Storm Arcana

Heroic Tarot & Arcana Academy

State Of The X-Men: STORM

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I am over the X-Men.  Let me clarify that statement.  I am over reading all of the numerous comic book titles of the X-Men and I am not going to buy any more.  As pop culture archetypes, the X-Men have enough cache in the collective consciousness to still remain (and grow) in relevance and I believe they will continue to do so.  However, the years have been unkind to the characters I love and although there have been a few gems here and there, I haven’t been inspired by the X-Men in quite some time.  It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when because I feel that the decline has been happening ever since Chris Claremont was forced off of the books in the 90s.  I’ll elucidate on that later in this post.

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While Zeb Wells wrote a rollicking joy ride of a New Mutants run that referenced past continuity while incorporating fresh narrative, and Peter David does great in his separate sandbox with X-Factor by mixing topical subjects with modern Marvel mayhem, I cannot bear to read so-called flagship title Uncanny X-Men any more.  My love for Terry Dodson‘s art kept me on board far longer than it should have.  I will never understand who thought that his curvaceous, bodacious babes should alternate with the flat, static, and repetitive porn tracings of Greg Land.  The sleek linework of Terry and Rachel Dodson only serves to showcase the sophomoric scratchings of Land.   The results are severely skewed.  Seriously, Marvel, what the hell?

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Matt Fraction has been adding members to his X-Men cast as if he were a child collecting G.I.Joe figures.  Hey look!  Dazzler’s here again and she has a fugly Simone Bianchi costume!  You asked for a gay member and you get Northstar! Surprised?  Now Psylocke’s back and we killed her British body!  Dr. Nemesis is here with Madison Jeffries in the X-Club!  Remember Kavita Rao?  Joss Whedon used to write her!  And now Namor is joining!  Did you miss Cloak and Dagger? Magneto is totally back and he’s good again ’cause he bowed to Cyclops!  Didja miss Fantomex?  Grant Morrison used to write him!  How about Shadowcat?  And here’s Hope! She’s the Next Big Thing!  Deadpool is totally cool, too, right?  And here’s the Five Lights whose code names we will never make up!  Each arc introduced a new team member meant to shock and awe, but all Fraction really accomplished with his “flagship” was play shuffleboard with Emma Frost, Cyclops, Magneto, Namor, Beast and Wolverine while all the rest of the X-Men rearranged the deck chairs.  There was no narrative to be had.

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Fraction writes Storm like she’s an extra in a video game to assist the player.  She appears saying something about Wakanda or how she’s “not amused” and then points and shoots lightning at whatever bad guy is present.  Of course, the lightning bolts don’t ever do any damage to the bad guy or the bad guy simply dodges them.  Lightning bolts, people!  Some background character says something about how Storm is fierce and everyone agrees.  Tiny little captions make comments about her Queen status or her weather control, neither of which ever find a way into the story.  Storm has one of the most unique and diverse power sets in comics.  Add to her mutant power her past as a thief, her current royal status, and her leadership qualities, and Storm is set up to be one of the most pro-active, versatile, and potentially interesting characters in the medium.  Unfortunately, she’s not being used well when she’s used at all.

I’ve been reflecting on this article on Comic Book Resources in which Tom Brevoort discusses X-Men: Prelude which begins the new upcoming X-Men event.  Brevoort says that this new mini-series written by Paul Jenkins:

specifically focuses on the four characters who are at the forefront of the leadership question for mutantkind: Professor X, Cyclops, Wolverine and Magneto. Each issue of the series — because Paul tends to focus on individual 22-page stories even as they all connect in the larger whole — will paint a picture and give you an idea of what the mindset, direction and directive for each of these guys is going into the next event.

Hold up a minute!  Those four are the only possible leadership candidates?  Cyclops has been der führer of the X-Men for awhile.  I get that. Professor X has been haunting the pages of the X-books like a ghost.  He’s been irrelevant for years.  I still don’t understand why Magneto is even on the team.  Why is Wolverine considered a contender?  Are readers supposed to believe that Wolverine can lead a team while being on two Avengers rosters and co-leading a secret black ops X-Force?  Where is Emma Frost?  Brian Michael Bendis has been building her up as leader of the X-Men in every Marvel event he’s written and she’s been omnipresent in many Marvel books as leader or at least co-leader.  Granted, she’s a paler shade of the fierce White Queen we used to know to the point she’s become insubstantial, but not to be even named is an outrage.  What about Storm?  This would be a great chance for Marvel to let her regain her lost leadership status since her arranged marriage, especially since she and T’Challa are currently separated.  Heck, even Rogue has been leading a team of her own.  Where are the X-Women?

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Storm’s role as trophy wife to Black Panther is still a thorn in my side.  I am not opposed to the idea of a relationship between Ororo and T’Challa.  Christopher Priest presented a compelling argument for how these two could be a couple when he wrote the title.  If Storm and Black Panther’s relationship had mirrored the way in which Luke Cage and Jessica Jones got together it might have worked for me.  That relationship felt organic and is one I can believe in.  However, Marvel gave away one of their highest profile female characters as a welcome to the boys club prize to then BET CEO Reggie Hudlin, who quickly reduced her to cheerleader and wallpaper.  His versions of Ororo and T’Challa were little more than paper thin Beyoncé and Jay-Z pop culture stereotypes.  During his Black Panther run, he had Storm uttering “beloved” to T’Challa more times than Oprah on a press junket .  She sat around the Wakandan palace waiting for T’Challa to let her help him when she could have added her leadership to his.  As far as I am concerned, Marvel shattered Storm’s independence when they severed her ties with her mutant clan  in one of their most trying times.  The marriage during Civil War was not just ill-timed, it was inappropriate.   Jon Mayberry’s Doomwar mini-series added major injury to insult by portraying Storm as a helpless hostage, spitefully muttering “damn you” every other issue.  Damning someone admits defeat.  Storm does not curse at other people.  She is better than that.  She is compassionate, even to her foes, and her presence is an inspiration.  She is not a damsel in distress.  She is strong, resourceful and intuitive.  I must say that Dwayne McDuffie’s admirable run on Fantastic Four showcased Storm in a positive light, even having her host the consciousness of the cosmic entity Eternity in her being, a feat most cannot do without serious repercussions.

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Chris Claremont introduced sisterhood to the X-Men.  I know it is popular to deride the man for his tropes, and his recent X-offerings have been less than stellar, but let’s give credit where credit is due.  Jean Grey was the weakest member of the team until her Phoenix overhaul.  After the original five left (except for Cyclops) and the All-New, All-Different team came onto the scene, Jean was called in by Professor X to assist Storm in acclimating to Western customs and she decided to stick around.  Jean and Ororo became best friends (even if it was off panel until some stories in Classic X-Men filled in the blanks).  Claremont wasted no time in introducing more female characters and Dazzler, Kitty Pryde, Yukio, Callisto, Psylocke, Rogue, and Jubilee all added to the feminine mystique (as did Mystique herself).  The relationships between these women were like nothing else in comics until then.  Kitty Pryde and Storm had a mother/daughter pairing, while Dazzler and Rogue’s rivalry carried on for a very long time.  Consider Rogue’s balancing act with the psyche of Carol Danvers.  Psylocke’s struggle to honor the warrior aspect of her self.  It was (and still is) atypical for a woman to be a leader in superhero comics when Storm won her battle against Cyclops, and it was certainly different for a woman to be the “strong guy” on the team like Rogue was after Colossus’ injuries forced him off the team.  The women of the X used to shop together as well as battle injustice.  Those down moments were some of my favorite stories.  I was riveted by the level of emotion that each of these women evinced as they struggled to manage their complicated existences.  I was inspired by their camaraderie.

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The sisterhood is no more.  Jean is dead and frankly, she’s become a one note joke for the impermanence of death in comics.  Grant Morrison didn’t help matters by killing her twice in his run.  Marvel teased that Hope had some kind of connection to Jean (or at least the Phoenix) but color me unimpressed.  If Hope is the next generation of mutantkind, then please send in the Sentinels now.  Dazzler is shiny wallpaper and wearing the worst costume in her character’s history.  Jubilee is a vampire?  Doesn’t that go against everything the character once was?  Note to Marvel:  That is not ironic.  Psylocke is Archangel’s psychic anchor and Rick Remender writes her very well, but let’s be clear.  She’s fan service ninja eye candy in a thong.  Polaris is out in space attached to Havok’s hip when she’s not a space cadet.  I don’t even want to talk about Rachel.  Rogue is teaching the younger generation of mutants in X-Men: Legacy which is work that Storm used to do in New Mutants.  Does Rogue get the credit where it is due?  No.  She’s consistently shut down by Cyclops for not following his orders even though what she is doing is morally and ethically correct and consistent.  There is no room in Cylcops’ regime for anyone else’s methods or opinions other than Cyclops.  Mike Carey’s work with Rogue  in X-Men: Legacy and his decision to allow her to control her powers is the kind of revolutionary narrative that these characters need.  As far as Storm is concerned, I am convinced that only Warren Ellis understands how to write a nuanced, multi-dimensional Ororo Munroe.  His runs on Astonishing X-Men portrayed a modern Storm with Chris Claremont undertones.

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I know it seems I put Chris Claremont on a pedestal and that might be an accurate assessment.  However, I realize that Claremont did not create the X-Men out of whole cloth.  Many characters and creations were handed down to him from many different writers and artists.  However, he gave the X-Men a sense of purpose and a social relevance which has made them icons.  All the cartoons and movies and comics owe him a debt because they have been regurgitating his stories for decades.  Ever since he was asked to leave the title that he cultivated for 16 years a soulfulness of Marvel’s mutants has been missing.  It is a shame that even Claremont himself was not able to recapture it.  Perhaps too much had changed since his dismissal and his subsequent return to the characters he made famous.  Maybe he was unable to return to the well when the waters had been poisoned.   They weren’t his after all.  He wasn’t left alone to fulfill his vision and comics are done by committee now.

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I know that comics are in the business of making money and one has to keep the franchise fresh for the next generation.  I understand that these characters will never grow old and are stuck in a perpetual moebius loop.  However, if any comic could represent evolution, one would think it would be the X-Men.  I don’t mind that Storm is perpetually 20-something or whatever age whatever writer wants her to be.  I want a consistent portrayal of a woman who can anticipate challenge in her life and make heroic choices in finding solutions to them.  I want heroes who are morally and ethically reaching towards enlightenment, who believe that their actions can make a difference in someone else’s lives.  I know it is not too much to ask because these stories exist.  There’s no reason they can’t be made new again now.  We live in a time when we need them more than ever.

The back of my X-Men cards that I use for Tarot say “Mutatis Mutandis”.  It means “”by changing those things which need to be changed” or simplified “the necessary changes having been made”.  I like to think that phrase means taking an active role in one’s life both inner and outer.  It is about making choices that affect your life and the lives around you.  The X-Men have the capacity to inspire us all to our higher selves.  It’s time to make some changes.

~STORM

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31 Comments

  1. This was a really smart and thoughtful discussion. I have given up on Batman for the same reasons, but my childhood and queer attachments to the X-Men have caused me to stay a faithful customers of the X-Men. Your remarks about Magneto and the role of the women of X-Men strikes a cord. Magneto is a pathetic shell of what he once was. (Although I am interested in what they are doing with him of Age of X.) Rogue’s off-and-on leadership has been offensive to say the least. There are so many lame and underdeveloped characters. I am going to see how Age of X turns out…

    • Thank you for your comments. I am glad i was able to strike a chord with you. I agree with your Magneto and Rogue assessments. Age of X seems well written and Mike Carey is certainly a capable writer. I may read it in trade one day. I definitely understand the attachments you mention as they were motivating factors for me as well. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

    • You have an intelligent and interesting blog, my friend! Kudos on making it so timely and political while also making it educational and personal! (www.itwascuriosity.wordpress.com)

      • Thank you, that means quite a bit (about my blog).

        In the past, Magneto is easily read as a radical queer figure. For him to be quieted during the current state of lesbian and gay politics seems to be a sign of the times. Everyone fall in line or be quiet, so says the HRC (I am being a bit exaggerated, but perhaps not).

  2. Aimee

    Is Rachel still a tramp?

    I love it when Rachel’s shameless in her hooker clothes. More of a Grace Jones, “I’m gonna kick your ass in this skimpy gear” than an Emma Frost “I’m going to sleep with you and then slit your throat” look.

    Or is she a boring little bubblegum type tramp these days?

    • She may have had some sexually attractive cache once upon a time, but I have never liked her. You are correct in your latter assessment in my not so humble opinion.

  3. Well said, STORM. I recently cut my reading list in half because it’s just so damn expensive of a habit, but I kept picking up all the X-books, with the exception of the Forever ones and and the Deadpool/Wolverine books. The other day, after a trip to the comic store, I was thinking how it may be time to start winnowing out the X-books as well…I realized that I couldn’t recall details of the previous issues, which, to me, means that the books just aren’t being handled well.

    They’re uninteresting, by and large. I’m enjoying Remenders X-Force and PADs X-Factor…New Mutants kinda has me, but as they just changed writers on it, we’ll have to wait and see.

    On an artistic level, there’s simply nothing happening that’s all that interesting. Okay, that’s not true. Jerome Opena’s art on X-Force is okay, but other than that…blegh. There was a point in time when the X-books were an artists shot at the big time, nowadays they seem to just toss whomever at the books. Dodson is the only one I can think of in recent time that had any real style and grace. Even Bachalo, whose work I normally enjoy, is hit-and-miss. Don’t get me started on the atrocity that is Greg Land.

    It’s sad, as I’ve been reading the X-books since I was 8 years old…I can remember the very first issue I read, when Storm fought Callisto for the first time…there’s just no wonder or fun in them any longer. Maybe that will change in 2011. The “year of the mutant.” We’ll see….I sincerely hope so.

    • Thanks, Judah for your comments. This has been building up for me for quite a while. I do think New Mutants is in good hands with Abnett and Lanning. Your first X-Men comic memory is kickass! Let me know how “year of the X-Men” goes. I won’t be reading.

      • john amos

        Istopped buying uncanny xmen, because the dodson art is horrible. Greg Land is a great artist, and it goes to show that you don’t know what your talking about. great art + story is why people buy the books. all x titles have been slipping. the only title worth the $$$$ right now is uncanny x force.

        • Dear John, Thanks for taking the time to let me know how you feel. We’ll just have to disagree about which artists we feel are dragging the X-Men franchise down. However, I totally agree with your assessment regarding X-Force. Rick Remender is totally cooking with gas.

      • One way to make myself feel old is to also say that I read that issue when it first came out!

  4. This…IS BLOODY BRILLIANT! I agree with the Craption of uncanny x-men and the treatment of storm…which was even worse than how she was used over in black panther and doomwar! It’s mind numbing what they have done with the team….x-men is so mainstream now its completely irrelevant and boring, worse if your a storm fan. I just want Claremont to come back and grab Sage and let them run free and be interesting and engaging like she was in extreme x-men. BRING BACK THE REAL STORM MARVEL, PLEASE!!!!!

    • Thank you, worldofblackheroes! I appreciate you taking the time to comment on my post. You have a great blog!

  5. Bob

    Very articulate reasoning for abandoning the X-Men. I came to a similar conclusion when I dropped all the X-books (except X-Factor, because I love Peter David’s writing) a few years back.

    Every now & then I pick up a few x-books and find myself scratching my head thinking many of the things you describe here before putting them back down again and walking away.

  6. I agree with every thing you said, especially when you got into what Claremont did. He defined the X-Men for me and also in my view was the master of subplots that kept you wanting more. As far as the leadership goes, Wolverine and Magneto have no right being on that list. Magneto has proven more then once he can flip and Wolverine should always be more viewed as sub commander then a leader. Those two should be replaced with Storm and Rogue. Storm led the team for awhile, who could forget the classic issue 201 where Storm fought Cyclops?

    Great blog.

    • Thank you for commenting, Denim! I have always viewed Wolverine who is a great Lieutenant rather than General as well. And Uncanny X-Men #201 is a classic for sure!

  7. EX20

    I’m impressed of the article you wrote and I agree Storm is worthy being a leader. I don’t see Wolverine being a leader because he’s pretty much a “keep to oneself” sort of guy and it can be ridiculous for Marvel for forcing Wolverine down our throats.

    I wonder if Uncanny X-men would improve when Kieron Gillen takes over in writing duties. I think he portrayed the New Mutants characters well from New Mutants #11.

    • Hey EX20, thanks for reading and for the kind words! Kieron Gillen might be a step in the right direction, but I’m not gonna hold my breath. I think your insights about Wolverine are right on!

  8. “I don’t even want to talk about Rachel.”

    Not sure what her character is up to now, but back in the early days of Excalibur, the Rachel/Kitty/Megan group (cross time caper and before) was one of the best female representations i felt. All of the characters had depth that is still there when i reread them. What’s funny to me is that the women were smarter than the men, but the men were still written well too, no one felt like a two dimensional character.

  9. Hear! Hear! I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said Storm. I gave up a long time ago in the 90’s after Claremont left. I would always check back in, Morrison’s run being one of those times, but nothing felt the same. My biggest complaint is the treatment of the women, especially Storm. I wish Marvel would put her back in her classic costume and bring her to the forefront once again. And please, can she leave Black Panther. What a travesty.

    • Ingonyama

      OK, I agree with bringing her into the forefront, but do you really feel the classic costume was her only acceptable look? Personally, I feel she’s had many outfits that worked very well for her.

    • Thanks for chiming in, Aaron! While I love Storm’s original Cockrum design, I think it is a bit vacuous as a look for a modern take on her. I think she needs something new, something that isn’t black or white. Red, perhaps.

  10. Ingonyama

    Loving the characters while hating the way they’re used…Welcome to my world since 2001 or so.

    I first started reading the X-Men during the late 90s, after being obsessively consumed with the Animated Series for 5 years beforehand. They were a decent read, if not incredible…the characters I loved mixed with new ones I didn’t know. It helps that I was there for Operation: Zero Tolerance and the Joseph saga, two of what remain to this day my favorite X-Men stories in that overall disappointing era.

    Then, I started collecting X-Men trades, and I discovered Chris Claremont. Everything suddenly coalesced for me when I read his classic stories…starting with Dark Phoenix and Inferno, and continuing through every inch of his run, as collected in my (now on extended loan to a friend) 40 Years Of X-Men DVD. I fell in love. To this day, I’ll get out old Claremont stories whenever I need inspiration, and just enjoy the “X-Men Who Were” all over again.

    Compared to that stuff, suddenly the issues that pulled me in weren’t so awesome anymore. There was still good stuff in there, but it wasn’t as good…a magic was missing.

    2001 heralded a “new era” for the X-Men, and I was eager and excited…until I saw what that meant. Morrison’s writing may have been largely good, but the plots and the art were terrible. It sucked all the magic and color out of the books, replacing it with sophomoric jokes, rehashed clichés (Oh, look, Scott’s cheating on his wife again. Oh, look, Jean’s powers are taking her over again. Oh, look, no one trusts Emma Frost again. Hey, is that Magneto?), and black leather with yellow crash pillows.

    Planet X was the last straw for a good long while. I swore I would never pick up another X-Book until the horrible elements I disliked were reversed. Fortunately for me, Marvel did just that with the ReLoad, and for the 2004-2005 run, we had good, solid stories and the return of several characters I loved. Astonishing X-Men was a fascinating read, the first few issues of the 2004 Excalibur series were pure relief in comic book form, and Uncanny got fun again when Claremont and Davis picked it back up. Not as epic as it had been before, but it was still good.

    After House of M ruined the ReLoad ride, I almost quit again. There are still many, many elements to the X-Men books today that I do not like, and they’re getting more numerous all the time. But I keep looking, for decent issues or good books, and I keep reminding myself that I’ve been down this road before.

    I won’t read an X-Book unless it grabs my attention. I want to pick up Uncanny X-Force by Remender, but I can wait for the trade on that one. I’m eagerly anticipating grabbing the last issue of Xenogenesis. And someday I might even get into X-Factor…Peter David’s run on that is almost as celebrated these days as Claremont’s classic X-Men run. It’s certainly long enough. (for the record, I kind of wish David would get flagship duties, once the “throwaway issue” era of Fraction & Land is over and done with)

    No era lasts forever. There will come a time where Greg Land no longer draws “Cyclops And His Stepford-Smiling Bimbette Squad.” A new writer will come along and change the status quo again. Maybe even for the better.

    Right now, I see the franchise as a placeholder…a way for Marvel to hold on to the property until they can reinvent it. I keep an ear to the ground, and listen to the comic book fans’ complaints, and then find the books where they complain least stridently. Joss Whedon, Warren Ellis, Peter David, and apparently Rick Remender have all done good things with what they’ve been handed. Claremont has been hit and miss, but still falls into the “better-than-Fraction” camp. Artists who fall into the camp include Bachalo and Dodson, but also Tom Grummett, who unfortunately is mostly the go-to guy for alternate universes like X-Men Forever.

    Marvel needs to fall in love with the X-Universe again. The writer needs to care about his work or the audience won’t. I agree that the X-Men should symbolize growth and change and evolution better than anyone else in the MU.

    Like Judah says, maybe 2011 will be better. Between “Year Of The Mutant” and “Fear Itself,” something better go right…

  11. This is a great post! I quit reading all the X-books several months ago. (Except for X-Factor, which is its own lovely little thing not forced into one of the endless crossovers and Messiah Complex/Curse of the Mutants/Blahdiddiblahblah megastory of the moment.) It just feels like it’s been so long since these books had writing and character development as opposed to plot after plot, fight scene after fight scene. It reminds me of when I quit reading comics altogether for awhile in the 90s, mostly because all the X-books just became about women with legs up to their necks sticking their butts out, guys with muscles that have muscles and fightfightfight with no substance.

    And the lack of putting Storm to any kind of good use is truly criminal. She was the heart and soul of the X-Men book(s) for so long and now she really does just feel like window dressing. I too miss the days of the X-Men having so many great women on the team. And everyone, in general, having well fleshed-out characters and stories that involved personal development as much as action. Heck, it’s hard to believe Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men happened very recently – it seems like that kind of storytelling for our beloved mutants is a distant memory. I keep hoping the pendulum will swing the other way, but for now I can’t see myself buying any X-Men books in the near future.

    On a slightly less downbeat note, I saw this fantastic illustration someone made for their Tumblr blog of Storm in her mohawk and leather phase modeled after the cover of Janet Jackson’s Control album:
    http://danhacker.tumblr.com/post/3611050782/gimme-a-beat-cliff-chiang

    Pretty great, no?

    • Ingonyama

      Astonishing X-Men has been consistently good. Warren Ellis’ take on it wasn’t quite as magnificent as Whedon’s, but it was still a damn good read.

      I still wish Storm got a fair shake in the books, somewhere. Just after Astonishing came out there was that incredible “Worlds Apart” miniseries, and that gave me hope…but it turned out to be Ororo’s version of “Phoenix: Endsong,” a tease to a return to glory that, as yet, hasn’t happened.

  12. Thank you Thank you Thank you

  13. Greg

    How refreshing! I have been off the X-Wagon for more than a decade (AOA was the last storyline I read) and I am finding it SO hard to figure out what’s what! I’ve basically been floating over to wherever Storm is and confused doesn’t even begin to describe my mind. I left comics when there was X-men and Uncanny X-Men. If I was looking for Storm and missed a few issues, I knew where to find her. I won’t get too nostalgic but I feel your words so much, I remember one time Professor X had Storm steal a disc from some facility or something and she did it but was not happy and she had no problem telling Xavier. It seems the Storm who not only commanded authority because of her awesome powers and soft yet stern presence is gone. Now I have a Storm, seemingly in self defeat/pity mode nursing some man I HAVE NO CLUE WHO HE IS, on the floor and taking shots of VODKA with magneto! What. The. Hell? I am so not happy about her newfound background status. I don’t know, I’m currently reading the AVX storyline and I’m just hoping she wins her fight with Thor (although it didn’t go so well last time). And can I just mention the utter disrespect her character received in the film franchise? Where was my Storm flying around and dropping lightening bolts? Her good scenes were cut from the films (battle with psylocke in the house, etc). #annoyed

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