Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Michele Bandini
Colors: David Curiel
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Design: Tom Muller & Jay Bowen
Cover: Mark Brooks
Variant Covers: Phil Noto; Meghan Hetrick; Betsy Cola
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: July 13th, 2022
By day she’s the elegant head of the Hellfire Trading Company and a member of Krakoa’s Quiet Council. By night she’s…a diamond? Emma Frost is front and center in this issue, recovering from the HELLFIRE GALA and dropping a bombshell revelation on the council. Plus–more machinations with Mister Sinister!
In IMMORTAL X-MEN #4 Kieron Gillen tells another story where character development dictates the plot rather than plot development moving characters like chess pieces. Here he focuses on Emma, following her as she reflects on the HELLFIRE GALA, something not spoiled by the issue, and reveals to the Quiet Council what the X-MEN learned about Doctor Stasis (discovered in X-MEN #11-12). When momentous events happen in a comic the writer typically includes reactions from major players involved. When the story is being told from one character’s point of view there will often be ample dialogue to convey other opinions. But while these events certainly qualify as momentous, Gillen doesn’t bother with such a scene because IMMORTAL X-MEN #4 isn’t actually about that.
IMMORTAL X-MEN #4 opens on Emma in a moment of unsurprising self-involvement, and it’s through that lens that the story is told. When Emma shares the Doctor Stasis revelation, her thoughts aren’t on potential consequences to Krakoa and her fellow mutants but on the satisfaction, she’ll get from being the one to unmask him. So it’s not surprising that Gillen doesn’t linger on an extended scene of Emma watching the council members express their shock and dismay–in her current frame of mind, Emma almost certainly doesn’t care and she’s engaging enough that we don’t care either. This is the more honest way to tell this part of the story.
(SPOILER WARNING FOR IMMORTAL X-MEN #3) The issue does cut away from Emma’s point of view briefly to a scene with Sinister. Given the strength of the Emma story, this isn’t a welcome interruption. Gillen returns to the story thread introduced in the previous issue of a possible connection between Sinister and Moira. This subplot isn’t particularly interesting at this point. But what is interesting is that for a moment Sinister slips out of his perpetual mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash persona and back to the deadly serious man at the heart of who he is. It’s an effective reminder of how truly dangerous Sinister can be, something easily lost amidst his general buffoonery.
After three issues of art from Lucas Werneck, IMMORTAL X-MEN #4 is handled by Michele Bandini. This happening on an Emma-centric issue is ironic since Emma is the character Bandini handles least well. Gillen’s entire take on Emma in this issue is a person given more control than empathy and a telepath who doesn’t want to connect with others; she is someone who won’t let herself be deeply touched. But visually she is soft. She lacks her typical elegant flair. Even in her diamond form, she doesn’t radiate strength, instead looking merely like a blue version of how she appears the rest of the time. Emma’s thoughts are at odds with her appearance throughout this issue, and it saps some of the energy out of the story.
This may not be an issue specific to Emma, though. Bandini draws all the male characters in the issue with faces featuring liberal use of lines and shading. This detail adds dimension and gives them real personality. You can see Sinister’s fear, Nightcrawler’s empathy, and Shaw’s disinterest. But there is no corresponding detail with Emma (or Mystique in the few panels she appears). Her face is strangely blank. Even getting sheep’s blood thrown on her isn’t enough to generate more than a close-up on stern-looking eyes.
Sinister’s machinations aren’t compelling. The problem, presented vaguely to avoid spoilers, is that what he threatens here is something that most readers know can never happen. Every time the idea is brought up directly it reinforces the complete lack of stakes attached to it, and the net result is always a drag on the story.
Most visual elements in the issue work, and I like what Bandini does with almost every character. The problem is that the one character she really has to nail is the one that she doesn’t.
Ultimately the real strength of IMMORTAL X-MEN #4 is the character focus. Gillen’s take on Emma in this issue is compelling and, like with any good Emma story, I found myself engaged with the character while never quite settling on whether or not I like why she does what she does. And the added bonus of telling the story from Emma’s point of view is that we get a far more honest look at her via her own thoughts than we ever get seeing her from an outside viewpoint. The narrative spotlight on Emma is what makes this issue work.