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If you’ve been listening closely on a few of the more recent podcasts of That Girl with the Curls, you might have noticed I’ve been talking a lot about Storm. She’s one of my favorite X-Men and, if you haven’t listened to the episodes linked, her trading card back in the early to mid-nineties was one of my most prized possession. Whenever my mom took me and my sister to the local game shop – we didn’t exactly have a comic book store close by to my recollection – I always asked (or begged) for another pack of X-Men cards. I was in love with the 1992 cartoon and I was infatuated with Storm. More accurately, I wanted to be Storm. Not only did she have what I believed to be the best mutant powers ever, but as the cartoon progressed I became wrapped up in her story. Like many of the X-Men, and villains, featured in the cartoon, Storm was fleshed out as a character, showing a wide range of emotions fueled by her past and her present position as one of the most powerful mutants on the X-Men roster.
Goddess, thief, mutant, queen, leader, friend, lover, and hero; Ororo Munroe, aka Storm, was introduced, along with Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Thunderbird, and Banshee in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May, 1975) as part of a new diverse generation of mutants created by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockram. When Chris Claremont took over writing for Uncanny X-Men from Wein, he established Storm’s backstory and continued to feature her as a prominent character for the next sixteen years. Since her first appearance, Storm has been in every iteration of the X-Men to date; cartoons/anime, movies, and video games have all utilized Storm not just as a powerful mutant but also as a valued team member and friend. However, in the nearly four decades she’s been part of the X-Men Universe, she’s never had a solo book until now and it’s already facing cancellation after only five issues.
Currently being written by Greg Pak with pencils by Victor Ibañez and colors by Ruth Redmond, Storm’s solo book has finally taken the Mistress of the Elements out from under the greater umbrella of the X-Men team to explore her as an individual on her own terms. Yes, she’s still as much involved with the team as ever but Pak uses her relationships, past and present, to key us into what makes Storm so significant and so different. In the five issues thus far, Pak has firmly established Storm as a defender of anyone in need who’s grown tired of working within systems (societal and political) that prevent her from helping others and doing what’s right. As she tells Wolverine, she doesn’t want to hold back anymore and Pak succeeds in making each issue function partially as a one-shot but tied together through the overarching theme of Storm’s personal journey to make good on her statement. Much of that journey means going back to her roots in Africa, making her book significant on a cultural level. Africa is a hotbed of socio-economic and political conflicts, so putting Storm in the midst of these problems makes sense and gives her an added dimension of relevance.
But really it’s the diversity angle I want to stress here because it’s at the heart of the #SaveStorm campaign started not too long ago in an effort to keep the book afloat. In the wake of Marvel’s cancellation of Elektra and She-Hulk‘s solo books, the common denominator was low sales. As Brett White at Comic Book Resources pointed out:
According to the October sales charts, “She-Hulk” #9 sold 21,418 physical copies and “Elektra” #7 sold 15,021. You know what series sits between those two terminated ongoings? “Storm.” The fourth issue sold 19,862 copies, which, if “She-Hulk” and “Elektra’s” ultimate fates are to be used as proof, puts it in danger of being cancelled.
Problematic to this entire situation is the way in which copies are being counted. The October sales chart only covers physical copies sold to retailers in North America. Sales from countries outside North America and digital sales aren’t factored into the charts, making the numbers unreliable in their representation of the actual market of readers. But if these are the numbers Marvel is using to justify cancellations, then we have to work within the same parameters.
Are the low sales the result of terrible marketing? Personally, I found out about the book when maybe one or two websites mentioned it, but I can’t recall any huge push from Marvel. Then again, a lot of the solo books have fallen by the wayside mostly due to event books taking precedence. It’s still surprising how little attention she’s received given that Storm is one of the most recognizable characters in the X-Men universe, if not Marvel as a whole. She was Marvel’s first major black female superhero and one would think they’d try to market the hell out of her solo book. Then again, there’s been a lot of speculation about how Marvel has been handling titles with characters they don’t have the rights to for their cinematic universe. Just sayin’.
Is it the readers? I doubt Marvel would give the greenlight on a solo book unless there was enough interest in the character to warrant hiring the talent and spending the money to bring the book to fruition. But, as stated previously, event books are the company’s bread and butter, and with the glut of comics coming out from Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, Dark Horse, Boom!, Archie, and other independent publishers, readers need to decide where to spend their money. This means they often purchase books they’ve always bought instead of opting for something new, especially if they’re working with limited funds.
Is it the character? Popularity doesn’t necessarily mean dollar signs and there could definitely be a bit of mental gymnastics going on in the minds of readers trying to justify not buying the book. Storm, as part of the X-Men, still appears in several titles and she’s a regular participant in the crossover events due to her affiliations with multiple teams. It’s easy to think, “Well, she’s in these other books, so I’m still going to have Storm but also all these other characters.” Then again, Wolverine’s been around for the same amount of time and he was (RIP Logan) in almost every book Marvel could stuff him into. Personally, I don’t think it’s a gender or race issue in terms of the lack of interest or cancellation, but it is important in terms of representation in comic books. Diversity is integral to the survival of the comic book industry, not just in the creative teams, but in the characters put front and center. Storm is on par with Wonder Woman as a character who inspires others. Her strength, compassion, and wisdom, coupled with her very human flaws, make her relatable to readers of all ages, races, and genders. Featuring her as a major player and representative of the Marvel brand, however, gives validation not just to the character but to those who identify with her yet feel overlooked.
The question then becomes: Is that enough? Marvel is a company and numbers are what matter to companies. If a book isn’t selling, even if the higher-ups love it for all the right reasons, it will eventually boil down to numbers. So, for now, all we can do is support the hell out of Storm. Buy or order it from your local comic book store, buy it on Comixology, tweet about the book with the hashtag #SaveStorm, go on Tumblr, shove a copy of the book into the hands of your friends and families. Help Storm because she’d do her damnedest to help you.
Okay, we’re gonna go about things a little differently here. Since I’ve decided to strike out on my own – updates forthcoming – I don’t necessarily have the time or the funds to read every comic and write the fairly long, detail-oriented reviews I did in the past. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m shirking my analytical duties of reviewing comic books. It just means these reviews are going to be much shorter.
What’s the approach? Your standard pull list of comics for the week and my thoughts on why you should read them with a specific Spotlight position set aside for what I think was a standout issue. There’s also room for highlighting new books from smaller publishers or collected graphic novels and such. Pretty much whatever I think is worth your time, which means – obviously – that this will be heavily biased to my tastes. In all likelihood, some of you may or may not agree with my picks and that’s fine. If anything, it leaves us open for discussion about what you think were the best books of the week and to make recommendations of your own.
I’ll take your silence as a sign of agreement. To the list!
C.O.W.L. #5 – Image Comics
Written by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel with Art by Rod Reis, the first arc of the series comes to a close with the dissolution of C.O.W.L. Or does it? Higgins, Siegel, and Reis started their story of the first labor union for superheroes at the beginning of the end, but everyone knows that the end is only the beginning. In tumultuous post-WWII, Cold War era Chicago tensions have finally escalated to the point of strikes and rioting with the city content to wash its hands clean of C.O.W.L. Not that the heroes are too broken up about it, at least most of them. While the world of C.O.W.L. has been slowly built within the era of equal rights, paranoia, and disillusionment, one man’s story has been cutting through the narrative: Geoffrey Warner, C.O.W.L.’s Chief formerly known as The Grey Raven. From the beginning of the book, Geoffrey has been trying every tactic possible to keep C.O.W.L. alive only to see it crumble before his eyes. It’s his desperation that makes his actions at the end of the issue – the last panel in fact – all the more shocking. Does Chicago need heroes? Geoffrey thinks it does and he’s willing to do anything to prove how necessary C.O.W.L. is to the Chicago, if not the world.
Low #3 – Image Comics
Written by Rick Remender with Art by Greg Tocchini, Low #3 is a beautiful cacophony of juxtaposing images and ideas set against what is ostensibly the end of the human race. While most of the people inhabiting the undersea city of Salus are set on counting down the days until they’re done for, Stel Caine holds on to the hope that humanity can be saved. The appearance of a long forgotten probe that may have found a planet suitable for human habitation prompts her to confront the decadent and corrupt councilmen who, like most people, see Stel’s optimism as some sort of disease. No one believes this more than her son Marik who, after being arrested for corruption and the death of a hooker, tries to kill himself because he can’t imagine his life could get any lower. Luckily, Stel manages to save him, which is debatable if you’re Marik, and takes him with her to find the probe. The issue mostly consists of a huge argument between Stel and Marik, a mother and son who’ve both experienced tremendous loss and have dealt with it in very different ways. But in this issue, there’s finally some catharsis and Tocchini’s art gorgeously captures the beauty and wonder of the ocean that Marik sees for the first time.
Wayward #2 – Image Comics
Written by Jim Zub with Art by Steven Cummings, John Rauch, and Zub, Rori’s fresh start in Japan hasn’t exactly gone very smooth. What with the pressures of being in a new city, reconnecting with your mother, discovering you have strange powers that allow you to see monsters and getting saved by a cat-person – wait, what? Seriously, the worst thing that could happen after that is starting at a new school where you’re treated like an idiot and judged for your appearance while trying not to be a burden to the one parent you don’t want to hate you. Which is why that’s exactly what happens. Though I’ve never been to school in Japan, Zub finds a way to make Rori’s circumstances relatable despite the cultural shift. We can all sympathize with feeling like an outcast or a loner as well as the intense pressure that comes with being a student. Heighten that with the intense nature of Japanese schools and we see just how stressful Rori’s world has become. How she copes with that stress, however, left me gasping out loud. The art continues to be a lush and vibrant world of anime and manga influences. Even in the darkest settings, the colors still pop off the page as Rori tries to make sense and connect the dots especially when it comes to one of her new schoolmates.
Storm #3 – Marvel Comics
Written by Greg Pak with Art by Matteo Buffagni, Storm’s solo book is only three issues in and, on the surface, the stories feel like vignettes in Ororo Munroe’s life between the myriad events going on in the X-Men universe. But what Greg Pak has been doing is taking the reader back to her roots, showcasing exactly what makes the former goddess and Queen of Wakanda tick, which inevitably leads her back to Africa; specifically Kenya where she was once worshipped because of her powers over the weather. After meeting the locals, she also finds herself confronted with another part of her past when Forge is revealed to be the one behind bringing her back so he can create a method of weather control so the local villagers can grow their crops. Unfortunately, Forge’s machine is too unstable and the leader of the village is a little too eager to harness the power of a god. Through the lessons she learned from being falsely worshipped as well as her time being de-powered and betrayed, Storm shows what makes her a true leader as she shows the wisdom necessary to strike a balance between Forge and the village. Neither are ready to move on, so she makes sure they find a way to do so together.
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #5-6 – DC Comics
Written by Ivan Cohen with Art by Marcus To these two chapters serve as a full story that sees Diana’s belief in the gods challenged when she supposedly loses her powers. The writers and artists involved with Sensation Comics have been doing a stellar job of showcasing the various aspects of Wonder Woman and Ivan Cohen pushes the concept of belief into the forefront. Diana is a paragon of justice, truth, honor, and compassion, but even in this day and age her origins involving the Greek pantheon give people pause when she’s also wrapped up in the stars and stripes. The brilliance of this story, however, is Diana’s cleverness in sussing out who the true villain is and besting him through the sheer force of belief in one thing and one thing alone: herself. Without that she’s nothing and it makes all the difference.
Spotlight: Saga #23 – Image Comics
As if there was any doubt! Saga is an ongoing emotional roller coaster and, as always, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples still manage to pull the rug out from under the reader. The penultimate issue of the current arc finds Marko nearly giving into his feelings for Ginny after Alana kicked him out and Alana continuing to turn to drugs to cope with how miserable she is, but our favorite married couple find that even the greatest temptations can’t completely pull them away from each other. Oddly enough, it isn’t the calming and placating platitudes from Ginny to Marko or the story of lost love from Izabel to Alana that snaps everything into place, it’s Hazel’s toy Ponk Konk. Marko knows how much his daughter loves the toy and it spurs him to return to his home. Alana, on the other hand, sees how much she’s been missing out on by working the Open Circuit and getting high while Marko practically raises their daughter without her. Unfortunately, Dengo and the princeling show up before the family can reunite, fulfilling Hazel’s earlier statement that this is indeed the story of how her parents split up when Alana activates their rocket ship tree to blastoff, leaving the planet and Marko behind as a means of stopping Dengo. At the issue’s end, Marko is stranded, unable to reach his family, but he’s not the only father desperate to get to his family.
So those are my picks for the week. Please feel free to comment below and tell me what comics you’d highlight, either as regular pulls or new comics people should check out.
For those who haven’t been watching The Pete Holmes Show on TBS, or perusing the YouTubes lately, prior to the show’s premiere Holmes released a video entitled “Ex-Men” in which Holmes, dressed as Prof. X, fired fan favorite mutant, Wolverine, from the X-Men for essentially being useless in a fight with the team’s main villain, Magneto. Why? Because Logan’s skeleton is made of metal, that thing Magneto’s really good at manipulating. The skit also painted Logan as a bit dense, probably because of the metal but that’s just a personal theory.
The response to the video has been overwhelmingly positive with Holmes’ joyous glee at making fun of Marvel’s darling cash cow coming across instantly. The follow-up saw Prof. X firing Gambit, Jubilee, Angel, Iceman, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Storm (technically she quit), and ended with Cyclops after the show finished its initial order of episodes from the network. As the videos continued, there emerged a particular brand of commenting, one that isn’t new but tends to rear its ugly head when comedic videos go after a particular franchise or fandom. These are the people who love that thing so much that even a joke at the expense of a fictional character gets their panties in a twist. All you have to do is look at the comments and you’ll find them. They really seem dead set on trying to school Holmes on the complexity and history of whichever character he’s “attacking” with his jokes.
Never mind the fact that the whole point of the skit is distilling each character down to the most obvious traits people would know about them. Wolverine’s metal skeleton, Gambit energizing an object and throwing it, Rogue can’t touch people, Angel…has wings, etc. It’s about getting the cheap laugh because it’s really about the reactions of the characters to Prof. X that are enjoyable. That and Holmes hamming it up as Prof. X and oh does he milk it for all it’s worth! The same is true of Holmes’ Batman (or Badman) parody videos that he and frequent collaborator Matt McCarthy started doing for College Humor. The comedic take on Christian Bale’s Batman became less about the buffoonery of Batman and more about how the other characters reacted to his stupidity. But you still get comments where people try to defend the character out of a weirdly placed sense of loyalty, as if Holmes’ mockery will somehow topple the whole system and no one will ever take Bale’s Batman serious ever again.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand having a deep, unabiding love of a particular fandom, but there comes a point where the intensity of that love and loyalty is destructive. It prevents you from seeing that there are inherently silly things about comic book superheroes, television shows, movies, and the like. Humor is important because it lets us embrace the silliness without losing the enjoyment. It’s okay to laugh at the things we love because there are always going to be flaws. Nothing is perfect, nothing is so sacred that it’s above being mocked. I love The Dark Knight. I love it so much I saw it multiple times in the theater and have a few copies of it at home, but the first thing I did when it came out on DVD was gather my friends together so we could watch it with the RiffTrax commentary. I refused to let myself be so taken with the movie that I wouldn’t allow others to voice a dissenting opinion or make fun of something during the film. In fact, a lot of great discussions have come out of a funny comment or someone pointing out an error in logic. You can’t take something that seriously because, at the end of the day, it’s about a person who doesn’t exist. I have a lot of other things in my life that require a higher level of intense thought, movies don’t always have to be one of them.
I understand, however, that humor is subjective. Not everyone is going to get the joke or see it as a joke in the first place. It’s why Honest Trailers and Cinema Sins come under fire depending on the movie, even though both teams have stated that just because they make fun or point out the flaws of whatever movie doesn’t mean they hate it. They’re pulling back the curtain and showing you the cogs in the machine. Some people just don’t want to see the cogs. If you happen to be one of those people, I have to ask, “Why?” Why do you watch videos you know will only piss you off? Do you like being angry? Do you fear the overwhelming number of “likes” on a video will invalidate your personal opinion? Personally, I’d rather laugh at something than pout and glare at a YouTube video.
Now that The Pete Holmes Show has been picked up for a second season, I hope he keeps doing the Ex-Men skits because there are a lot of X-Men. Like, a lot, and some of them could definitely use a dressing down from Prof. X. Hell, I hope he goes after the whole DC Universe as well. I’m sure the Lantern Corps. could use some humor levied at them.