The following is a review I wrote for PopMatters for Deadpool Assassin #1. Enjoy!
In general, I don’t always write these posts with a sense of timing in mind. My brain just doesn’t work that way. Usually, I get an idea, either through inspiration or just something that comes to me in the shower, and I just go with it. I find that to be the most effective means of exploring sexy and non-sexy issues alike on this blog.
Every now and then, I get lucky and fall ass-backwards into a perfectly timed topic. Sometimes, I even get obscenely lucky because that topic can relate to comics, which I love tying into sexy topics on this blog every chance I get. Well, whether by luck or outright fluke, I have a chance to link an issue I’ve been discussing lately directly to a comic book.
Trust me, I didn’t plan it. I didn’t expect it. I’m just going to run with it because it’s so relevant to the recent issues I’ve been exploring. It also involves X-men, which I go out of my way to talk about every chance I get, and a very particular character that I’ve mentioned before named Emma Frost. In case you need a reminder, this is Emma Frost.
I’m assuming I have your attention now, especially if you’re a heterosexual man or a homosexual woman with functioning genitals. I swear that pic isn’t some juvenile fan art, like the ones that drew big tits on Flintstones characters. That’s how Emma Frost actually dresses in the X-men comics. Can you now see why I’m so fond of them?
Sadly, I’m not writing this to talk about Emma Frost’s overtly sexy costumes. I’m writing this because recent events in the X-men comics tie directly into what I’ve been discussing with respect to conditioning our brains for love. While it’s an issue we’ll probably have to address once we start hacking our brain’s wiring, it’s something that comic book characters deal with regularly.
I’ve already mentioned how Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers dealt with it during her early history. I’ve also cited past stories involving mind control, including one infamous story in Action Comics where Superman was brainwashed into making a porno tape with Big Barda. It’s one of those odd, but disturbing kinks that’s unique to worlds filled with psychics, aliens, and talking raccoons with machine guns.
However, this is one instance where a story about the mental manipulation of emotions and/or horniness isn’t quite as disturbing. If anything, it’s tragic in that reveals a lot about what some people are willing to do in the name of love.
To understand that tragedy, it’s necessary to understand the comic in question and the context behind it. The story unfolds in the pages of “X-men Blue #9” by Cullen Bunn, which is one of several ongoing X-men titles. This one focuses on the exploits of the time-displaced original five X-men, who are currently stuck in the future due to some time travel shenanigans that began back in 2012.
I’ll skip the part where I make a bunch of “Back To The Future” jokes and make clear that X-men Blue has much higher stakes compared to other X-men comics. That’s because what happens to these five time-displaced X-men, who also happen to be teenagers, could potentially affect the entire history of the X-men, which has already been subject to the kinds of time travel upheavals that would make Doc Brown’s head explode.
That’s where Emma Frost comes in. She knows, as well as any X-men regular who has encountered time travelers, that influencing these time-displaced teenagers could alter how things play out in their future. That’s important to her because she has a good, albeit tragic, reason to want to change that outcome.
Shortly before the events of this issue, Emma Frost endured a terrible loss. In an ominously-named event called “Death of X,” her former lover, Cyclops, died in her arms. To make matters even worse, it was one of those rare situations where there was nothing she could’ve done to stop it.
This isn’t akin to Spider-Man not stopping the Green Goblin in time or Superman not being able to save Lois Lane. This is basically someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time for the right reasons. In a sense, it’s a lot more realistic than the deaths most superheroes endure. It comes out of nowhere and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.
However, Emma Frost isn’t the kind of person to just accept that kind of tragedy and move on. This is a woman who once watched an entire classroom of her students die in an outright mutant genocide. When tragedy hits her, she hits back and looks damn sexy while doing it.
Granted, she does tend hit harder than she needs to or ought to. It has made her a lot of enemies, even alienating some of her former allies. However, Emma Frost isn’t one of those characters who does what she does out of malice. She’s not the Red Skull, Thanos, or even Dr. Doom.
She does see herself as a hero. She carries herself as a hero and has been on the front lines of some major Marvel conflicts. She’s also not a sociopath. She is capable of great love, both for her students and for lovers like Cyclops. So when Cyclops died, it hit her very hard.
When hit with a loss that hard, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to undo it? Even if it means crossing certain lines and hurting others, isn’t that worth getting back the person you love?
That’s a question that a lot of heroes and non-hero’s alike might debate in a philosophy class or a message board. However, there’s no debate for Emma Frost. She sees an opportunity to get her lover back and she takes it. Specifically, she sets her sights on the time-displaced, teenage Cyclops who has yet to grow into the man she fell in love with.
Finally, in X-men Blue #9, she’s in a position to get what she wants. As part of an ongoing event called “Secret Empire,” an event that’s hitting every major Marvel series, she abducts the time-displaced X-men and singles Cyclops out for some special treatment. Trust me, it’s nowhere near as sexy as it sounds.
Emma basically does exactly what I described in my post about managing the future of brain hacking. She tires to twist and contort young Cyclops’ mind into being the man she once loved. She knows it may ruin the timeline. I’m sure Doc Brown would scream at the top of his lungs to get her to stop. It would still do no good.
That’s because Emma wants her lover back. She wants the man who has helped save the mutant race on more than one occasion. She’s willing to risk a time paradox and undermining the free will of someone who made clear in the issue that he doesn’t care for her. She’s just that desperate to get the man she loves back.
I won’t spoil how the book ends. I’d much rather people go out and read X-men Blue #9 because it’s a great comic that’s worth supporting. I’ll just say that the tragedy surrounding Emma Frost and her misguided efforts to subvert that tragedy really strike a chord.
It’s a tragic, but potentially prophetic story that may become more relevant over time. There’s no doubt that Emma Frost’s love for Cyclops in X-men Blue #9 is sincere. It’s not part of an agenda or some elaborate trick. It’s real, honest love that got destroyed through forces nobody could’ve foreseen.
Who’s to say that someone wouldn’t do something similar if they were in her position? I’ve said before in other posts that love is a powerful drug. It’s medically proven that love affects our brains like a drug. Compared to love, crack is watered-down diet soda.
Emma Frost is a powerful telepath, one of the most powerful in the Marvel universe, in fact. That means she can manipulate minds, twist thoughts, and conjure emotions in others. It does have limits, but it’s not that different from the kind of brain hacking that is in development as we speak.
What happens in the future when someone loses a loved one and refuses to accept it? What happens when someone just can’t stand the idea that someone they once loved no longer loves them? If there exists technology that could conjure or recapture that feeling, who wouldn’t be tempted to exploit it?
Our desire to love and be loved is a core, emotional need that every non-sociopath human feels. We don’t have the technology of Neuralink or the telepathy of Emma Frost to force it when we can’t have it. However, once it becomes possible, how long will it be before someone tries it?
Emma Frost didn’t need much temptation in X-men Blue #9. She just needed an opportunity and a plan. Again, it’s wrong to call it an evil plan. She was just trying to get back the man she loved and was willing to cross lines to do it. Love makes us do a lot of crazy, stupid things. What Emma Frost does in this comic is as much a lesson as it is a warning, albeit the sexy kind.
As kids, it seems as though everyone is trying to teach us morality lessons that’ll help us grow into functioning adults. Those lessons aren’t always effective, though. Just ask the potheads who sat through the DARE program in school.
As adults, we tend to pay less attention to those kinds of lessons because we arrogantly believe we’ve figured it out. We think we know enough about the human experience to determine what is right and what is wrong. People who think that way tend to be the arrogant assholes who refuse to admit that Dr. Oz is a quack and a fraud.
Truly functional people, be they kids, adults, or adults who still act like kids, never stop learning important life lessons. Life is a constantly changing, obstacle-filled struggle where you never see the finish line and are guaranteed to fall flat on your face at least once a week. That’s why lessons that really deliver a powerful message in a compelling way is a special, precious thing in this chaotic world we live in.
That brings me to comic books, superheroes, and the X-men. Yes, this is going to be another one of those posts. Yes, that means I’m about to extrapolate a major philosophical insight into the human condition from an X-men comic, most likely in a way that applies to love, sex, and everything in between. You’re welcome.
It’s not the first time I’ve gleaned such lessons from an X-men comic. A year ago, I singled out X-men 92 #5 as a testament to just how powerful a romance between equals can be. Chances are, I’ll single out more comics in the future and there’s a high possibility that they’ll involve the X-men, Deadpool, or Wonder Woman.
The comic in question today is Marvel Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1. It’s actually not part of any ongoing X-men series. It’s a single, self-contained story that’s part of an major promotional effort by Marvel called Marvel Generations.
The goal is as simple. Marvel seeks to bridge the gap between its older incarnations of iconic characters with the newer versions. While some of those newer versions have already caused controversy, the goal is always the same. Marvel hopes to appeal to their long-time fans while appealing to newer fans who are just getting into the world of Marvel.
Comic companies do this fairly often, trying to please old fans while creating new ones. Having followed comics for a good chunk of my life, I’ve seen more than my share of efforts. DC Comics, Marvel’s chief rival, did it last year with their DC Rebirth initiative. By most accounts, it was a success. Now, Marvel is attempting to achieve similar success.
There are many challenges to that effort, but for Jean Grey of the X-men, those challenges are more daunting than most. I’m not talking about the kind of daunting that involves dragons, killer robots, and Brett Ratner movies. I’m talking about convoluted complications involving time travel, evil clones, and cosmic forces. Trust me, it’s way more complicated than it sounds.
For this particular issue, though, you don’t need to know the fine print of those complications. You only need to know that Jean Grey’s story, after 50 years of X-men comics, got so crazy that one of her teammates, Beast, traveled back and time and brought her and the rest of the original five X-men to the future.
Now, since 2012, Jean Grey has basically been Marty McFly from “Back To The Future,” minus the incest sub-plot. She knows that her future sucks in that she ends up dead, and multiple times, no less. On top of that, she finds out she’s destined to become corrupted by a cosmic power known as the Phoenix Force, which will go onto cause all sorts of headaches, heartbreaks, and overall frustration.
That destiny is a huge part of the X-men mythos. That’s the part that “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” a movie I’ve talked about extensively, is going to try and capture. In this comic, Jean Grey has already read the spoilers to that story. She knows it doesn’t turn out well.
In fact, she has an ongoing solo series where the primary theme involves her preparing herself to face the Phoenix Force so that she doesn’t become that cute redheaded mutant who constantly dies and ends up on the wrong side of a bad love triangle. That’s entirely understandable and Marvel Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1 gives her the best opportunity she’s had to date to change her fate.
This is where the lesson that Marty McFly learned the hard way comes in. Through elaborate space-time machinations that would give Doc Brown a migraine, Jean Grey is transported to a critical moment in the history of her character. It’s a moment that puts her in a position to change a lot more than just her fate.
That’s because she’s plopped in the middle of the iconic Phoenix Saga, also known by fans as the greatest X-men story ever told. It’s after her older self gains the cosmic power of the Phoenix force, but before it corrupts her in a way that destroys an entire star system and dooms her to a life of death and resurrection. There’s no part of that last sentence that’s exaggerated.
It’s an understandably confusing situation, but it’s one that puts Jean Grey in a position that even Marty McFly never dealt with. She doesn’t just have a chance to change her fate or learn more about her older self, who she’s only really known through the memories of other X-men. She has a chance to learn more about the cosmic power that she knows will doom her.
It makes for a series of colorful interactions between her and her older self that will bring tears of joy to the eyes of X-men fans of any generation. It’s hopeful, sincere, dramatic, and impactful. It fits perfectly within the narrative of Jean’s ongoing story in other X-men comics, as well as the story of her past self.
There’s so much to love about this comic, but I’m not going to spoil the entire thing here. I’d much rather have people go out and buy the issue. It’s money well-spent. Even if you don’t know much about comics or only know the X-men through the movies, this comic will appeal to you.
Beyond that appeal, though, I want to highlight an important theme within this comic. It’s a theme that applies to stories beyond comics and is relevant to life, in general. It especially applies to matters of love, passion, and intimate connections, which are major topic of this blog and the novels I write.
At the heart of Jean Grey’s struggle in Marvel Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1 is a difficult decision that everybody who isn’t a psychotic dictator faces at some point in their lives. It has to do with having the power to effect a situation and choosing whether or not to exercise it.
In the comic, Jean Grey has a chance to tell her older self everything she knows about her fate. She could, in principle, warn her about how the events of the Phoenix Saga play out for her. As a result, she could ensure it turns out differently, preferably in a way that doesn’t leave her dead and subsequently cloned.
On the surface, it seems easy. We saw what Marty McFly chose. We saw what the entire cast of “Hot Tub Time Machine” chose. They chose the easiest, most obvious path. They understandably wanted to improve their situation. In doing so, they created a lot more problems that they had to solve. The stakes for Jean’s problems, though, are much higher.
The problems she could create by changing her fate might be far worse than simply ending up dead. She’s not dealing with incestuous infatuations here. She’s dealing with a cosmic force that eats entire stars just for the fun of it.
She already knows the consequences of not changing anything. That has been hard enough to deal with. However, she has no idea whether she’ll fix anything by choosing otherwise. Given the Phoenix Force’s mixed track record, the odds are not in her favor.
I won’t spoil the choice she makes or what goes into. Again, I’d rather people read this comic to appreciate the full weight of its message. I’ll just say that the decision Jean makes is one that we all indirectly make when we have any kind of power over someone and can affect the course of their life.
Whether you’re a parent, a spouse, or an authority figure of any kind, you have an ability to make choices that affect other peoples’ fate. This is especially true when you’re in a relationship with someone. Your love for them and their love for you effectively links your fate. That makes your ability to make the right choices for the right reasons so critical.
It happens all too often, people using their position of power over others to abuse them. We see it when police harass minorities. We see it in crimes of passion. We see it in cases of spousal abuse and child abuse. When someone else trusts us with authority, we impact their lives in so many ways, often in ways we can’t see.
It can bring out the best and the worst in people, as the Phoenix Saga famously demonstrated. Real life demonstrates it too. Power does corrupt people. Sometimes the hardest choice to make is to not exercise that power to avert the potential consequences it might incur. It’s a choice that a lot of crazy dictators fail to make.
It’s a choice ordinary people fail to make as well. Parents find this out the hard way when they try to make decisions for their children. Sure, it seems like the right thing to do at the time. They may see it as them just protecting their child, as every parent should. However, they don’t realize until it’s too late how much damage that can do.
When you’re in an intimate relationship with someone, it can be just as powerful. If someone loves you implicitly and is willing to trust you so completely, you have the power to guide their lives in profound ways. That guidance, though, can be detrimental to the both of you.
When you have the power to influence a person or a situation, it’s easy and tempting to bend it to what you think will be more beneficial. The problem is that, without the benefit of hindsight, it’s impossible to know whether you’ll actually make things better or much worse.
The hardest decision in that situation is to acknowledge the problems as you understand them, bear the burden of solving them, and focus on the future rather than agonizing over the past. It’s rarely a preferable decision because it means accepting a situation and your role in it. It may feel like a missed opportunity, but it can just as easily be an averted crisis. Hindsight may be painfully clear, but possibilities are painfully vague.
Jean Grey, who is a teenager, mind you, in the story that plays out in Marvel Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1, has to make this decision in the face of impossibly high stakes. What she does is a testament to the kind of character she is and the values we cherish in our heroes.
It’s a short, but powerful story that teaches an important lesson to children, adults, comic fans, and non-comic fans alike. Whether you’re a comic book character, a celebrity, an authority figure, or just someone with the slightest bit of leverage over someone, it’s a lesson worth learning.