This time around we'll be focusing on UXM #158 - 161, & 168 - 73, The 4 part Wolverine miniseries, and taking a quick peek at X-Men Unlimited #39 (2nd Story) from 2003 because it gives us additional details related to Storm.
This is a gigantic story arc that in hindsight I probably should have broken up more. We see the culmination of all the build up leading to Storm's transformation into her punk look (and attitude). Rogue will join the X-Men! The Morlocks are introduced officially and Wolverine almost gets married in Japan.
We will cover the stories that took place in the middle and immediately after The Brood Saga. In addition, we'll cover events that happened concurrently with 15: UXM 160 (Magik!) and the Magneto Special as well as some side story beats from the Brood saga itself.
This will be one of my longer blogs which will have shorter recaps of individual issues and more focus on specific character growth. Issue # 170 has shot to my favorite comic moment of all time with the Storm vs. Callisto fight. Rogue is also one of "My X-Men" so it's super fun to see her added here.
When I started this journey, I was pretty uninterested in Storm, but I've been finding her story beats been more and more interesting. I'm not going to say that she is my favorite over Kitty at the moment, but this has certainly solidified her as the second most interesting X-Man that we're reading about. Sadly Nightcrawler, who I considered my favorite when this journey began, seems to be one of the least interesting to date.
Claremont is still at his peak and the artists are a Who's Who of X-Men creators. We have Dave Cockrum (158), Bill Sienkiewicz (159), Paul Smith (168 - 170, 172 - 173), and even Walt Simonson (171).
Legendary X-Men Editor and future X-Men scribe Louise Simonson, had the following to say in the documentary "Claremont's X-Men" about the power of tapping into a female audience:
"Chris’s books were very popular with a female audience. And you gotta figure that half the people out there were female and you have to assume that is part of the reason why his books sold so well. The X-Men were a huge seller."
Claremont had the following to say about the first Wolverine mini series in a recent Inverse article:
"For the first Wolverine mini-series, I was pitching it to Frank [Miller] and his blunt response was, “I don’t want to do four issues of some musclehead cutting people open.” I said, “That’s good, neither do I.” So we started talking about who Wolverine is as a person and how he got to be where he is. Throughout the course of a four-hour traffic jam on I5, we evolved the concept that we wanted to play with. It had nothing to do with hacking and stabbing or him being a superhero. It had everything to do with him being a man and trying to reach for something beyond his grasp [Mariko, his love interest] while also dealing with the prejudice of Mariko’s father who views him as nothing more than an animal, and Wolverine struggling to prove he’s more than that.
When it was proposed that he get a monthly book though, I fought it tooth-and-nail. There was a tremendous desire for more Wolverine material, but I worried about burnout. I did it for a while and then other writers took over. Eventually, it got to Larry Hama who would do it for several years. It was not what I would have done, but it was fun."
My Rating and Review
10/10. No Doubt. Issue 170 will probably be my favorite issue forever. I don't know if it will ever get knocked dow
UXM # 158: Carol and Rogue
Remember Senator Kelly? He's the guy that Mystique and the Brotherhood we're going to kill and set the "Days of Future Past" into motion. Well he's alive and well, but doesn't seem to be pulling any punches with his mutant distrust. He's giving a speech on national tv saying that mutants need to be "dealt with."
This triggers the "Oh Shit" warning for the X-Men because Xavier used to have a good relationship with the government and they know the location of the mansion and key details about the team.
Carol Danvers is still technically employed by the military, so she brings Wolverine (Canadian Military) and Storm (imposing figure?) to the pentagon to try to get to those files.
These 3 are strolling along through the Pentagon, trying to appear inconspicuous until they happen to pass by an old friend.
So much for not drawing attention to them. Carol loses her shit.
We get a little flashback to remind us that Rogue got her super strength and flight when she stole them from Carol.
A fight breaks out in the middle of the Pentagon. Things get smashed, Carol gets angry, Mystique (who is secretly infiltrating the military) almost gets outed and the X-Men don't help their case. Luckily Carol ends up sneaking out and is able to delete records of both herself and the X-Men.
UXM # 159: Dracula
Spoiler warning. This issue is about Dracula. Back in the Cassidy Keep blog, I went off when we were introduced to Leperchauns. I had talked about how lame and disorienting it is when mythical or religious creatures/characters are introduced in comics. I do have to say though that I don't hate their use of Dracula in this issue. It seems somewhat believable that he would be part of this universe and his interaction with Storm does a lot to further her characterization. With that being said, let's get started.
The X-Men notice that Storm is missing and it turns out she is in a dark alley with bite marks on her neck. The X-Men rush her to a hospital, however they aren't able to do much to her as she gets sicker and sicker.
Storm's dreams get more and more messed up so when Dracula appears asking if she will come with him, she consents and they fly off.
For a while, Storm stays with Dracula and enjoys letting loose and being evil.
Kitty is distraught over the loss of Storm and sets her mind to freeing her. I'm going to stop for a minute and focus on how both Kitty and Dazzler were introduced in the same issue before the Dark Phoenix Saga. Marvel had high hopes for Dazzler and spent so much time using high profile characters TELLING us how great she was. But this is another epic example of Claremont taking Kitty and letting her action SHOW how great she is. She uses that advanced intellect of her to research how to beat Dracula.
She is able to track them down and has a fantastic idea of using a cross to do damage to him. I thought this little exchange was pretty neat because Dracula immediately freaks out, but then quickly realizes he isn't affected. It's not the cross itself that would do him harm, but the belief behind it. Since Kitty is Jewish (see her wearing a Star of David at all times around her neck), the cross has no effect.
Later, in a fight Wolverine "Snikt's" two claws out and crosses them, however he fails just as Kitty did because Wolverine doesn't believe in God. This is immediately followed by Kurt crossing two stakes and it DOES hurt him.
I mentioned at the beginning of this blog that Nightcrawler has been one of the least interesting characters so far, but I think highlighting his faith is one way to make him more compelling. In this example, they found a way to use his faith as a way to fight evil, which is pretty clever.
Kitty shows up and faces Storm. Storm is about ready to attack her until Kitty drops all of her defenses and lets Storm have her. She gambled that Storm's love for her would be stronger than her new attachment to Dracula. Luckily, she was right and this is what it took to get Storm back to normal.
Dracula releases her from his control and claims that she would have made the perfect wife, but she has earned his respect.
A few quick reminders...
#160 - Belasco pulls Illyana into Limbo
#161 - Flashback to WW2 when Charles first meets Magneto and Gabrielle Haller
#162 - 167 - The second half of the Brood Saga.
With #168 focusing on Kitty, I'll quickly bring us back to her reflecting in #158 on all the craziness she's been through.
UXM # 168: Professor X is a Jerk
Let's start with Kitty saying something I've been saying since the beginning:
I love Kitty's anger issues. She's either brilliantly saving the day or flying off the handle and losing her mind. We are reminded that Xavier hasn't really interacted much with Kitty. He was off in space with Lilandra for most of the Dark Phoenix when she was introduced. Then he was in a coma for much of the Brood Saga. Now that he's back and in charge, he tells Kitty that she is too young for the X-Men and will need to be demoted to the New Mutants.
I absolutely love this exchange between Kurt and Logan. Kurt is bringing up all of the concerns that Xavier brought up (her being young, not being fully trained, etc.) but Logan just has her back 100% saying "She's proved her worth. To me, that cancels every other argument."
This is another good time to plug a hidden gem of a series "Wolverine: First Class" from 2008 where Marvel added 21 stories back into this timeline to show how Wolverine slowly took Kitty under his wing and trained her. After reading that series, it makes moments like this that much more impactful. Wolverine is really tough on Kitty when he's training here, but this shows how much she was completely won over his respect, something not easy to come by.
I love this next panel for a few reasons. First, it shows that Kitty and Illyana (Magik) have become best friends. Which is great considering Illyana lived alongside the older "Kat" in Limbo for most of her 7 years there. I love how we see alternate realities (like Kitty married to Colossus in Days of Future Past) and then see the normal continuity start to mirror that. Also, she totally calls her out and I'm here for it!
Kitty starts flying off the handle at dance class and Stevie Hunter gives her good advice:
To which she takes this advice to the extreme:
With this whole tough week, she does stumble across some awesome news. The dragon she met on the Brood Homeworld followed them home. She names him Lockheed (remember she named the ship Lockheed in her Fairy Tale?) and he is her pet and friend moving forward.
It's a good thing she found Lockheed because some of those spider robot alien things were stuck under the mansion and now she has to take them down alone. Between Lockheed's fire and her skill and intellect, she is able to destroy them all.
It turns out this was the first time Xavier had seen her in action and it's enough for him to change his mind and let her stay on the X-Men as a probationary member.
Storm's Transformation - Part 1
As mentioned at the top, Storm's transformation is the top story of this blog. The Morlock story is where Storm takes her first giant leap into her new persona, so let's slow down and focus on what has been up with her lately.
All the way back in #154, Scott and Orroro were having a peaceful breakfast and discussing the awkwardness about who is the actual leader of the team.
Storm is a character with a very clear moral code. She does not kill. She respects all life. There have been tough times as a member of the X-Men, but for the most part she's been able to be effective and remain herself. Suddenly there is all this new pressure of not only being a leader, but having that power challenged by both Scott and Charles. At this point she wasn't sure what she wanted, but as time goes on it becomes clear that she wants to remain as leader of the X-Men.
Scott and Orroro started to have a pretty good spar but were interrupted by those alien robot spider things.
Fast forward to #159 (after the first part of the Brood saga) and she was literally turned into a Vampire. Not only did this make her bloodthirsty, but it forced her to relax and indulge in any impulses that took her. It's not specifically mentioned that she slept with Dracula or feasted on innocent humans, but I wouldn't be shocked if at least one of those things happened. She recounts to Kitty about killing her that "It was a very near thing."
In #160, prior to being sucked into Limbo (and seeing that a version of her lived out her life there and became a sorceress), you can see her struggling both physically and to control her powers.
In #161, we see Scott being a dick and ragging on Storm about the mess up at the Pentagon in #158. So this is more pressure for Storm.
The weather witch isn't gonna stand around and be denigrated!
Then came the events of the Brood Saga which made her deal with a LOT of shit. She realizes that she had a life inside of her. She been like a mother to Kitty, but she had never been a mother. In this case, the life inside her will kill her so she either needs to end this life or die.
She excises the baby, but don't forget she died doing it until the flying Brood ship thing regenerated her.
After the Brood Saga, she comes back to earth in #168 and things aren't quite right. One big thing is that she not only controls the weather, but she can feel the earth itself. It feels good to embrace home.
But she is clearly off. Storm's are starting without her intending it.
Not only does it get out of control, but she is cold for the first time in her life.
So heading into the Morlock story arc, she had spent months fighting for her role as team leader, got turned into a vampire, pulled into another dimension, felt her body get taken over by the Brood queen, she died, and was ultimately resurrected. Now we head into the lair of the Morlocks and the coolest scene I've ever read in this series.
#169 - 171: The Morlocks enter stage right
Candy Southern, Angel's boo, finds that he is missing so she quickly calls the X-Men.
Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Kitty use Cerebro to track Angel into the sewers. Wolverine is away in Japan (We'll cover that in his 4 issue Mini Series) and Cyclops is off with his dad and brother meeting his grandparents (I'll circle back to that storyline later too).
It turns out that there is a massive tunnel system below New York City and these 4 are quickly attacked by the mutant inhabitants of these sewers, the Morlocks!
Kitty is attacked by a Morlock named plague and ends up getting separated and falls down sick, however she is saved by another Morlock who has an interest in saving her life.
The X-Men are rounded up and we figure out what is going on. The leader of the Morlocks, Callisto, is holding Angel hostage and she plans on forcing him to marry her. This is pretty messed up!
The remaining X-Men (Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus) try to fight their way to Angel.
There are a lot of them and as Colossus so succinctly puts it..."This is not going well."
The X-men are overrun and since they are unwilling to kill, they realize they have no choice but to surrender.
Meanwhile, it turns out that Kitty was saved by Caliban. Remember him? We saw him in the issue when Kitty went out with her girlfriends (Spider-Woman, Stevie, Storm, and Dazzler) and he became enamored with her before disappearing into the sewers.
FYI, I love how good of a job Claremont does at setting up stories far before they become relevant. Who knew that we would see Caliban again in 20 issues (which is a year and a half later in publishing terms). Speaking of setting things up, Kitty makes a promise here which will also not be forgotten before re-surfacing in another 9 issues.
Caliban shows up in the main hall asking for help because Kitty is dying of the plague. Up until this point the X-Men had been playing along, but now that they know Kitty's live is in danger, they stop messing around. Especially Colossus.
Caliban is like you're screwed, unless you happen to be willing to kill Callisto in Trial by Combat.
Storm isn't feeling well and Colossus is too angry to think straight so he offers to face Callisto in a duel to the death. But Storm has other ideas...
She's like, "No no no, Kitty is my baby. I'm Captain of this vessel. It will be me fighting."
Then Kurt's all like "Storm, you can barely stand. This fight is going to be brutal." And Callista is licking her lips thinking this is going to be child's play since powers aren't allowed.
Callisto tosses her the knife, Storm gets this serious look on her face, and deftly catches the knife. Leaving Callisto thinking twice about this and her team-mates jaws on the floor.
The knife fight begins and they take turns drawing blood.
Storm catches Callisto's hand in her cape and immediately stabs the knife into her heart.
And walk's away confidently.
HOLY SHIT. That was nuts! That was intense! That was shocking! Storm not only took a life, but she did so without hesitation! All of those struggles over the last 20 issues has led to this. Storm no longer has the luxury of staying true to her ideals if she is responsible for those she loves as their team leader. Wow, what a badass set of panels. Sorry, this gives me the chills reading it a second time!
Lol, now she's like "Colossus, grab my purse. We'll be leaving. Oh and don't anyone else fuck with me."
Storm offers Caliban the chance for the Morlocks to live under Xavier's guidance, but he rebukes her and says the sewers is their home.
And here is Kurt picking up his jaw and asking Storm what the hell just happened.
Issue #171 starts off with the coolest picture of Storm I had yet seen. Too bad this is the only blog where I can use it, because she'll have a brand new look by the time we're done here.
Now, it does turn out that Callisto survived due to the healer who lives among the Morlocks. This does cheapen it a bit, but to me it's still just as poignant because Storm had every intention of killing her.
Callisto is rightly pissed and Storm continues threatening here.
Nightcrawler is still a bit scared to get in the car with her.
UXM # 171 - Rogue Joins X-Men
*Rogue and Carol backstory captions
Wolverine Limited Series #1 -4
Logan receives a letter from Mariko in Japan that her father is back (he was missing) and now she has no choice but to break off their relationship and marry another. He flies to Japan to confront her and she shares that while she loves him, she must do the honorable thing and listen to her father.
Wolverine tries to fight her father for Mariko's hand, but he is a great samurai and he Logan gets his ass kicked by a wooden sword.
After leaving the residence, an army of ninja assassins called "The Hand" tries to ambush him. Isn't this an awesome shot? You may remember The Hand from the Daredevil series on Netflix.
Wolverine is helped (or saved) by Yukio. Yukio was Mariko's father's best assasin, but she flips and helps him.
Wolverine spends most of the 4 issue mini series with Yukio. She is displayed a free spirited, crazy, talented, assassin. Wolverine falls in love with her as well.
While Wolverine is hanging out with Yukio, he is still keeping a close eye on Mariko. He would say he was protecting her, other's might call it stalking your ex. Regardless, it was a good thing he did because he discovers that Mariko's new husband tried to have her assassinated. Wolverine and Yukio thwart that attempt.
After going on a bender with his new new girlfriend, Wolvie finds his good friend Asano dead at the heads of Yukio's blade. At this point Wolverine feels betrayed and is hurting more than he ever has before. He finds out that Yukio had been working for Shingen (Mariko's dad). So to protect Mariko, and get revenge on Shingen and Yukio, Wolverine heads back to challenge him.
This is another epic fight where Wolverine gets his ass kicked, however he finds a way to merge his raging beast persona with his more focused self.
With Shingen dead and Yukio on the outs, Wolverine and Yukio decide to get married and invitations are sent out to the X-Men, which is where we finish out this story.
UXM 172 - 173: X-Men in Japan
A happy scene takes place as the X-Men show up in Japan to attend Wolverine's wedding. I didn't capture this panel, but Rogue shows up as well and Wolverine is ready to tear out her heart before the rest of the team have to bring him up to speed. He doesn't trust her, but it's actually Mariko who convinces him to calm down.
Another villain shows up in the form of the Silver Samurai. He actually first showed up in the New Mutants (which I'll cover later in this post) and declared that Shingen (Mariko's father) had promised that he would be his heir and set out to kill Wolverine (who would be the husband of Mariko, the current heir). Yukio shows up to help too.
As Yukio falls off a building, Storm catches her. Storm and Yukio form a bond, but that will be covered separately as I close out Storm's transformation.
I love this. Just read it and enjoy.
Hahahaha. Oh, you killed him. That's right. That's what you do.
Wolverine spends the issue bringing Rogue out on some missions to take down various Yakuza bosses who are giving Mariko a hard time. Rogue knew that she was fighting the X-Men as a villain not too long ago, and she was incredibly nervous to be accepted. Claremont had the following to say about Paul Smith's art and how he approached drawing Rogue's shyness:
"With Smitty, the superhero adventures, they’re alright. To him, it was all about the characters and the characterization, the interaction of the X-Men on an emotional level was unsurpassed.
One image that comes to mind, the moment when Rogue walks into the room in Japan to meet Logan and Mariko and she’s just standing there shyly. It’s very, very, very hard to dry shy and Paul did it. At that point you don’t need a superhero battle, you don’t need the end of the universe, you bond with that girl and think ‘how do I make her feel better?”
This is a scene I am having trouble understanding. Rogue lands on Wolverine and pretends to kiss him. Logan does NOT think it's funny. I'm not sure why they wrote in this scene. Claremont wants us to start coming around towards Rogue, but this is a scene of her showing some bad judgment. Maybe it's just supposed to show us that she's not completely sure how to be a good guy yet.
Wolverine fights another, final battle with the Silver Samurai. He wins!
Wolverine and Yukio are about to be shot by the Samurai's boss but Rogue jumps in front.
It's some sort of blast that got through Rogue's invulnerability and is killing her. Wolverine decides to let her absorb his healing factor so that she can heal herself. Ooh, ooh! We've seen this! Remember in original X-Men movie, one of the few good ones, Wolverine let Rogue do this in the Statue of Liberty? Cool.
Shortly before the wedding, some mysterious stranger talks to Mariko.
Mariko has now changed her mind and calls off the wedding.
And tells him why. Ouch.
But wait, who was the mysterious stranger!? Wait! No, it can't be! That looks like Jason Wyngard, Mastermind himself. What does he have to do with any of this!? We'll find out in the next story arc to be covered soon.
Storm's Transformation: Part 2
Alright, now let's finish with Storm's transformation with a little help from X-Men Unlimited # 39 (I know next to nothing about this series).
So here we are picking back up with Storm. When she gets to Japan, Wolverine can tell right away that something is different.
After catching Yukio from falling out of the window, they spend some together. Storm is captivated by how free spirited she is.
Later in a fight with the Silver Samurai, Storm doesn't have complete control over her powers and begins frying him with too much electricity.
In an effort to stop the lightning, she draws the bolts back into herself.
And causes an explosion.
Ok. I legitimately have no idea what's going on with this. That's the fricken Phoenix. I'm being serious, I don't know why they did that. I've been talking about Storm's transformation and for those of you who don't know what I'm referring to, it's not that! Unless there is sort of Storm as Phoenix thing happening in 20 issues that I haven't gotten to yet, this is a one and done thing and it makes no sense.
Regardless, Storm sees how free Yukio is being. They almost died and she seems to be loving every minute of it. It's intoxicating to her to consider just letting go. Just being free and not trying to live by a strict moral code or being a the same kind of leader that Scott would be.
This is the point where she embraces this new philosophy inwardly, and decides it's time to express herself outwardly.