Wednesday, September 2, 2020
X-amining Storm #1-4
February - May 1996
In a Nutshell
Storm is transported to the Hill, where she encounters Mikhail Rasputin and a new Gene Nation.
Story/Dialogue: Warren Ellis
Artist/Storyteller: Terry Dodson
Inkers: Karl Story
Letters: Ricjard Starkings & Comicraft
Colors: Rosas/Lenshoek, Ariane Lenshoek (issues #2 & 4), Lenshoek & Hoston (issue #3)
Separations: Malibu Hues
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras
Issue #1: Struggling with her recent murder of Marrow, Storm asks Cable to show her the Ceremony of Light, so she might apologize to the dead Morlocks for failing them. As the she performs the ceremony, a dimensional portal opens, pulling her through. When Cable returns to the site of the ceremony, he finds a disfigured corpse and no psychic trace of Storm; he informs the X-Men she has died. However, Storm awakens in another world, and realizes the energy effect which took her there was similar to Mikhail Rasputin's.
Issue #2: As the X-Men deal with the apparent death of Storm, Storm herself grows familiar with her surroundings, which consists of a massive hill, in which the descendants of the Morlocks whom Mikhail sent to the world battle one another in an effort to climb ever higher up the Hill. Flying towards the summit, Storm passes Callisto, and reaching the top, locates the master of the Hill: a still-alive Mikhail.
Issue #3: On Earth, Cable informs Forge of Storm's death. On the Hill, Mikhail introduces Storm to the latest round of Gene Nation terrorists, who are planning on traveling to Earth to detonate a bomb at X-Factor headquarters. Storm attacks them in an effort to stop the bombing, and Callisto joins her, revealing that Mikhail murdered a girl to leave behind a corpse resembling Storm. Just then, the dimensional travel effect begins against Mikhail's will, and Storm orders him to send her home. But Gene Nation says that, if he does, they'll detonate the bomb, killing them all.
Issue #4: Cable is performing the Ceremony of Light in order to say goodbye to Storm, triggering the dimensional transfer from the Hill. To end their standoff, Storm puts a knife to Mikhail's throat, telling him to send all of them - including Gene Nation - to Earth. They arrive, landing atop Cable, and Storm uses her power to send the bomb high into the sky where it detonates harmlessly. Callisto flees, while Mikhail teleports himself away at the same time Storm hits him with lightning, leaving Gene Nation to believe she's killed him. Properly cowed, Storm says she is going to send them to a village in Africa, where they will work peacefully with the people there to help them survive. Elsewhere in the tunnels, Callisto is found by Marrow, who survived her encounter with Storm, while Dark Beast - who had been secretly giving orders to Mikhail - expresses dismay at the disruption of his plans. Later, back at the X-Mansion, Storm reveals a new look to Cable, Cyclops & Phoenix.
Firsts and Other Notables
Storm's first solo series, this concludes with the character shedding her Jim Lee-designed/animated series-adjacent costume for a new, somewhat Manga-esque, look that will serve as her default appearance (with some color tweaks) more or less for the rest of the 90s (I don't know who designed it, but Joe Madureira's influence is present in the two long strands of hair, and he is technically one of the artist's responsible for drawing her in it at the time).
This series explores the origins of Gene Nation, bringing Storm to the extradimensional world (dubbed "the Hill") where the Morlocks ended up after Mikhail transported them out of the flooding Morlock tunnels in Uncanny X-Men #293.
It reveals that Mikhail survived the events of that issue, and continues to lead the Morlocks (and the Gene Nation agents sent to Earth) as the master of the Hill (despite Callisto having implied, in Uncanny #325, that the exiled Morlocks killed him after arriving at the Hill). He disappears at the end of the series, but will return in New Mutants: Truth or Death before being inexplicably involved in the "The Twelve" crossover towards the end of the decade.
It is also revealed, in issue #4, that Dark Beast has functioned as Mikhail's secret master, directing his actions to some extent. This ties in with the general retcon that Dark Beast is responsible for the "creation" of the Morlocks (and the notion of using a dimension where time moves faster to test out his experiments and see the results quickly is certainly fitting), but nothing more ever really comes of it.
Callisto returns in issue #2 of the series, having somehow made her way back to the Hill following the events of Uncanny #325. She receives some facial scarring in the course of the story, but I don't recall that ever being referenced again.
She runs into Marrow, revealed to be alive after all, in issue #4. The pair will return in Cable #42, ahead of Marrow working with (and shortly thereafter joining) the X-Men during "Operation: Zero Tolerance".
In issue #3, Mikhail introduces a new Gene Nation, consisting of a handful of new members along with some returning members (like Hemingway and Sack). I don't believe any of the new members shown here appear again (though the returnees do).
The first issue of the series comes with a cardstock, gold foil-embossed cover, because the 90s.
The first issue concludes with a Storm pinup by Terry Dodson.
Excalibur writer Warren Ellis writes this series (fresh off the Starjammers limited series) while Terry Dodson provides the pencils, in his most high-profile work in the X-office yet.
The Chronology Corner
This series takes place between Uncanny X-Men #333 and #334, with Cable appearing between issues #32 and #33 of his series.
I'd never actually read this series prior to reading it ahead of this review; for whatever reason, despite buying & reading everything else the X-line was putting out at this time (including the similarly-priced Askani'son limited series), this I never picked up. It's entirely possible I missed the first issue at my local shop (and thus wasn't going to pick up the rest) or my limited budget just couldn't swing another $2.95 a month for four months, I honestly can't remember.
A Work in Progress
The first issue does that thing Rob Liefeld did a lot in early X-Force issues, where it presents narrative captions listing a very specific time (ie "4:57").
As the series opens, Storm is continuing to struggle with her forced murder of Marrow in Uncanny X-Men #325.
Storm is taught the Morlock Ceremony of Light, first shown in Cable #15, by Cable (who learned it from Thornn in that issue). It turns out to be an event which triggers the dimensional portal to the Hill (which was shown in Cable #15 when the little Morlock girl Sarah crossed over, after which she grew up there to become Marrow).
Cable & Cyclops have an exchange in issue #2 with some really awkward dialogue in it (it seems weird that Cyclops wouldn't think Cable would know who Colossus is, for example).
It was established in Uncanny #325 that time moved differently on the Hill; that's referenced explicitly here, though of course, it has no bearing on this story (ie Storm doesn't return to find years have passed while she was gone, or emerge from the Hill an old woman, etc.) because now a main character is being used as the POV figure.
Cable creepily makes mental note of Storm's scent at one point.
He later likens Storm to his deceased wife, Aliyah.
This is an odd series. For one, it's written by Warren Ellis, but plot-wise, it heavily involves Gene Nation, Mikhail Rasputin, and the interdimensional world he banished the Morlocks to, all of which have largely been the province of Scott Lobdell. And for its B-plot, such as it is, it draws on the burgeoning Cable/Storm relationship that has been almost entirely the purview of Jeph Loeb in Cable's solo series. As a result, the series reads very much like one of those writers intended to write it, got busy, and handed off some plot notes to Ellis (though Ellis receives full writer credit throughout, so if that's the case, neither of the other two writers are citing credit).
For another, it's visually a dark book: Terry Dodson is today largely know for cheescake-style art, and while that style is certainly present in his figure work here, his inkers' lines are very thick & heavy throughout. Additionally, many of the panels are light on background detail, with scenes instead playing out over dull, monochromatic backgrounds. And finally, it's weird how the through-line of the series is clearly meant to be Storm reconciling her feelings over her apparent murder of Marrow, but that journey gets a bit lost in the weeds as the story progresses (and then is mostly rendered moot by the sudden return of Marrow at the end). The effort - both in creating a place for Storm to grapple with her actions and in giving some background details on Gene Nation - is appreciated, but the actual results are fairly workmanlike.
Ultimately, there's very little to recommend about the series, even though it's competently crafted (a bit of awkward Ellis-ian dialogue aside). It largely stands as little more than a historical footnote (having never read this until just a few days before this review, I can say I never felt like I was missing much, and it turns out, I wasn't), the place where Marrow came back and Storm debuted a new look. Which, given Storm's still-diminshing role in the franchise since the '91 relaunch, and the potential for some rich & interesting character work in the wake of her (now attempted) murder of Marrow, is a shame.
Next week: Onslaught makes a move in X-Men (vol. 2) #50, X-Force battles the Blob in X-Force #52, and Wolverine comes face to face with the Dark Riders in Wolverine #99!
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