Throughout her life, Ororo Munroe has assumed many roles — goddess, queen, and headmistress, to name just a few — but leading protagonist may be her best fit yet under Greg Pak’s guidance and Victor Ibanez’s pencils. The debut of her first ongoing series finds her caught between several of these identities, walking earth and sky in an effort that reminds her why she does what she does. With powerful characterization and nuanced artwork, “Storm” will rock you like a hurricane.
Considering Storm’s popularity, Pak had a fine line to walk when it came to approaching her character. Nevertheless, he strikes a perfect balance that welcomes new readers without alienating longtime fans. “Storm” #1 tackles its leading lady on the macro level of world politics and the micro level of a school dispute, easily flipping between the two with character-defining interactions that organically feed into each other. Pak demonstrates extraordinary control over the story with his tight plotting, wrapping this issue up as a one-shot that lays down solid groundwork for the series. Though the issue serves as an establishment of Storm’s identity moving forward, it never labors under long, intense inner monologues, instead taking joy in all that Storm has ever been and ever will be with succinct narration boxes in her voice and actions that speak much louder than her words.
As if his spot-on structuring wasn’t impressive enough, Pak keeps the issue rolling with one gut-wrenching scene after the next. The first four pages alone are enough to bring tears to your eyes (or so is the case for this reviewer, to whom these things never happen), featuring a glimpse not only into Storm’s incredible power but also at the way she inspires those around her and vice versa. However, if there is anything to take away from this scene, it’s the way she seamlessly becomes a beacon of hope, which makes for a nice meta nod to current discussions about representation in comics while pulling off a particularly poignant moment. What’s more, her willingness to help the people of Santo Marco clean their village in the aftermath of the tsunami is just as powerful as her astonishing control of the weather, showing that heroism can be found even in the smallest acts of kindness.
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, Pak writes Storm as a flawed character. He utilizes Storm’s prideful tendencies to great effect; in showing her moment of arrogance, her internal struggle, and her turnaround, Pak rounds out the one-shot while showing the little ways in which she grows and learns from her students. He deftly sets up parallels between Storm, Sylvia, and Marisol in a way that gives every moment of this story a deeply personal impact on Ororo.
Storm and her world truly come to life under Victor Ibanez’s pencils. His work with her is particularly refined, with expressions that range from graciousness to pure venom to relief; with subtle and dynamic movement, the emotion just emanates off the page. His opening captures her free spirit as she hovers, limbs relaxed and head back, above Santo Marco, and later captures her fierce determination and concentration equally well as soon as she gets to work. Although his way with expressions certainly carries over to the other characters, his compelling work with Storm stands out for its variation and complexity.
Likewise, he populates Storm’s world with rich detail. Where the Jean Grey School is so often depicted with a rather bland interior, Ibanez gives it a real “prep school” feel with ornately patterned wall paper, detailed wood paneling and intricate ceiling designs. Further, he brings in a blend of new and old students to wander the halls, filling the school with a host of distinct, eye-catching characters. The same applies to Santo Marco, which overflows with a hefty amount of figures. Nonetheless, Ibanez gives a lot of attention to detail here; even the background characters have their own individual style and personality through his carefully-wrought pencils, ultimately making it feel all the more realistic.
Ruth Redmond contributes to this realistic approach with her colors, in that her work is just as subtle in setting the mood. She uses brighter tones for the more hopeful pages, such as the clear blue sky in the opening and the soft yellow haze of the book’s close. Alternatively, the more intense scenes — like the tsunami and the cafeteria scene with Marisol — tend to skew darker. While there are no scenes that pop, her understated contribution does a lot of the legwork in creating the atmosphere of this issue.
For a single issue, “Storm” #1 has a lot going on under the surface. Pak, Ibanez, and Redmond have done Ororo great justice in creating such an inspiring, uplifting series for her with befitting subtlety and grace.