Storm Arcana

Relationship Coach & Tarot Teacher.

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Storm Sunday: Astonishing X-Men Xenogenesis

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It may be a few more weeks before we get the final chapter of Astonishing X-Men as penned by Warren Ellis and drawn by Phil Jimenez.  However, last week saw the release of a new Astonishing X-Men Xenogenesis title written by Warren Ellis and Kaare Andrews!  I have been so excited about this title and after reading it, I have to say this book delivered the goods!

I was transfixed from the moment I saw the above image of the team.  The use of black in the costumes is a classic look.  It reminds me of Havok’s original costume, which had the habit of making his surroundings pop!  Storm has got her 80’s groove back (scrunchy boots, double belts and mohawk), Wolvie is looking like truck stop trash with an art school twist (any time you wear black you give off an art opening vibe), Cyke’s wearing his ridiculous headgear (I like him best when his hair isn’t covered in his swim cap) but looks great in his black muscle shirt, Armor is actually dressed like the teenagers I see in the city, Emma has finally ditched that ridiculous sheet she wears as a cape, got herself a weave (I’m hoping she and Storm went shopping together), and opted for clunky earrings and chunky shoes, while Beast looks simply primitive (not so sure about those things on his shoulders though).  I find these designs refreshing and am glad Marvel gave Kaare Andrews the freedom to visually redefine these characters.  I’d love to see what he would do with the rest of the X-Men!

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The issue begins with the X-Men having breakfast and there’s a lot of dialogue to set up the story.  I love that Storm is just chillin’ in her towels.  Too funny.  Logan looks hungover and you couldn’t tell Emma’s daytime outfit from her nighttime outfit anyway, so who knows if she slept in that.  Hisako is drawn too young here, methinks.  Scott is presented front and center as befits his status and ego.  Immediately, the reader is clued into a little bit of each character’s personality.  This attention to character is why I think Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis is the best written X-title on the stands today.  Ellis doesn’t let continuity trip up the story he wants to tell, but he doesn’t ignore it either.  He uses it as a stepping stone to get where he wants the characters to go.  In this instance, the story revolves around baby mutants being born in Africa, so the narrative focus shifts to Storm (thank the Bright Lady).
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Ellis’ X-Men are all in character.  If you like your Beast super-smart and analytical, you got him.  Scott Summers is in charge, but also willing to consult with his team members when he needs more information.  Wolverine is still the rebel, but willing to toe the line when it counts.  Emma is her delightfully snarky and precocious self.  Hisako (Armor) still doesn’t have a personality (aside from talking junk to Wolvie) and Storm seems to have the spotlight to explore the facets of her complicated selves (Goddess, Queen, punk rock rebel).  I think Ellis is doing his best to reconcile the married Ororo with the free spirited former X-Men leader.
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In the above scene, Ellis reminds readers that Scott and Ororo used to be friends, something folks who constantly fight over who is the better leader seem to have forgotten.  I like that Ororo feels she can joke with Scott, even so much as teasing him.  This is the two most prominent X-leaders at their best.  I would like to see this aspect of Cyclops and Storm’s relationship continued.
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“Ohmigod, she’s barefoot!” screams the internet.  Well, I was surprised by her sudden lack of footwear, but it’s not like there isn’t any precedent for Storm to not wear shoes.  In her first appearance she’s only wearing a loincloth.  However, she’s come a long way since then.  It’s one thing to be barefoot while hanging out on the roof of the X-Mansion with Gambit and another to not wear shoes while on a mission, but I’m okay with it either way.

Recent X-books have been about a sequestered cast who can’t leave an artificial island off the coast of Marin while every resurrected enemy attacks them.  There’s something really claustrophobic about those kinds of stories, and like Storm, I’m not into closed spaces.  Here’s hoping that Ellis’ stories can expand the narrow scope of recent X-storylines and delve into what makes the X-Men great–their character.

White Queen Wednesday: Xenogenesis

An Emma Frost Salon
by Ken Kneisel

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Welcome back to White Queen Wednesday, gentle reader. This week I am celebrating Emma’s appearance in the new Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis miniseries, the first issue of which is scheduled to be released today and should be available for sale in finer funnybook stores everywhere even as you read this!  All artwork presented here is by the amazing Kaare Andrews.

This miniseries represents a radical visual departure from the team’s current design, although in rebelling against their most recent looks many of the team have simply reverted back to their roots. Emma in particular is simply rocking a slightly more covered up version of her Frank Quitely designed latex cutout club kid stripper ensemble complete with sky high platform boots. If she had to trade in her trademark stiletto high heels for something, I’m glad it was at least ridiculously impractical platforms and not boring flats or short pumps. I’m also thrilled that Emma finally ditched her matronly cape for a look that I feel is more befitting her playfully sexy personality.

While Storm seems to have adopted a look very reminiscent of that mid to late 80s era when I first discovered the X-Men and comic books in general and thus holds a special sense of nostalgia for me. From her punky mohawk and big hippie feather earrings to all those skinny belts and chunky boots over a black bodysuit, Storm is rocking that mid to late 80s look hard. Her outfit is strikingly similar to the styles sported by Storm herself along with Rogue and Shadowcat back then, particularly during the Mutant Massacre and Fall of the Mutants storylines, with their multiple crisscrossing skinny belts and chunky leg warmer looking boots.

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I love this page from the preview for this first issue over at Comic Book Resources. You know better than that, Logan. Emma always wears what she likes no matter what the occasion!

I literally laughed out loud when Scott told Ororo that she’s been spending too much time with Emma. Hopefully sometime soon we will get to see some more of that time they are spending together. STORM and I both simply adore the way Warren Ellis handles this new friendlier dynamic between Storm and Emma. In fact if I recall correctly it was one of the first things we really bonded over, along with our general love of the X-Men, when I first met STORM at the Isotope a few years ago.

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Emma doesn’t appear to be too thrilled with getting mutant baby vomit all over her decolletage on this cover of the second issue.

These paramilitary fatigue style uniforms, or at least something similar, were actually introduced in the very first issue of Warren Ellis’s Astonishing X-Men and worn for a few pages before being promptly discarded in favor of more traditional supersuits all around. So it’s interesting to see them returning to this look. Everyone but Emma, of course.

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Now here’s a striking and eye-catching cover! There’s definitely something bizarrely kinky about this image, but that’s par for the course with Emma I suppose. The sultry way that Emma is eating those sticky syrupy pancakes is certainly suggestive. This cover just brings to mind so many questions. Why pancakes? Is Emma going to spank Scott or is she simply using him as a human chair? I guess we’ll find out in the third issue!

It is a little odd that this new miniseries is being released before the last arc drawn by Phil Jimenez, Exogenetic, has even finished. But such confusing scheduling snafus are to be expected these days.

I hope you’re as excited for Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis as I am, gentle reader! Go out and pick up a copy for yourself and share your thoughts about the first issue in the comments. I look forward to comparing our reactions!

X-Men Versus Vampires

X-Men You know what the world needs?  Another X-Men title.  Well, no, I really don’t think so.  However, someone at Marvel did and they’ve got a new adjectiveless title featuring Marvel’s mutants coming out in July by novelist Victor Gischler and artist Paco Medina.  The reason for the new title?  Vampires.
X-Men VampiresIn this image, the X-Men have all been turned into the vampiric undead.  Okay.  I’ll bite (pun intended).  What does this title have to offer me other than seeing my favorite characters turn evil?  Aren’t we supposed to be entering the Heroic Age?  Hasn’t this story already been told?
X-Men I am excited about the team of X-Men being featured here, however (Artwork by Adi Granov).  Okay, I’ll admit I’m mostly just excited to have Storm be featured in the title.  I do hope they throw us continuity queens a bone though and reference Ororo’s battle with vampirism.  It’s the least they could do.
X-Man & JubileeIt appears that X-Man is going to feature prominently in this storyline (fresh from his rebirth and torture at the hands of Norman Osborn in Dark X-Men. Poor powerless Jubilee is pictured here as a vampire.  That is not how I want to see dear Jubilation.  She’s the embodiment of light and joy (or at least she was before she lost her powers) and having her become a vampire is neither clever nor ironic.
Hope & BladeLet me be clear:  I despise Hope.  I know, I know, how can I hate a character that is basically a tabula rasa?  Why can’t I wait for some development before I judge her?  I’ve read every appearance of Hope (including those two years of Tom & Jerry issues of Cable) and she has yet to do or be anything.  Sometimes Marvel holds their cards too long and I grow uninterested.  I don’t care if she turns into the Phoenix Force itself at this point.  I’m bored with her.  Another character with guns?  No thanks.  As for Blade, I wish Paul Cornell was still writing him.  That was the most interesting he’s ever been.
Spider-Man & Psylocke Let’s pretend that these characters are actually going to team-up for a second and that Marvel just isn’t tossing pairs of super-heroes around willy-nilly.  The idea of Spider-Man and Psylocke fighting together just writes itself.  He makes some quips about her scantily clad outfit and she silently slices and dices.  I think the contrast in their personalities would be a fun story.
Magneto & Savage She-Hulk I wish Magneto had really died a long time ago and I wish this version of a Savage She-Hulk had never been created.  Neither character holds any appeal for me.  Magneto was played out when Chris Claremont killed him in X-Men #2 and I need no other She-Hulk besides Jennifer Walters.  I really don’t enjoy alternate reality characters.
Gambit & Elektra Now this is a pairing that might even have some sparks of romance.  Am I alone in thinking that Gambit and Elektra might make a good couple?  I can see Gambit immediately hitting on Marvel’s most celebrated assassin, and while getting emotion out of Elektra might be like trying to get blood out of a stone…I think that if she let her guard down, Ms. Natchios andy Mr. LeBeau might have some chemistry.

Well, this new X-Men promotional push for the new series certainly has me thinking about it, so kudos to Marvel’s marketing department.  I look forward to seeing where this whole vampire thing goes.

Hey!  Where’s Iceman and Cable in these team promos?!

The Cyclops by Bernie Wrightson

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Sometimes I see an amazing piece of art and just need to share it.  This is one of those times.  I’ve long been a fan of Bernie Wrightson‘s art and this image is so chilling.  Imagine being one of the sailors on that ship and looking up to find that Cyclops playing baseball with the forest above you.  Phew!  Bernie’s line work is gorgeous, choosing clean outlines for the ship, ocean and crags and then crosshatching and shading to bring your focus to the menace of the monster.  Beautiful.

Check out his website.

Storm Sunday: Hulk Storm

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This coming Wednesday sees the release of Hulk #22 featuring a bevy of Marvel Heroes “Hulked Out.”  Written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Ed McGuinness, the comic features a  Storm who looks a lot more Worldwide Wrestling Federation than any other versions we’ve seen before.  In these preview pages from Comic Book Resources, a Hulked Out Thor is about to layeth the smackdown on the Red Hulk, but Hulked Out Storm interrupts demanding she be recognized as the Goddess of Lightning.  I guess Hulked Out Heroes lose their common sense after transforming into blustering behemoths.
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That sure is one hell of a costume, eh?  I’m guessing that’s supposed to be clouds covering Storm’s lady parts, interspersed with lightning.  I do like how the artist has enlarged Storm’s tiara as part of her costume and that she retains her gem at her throat (although it is not connected to anything–perhaps she can hover items around her person due to all of the static electricity that she’s tossing around?) and her bracelets.  Regarding the upcoming brouhaha between her and Thor though, does anyone think that she’s really going to win that?  As much as Hulked Out Storm may demand she be feted as a Goddess, she isn’t.  I just don’t think this is going to end well.  However, it sure is nice to see Storm among the handful of heroes chosen to have this kind of exposure in a crossover that isn’t X-Men or Black Panther related.  Makes me feel that Storm is part of the Marvel Universe again.

White Queen Wednesday: Drink & Drugs

An Emma Frost Salon
by Ken Kneisel

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Welcome back, gentle reader, to White Queen Wednesday. This week I will touch on some of Emma’s experiences with drugs and alcohol, during her time with the Hellfire Club and as an X-Man. Emma is refreshingly honest about the subject and I feel it is an interesting topic worth exploring.

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First and foremost it should be noted that Emma is incredibly picky, in fact downright snobbish, about her champagne. Perhaps this is due to her having lived a life of such obscene wealth and privilege and her appreciation for the finest things in life, as well as her proclivity to splurge on such a decadent indulgence as expensive champagne.

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As the White Queen of the debauched Hellfire Club, essentially an exclusive S&M country club for the rich and kinky, every conceivable earthly indulgence was made available to Emma. And indulge she did. From her earliest appearances, Emma was frequently depicted with a flute of champagne or a cocktail or a goblet or snifter of hard brown liquor. But her drinking was never so much as mentioned, much less characterized as a problem.

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It’s interesting to me that Emma never completely abandoned alcohol, continuing to enjoy a drink in moderation to this day. This is in stark contrast to characters like Iron Man and Ms Marvel for whom their out of control drinking ultimately became an issue that threatened to destroy their private and professional lives, a powerful problem to be overcome. It simply doesn’t seem to be an issue at all for Emma.

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Substance use and abuse runs in her family, her mother was addicted to prescription tranquilizers and her gay brother Christian with whom she was quite close also used drugs before he tragically went insane. While she never specified exactly what drugs she used to do, I’m sure Emma sampled any number of narcotics at her own discretion during her time with the Hellfire Club. But I imagine she might have preferred cocaine, it just seems to fit her character best.

After Emma joined the X-Men and became a member of the faculty at Professor Xavier’s school, a new power enhancing drug called Kick swept the student population. Emma tried Kick, purely “in the interest of science”, in order to better understand what kind of a hold it had over her students. She described the experience as feeling “angelic and violently insane for five hours”. So she is still not above trying a new drug when it suits her.

I hope you enjoyed this examination of Emma’s attitudes towards drugs and alcohol, gentle reader, and I hope you join me next week for another White Queen Wednesday!

Storm Sunday: Marley Zarcone

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The amazing sketches that I received over WonderCon 2010 keep on comin’!  This week we celebrate the striking lines of artist Marley Zarcone!  Marley’s projects include Forgetless (she has a back up running through the 5 issue mini-series) and an upcoming issue of Madame Xanadu!  Marley drew this sketch in her hotel room while I read her tarot.  We didn’t have any reference for Storm’s tiara (much to Marley’s chagrin) but I really love the jewelry she drew instead.  Ororo truly looks like her authentic Kenyan princess self.

White Queen Wednesday: X-Men Arcade Game

An Emma Frost Salon
by Ken Kneisel

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Greetings, gentle reader! After last week I decided I would like to spotlight something a little more fun this time. So here’s a short clip of Emma’s appearance as the White Queen from an X-Men arcade game that some of you might remember. I certainly do.

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I love her dialogue here. “The White Queen welcomes you to die!” So polite, our Emma. Then the evil husky cackle. I love it!

This side-scrolling Konami arcade game was based on the Pryde of the X-Men animated TV pilot that was released in the late 80s. I remember watching that cartoon and playing this video game over and over again in my teens.

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If any of my San Francisco Bay Area buddies know of an arcade that still has this game, please let me know because I would love to play it with you sometime!

Well that’s it for this week’s White Queen Wednesday, gentle reader! Just something light and quick this time, but next week I promise to examine a meatier topic at length.

Storm Sunday: Colleen Doran

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Ororo Munroe sketch by Colleen Doran.

One of my favorite creators is Colleen Doran (of A Distant Soil fame) and I was elated when I realized that her booth this year at WonderCon was near Writers Old Fashioned!  The close proximity enabled me to take time to speak with her several times about her upcoming work on Girl Comics #4 and her artwork for Gone to Amerikay and Stealth Tribes (with Warren Ellis)!  I missed her panel, but I did get one on one time with Colleen in which we exchanged stories and experiences.  These moments are some of my favorites from that weekend.

Of course, I am elated to have a Colleen Doran sketch in my art collection!   I love her lines.  They have inherent grace and fluidity without compromising the realistic solidity of the character.  She makes Ororo look glamorous, serene and yet still edgy.

Thank you, Colleen for being such a warm and personable creator and an overall inspiration in both personal and professional spheres.  I look forward to the next time our paths cross.

Colleen Doran & STORM

Colleen Doran and STORM, WonderCon 2010.

White Queen Wednesday: Firestarter

An Emma Frost Salon
by Ken Kneisel

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Welcome back, gentle reader, to White Queen Wednesday. This week we turn our attention to Angelica Jones AKA Firestar. I bet you thought I was talking about Phoenix when I mentioned a fiery redhead last week! Well Jean Grey is not the only fiery redhead that Emma has crossed. I’ve been especially looking forward to this installment, since Emma’s interaction with Firestar produced her single most despicable act of villainy if you ask me. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Most people are probably aware of Firestar from the popular early 80s cartoon Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends. That was actually her first appearance, before she ever showed up in any comics. When she did appear in the comics, she was immediately recruited by the White Queen to attend her Massachusetts Academy and train with her Hellions. This was Emma at perhaps her most wicked, the cruel caricature of a storybook evil queen, tormenting young Angelica and mindblasting her Hellions over the slightest perceived offense. However, Emma had particular plans for Firestar. She instructed Angelica privately and attempted to brainwash her into becoming Emma’s personal bodyguard with designs on killing Emma’s rival Selene AKA the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club. To this end, she committed that most vile and reprehensible act I mentioned earlier. There’s no easy way to say this so instead I will simply show you.

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That’s right. In order to manipulate Firestar into becoming a cold-blooded killer, Emma telepathically murdered the young girl’s beloved pony Butter Rum and caused Angelica to believe that she had killed the horse herself with her burgeoning microwave powers. There is no possible way for me to justify or excuse this depraved act of villainy so I will not attempt to do so. However, I will highly recommend the Firestar miniseries which has been collected into a convenient digest format. This is required reading if you would like a good long look at what Emma was like during her days as the evil White Queen of the Hellfire Club or if you are at all interested in her Hellions.

Much later, after Angelica had long since left the Massachusetts Academy and the Hellions and joined up with a team of teenage heroes the New Warriors, Emma and her Hellions confronted the new team to retrieve Firestar. Of course, Angelica chose to stay with her friends in the New Warriors over the Hellions. Emma swore that one day Angelica would return to her school. But that day never came.

The next time Emma encountered Firestar was in the pages of Generation X. This was after Emma had reformed and allied herself with Professor Xavier, transforming her Massachusetts Academy into a subsidiary of his school, but before she officially joined the X-Men. Two of Emma’s young students were running loose in New York City and eventually found their way to Avengers Mansion where Emma was called to come pick them up. That was when she ran into Firestar who was a member of the Avengers at this point.

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Firestar seemed startled by Emma’s shocking reformation but they talked it out and eventually came to terms. Angelica said that if Professor Xavier trusted Emma enough to put her in charge of his students then she would also give Emma the benefit of the doubt. But Firestar also swore that she would bring the Avengers down on Emma if she ever heard of her messing with another child’s head again. But that day also never came to pass and this would seem to be the extent of Emma’s interactions with Firestar as far as I’m aware.

Well thank you once again for joining me this White Queen Wednesday, gentle reader. I’m not fully sure exactly what I’ll be discussing next week, but after all this talk of telepathic horse murder I should think I would like to talk about something a little lighter instead.

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