Reviewer: Jesse Baker
Story Title: Higher Learning Part 5
Written by: Karl Bollers
Penciled by: Randy Green
Inked by: Rick Ketchman
Colored by: Pete Pantazis
Lettered by: Cory Petit
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Note: Cover by Greg Horn
When it was first announced that Emma Frost would get her own book, I was greatly skeptical of it being worth reading. Like David Spade, Emma works best in a supporting role where she can be the sarcastic but lovable sh#t-disturber who we can relate to in terms of mocking the other characters. Furthermore, Emma’s history as being evil incarnate until her editorially mandated turn to the side of the angels in 1994 makes for problems fleshing out her backstory. Granted Grant Morrison explained away Emma’s evil acts as being the depraved antics of a junkie who would do any drugs offered to her, but still there is a lot of problems with exploring Emma’s past so that it doesn’t come off as a blatant whitewash on the part of the writer. So Karl Bollers has decided to make the series a flashback series and use it to show Emma’s life from the very beginning when she first manifested her powers. Loosely basing the series on a series of flashbacks of Emma’s past that were introduced in the “Murder At the Mansion” story, the series gives us an interesting take on Emma’s past that both explains how Emma could become such a heartless monster while at the same time giving us sympathy towards Emma’s inner demons and her inevitable redemption.
This issue continues with the first storyline in the book, as Bollers continues the exploration of the domestic hell that is the Frost family. Despite exposing her evil father’s affair to her mother, Mrs. Frost still refuses to accept it and accuses Emma of trying to frame her father. Not even an accidental mind-meld between mother and daughter can make her accept the notion that her husband is cheating on her. Meanwhile the problems of Emma’s recently outed brother Christian multiple as he gets financially cut off, expelled from the house his dad bought for him, and fired from work. When Christian responds by moving into the home of his boyfriend, Winston Frost responds by way of having the police frame Christian’s boyfriend of drug possession and then force him to be deported rather than face a lengthy jail sentence.
Forced to watch her brother crawl back to her father and learning that her evil sister Adrienne gleefully aided in framing her brother’s lover, Emma has a disturbing nightmare that leads her to arrive in Christian’s room. There she finds Christian hanging from the ceiling, having chosen to kill himself rather than submit to his evil father.
This leads to an interesting problem with the overall direction of the storyline, which ends with next month’s issue. If Bollers is still planning to follow the backstory of Emma’s that was given to us by Grant Morrison, we know that Christian is going to survive this and simply become a drug addict who eventually goes mad from the effect that the drugs have on his mind. The same can be said about the growing war between Emma and her father; as Morrison stated that Emma’s ultimate and final act of defiance towards her father was to renounce the family fortune when offered a chance by Winston Frost to become his sole heir-apparent. We know what’s going to happen and that it’s going to be a huge disappointment to some who are expecting Emma to go off the deep-end and do something particularly nasty to her father, something so evil that it causes her to turn towards the dark side. And quite frankly, given everything that has been shown in this series so far, I would be extremely disappointed if Bollers ended the first arc without giving Winston Frost a horrific comeuppance given everything he has done so far.
Which leads to another point of contention for me, that the story itself has hit a wall and needs desperately for something big to happen. For the last couple of issues, we’ve seen Emma and her brother be repeatedly screwed over by their father and his mini-me Adrienne. And with one issue left to go in the higher learning arc, we should be building towards a breaking point in the story. So what happens? All of the tension being built over Emma bringing down her father is brushed aside even with the introduction of the Vulcan Mind-Meld into the fray while Christian (who we know will survive) goes through cliche after cliche of what happens when kids of evil, dominating, and financially powerful parents decide to ruin the lives of their kids so as to make them dependant on them again. So Boller has a ton of stuff left to do unless he is not, as rumored, going to jump the series ahead a couple of years to tell the tale of Emma joining the Hellfire Club with the next arc.