Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Review # 5: "X-Men by Brian Wood" Volumes 1 and 2

When it comes to female Marvel characters, more often than not the first one you'll hear mentioned in any nerdy discussion is Storm. She has the powers of a goddess and the presence of one to match. Being played by Halle Berry in the X-Men movie adaptations doesn't hurt either. But here's the thing about Storm: she hasn't really done anything important in 20 years. She had a brief marriage with Black Panther that's been wiped out and rendered irrelevant. Beyond that, nada.

The reason why that's happened is Chris Claremont did such a great job fleshing out her character in the 80s that there was nowhere left to go. He took her from a diplomatic African queen to an insane weather witch to a cosmic entity to a sewer-jousting warrior to a mohawk-sporting daredevil to a powerless wreck to a powerless juggernaut who was then reborn with those past experiences building the Ororo Monroe we know and love today. Claremont exhausted Storm to the point that the only place he could go was backwards, having her de-aged into a preteen thief in a "prequel that isn't really a prequel." The only thing they could possibly due is make her a villain, but that ain't happenin'.

Since then, all Storm has done is take moral stands and those are only as good as the actual morals. The ones she was served in the 90s were cliched, a standard of the Scott Lobdell era. But now with Cyclops walking the moral-immoral line like a tour de force, these two HAD to be paired up.

That came in the recent Schism event where the X-Men living in Utopia (practically all mutants who hadn't lost their powers in the event "House of M") split in two. Most of the goody two-shoes like Iceman, Beast and Kitty Pryde left with Wolverine to reform the school while Scott Summers formed a team that included the ruthless Emma Frost, practically satanic Illyana Rasputin, Juggernaut-possessed Colossus and a couple of other mutants you may have heard of: Magneto and Namor. The team clearly needed a moral centre. That's what Cyclops pitched, and Storm was obliged to answer.

Suddenly Ororo had a reason to exist again.

This leads into Brian Wood's short takeover of the ongoing "X-Men" series where Storm leads a "security team" of the aforementioned Colossus along with Psylocke Pixie and Domino that deals with potential threats to mutants. The mission focuses on a proto-mutant group and a scientist that is tearing them apart but, really... it's uninteresting next to how Storm interacts with her own team and her boss. Wood's writing completely revitalizes a stale character.

Storm has as much leadership experience as Cyclops and the two clash often. Ororo deliberately hides information; She buts heads with Cyclops sympathizer Colossus; she questions the recent actions (in the murderrific Uncanny X-Force) of Psylocke. Gradually, she asserts control over her team while shooting Scott the figurative bird and it's marvelous.

Or at least part one is. Part two - while billed as being by Brian Wood - only features him as the writer for two issues that really only serve as a coda for part one with a character that isn't particularly intriguing. If there is a highlight, it's Storm and Colossus finally having it out in a short - but quite good - fight. That's followed by a solid-to-very-good team-up story involving Domino and Daredevil with writing by Seth Peck that's very in tune with the excellent ongoing DD run by Mark Waid. However the momentum from that story dies with a less-impressive arc involving a new government-sponsored Freedom Force. They and the X-Men clash over a new mutant and Storm - after splitting away from Cyclops' team - is clearly back in a rut.

But there's light at the end of the tunnel. It's pretty clear that Storm's best chance at revitalization rests under the pen of Brian Wood. And, wouldn't you know it, Wood is set to relaunch the sidebook with an all-female cast including Storm, Psylocke, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Rachel Grey and Jubilee

It should be awesome.

Rating: 8/10 (Blank Generation), 6.5/10 (Reckless Abandonment)

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