The Rising Storm!
Credits: Chris Claremont (writer), Tom Grummett and Peter Vale (pencils), Al Vey, Gary Martin, and Terry Pallot (inks), Wilfredo Quintana (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters)
Summary: Storm arrives in Wakanda, seeking sanctuary. Against Nick Fury’s counsel, Black Panther grants it to her. She spends months earning Wakanda’s trust, and eventually Black Panther proposes marriage. On their wedding day, Killmonger enters the palace and murders Black Panther. Storm arranged the attack with Killmonger, but tells Killmonger that she won’t be second to anyone. She kills him, then destroys the scene of the crime with lightning. When she emerges from the rubble, the people of Wakanda name Storm their new queen.
Continuity Note: Everett K. Ross, a supporting cast member from the Christopher Priest Black Panther run, makes a cameo. Ross had not been created at the point X-Men Forever continuity is supposed to have diverged, but I suppose his presence doesn’t cause any real harm to the premise of the series.
Production Note: An eight-page Marvel Saga style text piece explains what various characters in the Marvel Universe were doing when X-Men Forever supposedly takes place.
Review: Storm, or Perfect Storm or Evil Storm if you prefer, receives the spotlight this issue. The story is set over the course of several months, detailing Storm’s actions after escaping the X-Men and providing a Cliff’s Notes version of how she’s become ruler of Wakanda. Laying out all of this information in one issue would seem to go against Claremont’s instincts, since this is the type of story he would normally save for a slow-burning subplot. Given the bi-weekly schedule of this book, I’m not sure why exactly he hasn’t been developing this storyline gradually over the course of the series so far. I would say the past few issues have had enough space to dramatize the plot; it’s not as if the previous arc needed so many splash pages of the X-Men fighting werewolves, if we’re being honest.
Regardless, Claremont’s getting to the point now and moving Storm into position as Evil Queen Ororo. Relocating her to Wakanda and placing her under Black Panther’s protection does make sense, since it provides some rationalization for why SHIELD, the X-Men, and the Consortium aren’t actively pursuing her. I don’t think anyone at the time truly bought into the idea that this was the “real” Storm, which didn’t stop Claremont from keeping his poker face up and continuing the effort to sell her as a villain. I actually admire that level of “What is this?” storytelling, since I can’t deny that I loved those kinds of stunts during the later years of Claremont’s original run. The novelty of the Black Panther and Storm getting married has already been exhausted by Marvel’s bizarre decision to do that story in the mainstream titles, but Claremont does have two advantages. One, he wrote the initial story that hinted at a romance between the pair, and two, he’s set this plot over the course of several months. It still comes across as rushed and somewhat arbitrary (it’s not as if that Marvel Team-Up back-up that’s used as the basis of their relationship was ever referenced, or even reprinted, for decades), but the marriage is more defensible within the context of this story. The Black Panther doesn’t personally know the X-Men, so he’s more inclined to believe Storm’s side of the story, and this Storm was good enough to fool her friends for months, so it’s not inconceivable that the Black Panther would also fall for her charms.
The decision to actually kill the Black Panther, however, is another instance of the book doing exactly what an alternate reality book shouldn’t do -- remind you that it’s an alternate reality book. Again, the premise of this title is “What if Chris Claremont never left X-Men?” Not “What if Chris Claremont had free reign over the Marvel Universe?” Black Panther wasn’t considered a real priority of Marvel’s in the early ‘90s, but certainly he wouldn’t have been whacked in an issue of X-Men. (Well, maybe if Jim Lee really wanted to do it, I could possibly see that happening, but only then. Nevertheless, it’s the type of event that, under reasonable circumstances, would not happen in X-Men.) Killing off a major MU figure in this title just feels fundamentally wrong, taking the reader out of the story as soon as it happens. Judging the book on its own merits, giving Claremont the benefit of the doubt and assuming that this is an event that’s necessary for the story to evolve…maybe that’s what the readers should do, but it’s impossible to rationalize stories like this with what the original marketing told us the book would be.