Thursday, May 27, 2010

X-Men Origins: Emma Frost #1 Review and analysis of the character Emma Frost

X-Men Origins: Emma Frost #1
Writer: Valerie D'Orazio
Artist: Karl Moline
Warning: I bitch a LOT in this post, but I also present some decent reasons behind why I don't buy the plot presented.
To open, I need you to understand that Emma Frost is my favorite character in the entire fictional universe. The Emma Frost that I love was written by Morrison/Whedon, and she's a bitch all the time, not just when she's evil. Emma Frost to me represents that it's ok to not run around with this idealistic mindset of everyone getting along and that the only thing worse than chaos is boredom. As far as I'm concerned the Emma/Scott relationship is unrealistic and total fan fiction because everyone believes that a "bitch" needs to be fixed by the power of love. And for all my complaining about how she's poorly characterized, that's really because after 28 years of "getting" how to characterize her, it seems in the past two years that most writers have completely forgotten how to correctly write her. Most of all, I think the Emma Frost series was as fan fiction as you get, and to me it's barely cannon. So keep this in mind while you read this review. And also that I'm obnoxiously well-read on the character, so I'm not just speaking from what I've idealized her to be.

First off, the artist, Karl Moline, was poorly chosen. He does not fit the air of "class" that all of Emma's surroundings at least try with their all to have. Also, this is a darker story about the X-Man Xavier couldn't get to until the damage was done, so in my opinion someone in the same vein as Adi Granov should have done this story.

The issue opens with Emma during her first days as a stripper, and how her awkward attempts at dancing get heckled. Totally fine, it's how it went down in New X-Men #139. In response she psi-zaps them and yells at them. This stinks like shit because in New X-Men #139 she says she just put up an illusion to make them believe that she was a good dancer. Also, as if she would risk exposing herself as a mutant like that while she's broke and starving. More on why this doesn't work in a bit.

Next we see a younger her with her dolls pretending to be a teacher. Winston Frost, her father, comes in and yells at her and breaks her dolls. Emma goes to Hazel, her mother, about this, and her mother says Winston treats her so roughly because she's his favorite. Also true, but poorly shown. Emma later on gets told she can read an essay on teaching in front of her 9th grade class because it was so well written, and Winston continues to crap on her in all-out mantrums.

Emma ends up getting her speech switched and while at the podium becomes to upset that her mutant powers manifest and psi-zap everyone on campus unconscious. Except Emma Frost is a telepath first and all her little gifts came afterwards. She's not Psylocke, who was a psycho blaster back in the day. So her first manifestation of powers would have to do with hearing thoughts. Also, it's poor writing for her to resolve every problem with a psi-zap, which in this issue is exactly what happens, because it makes for zero tension. It's like Colossus solving every problem with a steel punch. It's unrealistic because life's problems aren't that simple, so her power should have been used more creatively.

Next scene, Xavier and Moira show up at the Frost's and Xavier asks Emma to join the school, offering to convince her father to let her go. She rejects him and they leave. In response to Emma interrupting a conversation Winston thought just he and Xavier were having, he hits her. Another miss: Winston Frost's characterization. Winston is abusive, yes, but the most important thing about Winston and why Emma ends up becoming just like him is that
Winston is a snake. And so is Emma Frost. He's manipulative just like she ends up being. He doesn't use his fists because his mouth is so much more effective. And if he really does want Emma on his side, then he'd be trying to manipulate and bully Emma into seeing his ways, not hitting her.

Another screwup and one made often: Emma was pure and good before she was homeless despite her two fucked-up parents. That's so idealized it could be a book written by Stephenie Meyer. Seriously, Emma Frost ended up becoming a bitch in the end, so why not make it so that while she hated her father, she was also influenced by him so that she was manipulative and snarky. It's convincing; just because you have two assholes in a family doesn't mean they like each other. Also, concerning her status in school she should have still been the weird girl, but also one who was full of herself and had the other freaks following her around. Do you really think THIS teenager (who is next described as rebellious)
is a pure, innocent snow flake?

And the thing is her "altruistic" need to teach is far from altruistic. Emma Frost's motivation to teach is probably a combination of actually feeling like she has something to give to people, but also this: She's a misunderstood and insecure woman who people fear or hate, but don't really listen to past that. So in looking for support and like-minded people she looks to create them by influencing young minds. Also, as a woman who's been beaten down so often, she looks to take care of others to make herself feel better because she feels ambivalently about herself so she doesn't want to comfort herself. Some of these reasons are sad and pathetic, but I find it fits perfectly into her characterization and helps bridge the gap between her "good" self and her "bad" self.

The story continues that she decided to leave after Winston hit her, missing the smart climax that Morrison made where Emma decided whether to accept the fortune and acceptance of the Frost family or go it on her own. Then we return to her early days as a stripper where Sebastian Shaw gets pissed at Emma for her stunt and smashes her face into her makeup desk. She psi-blasts him and THEN he accepts her and so begins their dark partnership. That part was fine, it was a f#@^ed-up relationship they had.

What's absent throughout this story and is most frustrating is Emma's voice. Emma speaks in a particular way, and as someone who's also shifted how they speak, I can tell you it doesn't manifest overnight. Meaning her plain-speak throughout this issue is also unconvincing. Emma Frost speaks like a drag queen: She uses the words "Darling" and "dear," everything's a back-handed compliment with her, and she speaks in this air-y superior way with anything she has to say. And it's not hard to do, give me the main idea of something she'd need to say and I can totally translate it to Emma speak, anyone can.

The rest of the issue is her being a teacher and realizing she's just like her father and her acceptance of that fact. Oh and Empath having a really awkward moment. Conclusion: To buy this issue is to waste your money. And my apologies if you find this post too negative, not to worry I've got a much more positive post of this week's The List coming soon AND I'm working on a post about the similarities between Emma Frost and Lady Gaga.


X-23 said...

I just adore the way you write. I agree with EVERY word, it doesn't happen to me at all) Thank you for the beautiful review. Btw, have you seen the Heralds #1 Preview? Don't know, I'm no sure, but the beginning of the issue was very nice.

Selene said...

Honestly,I did not think it was *that* bad.It was far more acceptable than the nonsense about her having altruistic motives all along that Fraction foisted on us.

Also,I love the new look of the blog!

Mr. Hellfire said...

@X-23, thanks very much, I really appreciate you saying that.
And OHHHH have I ever! Here's the thing: I find Kathryn Immomen writes REALLY awkward dialogue at times where she continues something as "funny" when it should've stopped at the first line. However, I find her Emma to be generally all right so far. And I actually thought she got Emma in Pixie Strikes Back, she just has a weird way of writing. Right now I'm just resigned to wait-and-see because it could go either way after the preview.

@Selene, indeed it wasn't compared to how Fraction has been using her. It's just frustrating when you finally get a chance to see someone else write her, y'know hopefully they write her right, and it just falls completely flat. It felt like this writer knew the facts about Emma's past but not a thing about who she is as a character.
And thanks very much!