Tuesday, November 4, 2008

STORM #1 – #4, February - May 1996

STORM #1 – February 1996

Sunburst & Snowblind

Credits: Warren Ellis (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Karl Story (inker), Rosas, Lenshoek, & Malibu Hues (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)

Summary: Storm walks across the mansion’s grounds, still upset about her decision to kill Marrow. She talks to Wolverine, who tells her that she had no choice. Storm questions if her inability to plan long-term lead to the Morlocks becoming Gene Nation. She talks to Cable about the Ceremony of Light, which she wants to perform to honor the Morlocks’ memory. She calls Forge, who is upset she won’t open up to him, and then leaves for the city. She finds the Morlock’s cathedral underneath the city and performs the Ceremony of Light. A space/time warp appears in front of her, and a hand emerges. Cable walks into the cathedral, looking for Storm, and discovers what appears to be her dead body, covered in debris. Elsewhere, Storm opens her eyes and realizes that she’s in the world Mikhail Rasputin took the Morlocks to months earlier.

Gimmicks: This is another installment in the “Marvel Select” series. Every issue has a cardstock foil cover and costs $2.95.

Continuity Notes: The Ceremony of Light was first referenced in Cable #15. It’s the yearly ceremony the Morlocks performed to bring light into their tunnels (later retconned into being a way to summon the Dark Beast). Marrow was apparently killed in Uncanny X-Men #325.

It’s virtually impossible to make this series fit into continuity, due to the debut of Storm’s new look in the last issue and Wolverine’s appearance throughout the series. Storm’s new haircut and costume don’t show up until the Onslaught crossover starts, which is after Wolverine #100. Wolverine #100 is the debut of his new bestial appearance and personality, which he doesn’t have in this mini. In order to make this fit, you have to figure that it takes place before Wolverine #100, and any instances of Storm with longer hair and her old costume from around this time are just art mistakes.

Review: I’m not sure what the point of a Storm miniseries was supposed to be, outside of the fact that X-related minis probably sold pretty well. Storm normally wasn’t the focus of the storylines during this era, and she often went issues at a time without making more than cameo appearances. I imagine she still had a decent fanbase left over from the Claremont era, and she was one of the stars of the immensely popular cartoon, so that might’ve played a part in the decision. The emergence of the “bad girl” trend and the presence of Terry Dodson on art might lead you to believe that this was supposed to be a cheesecake project, but there’s really no hint of sexiness here. Warren Ellis, from what I remember, once dismissed this mini on his website by saying that the art is pretty but there’s not a lot going on inside. The first issue mainly serves to reestablish her conflict from Uncanny X-Men #325, hint at a romance with Cable (something Jeph Loeb also tried in his solo series, but nothing ever came of it), and move her to the story’s main location. Not a lot is done with her character, outside of showing the burden leadership has taken on her and reviving the idea that she keeps her emotions distant from everyone else. It’s all capably handled, but not very interesting.

STORM #2 – March 1996

The Ghost Has No Home

Credits: Warren Ellis (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Karl Story (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Ariane Lenshoek (colors)

Summary: Storm examines the barren, mountainous world. Acid rain begins to sprinkle from the sky, and she uses her powers to stop it. She discovers the first sign of vegetation she’s seen, a rose. Examining it, she realizes that it’s actually mechanical. Storm notices a group of settlements filled with mutants wearing hi-tech armor, similar to that worn by Gene Nation. After fighting the mutants off, one of them explains to her that this world is called the Hill. They travel up the Hill, fighting anyone higher above them on the mountain, and mating periodically to create stronger offspring to advance further. Storm flies to the top of the Hill, suspicious that Apocalypse might be behind the Darwinian world. She reaches the base at the top of the summit and discovers Mikhail Rasputin. He admits to being the one who brought her to this world and offers her the role of his queen. Meanwhile, Cable deals with his feelings over Storm’s apparent death and talks to Cyclops and Phoenix.

Review: It’s pretty much an entire issue dedicated to establishing the new world, as Storm wanders aimlessly throughout it. There’s not much of an attempt to connect the story to Storm’s character, outside of Phoenix reciting her backstory and reminding us of how strong Storm really is. Obviously the Hill setting is supposed to parallel the concepts of evolution and survival of the fittest, but that ties in with the X-Men in general more than Storm specifically. The introduction of sparse technology seems like a way to make the setting consistent with the clues given in Uncanny X-Men #325, but it doesn’t exactly work. If technology has advanced so far, why is this such a desolate, barren world? (Or is this supposed to be civilization after a major fall?) The story’s also filled with splash pages and large panels that slow the story down, even if the art looks nice.

STORM #3 – April 1996

The Tinderbox of a Heart

Credits: Warren Ellis (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Karl Story (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Lenshoek & Hoston (colors)

Summary: Cable contacts Forge and tells him that Storm is dead. Forge is shocked, and reveals to him that he suspects Storm wanted to end their relationship. Inside the Hill, Storm rejects Mikhail. Mutants on lower levels of the Hill shoot her with a harpoon, and she responds with a lightning attack. Mikhail promises her that they’re not dead and that people only die of old age in this world. Mikhail takes Storm inside her castle and introduces her to Gene Nation, revealing that he has been sending them to Earth to conduct their terrorist acts. Callisto appears, jealous that Storm might take her place with Mikhail. She reveals that Mikhail killed a Gene National who looked like Storm when he saw her performing the Ceremony of Light on Earth. He then used her body to cover Storm’s entry into this world. When Callisto objected, Mikhail cast her down the Hill for being weak. Mikhail is suddenly overcome with pain, as a space warp appears behind him. Storm holds a blade to his throat and threatens to kill him if he doesn’t take her home. Gene Nation threatens to detonate their bomb and kill him if he’s weak and gives in to her demands.

Continuity Notes: Three of the Gene Nation members from Uncanny X-Men #325 (Hemingway, Sack, and Vessal) are back on the Hill. How they got back isn’t explained, although Mikhail’s ability to enter our world still hasn’t been clarified yet.

Mikhail claims that no one dies on this world, that their wounds are mysteriously healed, leaving only scars. This is contradicted a few pages later when Gene Nation threatens to kill Storm, and Callisto claims that Mikhail killed a female member in order to cover Storm’s entry. Mikhail also claims that time “moves in strange cycles” in this world and that it’s now moving slower than Earth time. This is also contradicted later in the issue, when he claims that Forge will already be dead of old age by the time Gene Nation arrives to perform their terrorist act against X-Factor’s headquarters. The story never resolves these inconsistencies.

Review: This is turning out to be extremely padded. The majority of this issue is spent recapping the previous two issues and reestablishing what Gene Nation is. The storyline tries to connect to Storm as a character by making her question if she’s responsible for the grim society the descendants of the Morlocks inhabit. That’s not a bad idea for a story, but her insecurities are barely dealt with, and there’s no human connection to what’s going on. All of the mutants in this world are sick and hideous, and it’s impossible to care about anything that happens to them. So far, the story has mainly consisted of Storm hanging around some crazy mutants and a few sentences of her wondering if she should be held responsible for what they’ve become. There’s not enough of an effort to make Storm sympathetic, and the plot itself isn’t particularly interesting.

STORM #4 – May 1996

She Will Destroy You

Credits: Warren Ellis (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Karl Story (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Ariane Lenshoek & Malibu (colors)

Summary: Storm demands that Mikhail send everyone in the surrounding area back to Earth. He relents, and they reappear in the Morlock Tunnels. A few minutes beforehand, Cable arrived in the tunnels to pay his final respects to Storm. Mikhail’s teleportation portal drops the Gene Nationals right on top of him. Cable calls the X-Men for backup, as Storm creates a gust of wind to blow Gene Nation’s bomb away, sending it high above Manhattan before it explodes. When Callisto draws a gun on Storm, she blasts the gun with electricity, which sends hot debris into Callisto’s face. A scarred Callisto runs away and is greeted by Marrow. Mikhail teleports away, as Storm sends a bolt of lightning after him. The Gene Nationals mistakenly believe that she killed him, which gains her their respect. The X-Men arrive, and Storm declares that the Gene Nationals will be sent to Africa to help an impoverished village. After the team leaves, the Dark Beast declares revenge on Storm for foiling his plans for Gene Nation. Later, Storm introduces her new costume and hairstyle to Cable, Cyclops, and Phoenix.

Continuity Notes: This is the issue that reveals that Marrow didn’t die in UXM #325. The explanation given is that she has two hearts (which always felt extremely lame to me).

The Dark Beast is revealed as the person controlling Mikhail’s teleportation power, and the true force behind the Hill. He’s angry because he feels that Gene Nation was one year away from becoming his elite soldiers. He declares vengeance on Mikhail for failing and Storm for interfering, but I think nothing comes from this.

Review: The final issue manages to resolve Storm’s internal conflict, that her decisions never work in the long-term, by connecting it to an African village (inferred to be the one she encountered during Claremont’s run) suffering from short-term solutions that did more harm than good. It’s an adequate resolution, but like everything else in this series, it feels shallow. I’m not quite sure what the faked death angle was supposed to accomplish, other than to force Cable to reflect on Storm for several pages. Since their relationship (platonic or otherwise) never went anywhere, it feels a little pointless. Storm also asks Cable why they never verified that the body was hers, and he doesn’t have an answer. The throwaway explanation in the first issue was that her face was crushed by the debris and the authorities wouldn’t let the X-Men near the body, but that doesn’t seem like something that would stop them from verifying a teammate’s death. The fact that the story actually draws attention to this errant plot thread in the final issue is strange. The revelation in the final pages that Dark Beast was secretly behind the Hill is a nice twist that makes logical sense, but it also goes nowhere. In the end, the four issues don’t add up to an awful lot, mainly because the story has very little to actually say about Storm. The final result gives her a new costume and a vague breakup with her boyfriend, and that’s it. The art is consistently superb, though.


Anonymous said...

Weren't Storm and Forge long broken up by this point? I remember a reconciliation dinner in Uncanny#306 (I think), but since they hadn't been seen together since, I guess I forgot about it. I'm sure the X-Office forgot what their status was too. I also never bought the Cable/Storm relationship here or in his title. It was so out of the blue.

I agree that the problem with this mini-series is that the connections made between the large amounts of plot and Storm's character are weak and forced. We do get some good things out of it: As a kid I totally dug this new costume of her's and the Uncanny annual that follows the Gene Nationals in Africa in 1997 is vastly underrated.

Austin Gorton said...

Somehow, both then and now, I managed to completely miss this miniseries. I picked up the major plot details somewhere along the way, but its good to know I didn't miss much. Though I might have to scoop it out of a quarter box at some point, to check out the art, if nothing else.

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