Greg Pak (w)
Victor Ibañez (A)
I have made no secret of my excitement at the news of a solo title for Storm. Greg Pak did his best to get close to the fans right off the bat by taking to social media. His efforts to build interest, create buzz, and generate goodwill for the title are appreciated; but the first issue itself met and exceeded my expectations. It is the right first step: a single stand alone story that tells a reader who Storm is and what her worldview is.
Greg Pak doesn’t bother with gentle recaps, or history that old-school comics fans already know. He just introduces the windrider to us, new readers and old, from page one. This is the woman, the X-Man, whose ability makes her literally a force of nature, and the first we see of her, she’s telling us what that feels like. Victor Ibañez illustrates it with amazing pictures from Storm’s point of view — the sky, the clouds — a panoramic vista that makes a reader wish they could fly too.
This moment, where we get to admire Ororo’s serenity and connection to the elements, and her reflecting on her days as a sky-dwelling goddess is brief, is interrupted by Hank McCoy on the comlink — and by the reason for her presence above this tiny, third-world looking island.
There’s a tsunami coming. Hank warns her she can’t stop it. Storm gently reminds him who she is, and does exactly that. She describes the pain it causes her to manipulate the wind this way, and even that moment is brief; interrupted by the delight of a small child laughing and calling her name in admiration. In a world that hates and fears mutants, a little girl is not only unafraid, but admires and respects Storm for being a woman, a hero, and a person of color like her.
As a person of color, who never saw a superhero of her skin color and her gender until Claremont’s New X-Men, I can relate strongly to the little girl. That sense of awestruck wonder and admiration? That was what I felt when I first picked up X-Men #125 and met the X-Men … met Storm herself. “She’s black — like me! And she’s amazing!” I don’t even have to think: I know because I’ve heard and seen other women of color say that they felt the same upon seeing Storm for the first time — that little girl resonates with us on a level that can’t be explained easily unless you are yourself a woman of color who has had that same experience.
That little girl, Silvia, takes the joy my inner child is feeling and cranks it right up to eleven by running fearlessly up to our heroine and flinging a hug at her the moment the danger is past. For Storm’s part, she laughs, delighted, and decides that her nostalgic longing for her youthful days in the sky aren’t equal to the gratitude of this one child.
The conflict comes from two places, skillfully laid out by Greg Pak. If you were expecting Sentinels, Hellfire Club or Marauders, you’ll have to wait. Pak is starting slow, but I get the feeling he will ramp things up fairly quickly.
On the “X-Men are world famous mutant heroes/outlaws/terrorist/good guys” angle, Storm allows Henry to talk her out of confronting the sleazy military of Santo Marco — who are so anti-mutant they won’t even acknowledge Storm as Ororo’s name, and who remind her (despite her extraordinary display of power that saved an entire village) that mutants aren’t allowed either. This is laughably villainous; a man with no powers and nothing but a gun honestly thinks he can intimidate a woman who is capable of summoning and manipulating multiple tornadoes, let alone precision wind and lightning strikes? Reading this exchange, I couldn’t resist an “oooh, he is asking for it” to Storm’s coldly calm “Really?” immediately followed by the sky-shattering thunderclap. That’s one thing about Storm that Pak has carried from her history — extreme emotions show in the weather. Her powerful gift is not perfectly controlled.
An uncharacteristically anxious Hank intervenes before Storm can do anything to punish the arrogant military guy, reminding her she was a queen and must therefore understand politics — almost begging her to avoid starting an incident. Since Hank does have a valid point, and the military guys would more than likely take it out on the poor villagers, Ororo agrees to stand down. She returns to the Jean Grey School, of which she is now headmistress, and finds a different, no less delicate crisis she must handle.
We then get a character moment, where Ororo realizes she’s letting her irritation with Henry show in her powers, which is nice to see. Yes, it’s a tiny bit opportunistic to leave the temperature up so Hank sweats in her presence. McCoy didn’t precisely order Ororo to stand down, but he also wasn’t there, seeing the gratitude, need and fear of the villagers. So it’s completely understandable that a minor slip of her powers is making him harmlessly uncomfortable. It also shows us that despite being a goddess and a queen, our Ororo is not perfect — she is still subject to human foibles like frustration and pettiness. She may have phenomenal power, but when you get down to it, she’s just as human as we are. That makes Ororo more relatable.
The crisis in question, though, is Mexicana student Marisol Guerra — codenamed something different, but nicknamed “Creep” by the other kids of the school. This character is another person of color, another girl — both good things. She’s also claimed the nickname as her own — they gave it to her to hurt her, and she embraced it. Also good.
Pak has given her an absolutely fascinating power set: she creates mold, mildew, decay, fungus, and creeping plant life. She apparently is homesick, and resents being at the school. She calls Storm out in typical rage-filled teen fashion — saying that the X-Men are people of enormous privilege, giving “gifts” to poor mutants, disenfranchising them from their homes, and indoctrinating them in mutant ideology.
Of course, Marisol is never shown to have stopped to think about the opposite: everything the X-Men risk their lives to do day in and day out to keep the kids at the school safe.
Magneto is currently doing his violent-savior-of-mutantkind thing in a low-key way that currently has him under the X-Men’s radar. Mystique is on the run for having infiltrated SHIELD as Dazzler, and has turned Madripoor into a drug-ridden mutant ghetto/playground. Elsewhere in the school, in the pages of Wolverine and the X-Men, there are different mutant ideologies duking it out right on campus, to say nothing of what’s happening with Storm’s own team fighting in X-Men to protect baby Shogo — also on campus.
Readers and Storm herself know this, but Marisol, in her self-centered teen angst, thinks she knows more than she does, and that the adult knows nothing. All Marisol can think about is going home, and helping her community, rather than the Dream. Which, in fairness, makes sense given her youth and her power set. It’s not exactly a suit-up-and-fight power; though I can see clear potential for its use that way. Still, her barbs get under Storm’s skin — particularly when she calls the headmistress a sellout. A sellout to what, I’m not sure. The X-Men are not raking in the dollars individually per se, and only some of them are getting the Avengers stipend. Nonetheless, Ororo has an understandable, very human slip at the teen being so difficult and frustrating. So this goddess is human.
Taking to the sky to shake off her unease, Storm’s powers and the weather generated by them take her back to Santo Marco, where she alights and begins helping the people, despite being aware that she shouldn’t be there. She not only assists using her own powers, but in a completely mundane, hands-on way, picking up tools, and fixing things with ordinary elbow-grease. It’s another powerful moment where Pak gives us a window into her character. We rarely get to see the X-Men doing anything with humans. We see them telling humans they mean no harm, we see them “protecting a world that fears and hates them,” and we see them thanking the non-hateful humans for their love; but Storm is living the old “actions speak louder than words” adage for a bunch of humans she is barely acquainted with. Better yet, we see them gladly accepting her help without a word of protest or complaint. We haven’t seen X-Men just working with regular folks since Claremont’s days.
But as this is “a world that hates and fears them,” the military guys come back for another confrontation. This time, Ororo doesn’t back down, reminding them they said they’d be taking care of the victims of the disaster. They assure her they are: they declare the area uninhabitable despite only needing a little work, and tell the village they’re all being provided new homes by a big greedy megacorp that wants their land for a new resort (even though a tsunami nearly wiped out a village in this spot — tax write-off, maybe?). The villagers raise their voices in protest, even as the mercenaries begin forcing them into vehicles. It all comes to a head when Silvia cries out as they bulldoze her house.
We see Storm step up in a way that makes her even more awesome than she’s already showed herself to be. It’s old hat to people who have been reading the X-titles for years: Storm spent years without her powers, and defeated Cyclops for leadership of the team while in this powerless state. That makes it no less a cheerworthy sight when she meets the macho, mutant-hating mercenary on his own terms, and takes him on hand-to-hand without flinching. The rest of the mercs open fire, but despite neither Storm nor her costume being bulletproof, she remains undaunted. The wind carries the bullets away from her and the innocent villagers, then carries the mercenaries themselves away from the village. Ibañez beautifully illustrates this to the point where you almost want to flinch from the bullets!
All of this is caught on international TV, much to the Beast’s dismay. Storm, however, is photogenic and majestic, standing proud and tall on camera. Incident or not, she looks regal and mighty. Due to tape delay, she walks in on a newly impressed Creep just as the segment ends — and apologizes to her.
I’m pleased to announce that Ibañez really surprised me. I was a little dubious when I saw the much-hyped preview pages, but I’m glad to admit I was wrong. He displays his talent and versatility with some of the most emotionally powerful moments in the comic.
We get to see Storm in moments of joy, pensiveness, rage, fury, and serenity. We get Marisol in counterpoint as the face of frustration and gratitude, as well as the villagers in Santa Marco. The grim, menacing faces of the mercenaries are rendered with no less skill — the cruel pleasure they get out of doing the job they’ve been paid to do is obvious. The design of his pages depicts Storm as a larger than life figure — impossible to confine to one panel at a time. The wind blows things out of frame, the thunder shakes the panel borders. It’s as close to a full immersion experience as one can get from a comic without holographic animation.
Ororo and Hank bring the homesick mutant back to her home in Mexico, who reveals why her original codename was Flourish. When Marisol is happy, she doesn’t create mold, fungus and decay: flowers bloom and grass grows in her footsteps. Ororo reveals she has considered that as a teen, Marisol has time to find out who she really is, implying that should she want to return to the school, she’ll be welcome. Hopefully Flourish will return in the future. It is still rewarding to see her welcomed home, rather than having to fight her way through anti-mutant protests.
The story ends on a hopeful note as Storm takes to the sky again, and Flourish, in radiant happiness back in the embrace of her family, turns desert into oasis.
So all around, I can’t complain much except about the stupidity of the megacorp and the villains being dumb enough to challenge Storm with nothing more than guns and machismo. The only man in the story who isn’t a bad guy is Hank, who is operating from a place of good intentions even if they annoy our wind rider. The representation is great across the board. We get people of multiple ethnicities, and we get privilege politics discussion. This book is giving all the signs of being a multifaceted read, full of new challenges for Ororo.
If Pak and Ibañez keep up this level of quality, I will have no trouble making it through the five-issue period I give all new books. I can already foresee myself reading this one faithfully. If you liked seeing the young and adorable new Ms. Marvel coming into her powers, you’ll love seeing Storm dealing with things on her own terms and balancing her roles as headmistress and X-Man in her own series.
What’re you waiting for? Storm #1 is on sale at your local comic shop or online at ComiXology!