In celebration of last Wednesday’s debut of Astonishing X-Men #25, Storm Sunday is focusing on the amazing art of Simone Bianchi! Perhaps you were one of the many who were reading Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s run on Astonishing X-Men (#1 through #24 & ending with Giant Size Astonishing X-Men #1) and were a bit uncertain on how the new team of Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi would fare on the title? Well, worry no longer! I am pleased to say that I found myself enjoying the issue quite a bit in spite of some reservations I had (I still remember the excruciatingly painful Storm mini-series in 1996 also penned by Ellis). 
 
Ellis’ script is tight, setting up characterization and a little bit of plot.  He has a lot to introduce to the new reader as much has changed for Marvel’s mutants.  The X-Men have a new headquarters in San Francisco (Yay!), a new status quo as an endangered species and new member Armor (Whom I’ve yet to warm up to).  Ellis moves it all along nicely while giving Bianchi room to make his mark on the  book.  I recommend you give the new issue a try and see for yourself.

 

As is the perogative of any artist relaunching a title under their pencil, Bianchi redesigned all of the costumes of the Astonishing house cast. I’ve posted Storm’s sketch below. For more of Bianchi’s designs including Cyclops, Wolverine, Angel, Emma Frost, Nightcrawler, Beast, Colossus and Dazzler go here. What to make of all of the beads and bangles going on in this ornate ensemble?  Is it too much?  How does Storm’s tiara stay on when it’s floating in front of her face like that?  When did she start wearing jewels on her third eye?  What possesses Storm to carry around yards of fabric as a cape but still choose to wear butt floss?   And what exactly is that striped mess at her crotch and at her knees?  Would anyone really wear scrunchy 80s boots over top of their thigh boots? 
 
*Whew*  Those are the main questions I find myself thinking about when I stare at this new costume.  It’s a far cry from the simplified elegance of her Alan Davis-designed costume, that’s for sure, but did the lightning edged cape and unitard really suit a Queen?  I mean, Storm’s a superhero but she’s also representing a country now.  Shouldn’t she be dressing like it?  That said, I really appreciate Bianchi incorporating some of Storm’s classic costume elements (the tiara, the O ring on her stomach) while creating a more dramatic look.  It’s busy, perhaps even overwrought, but I appreciate the intention behind it.  I’d rather Storm be presented in over the top regalia than look like plain window dressing (like in the pages of *cough* Black Panther *cough*).
 
Costume nitpicking aside, I really enjoy how Bianchi draws Storm as a woman.  She feels like a real person to me.  Heck, she even looks African!  Sometimes the art feels a bit heavy and dark, but the characters really have weight on the pages.  Bianchi makes each person feel three dimensional, all the way to the seams in Storm’s gloves. 

This older piece by Bianchi shows Storm in a more traditional costume.  Well, if you consider women in bathing suits with thigh boots and evening gloves as traditional, and in comics, yeah, that is traditional.  Is it better than the newer one with all the bangles?  I’m not sure.  I do think that Storm is more complicated as a character than she ever has been before and that her new costume represents the many facets of her personality as well as the many roles she has to play in the Marvel Universe.  I’m curious to see how other artists will translate Bianchi’s design in their drawings of Storm in Uncanny X-Men and Black Panther.