COMIC DISCUSSION: Giant Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost
This comic boook is clearly an homage to New X-Men #121, even pulling directly from the layout and panels in a few scenes. At first glance, this is simply a redrawn version of that old comic. And yet, it can’t be and certainly isn’t that simple. Jonathan Hickman has proven time and time again that he has an incredible understanding of the X-Men and their history, and it’s simply unlikely to assume that his script just retelling the same story.
No, in Giant Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost, Hickman, Dauterman, and Wilson are telling a new story in a familiar way. Not to remind of us of the past, but to build on it and deviate from it. The way to unpack this is not by looking at the broad brushstrokes of the story, but the minor details that really set this comic apart.
Hickman is bringing together elements of Grant Morrison’s run with his X-Men run, to create a new synthesis— a marriage if you will. And from it, a new X-Men future will be born.
This article has spoilers for Dawn of X.
Something Old – New X-Men #121
The issue opens with young mutants flying around the island, but most interestingly, inside panels arranged in an X symbol made out of flowers, leaves, and vines. These are more than frames- they’re portals, decorated and designed just like the Krakoan Portals spread across Earth. These are mutant portals that anyone (except for Kate Pryde) can walk through.
Why do you think it opens this way? Are we being welcomed into the world of the X-Men, or is the opposite true? Are we meant to be kept outside portal looking in, trying to understand from afar? In fact, the reader is made to look towards a portal that we cannot enter more than once. For a moment, we wait alongside Cyclops and Wolverine outside the “Psychic Rescue” room.
It goes without saying that this issue of Giant Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost is a massive tribute to Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s New X-Men #121 from Marvel’s ‘Nuff Said silent issue month. In New X-Men #121, Jean Grey and Emma Frost also attempted a psychic rescue, trying to get Charles Xavier out of the mind of Cassandra Nova. Both issues have no words. Both issues uncover a grave secret.
You can see panels from both issues side by side in this Instagram post from The Comics Haul, Sideshow’s new weekly comics live show and podcast.
Hickman and Dauterman reframe an old tale in a new way. While the events may play out the same, down to the layout of some panels, the context is completely new. Through the Dawn of X relaunch, Hickman has changed the dynamic of the X-Men permanently, and the relationships between them all have changed. So we cannot only focus on the similarities, but the differences that bring new light to this issue.
Something New – Emma’s Relationships
Since Krakoa was recognized an sovereign nation, Jean Grey and Emma Frost have been seen sharing drinks, and even kind remarks. Emma puts the betterment of mutants overall ahead of many squabbles she previously held with her fellows. In New X-Men #121, Jean Grey and Emma Frost did not work well together at all. In fact, Emma Frost hardly helped at all once they walked down the staircase into Nova’s mind. Instead, she picked a fight with Nova’s psychic guardians — the doors. But in this comic, she is an integral part of the psychic rescue.
It seems that Jean Grey and Emma Frost have pushed past their difficulties to work together, and they’re even able to use their telepathic abilities in unison to break through Storm’s mental darkness, but for a moment, let’s examine the bond between Emma Frost and Storm. Storm’s psychic guardians are notably different than Nova’s — they appear as lions. Proud and purple strong lions, with mystical glowing eyes, with heads intertwined like Yin and Yang.
When the lions ask the telepaths’ relationship to Storm, Jean shows that they are friends, but Emma shows them that they used to be enemies. This is an interesting decision, especially because most recently in Marauders, Storm and Emma have mourned the loss of Kate Pryde together. They respect each other, and they rely on each other as members of the Hellfire Trading Company and as Marauders. And yet, instead of sharing an intimate and positive moment (which Hickman no doubt could have chosen from the Marauders run), Emma chooses something raw and something honest.
Not only that, Emma reminds the guardians that she’s been in Storm’s mind before, when they switched bodies. Perhaps she hopes this familiarity will aid them, or perhaps, she wants to show the guardians that she knows Storm in a way that no one else could. Emma is cold and calculating. Why would she choose tension? Why would she choose this struggle?
Emma refuses to ignore their history. And Hickman and Dauterman’s decision to reference the past should be a major hint that we, the readers, must engage with the past as well. It forces us to look back through the history of the X-Men to truly understand what’s going on now.
Something Borrowed – Wakanda
While Jean Grey and Emma Frost arrived at a castle in Cassandra Nova’s mind, when they breached the tumultuous tempest of Storm’s mind, they found themselves in a wide savannah, before a powerful baobab tree. This tree resembles the Wakandan Royal Family Tree and the central point of the Wakandan Ancestral Plane known as the Djalia.
Ororo was the Queen of Wakanda, ruling alongside T’Challa himself. And the baobab tree is not the only Wakandan reference. Storm’s psychic guardians, the purple lions, are quite similar to the the Wakandan Panther God, Bast. Not only has she been the Queen of Wakanda, in some storylines, Storm has even been considered a Goddess of Wakanda. She has unlocked the powers of the Godhead more than once. Is she, in fact, being protected by other Gods and Goddesses?
A greater question is this: how is Wakanda responding to Krakoa? In Powers of X, we learn that Wakanda is resistant to recognizing Krakoa as an sovereign nation. Are Hickman and Dauterman hinting that Wakanda is coming? And how will T’Challa respond to the love of his life being infected with a virus? If Storm’s mind truly is connected to the Wakandan Ancestral Plane, is Wakanda in danger of being infected too?
Storm’s past, and her culture, plays a major role in this issue. Is this the only culture that matters? Of course not. Storm has a machine virus, something that is not unfamiliar to the mutants. In Powers of X, we discovered how technological tyrants attempt to take down mutantkind time and time again. So just as the past matters, the future does too.
Something Blue – Krakoa’s Bleak Future
To understand the future, we have to ask three questions.
First, Jean Grey says that this virus will kill Storm in 30 days, but does death even matter to the mutants now? The Five have brought back Jean Grey, so why should we care that Ororo will die? What are the stakes?
The Children of the Vault are powerful and capable adversaries. We are completely unaware of their technology, and while Cable can keep his techno-organic virus at bay, we have no idea what kind of virus Storm is dealing with. If the Wakandan Ancestral Plane in her mind has already been infected, what if her virus is integrated into her very soul? It could be that the virus comes back with her. Her death might be more significant than we understand. If Storm comes back with the machine virus, it could affect The Five, and if The Five are infected, then mutants will no longer be functionally immortal.
But what if Krakoa is already infected?
Powers of X revealed that the fate of the mutants is intertwined with the Technarchy. That may have been a different future, and a different timeline. But what do we know of Technarchy in this time?
In X-Men #7, Cyclops pushes through the brush on Krakoa to come across a meeting between Krakoa, Cypher, and Warlock. That’s right, Warlock the Technarch. Evidence suggests that Cypher and Warlock have been integrated as Douglock for quite some time. We may have seen him in Powers of X #4, as Douglock secretly touches Krakoa’s leaves. What if it’s not only Cypher communicating with Krakoa, but Warlock too? Is there a chance that Krakoa has been under the influence of the Technarchs for some time?
Even if Krakoa wasn’t infected before, it’s been providing life support to Storm in the Psychic Rescue Room. Maybe it’s infected now.
And finally, why is this Giant Size X-Men called Jean Grey and Emma Frost?
This issue seems entirely focused on Storm, her history, and her relationships with the characters. But does this issue actually reveal the future of Jean Grey and Emma Frost? Are they the only mutants capable of saving Storm? And how will this affect their relationship with each other, and their relationships with Cyclops?
This issue seems to showcase Jean Grey’s ingenuity, explore Emma Frost’s practically, and ultimately reveal the major difference between mutant relationships in New X-Men #121 and this issue.
Hickman and Dauterman invoke the past to present a powerful vision of the future: a future we can only hope to see a portal into. Speculation and theories aside, if nothing else, an Omega Level Mutant is poisoned and dying. And this will change the future of the X-Men.
What do you think of the Hickman’s Giant Size X-Men so far? Do you think all the Giant Size X-Men will be related to this story? Share your thoughts in the comments, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!