Jonathan Hickman et al have been unsubtly hinting that Storm has a Big Role to Play, though everything leading up to now has implied little more than a chance of rain. To think, it only took a new writer whom I know actually cares about the character and writes her accordingly in Marauders #13 to spark my interest again…
Marauders #13 (X of Swords Part 5)
Vita Ayala (writer), Russell Dauterman (cover), Edgar Delgado (colourist), Stephanie Han (variant cover), Matteo Lolli (artist), Tom Muller (designer), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer)
October 7, 2020
As of X-Factor #4, we know that Storm has been chosen as one of the champions who must wield a very specific sword in Saturnyne’s war games against the original Horsemen of Apocalypse:
“Once goddess, once queen, one sword with which to split the sky in twain. Vibranium inlaid, a tempest contained, the wrath of heavens comes wielding a legacy.”
The fate of not only Krakoa but the world is at stake, however, it’s not going to be easy to convince Wakanda that they need to give up their historic blade, Skybreaker, suddenly imagined into existence for the purpose of this crossover event. As former queen of Wakanda, unceremoniously dumped in the middle of a battlefield during that hack and slash AvX mess, Storm’s relationship with the country she once ruled alongside T’Challa is tenuous. T’Challa is absent when Storm arrives, but we quickly see that love is not lost between Storm and the women of Wakanda. Granted audience before Queen Ramonda and Princess Shuri, she pleads her case, regally dressed in an all-white version of her current costume — though she’s sporting a conspicuously suspicious big ol’ black duffle bag slung across her svelte frame….
Ayala and the artistic team take their time in establishing the weight of the relationship between the three women and the weight of Storm’s request. Wakanda bears no ill will against Krakoa on a personal level, but on a political level, they have made their stance clear. Storm walking in to request the use of a blade meant only for the king will cause further strife among an already divided people.
The initial scenes of this encounter and Storm’s earlier interactions with Kate Pryde are beautifully framed on one side by Storm’s history. Rendered in muted warm browns, these depictions of Storm’s life serve as complement to the brilliant brightly-toned imagery of what is happening now. The past images evolve as the story continues, increasing in size as the significance of their connection to the present becomes more prominent. The images are small and lacking in precise detail, yet they present the immensity of who she is, which is a theme that pervades the issue. “I know who I am,” Storm repeats, as if reminding herself as much as everyone else, “…and I know what I must do.” Having been lost to us for so long in stories that have done this goddess, leader, nurturer, and warrior little justice, this issue of finally seeing Storm returning to her glory feels bittersweet and filled with promises of pain.
Because of the king’s absence, Queen Ramonda defers Storm’s request for his return, much to Storm’s frustration. It leaves time, though, for a quiet moment over a colourful dinner with Shuri. I’m mildly (very) obsessed with depictions of food in my entertainment, and am wondering at just what the ladies are eating here. Is it actually an African dish? Or just some brightly coloured savoury blobs? Please advise, thanks.
Aside from the menu and some clever panel work, I find myself paying very close attention not only to Storm’s words, but to her delivery. Ayala gives Storm formality, befitting the magnitude of such a request, but they also give her pause… Storm is someone whom I know to be the epitome of confidence, and the pauses seem unusual for a woman who is normally so certain of herself. However, what we’ve seen of her briefly in earlier issues of X-Men and Marauders is a woman who is tired and resigned to her fate. Now her fate is tied yet again to the destruction of mutantkind and humanity as a whole, and, though she’s willing to do what it takes to stop Arakko from twisting Earth with its malevolence, there’s a sense of pending doom that goes deeper than what a big battle to the death might entail, especially now that we have learned what will happen to Krakoans who die in Otherworld. The pauses in her dialogue read to me as moments that Ayala gives us to understand just how heavy this decision is for Storm, amplifying what Kate surmises at the beginning of the issue about Storm’s state of mind when she finds her friend brooding among the greenery.
Of course, with the fate of the world in the balance, there’s no time to wait for an absent king to return.
Interlude: As usual, Dawn of X books are interspersed with datapages. Here they are crammed full of worldbuilding details, including information about Skybreaker. But this issue is also interrupted by Ta’Nehisi Coates’ tribute to Chadwick Boseman, featuring an illustration by Brian Stelfreeze. I knew this was coming, and had already seen and read it previously, but given the context of this issue, the emotions hit hard once again and broke me out of a story. Not that that is a bad thing. Given who Boseman was and his lasting legacy, I am honoured to give him every one of these moments.
But back to the task at hand: remember that big ol’ duffle bag? Well, those flashes of Storm’s past remind the reader that Storm is many things, including a thief and a scrapper. And we get to see her in her full glory here. Lightning and thunder are her mutant mainstay, but it’s the up close and personal moments of her more ‘human’ skills that give her character depth, and the creative team goes alllll in.
Reading X-Men over the past few years has been a long and frustrating road for me as a lover of Storm. I’m tired. And maybe I’m getting too old for this shit. But Ayala has motivated me enough to hold the line, at least for a little while longer to see exactly what Hickman’s big plan is for the Ororo Munroe…