Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Clear Skies and Clearer Understanding: Storm #11

The following is my review of Storm #11, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


There are certain characters whose appeal we'll never understand. Can anyone truly claim they know why Andy Dick had his own show or why Rebecca Black had a hit single? On the other end of the spectrum are characters like Storm, whose appeal goes beyond any viral video or Twitter trend. She's as much an icon for the X-men as Wonder Woman is for the Justice League. It's gotten to the point where we can accept a world where the X-men can function without Wolverine, settling instead for clones or inverted enemies. But we can't accept a world where the X-men can function without Storm. Just ask Black Panther.

In many respects, Greg Pak's has done for Storm what Grant Morrison did for Superman in his All-Star Superman series. He makes concepts like killing giant robots or humiliating the Lex Luthors of the world secondary. Instead, he focuses on fleshing out the defining traits that make us love Ororo Munroe.

Throughout this series, he's touched on many core aspects of her character. There's Storm, the dedicated teacher. There's Storm, the dedicated humanitarian. And there's Storm, the woman who just lost her lover. But no matter which Storm she is, she's a character that commands love and respect. And she does it while looking sexier than Superman ever could. She doesn't even need an obscenely revealing costume designed by Rob Liefeld either. It's one of the many testaments to Storm's character.

So before Secret Wars blinds everyone to the simpler pleasures of refined, likable characters, Pak explores one more core trait to Storm's character in Storm #11. And it's a trait that truly epitomizes the concept of the X-men as a whole. The imagery of Charles Xavier's bald head or Wolverine's chest hair might be more defining to some. But for Storm, the act of reaching out to a scared and unstable young mutant is what defines the X-men.

It's this act that Storm has raised to an art form that Pablo Picasso himself would admire. And she has to push her skills in this craft to their very limit because she has to deal with the kind of unstable mutant that wouldn't even be welcome on the set of Jerry Springer. Kenji Uedo, once the least unstable member of Generation Hope, has returned and he's still as unstable as ever. And since nobody has cared about Hope Summers since Andrew Luck's rookie season, he's taking his anger out on Storm.

In this respect, he chose the perfect target. Storm is the very antithesis of who he is. In addition to being a blatant Akira rip-off, Kenji is the ugliest manifestation of mutants. He's obscenely disfigured, exceedingly unstable, and can't be controlled. On the other end of the spectrum, Storm embodies beauty that even Hallie Berry couldn't sufficiently capture and power so balanced that it can end famine and bring joy. They're still similar in the sense that they both have the power to unleash untold destruction. The main difference is that Storm chooses to use that power to bring peace while Kenji chooses to use that power to make the world his personal toilet bowl.

Beyond just the physical and personal struggles, Kenji attempts to break Storm's spirit down by touching on all those she has interacted with throughout this series. Every struggle that has helped emphasize why she's the most iconic and beloved X-man in history is brought into the fold. It's a perfectly structured act of convergence that DC Comics should take note of. It effectively raises the emotional and personal stakes for Storm. And true to the goddess we know and love, she rises to the occasion in ways that even an army of Hallie Berry's couldn't capture.

Storm exercises every level of her strengths. First, she shows off the kind of power she has over the elements. Kenji, being an immature mutant who hasn't destroyed enough killer robots to call himself an X-man, tries to break Storm by attacking all the friends and allies she reconnected with over the course of the series. Instead of breaking, she gives Kenji a lesson that he won't get outside of an old Catholic school. In an act that would make Spinal Tap proud, she turns the volume up on her powers to 11 and creates a dazzling weather display that effectively purges Kenji's Akira-inspired attacks off the world. However, it's her second attack that is truly defining.


She was still in a position to give Kenji the kind of discipline that even the most sadistic nun wouldn't condone. She has more than enough power to make him wish he was born without skin. However, she chooses not to fight him. Instead, she and the friends she made in this series connect with Kenji. In doing so, she shows him that she too has an ugly side. She has a history of making bad mistakes and not just because of her choice in haircuts. She may carry herself with a beauty and grace that would inspire countless Sir-Mix-A-Lot songs, but she is still as flawed as he is. She just chooses to be something greater.

This is what ends up winning the battle. She doesn't have to kill or even hurt Kenji. She just has to inspire him. This is what makes Storm who she is. This is why she embodies the best of what the X-men have to offer. Cyclops may have the love of hot telepathic women. Wolverine may have the chest hair and bad boy appeal. Charles Xavier may have wisdom and likeness of Patrick Stewart. But Storm has the heart.

It is the best possible conclusion for a series. Storm #11 effectively links all the elements that have been explored throughout this series into one, concise narrative that acts as a love letter to Storm fans of every era. She is the last remaining anchor in the world of X-men that champions their ideals. She has the kind of spirit and heart that the Inhumans will never be able to match, although they'll certainly try. There are so many traits that make Storm the ultimate X-man. It's impossible for any issue or series to cover them all, but this one made a truly worthy effort.

Final Score: 10 out of 10

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