Thursday, September 24, 2015

1985 - 1987: Shifting Storms part III: Mutants, Morlocks & Marauders... Oh My Goddess!

By Jef Willemsen (

When we last left Storm, she had returned to Africa to cope with losing her powers. Back there, she came to terms with "merely" being Ororo Munroe. She set out to act as a bridge between Africa and the west and between mutantkind and humanity. Unfortunately, fate and Chris Claremont soon pushed her back into familiar patterns... and beyond.

Fair's fair... it did take a little while for Storm to return to the X-Men.

Chris Claremont had some fun with Ororo outside the comfortable confines of Xavier's school. For instance, he had her help out the New Mutants when they found themselves up against their old teammate Karma who was now possessed by the Shadow King. Just to make sure they wouldn't feel left out, "Karma" took control of most of the New Mutants ánd Storm.

"Does that please you, Ororo? Is it not in fact your heart's desire"

Now, it goes without saying that Ororo and the others eventually found a way to defeat the Shadow King. Even in the junior leagues, having an X on your costume usually means your side will win in the end. Afterwards, Storm took the New Mutants to Greece for a much needed vacation. But there, she fell prey to the machinations of Loki. The power hungry Asgardian figured that he could use the absence of Thor to magically mind control Ororo into becoming the new goddess of thunder. Through her, he would rule Asgard.

In the end, it took the combined effort of the X-Men and the New Mutants to get her back to normal and renounce the power Loki offered. Still, while these adventures were certainly entertaining and well worth mentioning, they mainly used Storm as a prop. Especially the Asgardian adventure relegated her to a mind controlled pawn of Loki's, a far cry from the independent woman she'd been slowly evolving into.

The next phase of Storm's evolution was returning to Earth with the X-Men to cope with the fact she had no powers and no professor to fall back on. In the opening pages of Uncanny X-Men I#200 both the X-Men and the New Mutants left Asgard only to find themselves in Paris, France. This was no coincidence, after all that's where Charles Xavier happened to be. He had come to the city of lights to advise in Magneto's trial.

Long story short: the terrorist group Fenris disrupted the proceedings, Magneto was forced to actively defend himself, the X-Men tried their best to fight back and all the stress gave the professor a fatal heart attack. He was saved by the timely arrival of his lover Lilandra and the Starjammers, who took him to outerspace so he could get the care he needed. Before he left, Charles asked Magneto to succeed him as the school's new headmaster.  How's that for an anniversary issue?

For Storm, the real fireworks started in Uncanny X-Men I#201. During her absence, Cyclops had drifted back into the fold, slowly taking over the leadership position. Now that Ororo was back, it was time to have it out.

"One of us must lead. The best way to choose, I feel, is a duel."

Cyclops agreed to Storm's proposal of a one on one fight in the Danger Room. Not too long after the proverbial gauntlet was thrown, the challenge was met. Both the X-Men and the New Mutants gathered to see who would win. But before we get to the actual match, it's interesting to note how much Storm had grown as both a person and as team leader. Only three years worth of issues earlier, she would have gladly relinquished the position to Cyclops.

                                     "I am good at it... though I concede you are the best"

Only three years, but look at the change in art style alone. These characters had grown and evolved. It was a new era with equally new rules. Storm might still have respected Cyclops like she did way back in Uncanny X-Men I#154, but by now her self confidence had grown to the point she at least considered herself Scott's equal. And, as their duel in the Danger Room proved... she was, and then some.

"You are effectively helpless, Cyclops (...) Our duel is over".

Later writers would try and discredit this fight, claiming that Scott's soon to turn evil wife Madelyne Pryor was behind this. She had subconsciously been using her mental potential to influence the outcomes she desired: by letting Storm win, she could have Scott to herself again. But ignoring that particular retcon: Ororo beat Scott because she was far more cunning and clever compared to the far more by the book tactician the professor trained him to be. Cyclops left with his wife and son and Storm started her second tenure as X-men leader, even without powers. And oh boy, would a stray lightning bolt or two have come in handy...
1985 marked the year that most of Marvel's line turned to darker, more conflicted storylines. Claremont's X-Men were no exception. But 1985 was also the year of the Beyonder, who the X-Men had to fight as part of the much maligned mega crossover Secret Wars II. Storm's part was relatively minor, though she did prove her worth by defeating a Sentinel on her own. Well, technically, she was flying the Blackbird and she didn't so much defeat the killer robot, she tricked it into following her into outerspace where the elements did it in. Symbolic, to say the least.

As a result of their fight against the Beyonder, the X-Men found themselves in San Francisco where they decided to stay for a while with their old friend Jessica Drew. And for anyone who still doubted if Storm could hold her own without her powers, there's the opening pages of Uncanny X-Men I#206

"Foolish boys"

One unarmed woman versus five armed thugs? Guess we all know how that ended, right?

"I warned you"

It's a great sequence that really proves Storm was always more than her powers. And while that's all well and good when you're facing muggers, how about an actual superhuman threat? 

"Pyro plays with fire, but he never gets burned!"

Yup, later that same issue Avalanche, Blob, Pyro and Spiral show up in San Francisco to try and arrest the X-Men. They recently became a part of Freedom Force, a government sponsored team of superhumans. Figuring they could use their proverbial badge to settle some scores, the former Brotherhood of Mutants members attacked and were apparently unaware Storm was powerless.

Or was she?

" Goddess! I am flying!"

No, not really... It was just Rachel Grey using her telekinesis to lift Storm up to help sell the illusion. In the end, Freedom Force was sent packing through the power of bureaucracy: they had failed to file for a warrant for the team's arrest, forcing them to let the X-Men go. A bit of an easy cop-out, but hey, whatever works.

"Whatever works" also seemed to become the unofficial motto of Storm and the team in the months that followed. They had it rough and were forced to improvise. Upon returning to New York, Wolverine was almost killed by a team of cyborg hunters, forcing the X-Men to take refuge with the Morlocks for weeks. Then Rachel Grey went mad and tried to kill Selene, the Hellfire Club's new Black Queen. Rachel was stopped by Wolverine but only because he stabbed her through the heart.

Surviving the fatal wounds by keeping them sealed telekinetically, Rachel stormed off which led to a wild goose chase culminating in a confrontation between the X-Men, the Morlocks and the Lords Cardinal in Central Park...  And to top it all off  Nimrod showed up to exterminate them all. 

Thinking on her feet, and with nothing left to lose, Storm proposed a partnership to Sebastian Shaw and the Hellfire Club. Together, they might stand a chance against the the hot pink killer robot from the future.

"Goddess willing, that will not be necessary"

It's a sign of respect she commanded that the arrogant Lords Cardinal obeyed the powerless Storm without question. Even Selene did as she was told. Ororo also managed to motivate the infamously cowardly Harry Leland to up his game, even in the face of death.

Together, the mutants managed to damage Nimrod enough for it to evacuate and lick its proverbial wounds. But in the background of this temporary mystery, a new threat began to emerge... Someone was quietly killing stray Morlocks, in preparation of a major offensive. The Marauders tore a bloody swath through the Alley, the main underground tunnels where the misfit mutants lived. Storm and the X-Men did their best to stop the butchers, but paid a heavy price.

Luckily, Storm found someone to take her frustrations out on.


The X-Men managed to rescue a pitiful number of Morlocks and what's worse: the team endured a few casualities of their own. Both Nightcrawler and Kitty Pryde were severly injured, which enraged Colossus so much he killed for the first time in his life. Instead of being plagued by this terrible act, ol' Petey Pureheart was now eager for more blood.

"I led the X-Men to this! Bright lady, what have I done?!"

In all fairness, it is a lot to take in. Responsible for both the X-Men ánd the wellfare of the Morlocks, Storm realized she had failed both miserably and without her powers she couldn't even properly protect them. Finally allowing herself to break down, which is understandably selfish, Storm ran off, fed up with the responsibility of leadership.  

In the end, it was the unlikeliest of allies that slapped some sense into her. And not just because she cared so much about Ororo. Quite the contrary.

"I mean to see you worthy of that respect... and of yourself!"

The Marauders changed everything.

Now more than ever, the X-Men realized they were no longer safe. What's worse: the same held true for all their friends, families and allies. Basically everyone ever associated with the team was now in danger. That's why Storm and the others set out to warn them, only to find in Uncanny X-Men I#214 that the Marauders had beaten them to the punch. Their old ally Dazzler was now possessed by the Marauder Malice, a psionic body snatching entity that was always looking for new, powerful hosts. After taking over Rogue and Wolverine, she tried on Storm for size, only to find 

"You could not tempt me with what I already possess"

Read Storm's dialogue for yourself. It's an interesting explanation why she was able to resist Malice's control. She even claims that it's specifically her darker nature that makes her fit to lead the X-Men. Just what she meant by that would become obvious a few issues down the line. While out on a road trip with Wolverine, Storm got separated from Logan and was kidnapped by three old World War II heroes: Crimson Commando, Super Sabre and Stonewall. The trio mistook Storm for a criminal (which, given their background and her appearance isn't the biggest stretch). 

But she fought back... hard.

"I have no choice."

During her early days as an X-Man, Storm repeatedly swore that she would never ever hurt or even kill another human being (again). She had taken a life back when she was still a thieving urchin on the streets of Cairo. That experience had traumatized her so much, she never was willing to do it again under any circumstance. But, if one lives and experiences enough most if not all principles tend to become relative.

"A slash of this blade across your throat will do the trick. Your bodies will be cast into the swamp. 
No one will ever find them. None know what happened."

So this is the new Storm... No powers, but ruthless and ready to do anything to make sure the job gets done. Not the worst qualities to have in a leader, but she still felt she could serve the X-Men better if she'd have her powers back. That's why, in the closing pages of Uncanny X-Men I#220 Ororo has decided to swallow her pride.

 "I can lead the X-Men as I am. 
But I would do better if I could do so with my elemental powers restored."

Well... We all know what's coming next, right? In part IV of Shifting Storms, Ororo returns to the Aerie but finds the bird has flown.

1 comment:

  1. Storm really was such a brilliantly written character back in the 80s😃



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