When Norman Osborn became the U.S. Government's top superhuman law enforcer, he inherited a little problem: what to do about the Marvel Universe's remaining mutants? Publicly taking on about 200 superhumans could prove a little complex and thorny for Osborn and his new public image. So he tried a simpler strategy, if you can't beat them-- make them join you.
In our latest edition of THE OSBORN SUPREMACY, CBR's look at Marvel Comics ongoing Dark Reign saga, we talk with "Uncanny X-Men" writer Matt Fraction about Emma Frost's membership in Norman Osborn's secret Cabal, as well as "Uncanny X-Men Annual" #2, which explores Emma's ties to a couple of her co-conspirators and features artwork by Mitch Breitweiser.
When she sat down for the inaugural meeting of Norman Osborn's Cabal in the "Secret Invasion: Dark Reign" one-shot, Emma Frost must have had some inkling of what she was getting into. As a citizen of the Marvel Universe, she knows of Osborn's unsavory activities, and several years ago, she had a face-to-face encounter with the man himself - one that Matt Fraction mined for inspiration. "I found a previously printed story where there was a representation of the annual Hellfire Club gala, and both Tony Stark and Norman Osborn were in attendance," the writer told CBR. "It had been established that Howard Stark, Tony's father, was an early member of the Hellfire Club. And I'm not sure how or when Norman came in, but both he and Tony were pre-established 'surface' members of the Hellfire Club. So having that already established opportunity to put Norman, Tony, and Emma in a room together before Dark Reign was pretty terrific and was the root of the story for ['Uncanny X-Men Annual'] #2."
"Secret Invasion: Dark Reign" also hinted that Frost had a prior relationship with Cabal member Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. "[Brian Bendos'] script had that great bit with Namor and Emma and that's ultimately what the Annual is about," Fraction said. "I found this place where Emma, Stark, Osborn, and Sebastian Shaw, the Black King of the Hellfire Club, are all together and that got me thinking about Namor, who is the first mutant. The Annual flashes back and forth between the modern day and the past, and what's happening in the past is we're watching Shaw as he puts together his 'Inner Circle' of the Hellfire Club. He took the group over by violent coup and then assembled his inner circle with himself, Emma as the White Queen, and Selene as the Black Queen. This is soon after and he's looking at Namor for the role of White King, and with Namor being the first mutant that seemed like a natural thing.
"So this story is all about the past relationship between Emma and Namor," Fraction continued. "So when I think about the Cabal, Osborn, and the mutants of the Marvel Universe, what I think is you've got Emma Frost, who at the moment is the active queen of mutantdom, and you've got Namor, who is the first mutant. And they're at that table and they're talking about how they're going to rule the world. I think a lot of fascinating possibilities come out of there."
When Norman Osborn met Emma Frost all those years ago, he wasn't impressed. What's she's become since then is why Osborn invited her to join his cabal. "Back then, Norman found her a decadent strumpet and wanted nothing to do with her. But now he finds her a morally malleable power figure," Fraction explained. "She's his best hope for keeping about 200 superpowered militants off the game board. Magneto is gone. Sebastian Shaw is just a fop with no real power, so Emma is the one in Norman's mind. She's the mutant queen for lack of a better word and Cyclops is their king. And while Norman would consider Scott a turgid boy scout, he sees Emma as someone who is morally flexible and understands the sacrifices one needs to make for one's people."
Norman knows this about Emma because he's looked into her past and seen all the times she's tried to protect the mutants under her charge-- and failed. "Emma's central reason for being is that she wants to protect her people, whether it was her school kids in Genosha, the Hellions, or her current charges-all of mutantkind," Fraction said. "That's what she wants more than anything in the world, so if that's her goal what is good and what is evil? She lost hundreds of kids when Genosha was attacked. She lost Synch. She lost her Hellions. Emma's finally said 'Never again.'"
In becoming part of Osborn's Cabal, the question of lawbreaking becomes somewhat moot for Emma Frost because for all intents and purposes, Norman Osborn is the law, thanks to his newfound position of power. "The deal is keep your people off the board and no harm will come to them. Osborn is pledging what he can. The idea is that she'd have both Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R. on her side," Fraction stated. "Norman doesn't need the mutant variable in any of his equations. And the ultimate irony is that Emma is doing what Scott is doing. She's making these crippling moral bargains and this Faustian pact all in the name of keeping mutant kind safe and alive."
To keep mutant kind safe, Cyclops has formed X-Force, a clandestine "wetworks" team tasked with eliminating forces that threaten the Marvel U's remaining mutant population. Emma isn't aware of X-Force's existence and neither is Norman-- at least, not yet. "This is one of those instances where there's a difference in publication time and Marvel time," Fraction said. "In Marvel time, X-Force has really only been around a couple of weeks, but if anyone is going to get wind of their activities it would be Norman. If X-force slips, word will get to Norman. And as we've seen, Emma has her suspicions but no proof, and Scott is shutting her out to protect her."
Emma Frost's position in the Cabal makes her part of Norman Osborn's new world order. Consequently, unlike in past instances, the X-Men aren't going to be able to remain neutral during the Marvel Universe's big events and conflicts. Like it or not, Emma Frost has chosen a side for them. "This is what Dark Reign is about for the X-Menm" Fraction said. "Mutantkind is about to come back to the front and center of the Marvel U. Emma's presence in the cabal puts the X-Men on a collision course with the destiny of Marvel U. They're not going to be able to hide anymore."
"Uncanny X-Men Annual" #2 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.