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Uncanny X-Men #198 (1985, October)

March 21, 2015

Big issue today. By Claremont and Barry Windsor-Smith, “Lifedeath II.”

Lifedeath II

This is a good one.

Storm’s caught in a sandstorm, thinking about how she used to fly, but now has to walk. She stops the storm, and starts to fly, but tumbles to the ground with the storm still going. She’s suffering from delusions. Forge tries to help her, and she tells him she loves him, then gets angry and yells at him. She says he just wants to hurt her, just like everyone she’s loved. She walks off and trips, then gets attacked by a viper. She tosses it away, but thinks she’s probably been bit, and will die in moments, so she crawls into a cave to die in peace. In the cave, the X-Men ask if they’ve hurt her, and she says yes, by taking her from her home, that she lost her powers by joining them, and that she lost Jean Grey. Wolverine offers to kill her, if she’s afraid of life. She says she’s not afraid, just tired. Xavier says she was always scared, which is why he had to take her. She gets pissed and tries to attack him, but they all fade away.

She wakes up at the cave entrance, and the viper’s back. This time, she doesn’t try to get rid of it, and it leaves on its own. She starts walking again, and comes across an overturned bus. There’s an injured, pregnant woman lying beside it. Storm helps the woman to her feet, and they talk while they walk. The woman hated living in her village, and left to go to the city for work and excitement, but is returning to her tribe so her son will always have a connection to her family. Storm thinks the woman had the courage to strike out on her own and take risks without being pushed into it. She realizes she was scared, and that her “serene goddess” thing was a result of that fear, cutting herself off from her emotions because she was afraid to feel them.

In the morning, Storm and the woman see a big machine that’s been left to rust. The land used to be farmland, but the desert’s claimed almost all of it. They reach the girl’s village, and she’s scared of what happened, too. The village elder, Mjnari, welcomes them, and Storm promptly passes out.

Storm wakes up later. Mjnari calls her WInd-rider, so he knows her, and he says the girl’s been calling for her. Her labour isn’t going well. Storm helps, and the baby’s born, but he isn’t breathing. Storm performs CPR, and manages to get him breathing. Mjnari thanks her, and then takes off all his robes and badges of office and wanders away from the village. Storm follows and demands to know what he’s doing, and why. He talks about how the white man came with machines, and made the lands green for a while, but now it can barely support the whole village. So now, whenever someone is born, someone else has to die.

Once he dies, she builds a burial mound for him. As she does, she still hears his voice, saying a bridge is needed between the old ways and the new ones, and she realizes he means her. She decides she’s found her home – the world – and her purpose. And she thinks that even though she doesn’t have her powers, but her heart and soul soar.

This is a good comic. It’s really powerful stuff, a very in-depth exploration of Storm’s character. Her feelings, her motivations, her fears. It’s really cool. The stuff about the village was good, too, demonstrating some of the dangers of unearned progress – the villagers were given advanced farming technology, but because they didn’t fully understand it, they screwed themselves over with it. Of course, white people gave them the tools and then didn’t teach them the optimal ways to use them, so it’s mostly our fault it happened. It’s worth noting that it’s not an anti-progress message. Mjnari says that progress isn’t bad. He says the problem is that they didn’t really understand it, and they abused it. The message is about merging progress and tradition in a way that combines the best of both worlds.

This issue marks the end of Storm’s African adventure. Which actually kinda makes me sad, I must confess. It was a cool storyline, and I think there was potential for it to go just a bit longer, and build to something a bit bigger. It completely abandons her search for the mountains from her visions. I wish the story had lasted until she found her mother’s homeland. She didn’t necessarily need to start learning magic – though I still think her mystical heritage is something that doesn’t get explored enough – but it would’ve been nice if she at least finished her actual quest.

Windsor-Smith’s art is excellent. Claremont himself has stated that Lifedeath I and II are his favourite X-Men stories. I think a lot of that does come down to Windsor-Smith doing such great artwork. It’s very expressive, and there’s a power and scale to the work that matches the story.

On a side note, Mjnari’s name is used in the X-Men cartoon for a mutant from Storm’s tribe. He’s named after the elder from this story. I always wondered why the Mjnari character from the cartoon never popped up in the comics. It would be neat, I think.

Song of the day: Modesty by the Fix.

One Comment
  1. This does sound like a really good issue, and probably worth tracking down.

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