Last week, ‘Uncanny X-Men #32’ brought an end to a long-running X-Men relationship – Cyclops and Emma Frost. But was the end always on the cards?
Of course, in reality Cyclops and Emma haven’t been together since the events of ‘AvX’, which – while including, of course, Cyclops’ killing Charles Xavier – also featured him beating his lover up. Still, the Bendis books have continued to subtly hint at the chemistry between Cyclops and Emma, and it’s a matter of record that Emma has stuck by her man at the New Xavier School.
But the seeds of the breakdown were sown, I think, all the way back in the Grant Morrison era.
Cyclops and Emma first got together as the product of a psychic affair, and this led to a certain instability in their relationship. The first issue was the ‘ex’. Emma retained what Bendis jokingly referred to as a ‘Jean Grey’ envy, a hint of bitterness towards the woman who had so comprehensively defeated her back in her White Queen days. In reality, Emma always felt like she was Cyclops’ second choice, and that she suspected – in the event of Jean’s return – that Cyclops would be back at Jean’s side like a shot.
Of course, the cosmic irony to this is that, as readers of ‘Here Comes Tomorrow’ will note, a future Jean Grey’s will was largely what nudged Cyclops into keeping the relationship with Emma going in the first place.
And the second issue was one of trust. Oh, Emma was confident that Cyclops would stick with her; but I think that, beneath it all, Cyclops always had a hint of distrust towards Emma. Tony Stark may not have gotten between them, but Namor did, and it was heavily ironic that Emma’s psychic affair with Namor was the final nudge that pushed Cyclops into a full-on Phoenix-style attack on Emma.
A third issue developed over the years. The position of leader acted as a barrier between Cyclops and Emma, with Cyclops initially hiding X-Force from her – and with Emma hiding her involvement in Norman Osborn’s Cabal. The couple sorted that out in the end, although not until after Cyclops spent a few nights sleeping on the couch. But the events of ‘Schism’ changed everything. Cyclops became increasingly distant and intense, and after Emma was badly injured in battle with Sinister he showed little care (unlike Namor, who capitalised on the opportunity to display his concern). With Cyclops increasingly withdrawn, Emma was left feeling isolated and wounded. That was the context in which Emma finally turned to Namor.
I think, though, that the real breaking-point between Cyclops and Emma was in a comparative side-issue. In one of ‘AvX’s Infinite Comics, Cyclops became aware that he was beginning to fall to the temptation of Dark Phoenix. With similar concerns, Emma tried to go to him for help. But what did Cyclops do?
He headed to the Moon, and used the Phoenix Force to animate dust into the form his subconscious wished to interact with – Jean Grey. He went, not to Emma, but to Jean, his ex-wife.
To me, I think, that was the moment when this couple were doomed.