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May 24

Storm vol 2 – “Bring the Thunder”

Posted on Sunday, May 24, 2015 by Paul in x-axis

Storm‘s second volume, covering issues #6-11, looks to be the end of the series – it could technically be a Secret Wars hiatus, but given the sales, I wouldn’t hold your breath.  This, of course, makes it only the latest in a long line of X-Men solo titles to go from launch to scrapheap within a year, an outcome which one can only assume Marvel regards as satisfactory, as otherwise they’d have stopped doing it.  The thinking, I suppose, must be that at least they know they’ll get a few months of acceptable sales out of a book like this.

Like many of the characters who wind up in these solo series, Storm was never designed to fill this role; she was conceived as a member of an ensemble cast.  More to the point, her roles in that cast have largely been “heart of the team”, “bonding mainstay”, and “emerging (later veteran) leader”.  None of this particularly suits her to be a solo lead, since all three roles define her largely in relation to her position in the team.

And it’s a problem that Storm never really overcomes.  I suspect this is the main reason why, despite the evident effort and skill put into the book, it’s always left me rather cold.  There just isn’t a central premise here that can carry a series.

Greg Pak certainly tries to find an angle that will work for Storm as a solo lead.  It’s not necessarily a doomed effort.  After all, if you prise her away from the team and from her usual character roles, maybe that frees up the space to bring out another side of her.  But what Pak ends up with is pretty much “she stands up for the underdogs”, and that’s really not enough.  Put like that, after all, it’s just a basic function of all superheroes.

Pak seems to intend something more specific by it, to be fair.  There’s at least a sense that he’s going for Storm as the voice of the 99%, standing up to establishment privilege, whether that be corrupt politicians in the USA or dodgy paramilitaries in the developing world – mostly in the first volume, but carrying over in the first few issues of this one.  A corporation called Eaglestar, and its cyborg head Davis Harman, are set up as her arch-enemies, out for revenge for the damage done to their profits by her exploits in earlier issues.  And where the X-Men are usually deeply unpopular with the general public, Storm attracts crowds to protest in her support.  She’s evidently intended here as the woman of the people.

The book seems to toy with going somewhere more specific than that.  The pro-Storm protestors are described simply as members of the public who have turned out to support her, but it’s hard to imagine many readers failing to notice that they’re overwhelmingly black, as are most of the other characters Storm helps over the course of the series.  The story never draws any particular attention to this, but it’s hard to imagine many readers failing to notice it.   In one sense this is nicely subtle, but because it’s left as that, the theme is never really developed past the obvious point that Storm is supporting the sort of underdog causes that get overlooked by a white media.

This feels like it could usefully have been developed further.  The intro blurb at the start of each issue says that Storm’s “desire to better the world has never been limited to only her own kind”, which is potentially a useful angle.  A curiosity of the X-Men is that, in this era when identity politics are on an upswing, the X-Men are singularly unequipped to deal with it directly; they only seem able to approach it through the metaphor of mutant status.  You can give your cast a wonderfully diverse range of back stories and beliefs, but in practice it all gets overshadowed by them being mutants – all the more so in the years since House of M, where the mutants have largely been holed up in big campuses trying to build their own separatist communities.  This leaves depressingly little room for characters to actually express any individual back story they might have, or any other aspect of their identities – even though, for most of us, identity is surely something that stems from a combination of factors.  For the most part, these characters have simply ceased to exist in, or at least interact with, anything approaching the real world.

So trying to position Storm as a character who re-connects with actual real-world identities – any of them, really – ought to be a good idea, and something that would give her book its own place in the line.  Admittedly, whether the self-proclaimed weather goddess is really the best candidate for that role may be open to debate.  In practice, at least in this volume, it feels a bit vague and unfocused, trying to sweep in too many things for any of them to have the definition this sort of approach requires.

There are three stories here, all of them mixed bags.  Issues #6-8 cover Storm’s showdown with Davis Harmon, the evil CEO, which ties up stories from the previous volume.  There’s a cute idea in here somewhere – not only Harmon but also his entire multinational have faked death (receivership) and gone underground.  But Harmon is ultimately a cartoon villain who hates Storm because she interferes with his profiteering.  That’s too one-note to work with the tone of this series, besides which it’s a hoary cliche.

Issue #9 is a one-shot in which Storm helps Gambit take on a stray villain from his recent solo series in order to steal a macguffin.  This being Storm, it’s a macguffin that helps him learn a Very Important Lesson.   It’s a fun little story but feels like it’s wandered in from a different book entirely.  And issues #10-11 see the return of Zero from Generation Hope, of all people.  This gets the character back into circulation (if that’s really an issue in the light of Secret Wars), and also doubles as an excuse to check in on characters from throughout the series, an old wrap-up standard.

Zero was originally established as an artist, albeit a fairly nihilistic one, but here he’s just bitter about what he sees as the X-Men’s overly optimistic and rose-tinted worldview.  Storm joins forces with members of her cast to mentally show him the horrors they’ve overcome and how they have hope and optimism despite all that.  I sort of see that it’s an attempt to draw together the threads and pull a common theme out of the series, but it’s a trite theme, and it requires Zero to set up a real straw man position for Storm to knock down.  (Does he really think that the X-Men don’t believe that people suffer?  To the point where having it pointed out to him becomes a revelation?)

Scene by scene, and often issue by issue, Storm can be a pleasant read; but looking at the big picture it feels unfocused, gesturing at big themes that end up stated so generally as to be largely uninteresting.  There was something in here that could have worked, but I don’t think it quite found the right gear.

Bring on the comments

  1. David O'Neill says:

    Mike Marts abandoning Marvel should put an end to his habit of giving the ok to pointless solo characters getting a pointless series.

  2. kelvingreen says:

    I doubt it; it’s been going on for decades.

  3. Joe says:

    I acknowledge Storm’s importance as a prominent black character, as well as her role in the history of the X-Men, but she’s somehow never clicked for me as a character.

    It’s kind of like that Red Letter Media bit where he asks people to describe the personalities of the protagonists from the Star Wars prequels. I just can’t think of anything likable or interesting or memorable about her.

    “Well, she’s a good leader, excepts sometimes she gets angry and overreacts, and she talks an awful lot about how weather is pretty and awesome, and she dresses like an 80s punk sometimes, and she has insanely powerful superpowers by they don’t relate to her psychology in an interesting way like, say, Rogue or Cyclops’ do.”

    In every comic I’ve read Storm is just sort of there, never bringing anything interesting to story or character dynamics. Am I missing something obvious here?

  4. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    @Joe: You missed that she’s a claustrophobe. (“I actually did think for a long while that having a bad leg was an actual character trait.” –Alan Moore)

  5. ChrisKafka says:

    I always found the growth of the character of Storm during the original Chris Claremont run to actually be, perhaps, the best aspect to the entire Claremont run. I’m saying this as a huge fan of Chris Claremont’s X-Men also, not in a “damning with faint praise” sort of way.
    After Claremont left though, the character was never interesting to me again.

  6. Thom H. says:

    I agree that Claremont developed the character of Storm the best. That’s probably true of every single one of the All-New, All-Different team, as well as most characters who joined the X-Men in the 80s (e.g., Kitty, Rogue, Magneto).

    That’s probably the central problem now, though. Claremont completed character arcs for a lot of the team, so what’s left to be said with them? I’m not saying it’s impossible (see Morrison’s take on Cyclops and Phoenix as examples), but it’s definitely got to be difficult to find a new angle on characters that have fulfilled their original purposes.

  7. Joseph says:


    I think in storm’s case that issue was compounded by the fact that she more or less reverted to her original Earth mother-ish personality after Claremont left, so any development she did have was effectively abandoned and no one bothered to do much else with Her afterwards. She, as with several others, became a power set piece to be used when the artist wanted to draw weather effects or an author mouthpiece when the script called for “wise words.”

  8. Storm’s spent a lot of the last few years either tied up in Black Panther storylines or voice of reason in the Wolverine/Cyclops rivalry, neither of which are roles that allow much interesting growth. (YMMV) I still think she, over Wolverine, was the logical person to take over the school after Schism, but, well, Wolverine was the selling character. This title tried to delve into what made her unique as a character–ties to Serengeti, Callisto, friendship with Yukio, history with Forge–but it still felt a bit weird given her other X-title personalities.

    The series also dealt with race and diversity in a much more explicit way than most of the books currently riding a “progressive” wave, but it never seemed to reach the same audience; maybe because it was too closely tied to old continuity?

  9. Taibak says:

    Well, I think the biggest problem is that while Storm is definitely sympathetic to the disadvantaged (her time with the Morlocks, the village from Lifedeath), she’s too inaccessible to be their champion. I mean, this is someone who set herself up as a goddess so she’s not exactly Robin Hood.

  10. Luis Dantas says:

    Also, Storm has a long story of being morally ambiguous, going back to her first few interactions with Callisto.

    She is interesting in a damaged goods kind of way. Not nearly enough so to sustain a solo story, though.

  11. Brendan says:

    I don’t see Storm’s conflicting character traits/roles necessarily being an obstacle per se. Wolverine is a wild man, samurai, mentor, loner, team player, wild card, school teacher, murderer. And her power set lends itself perfectly to this visual medium. It’s a shame Pak couldn’t pull it off, because the character definitely has potential.

  12. Jamie says:

    “Mike Marts abandoning Marvel should put an end to his habit of giving the ok to pointless solo characters getting a pointless series.”

    How dare Marvel put out books that you don’t want to read! Everything should appeal to YOU, Dave!

  13. Chris says:

    “Wolverine is a wild man, samurai, mentor, loner, team player, wild card, school teacher, murderer.”

    Under better writers that reconciliation was fun, poetic, and made for good stories.

    But in the last 15 years, all after the Claremont Era had ended, I saw Wolverine casually slice the fingers off guys in a bar in a killer rage…

    The rage that in the Claremont Era would be reserved for the like of Ogun or Reavers.

  14. Chris says:

    I think they should have tried selling us Storm as a solo character over two decades ago and it’s a little late to try now.

    And frankly that’s part of the problem with the whole meta continuity. Most of the character arcs are finished and attempts to unravel them to tell them again seem either like old hat or poor.

    We could start the continuity again but there are few writers I really want to see re-tell these old stories.

    How many new stories are there left to tell with these characters?

  15. Nu-D. says:

    How dare Marvel put out books that you don’t want to read! Everything should appeal to YOU, Dave!

    There’s that monomaniacal idiocy we’ve all come to expect and loathe from Jaime!

  16. jpw says:

    @Chris – I don’t think the problem is with the characters, necessarily. Marvel has decided, either explicitly by corporate policy or tacitly by the writers hired, that they want to maintain the status quo of 1992. New series can be told (see, e.g., Grant Morrison), but Marvel wants change/growth to have ended 15 years ago.

  17. Taibak says:

    I suppose the real trick then is finding characters that are both commercially viable and still have room for interesting stories. This probably won’t be a popular choice around these parts, but think about Gambit. Use him in heist stories. Use him as a reluctant champion of the underdog (think Mark Wahlberg in Planet of the Apes). Put him in stories that don’t take themselves too seriously. Put him in stories that explore the tension between his charm and the fact that he’s untrustworthy – preferably with characters who don’t know him. If not Gambit, then why not, say, take a risk on a Rockslide and Anole book? High adventure science-fiction with the Beast? Cyberpunk with Sage or Cypher? Just try something new rather than generic superhero stories with the same characters again and again.

  18. Chris says:

    I never said the problem is with the characters.

    I asked how many stories are left with them…. and I don’t mean in the Bugs Bunny sense.

  19. Jamie says:

    “There’s that monomaniacal idiocy”

    You do realize those terms don’t actually go together to convey any coherent meaning, yes?

    Of course you don’t.

  20. Jamie says:

    “And frankly that’s part of the problem with the whole meta continuity. Most of the character arcs are finished and attempts to unravel them to tell them again seem either like old hat or poor.

    How many new stories are there left to tell with these characters?”

    Grant Morrison didn’t seem to have that problem.

  21. Nu-D. says:

    those terms don’t actually go together to convey any coherent meaning

    You come here and make one point, over and over and over again. Hence the “monomania.”

    That point is stupid. It’s a straw man argument. Hence the “idiocy.”

    Get it now?

  22. Nu-D. says:

    Grant Morrison didn’t seem to have that problem.

    In fairness, this is a good point, and you weren’t a jerk when you made it.

  23. Thom H. says:

    I agree that Grant Morrison did some great things with a few characters that have been around for a long time. I’m a fan of his run on New X-Men, and his takes on Cyclops, Emma Frost, and Phoenix were refreshing. But those were characters that either very little had been done with over time (Cyclops, Emma Frost) or who needed some course correction (Phoenix). Everyone else in the book served plot purposes and pretty much nothing else.

    Beast’s character arc was a mess, and Morrison did basically no character work with Wolverine. Magneto and Xavier were impotent and/or mind-controlled most of the time. And the rest of the characters who had interesting character growth (e.g., Beak, Angel, the Cuckoos, Quentin Quire) were new.

    I don’t want to downplay Morrison’s contribution to the franchise, but I don’t think it was founded on breathing fresh life into existing characters. That happened for a handful of characters, but he based most of his run on completely new creations.

  24. Niall says:

    Storm – the queen of Wakanda who beheaded thousands of Skrulls and put their heads on spikes a.k.a the voice of reason who connects with ordinary people.

  25. Dazzler says:

    I’m sorry, but did Grant Morrison have anything original or interesting to say about any of the X-Men’s characters or themes? I must have missed that, and I read the whole run.

  26. jpw says:

    @Niall – I think that gets at the root of the problem these days, though. The characters are completely different fromwriter to writer. A single story takes six months to a year. There isn’t the longterm continuity of character anymore.

  27. Chris says:

    Grant Morrison did the opposite of breathing new life into the characters.

    He deliberately closed the book on most of them.

    “this is the last X-Men story that I’m interested in reading” was his intention.

    Also keep in mind, that while you make a good point about Grant Morrison not having that problem, Jamie, in order for Morrison to tell more stories about these characters, for many of them he took them back to pre-Claremont states rather than evolve from their post-Claremont Lobdell/Nicieza incarnations.

    And Wolverine really was…. how do we describe Grant Morrison’s Wolverine?

    Although in Magneto’s case, he wrote himself an “out”… Sublime….

  28. Morrison’s work with Cyclops was the best. The previous few years had seen everything thrown at the character – but no real development after Claremont left. Morrison changed that, the stoic dependable leader became less predictable, more human. Emma became a core character, progressed from the teacher role she’d been stuck in. He attempted to clarify the Phoenix story and was pretty successful. And the overall narrative of coming to terms with moving from a minority to a reasonably sized community was a huge change, but one that was reset soon afterwards (spawning interesting stuff like District X and the X-Factor revival). In many ways, the end of his run gave Marvel a fairly blank slate that would have allowed them to do new stories, instead, they hit the rest button and tried to tell the same stories over and over again.

  29. Dave says:

    Phoenix was clarified? I thought it gained an extra, unwanted level of complexity. Burning away timelines from the all new concept of the white hot room (which is…what?). Plus it had Jean ‘going Phoenix’ again out without any sense of why it was happening beyond ‘that’s what Jean Grey does’.

  30. Dave says:

    *out of nowhere

    (I definitely typed that out)

  31. Thom H. says:

    Morrison finally answered the question of: Is Jean Grey capable of becoming Phoenix or not? The answer is now unequivocally yes. Also, Jean was able to transform into Phoenix without becoming evil. Granted, she didn’t have a lot of time to become overwhelmed with her own power before she was killed, but neither were there hints that she would be. The White Hot Room is just a place where Phoenixes go when they no longer have physical forms.

    So: Jean Grey was perfectly set up to come back from the White Hot Room, as Phoenix, and not be evil. That seems to have simplified at least a couple of the debates about her character that had been going on for a while (decades?) before Morrison took over.

    (Of course, all of the hoo-har that the Phoenix has been through since then probably undid what Morrison accomplished, but that’s another discussion.)

    As for Cyclops, Morrison arguably set up the current direction of the character: he was trained as a mutant soldier all of his life, so he’s hyper-competent and fiercely loyal to the mutant cause, but he’s no longer so dependent on the approval of others. It was his constant portrayal as an overgrown Boy Scout that was making him such a boring character, and Morrison got rid of that.

  32. Jamie says:

    “Grant Morrison did the opposite of breathing new life into the characters.”

    Oh nos, he made Cyclops emotionally independent!

    Oh nos, he made Beast psychologically rebellious!

    Oh nos, he made Wolverine into a teacher!

    Oh nos, he made Magneto’s Evil Brotherhood crusade useless!

    Oh nos, he gave us Fantomex, the Cuckoos, Weapon Plus, and the entire school full of students!

    Oh nos, he made Emma Frost actually fucking interesting!

    He ruined X-Men forever!!!!!!

  33. Jamie says:

    Why couldn’t Morrison’s X-Men have been about the Legacy Virus? And Days of Future Past again? And Bishop’s future? And the X-Men traitor and the third Summers brother? And all those cool neato villains like Mister Sinister, Apocalypse, Exodus, and Onslaught?

    Man, he doesn’t understand X-Men at all!!!!

  34. Well, I *liked* the Generation X-reformed White Queen, and the radical character shift Morrison brought in was one of the reasons it took me a long time to warm to his run. Likewise, the Beast’s “I’m not really gay, but I made a significant point by claiming to be!” arguably pushed him towards his Schism-era and beyond self-centered hypocrisy approach. (ie, that he was vocally critical of Scott’s self-righteous, unilateral leadership, but somehow that criticism doesn’t apply to his own involvement with the Illuminati or violating the time space continuum to teach Scott… something.)

    That said, when the series clicked with me, damn was it good. The Frost murder mystery arc was one of my favorite things in comics at that point, and I loved Morrison’s take on Magneto’s vision being outdated. (Beak’s carrot speech more or less justifies the character.)

    We might have deviated from the nominal topic at hand, though, since I can’t think of a single significant thing Storm did in Morrison’s run.

  35. Taibak says:

    Person of Con: She recommended someone bring Xavier tea. Otherwise, Storm wasn’t in Morrison’s run.

  36. Jamie says:

    “I can’t think of a single significant thing Storm did in Morrison’s run.”

    Claremont was writing Storm, not Morrison. If you bothered to read through the thread, I brought up Morrison in response to this: “How many new stories are there left to tell with these characters?”

  37. Chris says:

    Jamie if you’re going to “respond” to what I said by ignoring what I said you’re useless.

  38. Jamie says:

    Pot, I’d like you to meet kettle. He is also black.

  39. GM says:

    The comments section always seems to get extra-bitchy whenever Jaime shows up…

  40. Chris says:

    That’s the problem.

    He keeps treating the pot as if it’s black and stages his responses as if it is black.

    But the pot is not black.

    So he’s useless.

  41. Chris says:

    Anyway, regardless of what Useless said, I never claimed that the X-Men were ruined forever.

    I noted Morrison’s intentions and how he fulfilled his own intentions. He wrote the characters as if he were closing down the franchise, which is distinctly the opposite of “breathing new life” into someone…. more like euthanasia.

    If later writers like Fraction and Whedon picked up some of Morrison’s ideas and ran with them, that would be breathing new life…..

  42. Brendan says:

    I don’t know why people engage with Jamie on here. That way lies madness.

  43. Chris says:

    I propose we ignore him.

    May I get a second to the motion?

  44. errant says:

    Upvote for Jamie. He adds some life to this place. It’s usually so sterile around these parts.

  45. Jamie says:

    “But the pot is not black.”

    Ahahahahaha, the pot is black and also butthurt.

  46. Chris says:

    Adding life is a valid point.

    Although I already started the ignoring

  47. Jamie says:

    Thanks for letting us know how much my posts don’t bother you anymore. I’m totally convinced.

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