-Men can do a lot of astonishing things,” I told her, “but they can’t do that.” She’s someone who trusts me to make my own mistakes, rather than treating me like “precious treasure.” That’s why I trust her with my secrets. At least when I’m half-drunk. [Marauders #1, #6 and #5, respectively – Alcopop-loving Auth.]
Emma’s all of those things. She’s also openly sexual, in control of her sexuality, in a way that I’ve never quite been, no matter who I’m kissing or who wants to kiss me. She’s somebody who will behave like the id to my superego, and somebody who’s more powerful than me: somebody who’s got some moral ambiguity in her power set, too. (I admit that I could be talking about someone else here, but you asked me about Ms. Frost.)
Some fans think it’s gross that we flirt when we’re both on the ship, because she’s old enough that she could have been my teacher—as she’s noted, she “would have destroyed me”—but I think those fans are missing the point. I’ve been on land, at school, or living on somebody else’s ship (so to speak) for almost my whole life. I’ve been tethered, confined, following rules.
With Emma, I’ve been able–to quote one of my favorite movies–let it go.
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