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Jun 8

Amazing X-Men Annual #1

Posted on Sunday, June 8, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

If it was surprising to see a blatant filler story crop up in the ongoing Amazing X-Men title last month, it is rather less so to see one in the first Amazing X-Men Annual.  Annuals have always tended to be a venue for the inconsequential, and there was a lot of sense – commercially speaking, at any rate – in Marvel’s decision a decade or so back to just stop making the things and put the resources into making extra issues of the regular titles instead.  But of course, that means getting extra material out of your regular creators, which is sometimes easier said than done.  That may be why these things are starting to re-emerge; if it’s plainly not going to pass for a regular issue, maybe better not to make the attempt.

Amazing X-Men Annual #1 seems to have taken the approach of hiring a reasonably promising creative team and hoping for the best.  So they’ve got writer Monty Nero, who’s had some attention for his indie book Death Sentence, and they’ve paired him with Salvador Larroca – admittedly not the sort of creator you normally see assigned to a throwaway.

But the resulting story is pretty bland.  A new baddie is attacking Storm’s family back in Kenya (the idea that she has previously unmentioned cousins is a little awkward in itself, but let’s let that one slide).  Storm and the X-Men go to the rescue.  It turns out that said baddie is trying to lure Storm in so that he can take revenge on her for killing his family by starting a dangerous sandstorm during one of those flashbacks to her adolescent dalliance with the Black Panther that we’d all prefer to forget about.  Baddie is duly vanquished and there’s a bit of blether about whether he’s actually right about blaming her for the sandstorm anyway.

This is all serviceable enough – it hangs together as a plot, it tries to find an angle that’s specific to the lead character, it at least gestures in the direction of an emotional core.  It also makes neat use of the current Inhumans storyline to justify the sudden emergence of a new villain who has apparently been quietly seething for years but couldn’t do anything about it until now.

But the intended ambiguity about whether Storm started the sandstorm doesn’t work on a variety of levels.  The key flashback may be the issue here – it’s so telegraphic that it’s entirely unclear how Meruda is supposed to have been present to know that Ororo was (or could have been) responsible, and it seems to be claiming that the storm was literally flaying people alive, which would pretty much rule out natural causes right there.  And ultimately the story seems to want us to accept a ghost showing up to assure us that Storm wasn’t responsible, or at least that this sort of thing happened all the time anyway – which rather begs the question of what all the fuss was about.  (It’s also an unnecessary distraction to link T’Challa to the flashback, since nothing really seems to turn on his presence, and he doesn’t otherwise appear in the story.  It’s not like we’re referencing a classic here.)

The dialogue has a serious cliche problem – page three alone features the lines “Gott im himmel…!  We have to get her back!”, “I say we go in now – and we go in hard!”, “You’re our family.  Your problems are our problems”, and “Let’s show this punk what he’s dealing with”.

Where the issue does score is on Salvador Larroca’s renditions of Meruda and his demons.  An interview with Nero suggests that somewhere along the line, the inspiration here was supposed to be African heavy metal fans.  That doesn’t really make it through to the plot – which is a shame, since god knows the depiction of Africa in Storm stories hasn’t advanced that much since her debut in 1975 – but it does seem to have fed through into some strong design work here.

There’s also a back-up, consisting of five double-page spreads by Marguerite Bennet and Juan Doe, meant to represent five people’s reflections on Firestar.  Doe’s range of styles certainly impresses.  But the feature falls down largely on the problem that she’s only just been added to the cast and hasn’t really done anything yet, beyond an “out of her depth newbie rising to the challenge” schtick which itself feels a little forced considering she already did this arc in Avengers in the late 90s.  At any rate, it’s hard to see that much of what we see here relates in any clear (or even unclear) way to the character as she’s usually depicted.  It simply doesn’t feel like it’s talking about the same person.  But as a formal experiment and an art showcase it’s a welcome refresher and more memorable than the main story.

Bring on the comments

  1. joseph says:

    Storm has a solo book coming up, so here’s another generic orientalist Storm-in-Africa story. Total snooze. Let’s hope the new book is better.

    Yost and Craig’s Amazing, on the other hand, actually drew me in. I was never a huge fan of their books, but it geeks like the line could use this book. Plus was nice to see Peter, Kurt, Logan and Ororo together.

  2. Dave says:

    I think the fact that this annual follows straight after a fill-in issue makes its existence all the more puzzling. There already wasn’t enough content for the monthly book, so here’s some more pages to fill?

  3. Storm’s climactic dialogue reminded me a lot of the cartoon 90s version, where she’d declare her powers every five minutes: “WHIRL MIGHTY WINDS AND CARRY US TO JEAN!” and so forth.

    I liked the tone of Yost and Craig’s a lot, but the idea that Rockslide doesn’t quite know who Wolverine is at this point is a bit much. I mean, I know he’s supposed to be stupid, but…

  4. Wire says:

    Storm – rapidly approaching her 40th anniversary as a character and still awaiting her first interesting story.

  5. joseph says:

    I take it Santo’s dialogue was meant to be a joke, like how Young Bobby didn’t know what Laura’s name was in All New.

  6. Jason Grey says:

    You would think, with the Storm ongoing series just about to kick off, if they wanted to do a Storm story here in the annual, SOMEone might have had the idea to maybe use this issue to tee up that book.

    It doesn’t seem like that was *quite* the plan.

  7. David says:


    That’s ridiculous. Storm had a ton of great stories in Chris Claremont’s run on Uncanny X-men.

  8. ZZZ says:

    Yeah, Santo was no more serious about not knowing who Wolverine was than Quire, in the same panel, was serious about Storm having thoughts about him that he was too young for. It’s like Fat Tony on the Simpsons responding to the police asking him about a hijacked cigarette truck with “What’s a truck?” He was trying to avoid getting between the clearly pissed off Storm and the clearly evasive Wolverine.

    Does anyone know if the story in which the events Meruda is trying avenge happened actually said that the sandstorm killed the people from whom Storm was saving T’Challa? “And then Storm killed a bunch of people” seems like a weird way to end one of those throwaway continuity insert stories that existed solely because Marvel’s most prominent African characters must have met when they were kids, right? But then, retconning a scene that was intended to show Storm simply scaring off or incapacitating a bunch of people into “oh yeah, she totally killed those guys” seems weird too.

  9. Michael P says:

    One nitpick: Natural sandstorms are quite capable of tearing off skin. Read up on the Dust Bowl era sometime; cows left out in the storms would often be found flayed, and their stomachs filled with dirt.

  10. I considered that Santos was joking, but I dismissed it because I thought he wasn’t smart enough to use self-effacing humor. So he was too smart to mean it seriously, but not smart enough to joke about it. It appears I demand a very fine line of intelligence in my Rockslide characterization.

    Or to stop being cutesy and say my real critique: it felt like Kyle and Yost were trying too hard to make comedy. I like them as a writing team, but they do sometimes come across as trying too hard–though that may just be my skepticism regarding a five part story trying to sell me on the Wendigo as a threat (and the line “Wolverine doesn’t get scared” seems to be trying to hard to convince me of that threat too. Show, don’t tell, and so forth.). Still, it’s miles ahead of where Wolverine and the X-Men is at the moment.

  11. Nemo says:

    So this issue was so irrelevant that everyone is discussing Kyle and Yost’s first issue instead?

    I liked the focus on Storm and Larroca’s art was as good as it gets. But I agree the story could have been more ambitious (how about setting up her ongoing?) and the sandstorm thing didn’t really work. T’Challa was kinda out of place, too.

    Regarding the previously unmentioned cousins, Claremont had Ororo discover her family back in Africa in his last Uncanny X-Men Annual before the wedding, meeting her maternal grandmother and uncle. It’s not that far-fetched she’d have some cousins there as well.

  12. Neil Kapit says:

    It speaks to the sad state of the franchise that whenever something like this comes out– a by-the-numbers self-contained X-Men story featuring classic X-Men going through traditional X-Men superhero motions– I get excited. But right now, the franchise is dominated by Bendis’ books, which are about time-travelling younger selves, lunatic fringe revolutionary splinter groups, and the space-time continuum being “broken”. Before that, it was Gillen doing lunatic fringe revolutionary splinter X-Men (albeit with exemplary writing skill), and Aaron doing the wacky antics of the new kids and their even wackier foes. And before that, it was Fraction writing essentially a Cyclops solo book with the other 197 mutants as his disposable pawns.

    How did the franchise relapse deeply into 1990’s circle-jerk storytelling, about their own drama that’s simultaneously arcane in presentation and conservative in its actual storytelling ambitions, that simply seeing a set team of X-Men doing X-Men things is a breath of fresh air?

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