Giant-Size X-Men #1: Jean Grey + Emma Frost: Friendship is Psychic

Jean Grey and Emma Frost float in a psychic realm

Mutant children at play discover the comatose body of Storm lying in a Krakoan forest. Jean Grey and Emma Frost must team up for a psychic rescue to save her in Giant-Size X-Men #1, and Wendy Browne and Kayleigh Hearn have teamed up to chat about it.

Giant-Size X-Men #1: Jean Grey + Emma Frost

Russell Dauterman (story and art), Jonathan Hickman (story and words), Tom Muller (design), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Matthew Wilson (colourist)
Marvel Comics
February 26, 2020

Giant-Size X-Men #1 cover w/ Jean Grey and Emma Frost

I think it’s safe to say we’re all fans of Jean Grey and Emma Frost here— What were your hopes going into Giant-Size X-Men #1?

Wendy Browne: Honestly, I had none. I expected excellent artwork from Dauterman and a great story about Jean and Emma. But this story was about them rescuing Storm, a character who has been deflated right down to plot device. She was nothing more here, so I got exactly what I was expecting out of this story. I want to love this story to pieces — and I do — but my joy is overshadowed by Storm’s diminished role overall.

Kayleigh Hearn: Giant-Size X-Men #1 was my single-most anticipated comic of the Dawn of X line, and I came away very happy. It was the Jean Grey story I’ve been waiting for. Emma Frost has had a very good showing in HoXPoX and Marauders, but Hickman hasn’t really done much with Jean after the “I dunno what to say, Marvel Girl. Try harder” bit in House of X, which was such a weird, regressive take on the character, essentially reducing her to the shadow of her Silver Age self, that some folks wondered if it was really a big clue that this was a clone or a different timeline — and it wasn’t! So as soon as I saw Jean armored up on Russell Dauterman’s cover art, I was hopeful that this would be a return to form for the character, and a reminder of how powerful Jean Grey really is.

Giant-Size X-Men #1 is a homage to Morrison and Quitely’s New X-Men #121, which also featured a psychic rescue by Jean and Emma. What did you think of GSXM as a response to that issue? Does it work?

comparison between new x-men #121 and giant-size x-men #1
New X-Men #121 vs. Giant-Size X-Men #1. Now we see where Emma kept that flask!

Wendy: I haven’t read that issue, but I’ve seen a few panels from it. I appreciate the homage — and the confirmation that Emma still carries a flask, probably filled with some awesome Krakoan hooch (I hope the mutants are marketing that to the humans too).

Kayleigh: I recommend checking out New X-Men #121 if you get the chance, Wendy, because Giant-Size X-Men #1 functions as a really fascinating sequel. When it first became clear online that this was inspired from that mostly-silent NXM issue I was concerned, because one thing I really wanted in the new Krakoan status quo was for Jean and Emma to just really hash it out and talk — and not in catty little asides, either. But there’s some truth in cliches like “actions speak louder than words,” and I felt that here.

Dauterman’s homage to Quitely (Or “Quietly,” as he was credited in NXM #121, well-played) is very apparent right from the beginning, but he’s very adept at conveying through body language how the characters and relationships have changed. In NXM, Jean and Scott were at a rough point in their marriage, and walk in separately; here, they come in hand-in-hand. There, Jean kissed Scott on the cheek; here, she kisses Logan, another sign of the widening intimacy between the three. While waiting for Jean and Emma in NXM, Scott and Logan sat apart from each other; in GSXM, they’re sitting close together. And then there’s how Jean and Emma’s relationship has changed.

Wendy: Frank Quitely allowed me to appreciate Grant Morrison because when they worked together, Morrison seemed far more comfortable with letting Quitely show the story, instead of Morrison overindulging in words. I’ve seen the power of their silent issues in books like We3, so I will definitely take you up on this recommendation to read NXM #121!

Jean and Emma have had quite the tempestuous relationship as enemies and teammates (teamenies?). Did this issue do them justice? What do you think they’ll be like moving forward?

Emma Frost and Jean Grey looking at each other

Wendy: The relationship between the two is so fraught. Any opportunity to have them together promises sparks, but Hickman has set a high bar and a strong tone with Dawn of X: petty squabbling is not on the agenda. That’s not to say that the issues Emma and Jean have dealt with and deservedly needed to air out are small matters. I mean that any animosities are being handled with appropriate maturity. Particularly, when it comes to grievances with women — especially when a man is involved — writers tend to devolve their encounters into catfights. Dawn of X hasn’t automatically settled or wiped away disagreements, but it’s allowed the characters to do more than just punch each other in response to their shared negative histories. Giant-Size X-Men #1 epitomizes that (well, except for Storm’s issues with Emma, but that resolution comes elsewhere).

I hope this means that we get to see more friendships, especially between the women. Friendship seems to have always been centered around Storm for the X-Men, with her relationships with Jean, Kate, and Yukio and stories that were shaped around them, but there are other X-Men and other friendships that I’d like to see more fleshed out to give us more of the human (!) side of the X-Men that I have always loved. Jean and Emma coming to terms with themselves and their place in this new world opens the door for a lot more opportunities for more moments of camaraderie.

Kayleigh: The big payoff in Giant-Size X-Men #1 is seeing Jean and Emma really, truly work together. That’s what elevates this issue beyond being a NXM #121 cover song; there, Emma gets stuck in psychic word vomit (for lack of a better description) and Jean marches on to save Charles without her, but in this issue, they’re partners. To save Ororo, they need each other. I’m in love with the page where Ororo’s psychic defenses are crushing them into tiny dark spaces (I can’t argue that Ororo isn’t a damsel here, but her presence is still strongly felt) and Emma and Jean reach for each other, touch foreheads, and blast the darkness away. Their physical closeness throughout the issue is very interesting — whether you ship the polycule or not — because it points to how much more comfortable they are with each other, and they aren’t even in the material world! I don’t expect Emma and Jean to ever be best friends, but I love them having a complicated, messy, indescribable relationship that has nothing to do with Scott.

Russell Dauterman!!! That’s not a question, but he rules, right?

Wendy: Oh gosh, yes, Dauterman. But the best thing about this issue is that they incorporated the Marvel style, which means that not only do we get to see Dauterman’s impeccable artwork, we also get to see his full input on the storytelling. I am particularly in love with the page where he truly defines Emma and Jean in terms of who they are, and what they mean to Storm. There is so much more than call backs to past issues in the moments Dauterman chooses to share in this scene. And that look on Emma’s face when she once again grudgingly accepts her fate in the face of Storm’s wrath…!!

Kayleigh: Russell Dauterman’s art is as sharp as one of Emma Frost’s stilettos. This is what we mean when we call artists storytellers. Most of this issue unfolds as a surreal, dialogue-free journey into a character’s headspace, but examining Emma and Jean’s body language, we know exactly what they’re thinking on each page, from Emma’s “Oh darling, if I must,” hand-flipping resignation to Jean’s tender concern for the virus-infected Ororo. There’s so much to love here, particularly Jean “armoring up” for a psychic rescue (can we be done with the mini-dress, please?) or Emma forming the words “HELP!” in the cracks in the ground made by her own diamond skull. And every page is enhanced by Matthew Wilson’s glorious colors. I rarely buy floppies anymore, but I bought a copy of Giant-Size X-Men just to flip through and marvel at.

This is a comic to treasure.

Kayleigh Hearn

Kayleigh Hearn

Still waiting for her Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters acceptance letter. Bylines also at Deadshirt, Ms-En-Scene, The MNT, PanelxPanel, and Talk Film Society.