With every crackle of thunder, every bolt of lightning, and every wind-gusted strand of hair, Russell Dauterman expresses how important Storm is to him. I wish I could say I felt the same about how Jonathan Hickman has been writing Storm.
Giant-Size X-Men: Storm #1
Russell Dauterman (story and art), Jonathan Hickman (writer), Ariana Maher (letterer), Tom Muller (designer), Matthew Wilson (colourist)
September 16, 2020
Following up on Emma Frost and Jean Grey’s psychic journey to rescue their friend/frenemy, Storm is now awake and learning the bad news: she has been infected with a machine virus that’s left her with 30 days to live. Worse, Jean says consoling her, there’s nothing more anyone can do for her because all of the brilliant minds on Krakoa have turned up blank. Emma, in her coldly dismissive way, suggests that it shouldn’t matter since Storm can simply be resurrected, perhaps with some of Emma’s recommended alterations, but Storm isn’t yet all about that resurrection life just because she’s about to die.
The Giant-Size X-Men stories follow the Marvel Method of storytelling wherein the artist is given the broad strokes of a story, allowing them to shape it as much as the writer as they plot out panels and placements, with the words added in later. GSX: Storm holds to this format, but in earlier interviews, Dauterman explains that much of the plot here was already clearly defined by Hickman, leaving little room for Dauterman to interject story elements. He did suggest adding Monet to the mix, which turns out to be very helpful, because, despite “every genius on the island” taking a crack it, Monet apparently wasn’t consulted. Thankfully, she did hear about Storm’s predicament and shows up a few pages in with a deus ex machina for Storm’s machina problem. Monet then gathers Doug, who also wasn’t consulted on a technovirus issue for some strange reason….
But let’s back up. Like I said, the story opens with Jean consoling Storm, informing her of her fate and the efforts that have been made to help her. The implication here is that Storm has played no active role in these efforts, not even being there to get the answers first hand. She’s basically sitting in a waiting room to hear what her prognosis is. And she just accepts it, aside from the scowl aimed at Emma’s insensitivity, Storm’s just like, oh well, I guess that’s it then about this whole situation.
Because if there’s one thing we know about Storm, she always gives up and takes what fate gives her, especially when it comes to situations of lifedeath. Yes, I am being sarcastic, but I am not the least bit surprised by this portrayal of Storm. Though the story moves on to give her her triumphant conquering the odds moments, the beginning pages, the previous issue, and Storm’s overall role in House of X/Powers of X and now Dawn of X continues to leave me heaving a deep sigh of resignation. I keep hearing a promise that Hickman has Big PlansTM for Storm, with this machine virus plotline being part of them, but I have yet to see anything that makes me excited to find out what those plans are.
Instead, I see a Storm that leaves me feeling exhausted. Thankfully, I can count on Dauterman, with the help of Matthew Wilson’s colours, to ensure that Storm looks like the African-American goddess she is, but the writing of the character has left me wanting so much more. Her appearances of late have been fleeting. She most often seems to be marched out to display her powers at opportune moments as a plot device or serve as a momentary counterpoint or support to other, more prominent characters, like Kate Pryde and Emma Frost in Marauders. She carries no major story arcs herself in the main series and hardly plays an active roll in this one that is supposed to be centred on her due to this machine virus. She was a damsel in distress in the Emma and Jean GSX that focused on the telepaths’ relationship. Here, I had to stop myself from counting how many panels she actually got to appear in an issue given her name. Having resigned herself to sitting around hoping, Storm doesn’t get up until Monet takes the lead, and, as the issue description reads, it’s Fantomex who — in relation to his own GSX story — gathers the rest of the team to find a cure, not Storm taking her fate into her own hands.
That cure takes them to a high-tech laboratory called the World, a place where Gravity Fall‘s Bill Cipher likely owns a summer home. Somewhere along the way, Storm gets tired of letting everyone else take the reins. “Follow my lead,” she commands, then promptly vanishes from the battle for two pages, save for a tiny pic of her in the corner. She returns to douse the World in wind and lightening in a stunning display of her abilities, which is all she gets to do these days. A goddess reduced to providing special effects.
Thus far, GSX books have not impressed me, save for a few moments here and there, and Emma and Jean’s issue, which featured the kind of character beats, relationship play, and depth that made me fall in love with mutants through Chris Claremont’s Classic X-Men stories. Given that Dauterman apparently had a greater role in shaping the Emma and Jean story and the characterizations, I feel like I should be giving him most of the credit for making their issue as enjoyable as it was, despite my frustration over Storm’s role within it — or lack thereof. Those kind of deep character moments are what I was expecting from GSX. The Storm issue briefly attempts this, with some moments of introspection where Storm says words that imply that she’s taking back her agency. In a few pithy lines, I was drawn back to moments like an emaciated Jean stubbornly telling a celestial entity that she didn’t want to die, or Storm taking a leap of faith and pure joy from a cliff when her powers are returned. But there really wasn’t any build-up to that moment of goddess returned here. Not when we started with a very atypical Storm who doesn’t seem to want to put in any more effort than the people writing her.
Aaaand then the story about Storm promptly flips back to focus on Fantomex and Doug and their important decisions and discoveries instead.