New X-Men (1st series) #138

Issue Date: 
May 2003
Story Title: 
The Prime of Miss Emma Frost

Grant Morrison (writer), Frank Quitely with Avalon Studios (art), Chris Chuckry (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Albert Deschesne (letters), Mike Raicht (assistant editors), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (chief), Bill Jemas (president

Brief Description: 

Outside of the Xavier Institute, the flaming Glob Herman continues his rampage. Luckily, he is stopped by the combined efforts of the Beast, Cyclops and Xorn, with only an automobile destroyed in the process. The next day, at a private service for Sophie, the four remaining Stepford Cuckoos announce their disillusionment with Emma’s teachings and their intention of moving to Switzerland to study under Madame LaFarge, much to Emma’s horror. Inside the Institute’s infirmary, Quentin Quire’s condition worsens, a condition brought on by his recent overuse of Hypercortisone D. When called in to help, Xorn announces that Quentin is going through a wondrous change and, rather than stopping it, actually helps to speed him along to a higher plane of existence. Rocked by this and recent events, Xavier makes a startling announcement; when the school reopens after the summer break, he will not be returning as its headmaster. The next day, Emma has decided to take Angel as her new project and buys her expensive clothes in Manhattan, very much against Angel’s protests. That night, rather than attend the prizegiving ceremony, Angel leads the Beak into the nearby woods for a private conversation and a revelation; she’s pregnant. Meanwhile, in the garden, Cyclops finds Emma, who is very much alone and in a fragile emotional state. Cyclops’ feeble attempt to end their recent dalliances actually leads to an escalation, as Emma takes them both to a telepathic hideaway where they can indulge in their fantasies. Unfortunately, Emma and Scott are caught by surprise when Jean, having been contacted by the Stepford Cuckoos and having just returned to the States, arrives in their telepathic room.

Full Summary: 

On a lonely, rural road in Westchester, a giant, mutant teen, completely engulfed in flames, runs maniacally toward his target. Directly in the youth’s path is a halted car, its confused passengers having stopped abruptly at seeing the approaching creature. The two travelers have begun to exit the vehicle when the X-Man known as Beast suddenly lands on the hood of the car. With the strength and speed endowed him by his mutation, the Beast manages to scoop up the confused humans and leap them safety mere moments before the fiery youth plows through the car, causing it to explode in flame and smoke.

Having saved the two innocents, who are confused and awestruck at what has happen as they lie in the grass by the road, the Beast turns his attention back at the flaming Glob Herman, who continues his chase of the bus of humans which he has followed from the Xavier Institute. His eyes fixed on his prey, the Beast leaps into action, making full use of his feline body, which allows him to run on all fours like a cat. Able to traverse the distance between he and Glob Herman, the Beast catches up with his student and attempts to tackle him to the pavement, but is unsuccessful.

Following not far behind, Cyclops drives another car, accompanied by Xorn. Catching up with the flaming Herman, the two X-Men move into action. As Xorn begins to exit the speeding car, Cyclops opens his visor, emitting one of his powerful optic blasts. The blast breaks through the car’s windshield and traverses the distance to Glob Herman’s skull in an instant. Bowled over by the blow to his head, Herman falls to the ground, skidding along the pavement as his momentum is used up.

As Herman’s fall has brought him within feet of a local gas station, the two X-Men use this to their advantage. While Cyclops brings his vehicle to a stop, Xorn, already having exited the car, leaps to a cement mixer and dumps its contents on the flaming Herman. Per Xorn’s plan, Herman is incapacitated, but his flames persist, causing him to scream out in apparent pain as much as frustration. Emerging from the gar station with a two armfuls of bottled water, the Beast begins to pour them onto Herman’s blazing skin. He tells Herman to spare them the histrionics. He’ll live. Trust him, the Beast continues; he’s a doctor.

As the grounds of the Xavier Institute are being cleaned up and the Beast unloads the concrete-bound Glob Herman from a flatbed truck, Wolverine berates the remains of the Omega Gang in the Institute’s gymnasium. Addressing the three students, Tattoo, Redneck and Radian, who are all standing at attention, Wolverine tells them that they are all going to do time in human jail. When the Professor finally convinces the authorities to hand them back, they’ll be sent to the third world… and that’s where they’ll put all that revolutionary energy to good use… helping people who need it. They’re going to help people until they bleed and they sob. And then they’re going to help some more.

A bright kid, Wolverine continues, with her whole life ahead of her is dead because of them and another is missing, presumed dead! Breaking ranks to defend himself, Radian tells Wolverine they can’t put them in a human jail… they were totally under the influence of a superior mind… it was Quentin Quire! He made them do it! Sticking his face into Radian’s face, causing him to shoot back to attention, Wolverine yells that he’s making them do this! Clear?

On a sunny day in the garden, Emma Frost holds a private ceremony memorializing the deceased Sophie. The service is attended only by the remaining four sisters of the Stepford Cuckoos. Facing the four sisters, Emma holds a slip of paper in her hand and reads the words written upon it. … beside me, gathering beauty as she grew. Like the bright shade of some immortal dream. Which walks, when tempest sleeps, the wave of life’s dark stream. Her passage finished, Emma tells the girls that they must be strong. As strong as Sophie who gave her life yesterday with such fearlessness and glory and panache. Closing her eyes intently, Emma proposes that they create a shrine there among the roses she loved so much… Sophie’s bower…

Noticing the girls departing, Emma stops her speech and calls out to them. What good is a shrine, one sister asks. Or perhaps she’s hoping it might inspire more children to their deaths? Now speaking in unison, the four girls tell their teacher that they were five in one. What are they now? Oh, they say, continuing as their teacher looks in aghast confusion, they shan’t be coming back there after the prizegiving. They’ll be working to restore their telepathic talents in Switzerland with Madame LaFarge. LaFarge? Emma repeats, holding her crumbled speech close to her chest. But LaFarge has hair on the back of her hands, she whispers.

As her former wards exit the garden, Emma follows, asking what it is they are saying. They’re saying, the four girls say in unison, Sophie’s dead because she believed all the rubbish Emma talked about being superior. Continuing their march away from Emma, both physically and symbolically, they tell her she’s all shiny surface with nothing underneath. She has no feeling and no heart. Just nasty jokes and cleverness. People like her, they tell Emma, are a danger to impressionable children. Goodbye.

No, that’s not true…, Emma says, stopping at the entrance to the garden. She loves children, she continues. Teaching is her life. Uninterested in her defense, the girls snidely ask, if she loves them so much, then why does she let them die all the time, you silly old woman. Old? Emma gasps, covering her mouth in shock. Bending down to the grass, Emma continues to cover her face, holding back the tears. Picking up a rose one of the girls picked up in the garden and just moments ago dropped, she holds it delicately in her hands. Finally gaining composure, Emma transforms into her diamond form and then resolutely crushes the flower. Recalling the girls calling her old, Emma sternly informs the "ungrateful wretches" that she’s only twenty-seven.

Addressing his student informally, Professor Xavier asks Henry for a diagnosis. Staring through his spectacles, Doctor McCoy studies the readings on the glowing monitors. Quentin’s temperature, the Beast reports, is all over the place… brainscans look like seismic activity during a particularly large quake… brain cells are converting to… and he’s serious… faster than light energy and are disappearing one by one. Reminding the Professor that he knows as much about mutant biology as anyone else alive, the Beast states that his best guess qualifies as current theory.

What? Quentin quietly asks, as he floats face-up in his thank. What’s happening to him? What are they all saying about him? Professor? Either ignoring, or simply not hearing Quentin, Doctor McCoy continues. He exclaims that he thinks some kind of unforeseen secondary mutation is beginning to occur, McCoy suggests that it’s triggered by Quentin’s abuse of Hypercortisone D… Kick.

Standing over the rectangular, transparent tank in which Quentin is floating, Xavier looks down at his student. Soothingly, Xavier informs Quentin that he is there, but he can’t see into his mind. Speaking in a barely audible voice, Quentin tells the Professor that he hears thoughts in Chinese… and French… and Arabic… but… it’s everyone thinking the same stupid thought. On a section of the infirmary’s wall, just in Quentin’s view, a newspaper article hangs. It is the same article and picture, drawn of the artist’s impression of mankind’s fate under rule by mutants, which had inspired Quentin’s recent actions.

Returning back to his conversation with Xavier, Quentin tells Xavier that the one thought is divided into ignorant boxes… jabbering so hard it can’t hear itself thinking. Listening closely to his former student, Xavier replies that he’s heard it too. Everyone scared of their replacements, Quentin continues to ramble, scared of their children… scared of themselves. Like the hand scared of its fingers, Xavier continues. The loneliness and loss felt in a world with telepathy; he knows.

He’s streaming… Quentin resumes, going away… into bigger rooms… outside rooms bigger than the whole world. He understands things… He doesn’t know who his parents are… because… because… he hasn’t been born yet… He’ll be born soon and meet them in these rooms… Suddenly, Quentin begins to convulse, violently splashing in the buoyant liquid of the tank. Calling out to Henry once more, the Professor instructs him to fetch Xorn; his healing gifts might be their last chance.

Quieting again, Quentin calls out to the Professor. His insides now expending energy, Quentin’s eyes and mouth begin to emit light, bathing his face in its eerie glow. It’s the future already… he continues. He thought he was going to miss it… look at the curve of time… Manhattan is gone… the school is gigantic. After suffering another spasm, Quentin informs Xavier that he was thinking… "what if you’re wrong, Professor X…" He couldn’t help thinking that thought hand letting it loose… not trying to be rude but… >uhhm<… what if he’d really… really… missed… the point? Holding Quentin’s hand, Xavier answers that that’s a question they all must ask themselves every day. He’s done many good things and… and he’s made many terrible mistakes…

Noticing Xorn entering the infirmary, Xavier informs him that the boy is dying. Standing at the tank’s side, Xorn reaches into it and grasps Quentin’s temples with both hands. No, he is only changing, Xorn informs Xavier. He feels they would be wrong to interfere. Now speaking to Quentin, Xorn introduces himself. He is Xorn… and he shouldn’t be afraid. Still continuing his conversation with Xavier, Quentin asks what if they are both wrong… and it wasn’t humans to blame at all?

When he was a boy, not much older than he, Xorn tells Quentin, whose head he now cradles in his hands, a little star opened like a flower inside his head. What if the real enemy… was inside… all along Quentin mumbles. A flower made of lights is opening in him, Xorn continues. He can help him to let go of his last, painful attachments to this flesh where he was grown. There is something in him Xorn informs Quentin, that is like him. Opening his faceplate, revealing the microscopic star within his helmet, Xorn shines his radiance upon Quentin. Does he see? Xorn asks. After a brief moment of vocalized pain, Quentin is silent. God help me, Xavier whispers; so much potential wasted.

Addressing the group of students assembled on the Institute’s grounds, many of whom carry protest signs, Xavier informs them that Quentin Quire was liberated from his physical cocoon and born into a higher world at exactly 4:32 in the afternoon. He knows how ridiculous that sounds, he continues, but in this case they believe it to be the truth. His goal, Xavier says, changing the subject, is integration with humankind, through peaceful coexistence and mutual self-development. His methods are non-violent and require time and patience. In light of recent events, he’s willing to consider that his approach may be in error. With this said, Xavier informs the students that they are free to continue their protest for as long as they have the inclination, bearing in mind that the school will be closing for the summer in exactly six days. Following the break, he will be stepping down as Headmaster. He hopes, Xavier concludes, to see them all at the prizegiving ceremony.

In a high-end fashion shop in Manhattan, Angel informs Emma Frost that she thinks she looks really stupid. Nonsense, Emma retorts, eyeing the tight, black and very expensive dress Angel is in. She’s left "totally stupid" far behind, Emma adds, and now looks exquisite. Pose in the mirror and she’ll see.

Becoming much more serious, Angel informs Emma that there was something she wanted to talk about… like important stuff. Anytime, Emma quickly replies. She’s been searching for a new project and, right now, no one needs her advice more than she does. The journey from ugly quacker to glamorous swan has begun, Miss Salvadore, she says. Let Emma be her guide. Resigning herself to accept the rose that Miss Frost is putting behind her ear, Angel gives a weak "yeah, sure" and adds that Mister Xorn keeps saying she’d make a pretty good super hero, too. With their shopping completed, Emma leads the bag-laden Angel out of the store and hails a taxi.

In front of his assembled students, Professor Xavier stands on the stage behind his podium. Turned to his side, Xavier addresses the four identical sisters of the Stepford Cuckoos. For outstanding achievement in the field of telepathic communications and for exceptional bravery in defense of the ideals of the Xavier Institute… Xavier announces.

In the back of the tent, Xorn sits with his half of his "special class." Leaning in so that Xorn alone can hear, Basilisk pronounces that them gurlz iz weird. Changing the subject, Basilisk informs his teacher that he thinks he smelled Dummy. He thinks he’s still floating around alive in the shape of gas. Kinda ‘round near where Xorn’s butt is… Trying to hear the awards being presented in the front of the tent, Ernst whispers for her classmate to shush.

And now, Xavier continues, holding another ribbon-bound scroll, this special award is for outstanding achievement in heroism and honors their potential X-Men of the future. Barnell Bohusk, aka the Beak, and Angel Salvadore. Staring at the two empty seats on the other side of the "special class’s" table, Basilisk declares his missing classmates lo-sers and follows his avowal with a chuckle.

At the edge of the clearing where the tent is pitched, the absent Angel Salvadore leads the equally absent Barnell Bohusk into the woods. Protesting their actions, Barnell announces that they are going to miss the prizes! This, he tells her, is the one time in his life he has the chance to be taken seriously as more than just a potential source of food for dogs! Telling Barnell to shut up, Angel jests that they’re never going to win anything in this rotten existence. Trust her, she says, if the can he was born in says "loser" on the label then that’s what’s insi…

Angel cuts off her own words as she leans against a tree and vomits. Taking the brief respite in Angel’s painful words as an opportunity, Barnell proclaims that he is not a loser. He is so sick of that word! Okay, relents Angel as she wipes her mouth. He can be Mister Sunshine and show her how it’s done! Two words, Beakie, she says; I’m pregnant. They’ll throw them out of the school unless they do something fast. Us? Barnell asks in confusion. What does this have to do with… with… As the meaning of Angel’s words sink into Barnell’s mind, he whispers a barely audible oh, boy.

Sitting at a table of their own, the Stepford Cuckoos mock Miss Frost’s absence. That’s a surprise, one says. So, they’re all agreed, states another. Who can they call on the psychic telephone to see if their heads still work? asks another. Someone who’s really good at telepathy, states the first. Someone who can see into the hardest skull. I know, declares the second. How about one of the teachers? suggests the third.

On a commercial airplane, just as it is making its final approach to JFK International Airport, Jean Grey-Summers tries to comfort her fellow passenger; a woman clad in her covering burka. This is New York City, Jean states, pointing to a map in an in-flight magazine. Telling Sooraya to not be scared by anything that she sees, Jean adds that they are not far from the school she told her about.

Jean’s verbal conversation is cut short by the start of a telepathic one. Calling out to Mrs. Grey-Summers, the four Stepford Cuckoos say hello and apologize for interrupting. Recognizing the telepathic "voice," Jean asks her „caller" if they are Emma’s Cuckoos. Not bothering to answer the rhetorical question, the girls tells Jean that they know she’ll see this in their minds anyway, so they suppose they’d better just tell her; It’s about her husband and Miss Frost.

Standing by herself in the garden, Emma Frost once again holds her mouth in her hand, trying to hold back emotions. Walking into the garden, Cyclops tells Emma that he figured he’d find her there. They need to talk. Playing off her emotional state, Emma informs Scott that she was just checking her nose for cracks. It’s never been right, she says, since it was broken by that awful man… Ignoring Emma’s attempts at distraction, Scott informs her that he has to make a decision.

Unable to keep her emotional façade, Emma melts into Cyclops’ chest, announcing that this last week has been hideous. Looking up into his gaze, Emma tells Scott she’s so glad he’s there. She just wants to get away from all this crushing misery and have some fun… somewhere safe inside their heads… where no one can find them. Shifting their locale from the physical to the mental, Emma transports herself and Scott into a pillowed bedroom, illuminated by more than a dozen candles. While Scott retains his X-Men jacket and uniform, Emma now wears the costume of Dark Phoenix.

Ignoring Scott’s beginning protest, Emma rubs her hands over his shoulders. They are deep in a private thought, where they’re safe to explore all those… difficult feelings without guilt. Bereavement always fills her, she tells him, with an unforgivable lust. Remaining stoic, Scott points out the obvious: he’s betraying his wife. He can’t go on like this. It’s not real, Emma counters. They’re just thoughts. As Emma reaches for his visor, Scott asks her not to touch it. It’s really dangerous and he could kill her just by looking at her. Defending her actions, Emma replies that she only wanted to see if his eyes were as red as his face.

Stepping away from Emma’s embrace, Cyclops finds himself back in the physical world, still in the garden of the Institute. Turning his head, Scott tells Emma that he want to, but he can’t. The betrayal, Emma asserts to Scott, is all in his head. Dismissing the argument, Cyclops tells Emma that he’s not like this. En Sabah Nur made him like this… when he was possessed. He made everything seem boring afterwards… he made his life seem so small… his experiences so… so limited. So he says, Emma replies, reasserting the telepathic hideaway, but those dark feelings he left in his head are just ordinary human emotions. Employing her mastery of all things in her telepathic domain, Emma transforms her hair from blonde to red, immediately asking Scott if he likes her with that color. As Scott murmurs to himself in the real world, he and Emma are unaware of the arrival of Jean Grey-Summers or the resoluteness with which she strides across the Institute’s grounds to the garden.

Stop trying to live up to such ridiculous, restrictive ideas, Emma tells Scott, her arms wrapped around his neck and her hands clasped behind his back. Let yourself fall, she says. Stop being such an old super hero. But, Scott replies, he’s never been anything else. He’s never been allowed to be anything else. Well, Emma smiles, he can be anything he likes now. He’s safe in Auntie Emma’s wicked thoughts.

Leaning back onto a mound of pillows, Emma slowly unzips the front of the Dark Phoenix costume, revealing her cleavage and exposing her stomach. Standing nearby, next to the bed, Scott proceeds to take off his shirt. Is this really how he wishes it was with Jean, Emma asks. Not allowing him time to answer, Emma eyes Scott’s chest and announces that he’s making her lose control. She’s going to explode with passion and fry the stars…

As Scott makes his way onto the bed, Emma turns her attention elsewhere and attempts to find the words to say. All she is able to voice, however, is Unless, You and Oh, dear. Standing in the doorway of Emma’s telepathic bedroom is Jean. Looking upon her half-naked husband and the woman with whom he is in bed, Jean asks them to not tell her; they can explain.

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Phoenix IV, Professor X, Wolverine, Xorn (all X-Men)
Angel, Basilisk, Beak, Ernst, Glob Herman, Martha Johansson, Quentin Quire, Radian, Redneck, Stepford Cuckoos, Tattoo (all Xavier Institute students

Unnamed Xavier Institute students

Two car passengers
Manhattan shoppers

in Emma Frost’s telepathic scenario
Cyclops, Emma Frost, Phoenix IV (all X-Men)

Story Notes: 

The issue’s title refers to Muriel Spark’s short novel "The Prime of Miss Jean Brody." There are several parallels between the relationships of Emma and her Cuckoos and Miss Brody and her "Brody Set" in the novel, such as, for instance, Miss Brody’s example being responsible for one of her students’ dying or her being "betrayed" by her pupils.

In the scene of Sophie’s memorial service in the Rose Garden, the caption reads that it is Tuesday. However, this seems to be a mistake as other captions reveal that the riot took place on Wednesday (and event before the memorial) and Quentin’s death took place on a Thursday (which happened after).

At Sophie’s memorial, Emma Frost is reading from Thomas Hardy’s book, the Woodlanders. It is a story about the disastrous impact of outside life on a secluded community.

In this issue, Emma claims to be 27. This doesn't go along with earlier age statements. The flashback story in Generation X #minus 1 mentioned her to be 16 at the time she met the Dark Beast. In Generation X #6, the Dark Beast refers to the meeting as 20 years ago, leaving Emma at the age of 36 at the time of the issue. It seems that here, Emma is lying about her age, either to the Stepford Cuckoos, who had called her old, or to herself.

Emma’s nose was broken by one of John Sublime’s U-Men in New X-Men #118.

Cyclops was accidentally bonded with Apocalypse at the end of the the Twelve conflict. [X-Men (2nd Series) #97] He was finally separated from Apocalypse in X-Men: the Search for Cyclops #4.

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