I’m not letting it happen again.
That’s a melodramatic — yet accurate — way to start this week’s JAM, because Marvel’s solicits for February 2015 have filled me with dread regarding the fate of one of my favorite series. I have to do everything in my power to save “Storm.”
I’m worked up for two reasons — because Tumblr told me to get worked up and because “Elektra” has now been canceled. The news of “Elektra’s” end comes one month after the announced end of “She-Hulk” rocked me to my very core. 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.
I’m not letting it happen again.
I felt horrible when “She-Hulk” ended because I did not speak out about it enough. I didn’t write about the series from the time it was announced to the time it ended, and while I know I don’t have that much influence over the comic-buying public, I still feel that I should have made my corner of CBR much more pro-“She-Hulk.” I’ve written about “Storm” before, following the release of its first issue, and I’m doing so again — and this time the tone is much more “rallying cry”-ish.
To everyone invested in female leads, minority representation, badass characters, accessible super hero comics and comics that leave you feeling good, “Storm” is the exact series you’ve been looking for. I’m actually surprised that I have to stump this hard for a Storm solo series. She’s the rare example of a culturally significant superhero that has also achieved mainstream popularity. She’s arguably the most prominent female character in all of Marvel comics, with Black Widow and Captain Marvel making recent runs for her crown. Storm debuted in 1975 as the first ever black female superhero, a glass ceiling that she shattered as she soared towards incredible levels of popularity. She was a mainstay of the X-Men comics for thirty years and acted as team leader for at least half of them. There are few characters — if any – that longtime X-Men writer Chris Claremont explored more than Ororo Munroe as he put obstacle after obstacle in her way for her to overcome. Considering the writer’s fondness for her, nearly the entirety of the ’80s “Uncanny X-Men” run could be viewed as “Storm and the X-Men.”
This dominance led her to be included in Fox’s early ’90s “X-Men” cartoon, a series that included four leading female characters with drastically different personalities, backgrounds and powers. Storm reached a new audience and allowed girls of color to see themselves in a powerful Saturday morning cartoon hero. With her bombastic speeches, wry wit and take-charge attitude, she represented a completely different type of female hero. She led the team on missions, she got entire episodes dedicated to her, she was effective in the field and showed great bravery in the face of her weaknesses. Storm owned that cartoon. Women have been drastically underrepresented in action cartoon series, and women of color even more so. Storm’s presence changed that and it gave a generation a character that to believe in.
Considering how essential Storm has been to the X-Men since her debut in 1975, it’s astonishing that it took Marvel nearly forty years to give her a series. Before the recent surge in the Avengers’ popularity, Storm was the company’s unofficial leading lady. From amusement park characters to fast food tie-ins, stamps and beyond, Storm was featured everywhere — except in her own comic. That finally changed this past July when Marvel released “Storm” #1 by Greg Pak, Victor Ibanez and Ruth Redmond. After forty years of build-up, Storm finally had an ongoing series that was worth the wait.
X-Men fans, you should be reading this comic. Even if you don’t particularly care for Storm, this series is exploring the current state of mutantkind in fascinating ways. “Storm” is exploring the current state of mutant politics by having its lead character push past the agendas and borders set in place by Wolverine and Cyclops. In the debut issue, Storm takes a stand against a dangerous militia in a foreign country because she feels it’s the right thing to do, even if it’s not a politically savvy move. The series has also put Storm up personal obstacles as she has come to reevaluate the morals and beliefs she previously held to be true. Storm is being presented as a strong and courageous leading character that is also not afraid to admit her mistakes and then confront them. This isn’t the perfect and righteous version of Storm you often see in team settings. Because we get to spend twenty pages a month with her, we’re now allowed to see the woman behind the queenly front. Her actions have ramifications and — unlike most other superhero comics — this series explores the danger of swooping into unfamiliar territory and “fixing” problems you don’t fully comprehend. There’s no other comic like this.
Also, all of this happens in between Storm engaging in hand-to-hand combat with heavily armed combatants, chucking lightning bolts at her archenemies, making out with Wolverine, making awkward conversation with her ex, taking part in an underground battle arena and using her powers to grieve on a global scale.
This book should also appeal to non-X-Men fans, as well. This book seems tailor-made for the Tumblr generation that latched on to Captain Marvel, Spider-Gwen, Ms. Marvel, the Young Avengers and the new Batgirl. “Storm” has one of the most diverse leads you can ask for: a black, pagan, possibly bisexual mutant woman that, while born in New York City, grew up entirely in Cairo and Kenya. The series is written by Greg Pak, a creator of Korean descent that has made diversity as much of a priority in his comics as heartfelt heroics. Pak is a dynamite superhero writer. He knows how to craft a story with clear motivations and purpose, but this traditional storytelling approach also contains some of the most progressive and nuanced stories about social issues being published today. In addition to his fascinating work on “Storm,” this is the same guy that gave us a bisexual Hercules, the Asian-American Marvel mainstay Amadeus Cho, a gay Wolverine and a series with Dazzler in the lead. He’s the same guy that’s currently writing “Action Comics” and adding a ton of new dimensions to the often-overlooked Lana Lang while addressing the true meaning and burden of power. A Greg Pak comic may look like standard superhero fare on the cover, but the inside pages provide an example of where superhero comics are headed.
“Storm” has a lead that people recognize, subject matter that’s on point with today’s issues, a top-notch and passionate writer and a confident art team that infuses every page with the edginess and power befitting a queen. This is a book that you should be reading, and in order for your dollars to make the most difference, you’re going to have to pre-order this comic at your local comic shop. Yes, digital numbers and advance trade paperback sales factor in… somehow. And to reiterate all the points I made when “She-Hulk” was canceled, no, these numbers shouldn’t be the only ones that matter. Maybe they really aren’t, but no one at a major publisher has come out to support that idea. Sales of “Storm’s” physical issues have got to increase, and that means committing to buying a comic three months before it comes out.
Go on and do that for February’s “Storm” #8. Use the hashtag Tumblr has decided upon — #SaveStorm — when you do. Spend the next few months catching up on the first five issues and — if you like it — spread the word using the #SaveStorm. Post your favorite panels or quotes with the tag as well. If you’re reading “Storm” on the subway or in a helicopter or in the middle of the ocean, take a #SaveStorm photo. We need more comics like “Storm,” and we really need “Storm,” so let’s #SaveStorm.
Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts Matt & Brett Love Comics, writes for the sketch comedy podcast Left Handed Radio, and makes videos for the Upright Citizens Brigade as a member of UCB1. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).