I remember reading about Emma Frost (aka the White Queen) and the Hellfire Club back in the 1980s when John Byrne was drawing The Uncanny X-Men. It was one of my favorite storylines, and she was one of my favorite villains because she was so outright evil. By day, she taught at a school (Massachusetts Academy) that rivaled Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. By night, she enjoyed torturing the X-Men.
Returning to comics in 2008, I discovered that there had been some MAJOR changes made to Emma Frost's character over the years. She was no longer a villain. She could turn herself into diamond. She had joined the X-Men. She replaced Charles Xavier (aka Professor X) as the X-Men's telepath. She was in a relationship with Scott Summers (aka Cyclops). She had her own 18-issue comic book series. And, last but not least, she had become this giant sex symbol.
The EMMA FROST ULTIMATE COLLECTION compiles all 18 issues of Emma Frost's solo series. The first several issues of the series (and the cover of this compilation) makes you feel like you're buying porn. It's a painted cover of Emma in a provocative pose. Ironically, the stories on the inside had nothing to do with the sexy portraits on the outside. In fact, they were about her as a young girl growing up, attending school and dealing with her wealthy family members. Something about that felt almost...pedophiliac. The covers were geared toward an older, horny, straight male audience. The interior stories were geared toward adolescent and teenage girls. I almost feel like that's where Marvel Comics went wrong. They could have used Emma Frost to try to attract a young female audience to the Emma Frost series. Instead, the series attracted the horny boy/guy by its sexy covers and then disappointed them by providing a Hannah Montana/teenage angst storyline. For this reason alone, I think the comic book failed after 18 issues.
The first sex...er, six...issues of the series takes place when Emma is a young girl in school. She gets picked on at school, she has a crush on her sympathetic teacher, and she's beginning to discover (and be frightened of) her mental abilities. We also see her in her homelife as one of the children of an affluent Massachusetts family. Her siblings have their own definite (and intriguing) personalities, her father is very controlling, and her mother is blissfully ignorant because of her prescription meds. All of this was fascinating and I was disappointed to see it end after six issues.
The next six issues were about Emma breaking free from the control of her father and living on the streets. During this period, she meets a man and they try to extort money from her father by her pretending to be kidnapped and held for ransom.
The final six, Emma has taken all of her ransom money and enrolled herself in college. She meets a fellow telepath who poses as her best friend but then secretly wants to destroy her.
The series was all wonderfully written by Karl Bollers, and I would have loved to have seen him write about 100 issues of each of those three segments of her life, continuing on into her joining the Hellfire Club and apparently having "romantic" trysts with some of Marvel's prominent male superheroes like Iron Man and Namor. What I also especially loved about Bollers' storytelling was his use of supporting characters in Emma Frost. Her family members, teachers, schoolmates, friends, etc. all had their own definite, unique personalities and I wanted to know about them as much as I wanted to know about Emma. That's the sign of great writing.
I'm sad that Emma Frost was cancelled after 18 issues. However, I still believe that there is a market out there for her stories as Bollers told them, if the series was properly geared toward the right audience. Not every comic has to be about battles and good vs. evil. Emma Frost's brilliant first six issues demonstrated that (if not for the conflicting Penthouse covers). Sometimes the writer can transport the reader away into the world of their superhero characters with just their social interactions. It's sad that Marvel Comics dropped the ball on this one.