With Fox having already used most of the X-Men’s major villains, from Magneto and William Stryker to Apocalypse and the Sentinels, in its film franchise, fans might wonder when they’ll next see someone new. Considering the next film, widely referred to as “X-Men: Supernova,” is expected to revisit “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” and atone for the sins of 2006’s “The Last Stand,” that could be a while.
As the roster of top-tier villains seemingly runs thin, there’s one option the studio needs to consider if it wishes to capitalize on the success of recent films. It’s a face we’re all too familiar with, from comics, animation and film, but one that’s been woefully underused on the big screen: Emma Frost.
A fan-favorite villain turned hero, the diamond-skinned telepath made her feature debut in 2011’s “X-Men: First Class,” but failed to resonate with audiences, due in no small part to January Jones’ wooden performance, which fell far short of the regal disposition the character displays in the Marvel comics. Allied with Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw, Frost was recruited at the end of the film by Magneto for his Brotherhood only to be listed in 2014’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past” as one of the mutants killed in Trask Industries’ experiments.
It was both an inauspicious beginning and unremarkable end for a character who’s duality has made her one of Marvel Comics’ most cerebral villains, and one of its most understated antiheroes. Emma has leaned toward the latter role in recent decades, but as of last week’s “Inhumans vs. X-Men” #6, by Jeff Lemire, Charles Soule and Leinil Francis Yu, she’s fallen back on her more traditional role, which could be a blessing for Fox.
Despite having won the battle against the Inhumans (with their Inhuman-awakening Terrigen Cloud destroyed), Emma engaged in mass murder against the Ennilux group run by Black Bolt and Medusa’s son Ahura, then took control of Magneto’s mind and turned him into a magnetically powered puppet. In order to exact revenge for the Terrigen Cloud having killed Cyclops, Emma used her powers to trick everyone into believing the fallen mutant was still alive, setting up a series of events to culminate in a moment when Black Bolt could “kill” Scott Summer, and start the war. Manipulative, right? What else would you expect from the one-time White Queen?
In the X-Men, whether in the comics or on the screen, a character switching from hero to villain and back again is a well-established trope. But even if Magneto and Mystique were to turn bad again in the film franchise, the characters’ arcs appear to have run their course; Fox needs something, or someone, to help reinvigorate the stories. After all, what’s the point in introducing new heroes such as Deadpool and X-23 but not similarly expanding the base of antagonists?
We’ve seen the X-Men take on Magneto’s Brotherhood, Sebastian Shaw, Toad, Azazel, Mastermind, William Stryker, Bolivar Trask, Sentinels and Apocalypse, and Wolverine has faced his own stable of villains, like Silver Samurai, Donald Pearce and the Reavers. We can likely eventually add to that list Mister Sinister, who was teased in “Days of Future Past.” But even if Sinister does eventually arrive, the X-Men franchise still needs new villainous blood. And with Marvel Studios introducing Cate Blanchett’s Hela as the primary antagonist of “Thor: Ragnarok,” this is the ideal time for Fox to unveil a major female supervillain of its own.
Emma Frost could easily become the film series’ new Magneto, a figure who wants to fight for mutantkind, at the expense of those who fear and hate them. A formidable telepath, she could also be the perfect foil for Charles Xavier, and lure Scott Summers to become her protege — the young leader she needs to carry out her field work, as opposed to a lover (the original “X-Men” trilogy already delivered a Cyclops-Jean-Wolverine love triangle; there’s little need to rehash that). Emma, as headmistress of her own rival school and a temptress, makes her a great mix of Xavier and Magneto, a la Onslaught, only in a less-monstrous package. Think of Emma placing an open call for mutants to “come to the dark side,” so to speak, which would allow Fox to introduce a new version of the Hellfire Club.
That approach would also permit the studio to maintain a focus on characters like Scott Summers, Jean Grey and Hank McCoy as they mature to eventually become the X-Men fans know. With characters like Cyclops already experiencing loss, having Emma recruit them to forma a dark reflection of Xavier’s dream would provide an updated take on the X-Men trope that’s existed for decades. Fox wouldn’t even need to spin her redemption arc again, because not only would it simply be repeating Magneto and Mystique, but by then, there would be an X-Men team that’s stronger and better, and wouldn’t require her in its ranks. That would allow the franchise to use her as a full-fledged villain, and truly cut loose as the White Queen.
Well, as long as she’s not portrayed by January Jones this time.
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