[16 June 2014]
The concept of humanizing a god is like trying to humble Donald Trump. On paper, it sounds daunting. In practice, it creates a powerful narrative that takes beings of extraordinary ability and makes them more relatable. Superman might be a being with the ability to bench press a planet and fly to the edge of the solar system in the span of an afternoon, but a big part of his story is built around humble beginnings. He grew up on a farm in Kansas. It can’t get more humble than that without becoming a Charles Dickens novel. This presents a challenge to characters like Storm in X-men, but it’s a challenge that is taken up in the pages of Amazing X-men #1.
Compared to Superman, Storm’s origins aren’t nearly as humble. She was worshipped as a goddess at one point. That’s the very antithesis of humble. However, this well-known part of her life only represents a fraction of her life. While most are familiar with her life as Storm, her life as Ororo Munroe is less known and often underdeveloped. It wasn’t until the past ten years that her history with Black Panther was revealed. Granted, it was a contrived history meant to justify her marriage to Black Panther, but it revealed that Ororo Munroe’s early life was anything but divine.
The heart of the story revolves around Storm’s efforts to save her cousin, Abuya, who was abducted by a newly minted Inhuman calling himself, Meruda. He’s got powers similar to Storm’s in that he can conjure winds and create dust storms, but he lacks her grace and personality. He also claims to have a very personal vendetta against Storm. This is where the humanizing begins, but that humanization process is somewhat obscured by circumstances. Despite being one of the most popular X-men of all time, not much of Storm’s early life is explored. Halle Berry might have captured her personality in the X-men movies, but there isn’t much in terms of the source of that personality. In that respect, Storm is like a beautiful flower from an unknown garden.
By bringing Storm’s extended family into this story, it offers a brief yet compelling glimpse into the life made her into the goddess is now. At one point, she wasn’t the powerful woman who could end droughts on a whim and survive dating Wolverine. She was just a girl trying to save her friends and family with powers that she didn’t fully understand. It might seem strange for those used to seeing only Jean Grey lose control of her powers, but it makes perfect sense and maybe it makes too much sense to explore. Powers that involve controlling something as complex as weather must be difficult. Even goddesses have to deal with insecurities at some point.
That’s a lesson Storm had to learn at a young age and a lesson that Meruda hasn’t bothered to learn. In some respects, that makes them reflections of one another. Whereas Storm is Warren Buffet, Meruda is Jordon Belfort. He doesn’t try to control his powers. As soon as he gets them, he uses them to get back at Storm. That’s why he abducts Storm’s cousin. That’s why he skips the process of developing a respect with nature and immediately becomes the kind of arrogant god that demands animal sacrifices and punishes his followers for knocking over candles. It’s not just petty. It’s shrugs off humility as if it were mosquito. But what makes it particularly egregious in Meruda’s case is that his grudge against Storm might not even be warranted.
After going through the trouble of turning Storm’s cousin into a monster and subduing her with his dust powers, Meruda claims that Storm was responsible for triggering a dust storm that wiped out his entire family. The fact that Storm was just 12-years-old at the time and was trying to save a young Black Panther means nothing. It may sound like the kind of traumatic experience that brings out the Dr. Doom in everyone. However, Storm has had her share of traumatic experiences as well. This is a girl who lost her parents at a young age and had to survive as a pick-pocket in Cairo. Yet unlike Meruda, she didn’t immediately use her new powers to take revenge on everyone smart enough to hide their wallets in their shoes. She used it as a means to become someone better. They’re two distinct paths. Storm took the path of the graceful goddess. Meruda took the path of the petty, vengeful god.
In the end, the graceful goddess proves to be more resilient than any vengeful thug. While the X-men save her cousin, she shows Meruda that even a graceful goddess is not someone he should provoke. Unlike Meruda, she has spent a lifetime developing her connection to nature and using it to hone her powers the same way Peyton Manning hones his quarterbacking skills. Meruda just got his powers from the recent events surrounding the Inhumans. He might as well be a rookie trying to beat a Hall of Famer blindfolded and with one hand tied behind his back.
Storm’s triumph isn’t just a testament to her power and grace. It reveals the scale and scope of her humility. Even though she was worshipped as a goddess, she still maintains close ties to her family and loved ones. Those loved ones might not be well-developed. Nobody is going to confuse her cousin with the Kents and nobody is going to confuse Meruda with Lex Luthor, but the story conveyed in Amazing X-men Annual #1 provides a conflict and a struggle for Storm that contains a very personal touch. It might not have the kind of breadth that is going to fundamentally change Storm’s character, but it will reinforce the humility that makes her a goddess worth worshipping.