Uncanny X-Men #186-188
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #186, Uncanny X-Men #187, Uncanny X-Men #188
The cover blurb on issue #186 says: "Lifedeath - A Love Story". I saw it on the rack at a Waldenbooks when i was with my grandmother, but she wouldn't buy it for me because it was a love story. "You wouldn't like it." I knew better. I knew it was a follow-up to the issue i already had, where Storm lost her powers, but i wasn't going to argue with her (i was a good kid!). Somehow i wound up with it soon afterward anyway.
The art is by Barry Windsor-Smith, which is a special treat. It's too bad he never did anything regular for Marvel's super-hero line. Totally wasted on Conan when he could have been doing something important, like Spectacular Spider-Man!
Anyway, 9 year old me was right. Storm is dealing with the loss of her powers at Forge's place.
Storm is deeply depressed. It's not just that's she's superficially unable to control the weather. Her powers also gave her a direct connection with nature, and she can no longer feel any of that. Even basic things like the fact that her body would automatically regulate her temperature are gone, but the fact that she was "one with all creation" and now she is not is the bigger issue.
She slowly gets better, and also starts developing feelings for Forge, which are reciprocated.
Storm feels a kinship for Forge when she realizes that he lost his leg in Vietnam.
At one point she shows off her pick-pocketing abilities.
Windsor-Smith's art is great at depicting the subtle facial expressions that show the characters' feelings as they talk about their losses and as they flirt with each other. Good stuff.
You might wonder why Storm is at Forge's building instead of with the X-Men. Wouldn't Xavier have sent the X-Men to find her and Rogue? We find out that the psychic trauma of Storm's power loss was so intense, it left Professor X unconscious for over a day, and unable to use his telepathy for even longer.
It still doesn't really explain why Storm thinks she's at Forge's place. Forge brought her here because he feels guilt over the fact that he designed the weapon that neutralized her powers. But Storm doesn't know that yet.
Anyway, she finds out when she picks up a phone to call Xavier and instead overhears a conversation between Forge and Gyrich talking about moving Storm to a federal facility because Rogue is on the loose and has put Val Cooper in a coma while probably absorbing her memories.
Storm tries to flee. Forge tries to stop her by messing with his hologram systems. Storm uses a remote to try to control the holograms, and accidentally triggers a scene from Forge's past, when he was in Vietnam. There's the B-52 bombing strike where he lost his leg, and then demons appear, which is an odd twist we'll learn more about in future issues.
Confused by the holograms, Storm calls to the Blessed Goddess for help, and lightning strikes the building.
So we're getting hints that Storm may regain control of her powers right from the beginning. Forge also suggests that the loss of power may be reversible.
The lightning strike allows her access to a balcony where she's able to compose herself and also sock Forge in the jaw.
She's misinterpreted Forge's side of the conversation with Gyrich, but she's right on the overall points. He's an isolated tinkerer, and he doesn't really think of the consequences of the weapons he's designed for the government. Remember that his weapon development business jumped into the vacuum created when Tony Stark decided to stop supplying the government for weapons, for moral reasons.
This was a great follow up to issue #185 that dealt exclusively with character issues and no action. Well, except for the Dire Wraiths. Did i forget to mention those? That's right, Barry Windsor-Smith! You may have signed up for a nice dramatic story, but this plot also calls for you to draw us some awesome Dire Wraith pictures. So get to it!
The Wraiths are after Val Cooper, but Rogue's been tailing her as well, so she bursts in to protect her.
Rogue forgets that she's not wearing gloves, though, so when she decks one of the Wraiths she absorbs its persona. She has to fight for control of her own mind. Her powers are quite similar to the Dire Wraiths, except of course she doesn't kill her victims. So when she subsequently absorbs Val Cooper's consciousness to find Storm's location, she thinks:
Ugh -- my Wraith-self keeps expectin' you to disintegrate -- eatin' brains really turns this yuckos on.
Anyway, on to issue #187. The art was so different between the two issues that when i got #187 as a kid i wasn't even sure it was the same series at first, although the story is a direct continuation. I was years away from actually paying attention to the credits.
Storm is wearing a completely different outfit in the beginning of issue #187 than the overalls she was in at the end of #186. Considering there was a raging storm at the end of issue #186, her outfit in #187 doesn't seem like something she would have taken the time to change into.
While Storm is still in the parking lot, a group of Dire Wraiths begin to infiltrate Forge's building. I love seeing the Wraiths being drawn by all these great artists.
The analyzer device that Forge introduced in issue #184 was specifically designed to detect Wraiths, but he obviously didn't integrate it into his own defense system yet, because the Wraiths are able to move about the building undetected in human form.
Storm encounters another Wraith in the parking lot...
...and realizes that she's going to have to go back into the building to rescue Forge.
Inside, she meets Naze, who we saw briefly in issue #184.
The Wraiths are out in full force. Sorcery, Deathwings, Hellhounds.
There's a flashback scene in issue #187 that shows Wolverine training Storm to use a gun.
'Cause y' never know when that knowledge'll come in handy, darlin'. A gun's the last thing anyone'd expect from you. Someday, that might give you the edge you need to survive.
Storm had long hair in the flashback, for what it's worth.
Naze gives her a gun, but she loses it climbing the elevator shaft.
She winds up getting chased onto a balcony, where it is snowing. In Dallas, in the summer. This is thanks to Thor's Casket of Ancient Winters storyline.
While fighting a Wraith and a Hellhound on the balcony, she stumbles and falls over the side, only to have a "freak gust of wind" push her back on. Another subconscious use of her powers (although Yukio gets saved in a similar situation while fighting a possessed Kitty Pryde in the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine mini series, so maybe Claremont thinks this sort of thing just happens all the time).
Storm locks the Wraith out on the balcony where it seemingly dies of exposure. There's some contemplation about how she killed "without hesitation -- or mercy. Wolverine would be proud." But let's face it. She's in a desperate situation with no powers fighting an evil alien monstrosity. If she let that thing in out of the cold it would have eaten her brain. So i don't think this "counts" as a change in her morality. Anyway, next issue it will turn out that the Wraith survived and is out there causing all sorts of sorcerous havoc.
Forge's defenses do a decent job of protecting him. He even uses a hologram of ROM and Starshine to distract them.
And Rogue shows up with Colossus.
Eventually the tide is turned. But then things get weird.
This is the sorcerous havoc i mentioned earlier. Meanwhile, Naze is up in Forge's sanctum sanctorum stirring up trouble. He calls upon a demonic force, offering the world in exchange for aid for his people.
It turns out, though, that he's not really Naze. He's a Dire Wraith. Forge doesn't realize that when he finds the body.
The demonic force that "Naze" is speaking to is the Adversary. He's the threat that both Naze and Destiny have warned about in earlier issues. It's a long time before we'll actually get to that subplot. We won't get to that until Fall of the Mutants.
(For what it's worth, in issue #196, a letter from "T. 'Spotted Pony' Sage" of the "Cheyenne Clan of the Horse" writes approvingly of the handling of the Cheyenne mystics in these issues and several New Mutants episodes.)
The X-Men are having a hard time with the new creatures. Luckily, Xavier sends in back-up. Nightcrawler has picked up his sorceress girlfriend Amanda Sefton.
And Illyana Rasputin teleports in as well.
Colossus now learns that his sister is a sorceress. He allays her fears that he'd reject her if she found out. A couple of other observations about Illyana. She makes a comment that her "magicks aren't too terribly effective on this plane of existence. The only real weapon I've got is my Soulsword". That wasn't true in her earliest appearances after the Magik mini-series.
Also, she keeps commenting that every time she uses her Soulsword, more and more of her gets covered in magick armor, and she worries about what will happen when the suit's complete. But the art never depicts the armor growing. In these issues, we don't see the armor at all.
With the reinforcements, the magical threat is beaten back, and unlike Storm, Forge has no problem killing the Dire Wraith on the roof.
The rest of the issue is devoted to aftermath. Xavier checks in with Wolverine, currently in Japan with Kitty Pryde, to give him the news. Nightcrawler is particularly discouraged by Storm's loss of power. Rachel Summers freaks out when Nightcrawler lists her mother, Jean Grey, as being amongst the dead mutants in this reality.
It's worth noting that Nightcrawler was listing Jean Grey and Thunderbird's death, and Banshee and Storm's power losses, as being evidence that Xavier's dream is in some way failing. But it's not really a solid argument. Thunderbird and Banshee's losses were due to fights with super-villains that had nothing to do with mutant rights. Jean Grey's issues were a combination of an out of control cosmic entity and manipulation by an evil mutant. Only Storm's power loss has anything to do with mutant issues.
Still, Xavier is frustratingly reasonable about Storm's situation. He doesn't blame the government, on the grounds that they weren't aiming for Storm when she got shot (they were aiming for your other student, Rogue, though!). I'm not arguing that Xavier should have went full Magneto here, but some sort of response to the fact that the government is running around stripping mutants of their powers without even so much as a trial would have been appropriate.
Speaking of Magneto, in issue #188, Lee Forrester fishes him out of the ocean. I guess he's been floating there since New Mutants #21.
Finally, the very end of this arc shows a guy working at a fishery discovering an amulet that may look familiar to fans of the Claremont/Byrne Marvel Team-Up run.
Dammit, Spider-Man! I told you throwing that thing in the river wasn't good enough!
Well, this arc had it all. Barry Windsor-Smith. John Romita Jr. Dire Wraiths. A Casket of Ancient Winters tie-in. Kulan Gath's annual. Great stuff. Except have you noticed that everyone's a sorcerer? Amanda Sefton. Illyana Rasputin. Now Forge. The Naze-Wraith says, "His power is almost beyond comprehension. He is a fool to deny it." Seems a bit much. Still, that doesn't directly reflect on this arc, which was great.
Quality Rating: A
Chronological Placement Considerations: A rainstorm turns into a snowstorm during the course of issue #187. This is due to the Casket of Ancient Winters storyline in Thor. Professor X's phone call to Wolverine in issue #188 takes place concurrently with Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #4.
Crossover: Casket of Ancient Winters
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
I always thought that Forge had a point in building the Neutralizer- they needed a weapon that could stop the Wraiths. The problem was not considering what would happen if it fell into the hands of people like Gyrich. While Forge was blind to the consequences of building his weapons, Storm was blind to the consequences of NOT building them.
Posted by: Michael | August 14, 2011 8:01 PM
I enjoyed reading your essay. These issues are a real nostalgic fave for me, what great memories!
Posted by: Greg | June 17, 2012 10:33 PM
Claremont provides further hints here, when Storm is able to see the Wraiths despite their cloaking spell, of his ongoing plot about her magical potential!
1. Faltine are entities composed of pure magic energy.
2. Certain ones of them were able to take on human forms, Dormammu and Umar for example.
3. When a Faltine and a mortal procreate, the product of this union results in the child having WHITE HAIR and BLUE EYES, with exceptional magic potential; Clea being the most recent example.
Now we all know Storm's ancestry is priestesses and sorceresses, and they were exceptional magic users, and all those with such power had the tapetumus eyes and white hair.
So has the secret to Storm's magic ancestry, including her tapetumus eyes and white hair, all along been pointing to their being an inherited trait from a Faltine ancestor?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | January 28, 2013 9:55 AM
The trickster god of the Cheyenne was Veeho which meant "spider", so wondering why Claremont didn't name him that instead of the Adversary!?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | June 29, 2013 3:15 AM
By the way, fnord12, you don't have Rachel Summers listed as appearing here, even though this is a rather notable issue for for.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | July 23, 2014 10:44 PM
I always love the way JRjr depicts snowstorms. It's a bit of a pity though that his editor couldn't tell him to draw correct clothes on Storm and Illyana. Or maybe even better, the script could make it clearer? Really excited for the Kulan Gath story coming up, one of my favorites. The Dire Wraiths were bewildering to me since I had no idea of the existence of Rom at the time I got these in the 90s.
Posted by: PeterA | November 14, 2015 5:04 AM
@Nathan Adler: Perhaps Claremont didn't know or isn't that interested in foreign mythology?
Posted by: D09 | September 9, 2016 9:23 PM
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