Emma Frost #4

Issue Date: 
December 2003
Story Title: 
Higher Learning - part 4

Karl Bollers (writer), Randy Green (penciler), Rick Ketcham (inker), Pete Pantazis (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer), Greg Horn (cover artist), Annie Thornton (assistant editor), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

Emma visits her brother, Christian, at his townhouse and feels he’s so lucky to be living away from the family estate. A man exits the building and leaves, angry at Christian and, as he passes Emma, he bumps her and she gets a quick mental picture of his memories, from his birth to the recent past. He (Dante) and Christian are, or at least were lovers. Christian tells Emma it was no-one and she feels betrayed that he couldn’t tell her about this. Soon, as school has ended and she has graduated, the family jet off to Nice on the French Riviera for a holiday. While sunbathing, Adrienne annoys her enough for Emma to decide to go shopping in town for comfort and, while walking, she bumps into a scary-looking guy from whom she gets a terrifying mental image. She throws up and is helped by a lady, whose magazine Emma asks for when she’s recovered. The front cover surprises her. That night, Emma sees her father coming out of a hotel with a woman and they appear to be more than just friends. She decides to take photographs on her digital camera. He blackmailed her over Mr. Kendall; see how he likes it. She uses her telepathy to get her inside a nightclub but, inside, she sees Christian with the man she bumped into earlier, who has drugged his drink. She rushes to help him but is blocked by the crowd. She uses a mental assault to clear the way, which attracts the attention of her father. Outside the club, she also mentally assaults the assailant, who makes a getaway, but her father doesn’t believe her tale and has Bryce take them home. The next day, Adrienne records Christian confessing his sexuality to Emma and Winston is not impressed. Adrienne admits she recorded them. Cordelia arrives with a navel tattoo, which her father is equally angry at and he flips his lid when he sees the magazine cover with Adrienne posing on it. He grounds all of them, but Emma asks about the woman he was with. He denies there is anything untoward in their relationship but Emma’s camera doesn’t lie, and her mother has it.

Full Summary: 

(Boston, Massachusetts - June)

Bryce, the Frost’s family butler, has pulled up outside a brownstone townhouse and Emma stands looking at it. She loves her older brother, Christian, dearly, but right now she feels envy, well, about
forty percent envy, sixty percent love because he resides there, away from the family estate. Even though her father technically owns the house, it’s still enabled him some freedoms Emma doesn’t have. She climbs the steps and stands at the door, which suddenly opens. A young man leaves the house, clearly angry at something Christian has said or done. As he passes Emma, his shoulder brushes hers and she suddenly becomes lost in the man’s memories.

(Dante’s memories)

He is born and is named Dante. As he grows up, his mother becomes ill and her illness is terminal, eventually leaving Dante alone. He drifts into a world of drug abuse and finds himself arrested. One more strike on his record and he’ll be sent down for a long time. Fortunately, he meets Christian and the pair are immediately attracted to one another, soon becoming more than just friends. They spend time with each other and appear happy in their relationship, despite their concerns over being caught.


Emma realizes that her brother is gay but, before she has time to dwell on this revelation, Christian appears at the door and she almost screams his name in surprise, maybe feeling a little guilty at what she has discovered. He asks her if she’s okay, as she looks a little flushed, but she replies that she’s fine, despite knowing that she probably just experienced another person’s memories. As Dante walks hurriedly away from the house, Emma asks Christian who he is but he tells her he is nobody, looking to the floor as he speaks. He tells Bryce that his luggage is in the foyer as Emma stands there, feeling a little betrayed that Christian has kept this from her. She thought they were closer than that.

Two hours later, the whole family is aboard an airplane, heading for Nice on the French Riviera. Winston taps away on his laptop, Cordelia and Adrienne chat, whilst Christian stands by himself, drinking. It’s either a charter flight or the Frost’s own craft as they appear to have it to themselves. The summer vacation has officially begun, but Emma is so over the Riviera, and so over high school. She leafs through her high school yearbook and finds a picture of her on a successful graduation day. It was three weeks ago but it feels like three years. Mr. Kendall is in another photo. He would have been so proud to see her, she thinks, but he couldn’t. She glances over at her preoccupied father, knowing he made sure of that. She can’t bring herself to hate him just yet though, but she’s getting closer every day.

(The French Riviera)

On a typically beautiful summer’s day in Nice, a man with a bald head and grey beard looks out into the harbor at the sail boats and yachts that frequent this port. The three Frost daughters recline on their sun beds, taking in the rays. The statuesque Adrienne is wearing the skimpiest of flowery bikinis, Emma wears a white one-piece and reads ‘Memoirs of a dutiful daughter,’ while Cordelia sticks to her black vest, shorts and boots. She stands up and walks to the balcony. “And where are you going, Cordelia, you little hellion?” asks Adrienne. She replies that she’s hot but Adrienne says that wearing black in eighty-five degree weather certainly doesn’t help, not to mention that it’ll do squat for her tan.

Adrienne looks over at her other sister, telling Emma that Cordelia doesn’t need enemies; she’s her own worst. Emma asks what she means and she replies that Cordelia takes the whole ‘rebel without a clue’ act way too far, well, for Winston anyway. When her drug test came back positive, it was her final slam-dance. He won’t be priming her to take over the family business any time soon. She almost appears gleeful at the fact and snaps her fingers to get the attention of the bald man standing nearby. She tells Emma that, when daddy kicks, you know it’s going to go down and it won’t be Christian either. She leans over to her and says, “I think we both know why.” Emma looks away, wondering if Adrienne knows about Christian and Dante. Her older sister is a mystery to her, the only one in the family whose mind she cannot read. Her words are all she has to go on.

Adrienne rolls over onto her front to allow the man to rub in some suntan lotion, unfastening her bikini top as he pours. She continues, telling Emma that daddy won’t choose her either, not after she voiced some masochistic desire to be a schoolmarm. How utterly middle class is that? “And wasn’t there some Lolita-esque lip-locking between you and your art teacher?” she continues, “And here I thought Cordelia was the one on drugs.” Emma stands and tosses her book aside, telling Adrienne to go to hell but she smiles and says she’s already here and loving it. Emma heads inside as Cordelia spits her gum out, probably at some unsuspecting passer-by.

Once Emma has changed into casuals, she heads into town to do some shopping and forget about Adrienne. Walking along Le Promenade Des Anglais, she bumps shoulders with an evil looking man and her head throbs as she receives another mental image or maybe even a memory. A man’s head on a plate, apple in mouth and skull sliced off, revealing his brain, sickens Emma to her core and she falls to the ground, throwing up. She looks at the man, who offers a disdainful glance back at her, and wonders if the image was real or not. A middle-aged woman helps her up. She asks, in French, how Emma’s feeling and if she needs a doctor. Emma is unsteady on her feet but replies that she doesn’t. The woman shows her to a park bench and asks her to rest as she’s perspiring. Emma is shaken by the experience, the image really frightening her. She thinks however that it’s funny. Not long ago her French was so-so but now, she not only understands what the woman is saying, but she speaks the language fluently. She recovers a little and asks the woman if she can keep the magazine she carries. She can, and is very surprised to see what’s on the front cover.

Later that evening, at the Frost villa, Christian plays the piano as Emma tries to engage him on conversation. Regarding the magazine cover, she asks him why she wouldn’t tell anyone but Christian replies that maybe she wanted to keep it her own little secret, asking if that’s so wrong. He takes a sip of his drink and Emma tells him that he’s hammered and is drinking because of the guy back in Boston. She asks why he won’t tell her anything about him. He stands up and tells her in no uncertain terms hat it’s none of her business. When she asked him to back off about her migraines and the voices she was imagining, he did, and asks why the hell she can’t do the same. He storms out.

That night, Emma has changed clothes again as she wanders through the town with shopping bags full of goodies, including Coco Chanel. Nothing chases away the blues quite like Coco but a shopping buzz only lasts so long. She has to get through to Christian and, if it means revealing her own secret, then so be it. She stops in her tracks, as a door opens to her left and she sees her father leaving the Hotel Chatillon, accompanied by a young woman, glamorous and wearing a short red dress. She has a demure look about her and isn’t much older than Adrienne. Emma is shocked to see her father’s hand all over the woman’s butt. ‘The pig! Daddy you are so busted,’ she thinks as she grabs her digital camera from her purse. Her father used blackmail to force her to do what he wanted; well, two can play at that game.

She follows them to a nightclub and, not having nearly enough pictures, decides to follow them in. Unfortunately, a large doorman stops her and asks for I.D. She telepathically discovers he is called Robert and speaks English…barely. She tells him that she thinks she left her passport back at the villa but she is eighteen and belongs to one of the wealthiest families in the United States. He replies that everyone is wealthy in Nice. The club’s going nowhere and will be here when she gets back. Ah, Emma thinks, but daddy and his mistress might not. She has only one option, and that isn’t to play fair.

“Robert. May I call you Robert? Gregoire doesn’t know you’ve been sleeping with Colette does he? Otherwise he would have fired you when the affair started. Am I warm? She smiles at the ease she can do this. Robert stutters his words. “I’d say I’m burning up,” she continues. He asks how she knows and she tells him the same way she knows that he doesn’t want his boss to find out he’s been making love to his wife every Tuesday for the last six months.

One minute later, Emma is inside the club, frequented by a well turned-out clientele. She feels a little sorry for Robert. Poor guy didn’t deserve to be threatened, even if he is a total sleaze. He was just doing his job, but then so was Ian and that’s why she has to go through with this. If she gets some dirt on her father, she can force him to get Ian rehired. She stands well back from the dance floor, watching her father and his mistress dancing cheek to cheek. As she prepares to take some more photographs, she spots her brother Christian and he’s chatting with the sicko she bumped into earlier. She can’t see his thought, though, only sensing that he’s hungry. Suddenly, Christian begins to feel poorly and Emma realizes that his drink has been spiked. The man grins as he suggests they get him some fresh air.

Emma rushes down the staircase, trying to read Christian’s thoughts but they are confused and muddled. He’s in trouble and needs her help. As she makes her way through the crowd, she bumps into several people and starts being overwhelmed by myriad thoughts all around her. There are too many; she has to shut them out. Suddenly, she thinks about shutting them up and the people around her reel in agony, as they are mentally assaulted. Winston wonders what the big commotion is and spots Emma rushing through the exit door into the alley behind the club.

Once outside, she follows Christian’s trail and finds the man holding Christian from behind. She telepathically warns him to let him go and the man clutches his head in pain. Suddenly, from behind her, her father calls her name, her full name which implies he isn’t very happy. She turns and sees him standing imposingly before her, his mistress watching from the doorway. Emma sees the sicko getting into his car, leaving Christian behind. ‘Yeah, he’d better!’ She rushes to Christian’s aid as her father approaches, asking what in God’s name is going on here. She informs him that Christian has been drugged but the guy who did it has gotten away. They have to call the police. Winston isn’t impressed, replying that her brother has been acting like a backpacker since boarding the jet to France. If he’s drugged, he adds, then he probably did it to himself. He’s calling the chauffeur to take the both of them home.

The next day, sunshine flows through the villa’s window, as Emma tries to get some information about the assailant from Christian, who can’t even remember the guy’s name. He was pretty plastered to begin with. “Yeah,” says Emma, “You were thick with the non-charm.” He apologizes before Emma asks him to tell her what happened in Boston. He sighs, but decides to trust her with it. He tells her that the guy’s name was Dante and they were lovers; we’re lovers. “Y-You’re gay?” she asks, hoping her exclamation was convincing enough. “That’s generally the way it works when two men are a couple, Em,” he replies. She asks what he meant when he said they we’re lovers and he tells her that it’s over. She asks if that’s the reason he left in such a huff but Christian says that it wasn’t; it was just the result. Dante wanted to come with him to the Riviera; wanted them to be open about their relationship but he just couldn’t do it, he wasn’t ready, and so they broke up. She puts her hand on his shoulder to comfort him, while Adrienne secretly records their conversation.

Soon, the recording is in the possession of Mr. Frost and he plays it back to the pair of them. He tells them it all makes perfect sense now; his poor leadership skills, his affinity for Cole Porter; the way he holds a Martini glass. They both realize he must have got the tape recorder from Adrienne, who appears right on cue, admitting it was she who did it. Christian turns to her and asks what gives her the right to invade his privacy. She replies that she gave it to herself. “There shouldn’t be secrets in the family Christian,” she adds. Cordelia then joins the conversation and her father is horrified with a tattoo she has had done around her navel piercing. He yells at her, asking what the hell is wrong with her. She tells him it’s a statement and he can like it or lump it. He tells her he’ll have it laser removed. Emma decides to play her own card now, showing her father the magazine she got from the woman earlier. Adrienne’s face drops a mile when she sees it. Her father takes the magazine which has Adrienne posing on the front cover. “You posed for a magazine without my knowing?!”

He turns his back, telling them he’s disappointed in all of them. None of them are to set foot outside the compound for the rest of the vacation. Emma tells him that’s all good and fine, but what about him? He ended up spending the night with a French tart. “Shouldn’t a married man be punished for committing adultery?” she asks. He replies that the so-called tart was a ‘business associate’ and she shouldn’t make ridiculous accusations, or at the very least ones she can’t prove. Unfortunately for him, Hazel Frost appears holding Emma’s digital camera, providing all the proof she needs. ‘Busted,’ thinks Emma.

Characters Involved: 

Emma Frost

Dante Ortega

Winston Frost, Hazel Frost, Adrienne, Christian and Cordelia Frost

Holidaymakers in Nice

Adrienne’s servant


Middle-aged woman and Nice passers-by

Winston’s ‘business associate’

Robert (the doorman)

Nightclub revellers

(Dante’s memories)

Dante Ortega

Christian Frost

Dante’s mother

Drug dealer


(in yearbook photographs)

Emma Frost

Winston Frost

Christian Frost

Mr. Ian Kendall

Margo and other pupils at Snow Valley

Story Notes: 

It was hinted at right from the beginning of the series that Christian was gay. The person he was driving to meet in issue #1 was presumably Dante.

‘Memoirs of a dutiful daughter’ is part of Simone de Beauvoir’s autobiography and is used here to represent Emma’s struggles within her own family.

‘Lolita’ is a novel by Vladimir Nabakov, first published in 1958. It was controversial due to its content
upon its release and banned by many stores and libraries. The phrase Lolita-esque generally refers to a relationship between a young or underage girl and an older man. Several movies have been made based on the book, most recently in 1997 starring Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain.

The spiking of drinks using drugs such as Rohypnol or GHB (Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate) is often a contributing factor in date rape cases. Here, Christian’s aggressor probably had something even worse in mind and is lucky to have had Emma around.

Although Emma has used telepathy to get information, this is the first time we have seen her use her telepathic powers as an assault. She is unable to read her sister Adrienne’s mind but, as yet, doesn’t know the reason why.

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