Warning: SPOILERS for Powers of X #5
Marvel Comics' X-Men reboot is finally getting Emma Frost right. Created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne back in 1980, Emma Frost quickly earned her place as one of the X-Men's greatest villains. She was a fascinating and complex character, and in the 1990s she began the process of becoming a member of the X-Men rather than one of their many villains.
The last few years haven't been particularly kind to Emma Frost. Although her relationship with Cyclops was an enjoyable one at first, she gradually morphed into a character whose every arc revolved around her boyfriend. Worse still, the couple broke up in the aftermath of 2012's Avengers Vs. X-Men event, and yet her stories have continued to focus on Scott Summers. Emma Frost literally became a villain again in Inhumans Vs. X-Men out of grief for Cyclops, and her entire arc in Rosenberg's Uncanny X-Men run was an attempt to save mutantkind in order to get back with her ex.
Fortunately, superstar comic book writer Jonathan Hickman has taken over the X-Men franchise, and he seems to understand Emma Frost a lot better than many writers. Powers of X #5 established that Emma is one of the ruling council of Krakoa, the new mutant nation, and she's in charge of distributing Krakoa's drugs across the globe. This is an inspired use for Emma Frost; she's a successful businesswoman in her own right, although the comics have tended to just use this to explain why she has money.
Even better, one single line of dialogue brings Emma Frost back to her classic character. Approached by Xavier and Magneto, offered a seat on the council, she admits to herself that there's only one reason she's getting involved. "For the children." It's often neglected, but Emma Frost has always been focused upon the next generation. She's a teacher, and she truly loves her charges, even if she doesn't quite know how to show it. Indeed, her entire path of redemption began when she was offered the chance to teach at Xavier's School in Generation X. But, heartbreakingly, all Emma's attempts at teaching have ended in tragedy.
The Hellions were slaughtered by Sentinels; another Sentinel attack destroyed the entire mutant population of Genosha, a nation where Emma was teaching. No doubt the idea of resurrection has a massive appeal for Emma Frost, who has lost so many people she cares for over the years. It's surely no coincidence that Hickman's Powers of X and House of X books have shown the Stepford Cuckoos, Emma's clone "daughters," all brought back from the dead as a priority for Krakoa.
When House of X and Powers of X come to an end, Emma Frost will be a key player in the Marauders book. And all signs are that this will use her in a smart way as well; she appears to have recruited Kitty Pryde as the Red Queen, a new asset in Emma's Hellfire Corporation. The relationship between Emma and Kitty is a fascinating and complex one, with Kitty never able to truly trust Emma. In Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run, Emma wanted Kitty in her team precisely because she knew she'd question her, and challenge her where appropriate. This suggests Emma is still wary of Xavier's Krakoan dream, and wants someone at her side who will second-guess everything.
Notice that none of this is about Emma Frost's love life. While there have been hints that Cyclops is having an affair again, there's as yet no indication who it's with; it could just as easily be with the Invisible Woman as with Emma Frost. If it is with Emma, then clearly that affair does not define her, because it hasn't even been hinted at yet. The character of Emma Frost no longer lives in Cyclops' shadow.
Powers of X #5 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.