Storm was the first female fictional character that I really sought out. I had watched several things with female characters before, but it was the two issues of Uncanny X-Men that I picked up which sported Rogue vs. Storm with the Dire Wraiths. Then, there was Life Death in the next issue. I had never seen a comic with art like Barry Windsor-Smith brought to the book. This was a character that I just discovered and she had been robbed of the powers that defined her personality. Was this typical of the X-Men and Marvel? I had to read more.
While I’ve been undertaking this project, I noticed there has been an ongoing theme of depowering or body modification throughout all of Marvel’s mutants. As mentioned within the scope of “Lifedeath”, Storm has always felt like a character who took the brunt of the changes. She has claustrophobia, she gets shot with a Government funded gun that steals her powers, she gets killed by Nanny, she gets de-aged, she becomes a Genoshan mutate, her marriage to Black Panther is broken up and finally she has to keep proving herself as leader of the X-Men. The constant push back and forth might seem exhausting, if Storm didn’t come out of every encounter bigger and better than before. But, what does Storm’s troubles suggest about the horrors of being X-Woman?
We’ve talked about the issues that faced Polaris and Jean Grey. That’s not to mention how the women of the Deadly Genesis team were the only ones to die facing Krakoa. Why does the XX set fare so poorly in this realm? The amount of members on the X-Team and even affiliate teams splits equally down gender lines. Plus, it’s not like the men had it easier either. Cable had the techno-organic virus, Wolverine had the Weapon X background and Deadpool looks like Deadpool. But, those events were always set up as parts of the character and not defining and recurring storylines. I hate to be that guy, but that smacks of bullshit.
Ultimately, the character gets back to normal in time for the new cartoon to launch on FOX. If you think the sudden return of powers is weird, pick up a copy of X-Tinction Agenda and let that power return sink in. She just enters a corridor after a skirmish and is suddenly a fully powered adult again. Nobody questions it, as this was supposed to be the crossover that established the new status quo. That was until the Muir Isle Saga was the status quo changer. Then, Claremont left and Storm became a pastiche of the cartoon version and the late 70s take. Not to mention the continuation of the forced romance with Forge that ultimately stopped when Mystique became a part of it.
There was an aspect to Storm’s character that I liked back when the character was first introduced. While born in Harlem, the character had been raised in Africa for 95% of her life. She didn’t mind getting nude in public, she thought American tastes were too conservative and she never hid the fact that she was trained as a child thief. Not to mention the fact that after she left Cairo, she let the tribesmen of the Serengeti worship her as a living Goddess. Past origin stories would reveal the details that hung these elements together. Parents died in an attack on the Suez, Storm buried alive as a child and develops claustrophobia. Left to work as an orphaned street thief and encounters Xavier and the Shadow King for the first time. Xavier eventually tracks her down in her Goddess years in order to approach her about being part of the Krakoa rescue team.
Storm was also the first female in the mainstream Marvel reality to take on the power of Thor. Sure, Jane Foster took on the power and became Thordis in an old What If issue, but this was the first legit time that it happened for a lady and it made sense. It was all part of the X-Men/New Mutants crossover dubbed The Asgardian Wars and it is still an underrated part of 80s X-Men lore. A lot of people tend to forget about it, since it had to do so much heavy lifting for the New Mutants book and the X-Men became background players for half of it. The event reestablished Storm’s Godlike roots, while helping to give her a degree of respect during her depowered era. But, there were other means to be taken seriously during the time. Something like a funky fresh Punk haircut.
There’s something about the constant push and desire to keep tweaking Storm’s physical appearance. Whether it’s both times that she was nearly made a concubine of Dracula, the aforementioned Punk haircut, being turned into a teenager or being turned into a mutate. If you can’t control what they say, then you can manipulate how they look to get a cosmetic guffaw out of the audience. Nothing sticks, as is the curse of serial entertainment. The efforts for such grand cosmetic redesign can be passed off as nothing but artistic whim. However, everything in a long-standing property like this is calculated to the Nth degree. Hell, just look at the 800 costumes that Kitty Pryde wore between 1981-1987.
When Ororo is willing to go savage, it is usually done with sheer brutal force. Following the Brood Saga, where Storm tried to kill herself to stop the Brood…things got dark for a bit. Immediately upon returning to Earth, the Morlocks had attack and kidnapped Angel. The X-Men went to retrieve him, when the Morlocks bum rushed the team and Storm was infected by the Morlock Plague. Sick and still feeling emotionally unstable from the Brood encounter, Storm challenge Callisto for leadership of the Morlocks. Instead of friendly battle like most Marvel heroines had done before, Storm shanks Callisto and leaves her to die. There’s a bit afterwards about how she’ll be taken to the Morlock Healer to survive. That being said, it offered up a statement for Storm as a character. This is a new kind of heroine and she’s not taking your shit.
The Mohawk eras for Storm have a certain punch about them. The original started as a joke between artist Paul Smith and editor Louise Simonson. Paul Smith has later recounted how the team knew they were going to catch hell for the redesign, so Simonson suggested that they just go for it. The pictured included below is from the end of the first Mohawk era. As the hair started to grow out in the Outback era, those first few issues captured what I felt the haircut should’ve been going for instead of the one in the Japan trip. The rationalization that Claremont gave for the haircut following Storm’s hangout with Yukio is on par with a girl cutting herself. It feels very cheap in hindsight, but I get the intentions behind it. Even the best intentions don’t always age well. Now, she has a mohawk again due to the fact that Marvel likes mining the past for hits. But, that’s a complaint for another time.
Storm is also part of the X-Men Generation that actually enjoyed working with each other. The bonds that she shared with Cyclops, Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Jean Grey, Wolverine and Nightcrawler are tantamount to what makes this whole concept work. If the X-Men are going to function as a band of outsiders, they can’t continually fight each other like you’d see on The Avengers or Defenders. The X-Men are an erstwhile family united in the desire to make sure that their race perseveres. If anything, Storm makes these efforts peak during her times as leader.
In the mid 00s, when Marvel had Storm marry Black Panther…it made a degree of sense. They had known each other as kids and they stayed in mutual respect of each other. But, Marvel in its many later 00s decisions decided to do something because it looked cool on paper. For a few years, it worked having the two most prominent African Americans in the Marvel Universe become married. This lead to the duo touring other Marvel countries, meeting royalty and even taking over leadership of the Fantastic Four for a bit. All the while, Storm was becoming an Avenger and hanging out in other books while she tried to figure out what was going on with her marriage. This boiled over the during the Avengers vs. X-Men event where a Phoenix empowered Namor destroyed Wakanda. Wakanda blamed mutants for the attack and the Black Panther was forced to annul his marriage to Storm.
In the modern era, Storm has taken over as headmistress of the Jean Grey School. Someone had to do it after Wolverine became scheduled to die and Kitty ran off with the All-New X-Men. She appears in the adjectiveless X-Men book and Amazing X-Men as the leader, but her role elsewhere is ill-defined. I’m not sure what’s up with that, but I assume it’s bound to change in the Fall of 2014. What’s strange about where Storm is now is that she’s been stripped of most comforts. While she has most of her original team back, she’s estranged from Kitty Pryde and is considered persona non grata in Wakanda. At least she got to keep her powers this time.