X-Men ’97 is winding up for one of the best stories about weathermancer Storm ever told (2024)

Maybe the most impressive thing about X-Men: The Animated Series is how it committed to directly adapting X-Men comics stories — or at least getting as close as the Saturday morning cartoon format would allow. And X-Men ’97, Disney Plus’ new continuation of the classic series, is not shirking that mandate.

With the last-minute appearance of a certain mutant, and a certain tragedy befalling one of the X-Men’s greatest heroes, ’97’s first three episodes show that the season is approaching one beloved X-Men arc in particular.

[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for “Mutant Liberation Begins.”]

In just the first few episodes of its season, X-Men ’97 includes three events that will be very familiar to fans of 1980s X-Men comics: Storm taking a laser blast that strips her of her powers, leaving the X-Men, and subsequently running into the mutant known as Forge.

Forge (voiced by Yellowstone’s Gilbert Birmingham) sidles up to Storm at a bar, and she testily asks what his deal is. He suggests they should partner up for reasons that are left mysterious. But based on X-Men history and what’s already been released about upcoming episodes, we can make a strong supposition.

Who is Forge?

X-Men ’97 is winding up for one of the best stories about weathermancer Storm ever told (1) Image: Chris Claremont, John Romita Jr./Marvel Comics

Even if you have fond memories of X-Men: The Animated Series, you might need a refresher on Forge’s deal. He was in the original show, but not in a particularly central way; he appeared as the leader of X-Force, but mostly showed up in alternate timelines.

Forge has been a part of the X-Men setting since 1984, when Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr. included him in their Uncanny X-Men. Forge (he just goes by “Forge”) is a mutant, a veteran, an amputee, and a member of the Cheyenne nation — and at least in Claremont’s early stories about him, he was a guy whose unresolved trauma (watching the rest of his platoon die, making a Big Magical Mistake because of that) had made him selfish and self-isolating.

His mutant power is an entirely mental one: superhuman technological intuition. Forge can instantly perceive what machines will do and how to use them, and he can build a technological solution to any problem he puts his mind to — though since he does all this intuitively, he may not actually understand how the device works, much less how to explain how someone else could build it again. He used his abilities to make a living as a defense contractor, and to build his own specialized prosthetic right leg and right hand.

Forge’s presence, combined with Storm losing her powers from a depowering gun, all points toward the classic X-Men storyline “Lifedeath” — considered one of the best Storm stories of all time.

[Ed. note: If you’d like to see how “Lifedeath” plays out in the cartoon, without any spoilers, you should stop reading here!]

What is ‘Lifedeath’?

Based on the previously released episode titles from this season of X-Men ’97, there are two “Lifedeath” episodes, which mirrors the “Lifedeath” and “Lifedeath: From the Heart of Darkness” issues of Uncanny X-Men, published in 1984 and ’85, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith.

In the first part of “Lifedeath,” Forge brings Storm back to his fancy penthouse to recover from injuries. They spend time together, testing each others’ emotional boundaries, but ultimately bond over a shared sense of isolation, of feeling betrayed by their bodies (Forge when he lost his limbs, and Storm with the loss of her powers) and contemplating suicide because of it.

X-Men ’97 is winding up for one of the best stories about weathermancer Storm ever told (2) Image: Chris Claremont, Barry Windsor-Smith/Marvel Comics

That bond blossoms into a mutual attraction, but like any relationship where one partner is guiltily hiding something big from the other, it doesn’t last. Eventually, Storm discovers Forge’s secret: that in his job as a defense contractor, he built the very gun that depowered her, and she leaves to go back to wandering.

“Lifedeath: From the Heart of Darkness” sees Storm delirious and alone in an agricultural wasteland in Africa, where, in the process of meeting and aiding a community of farmers without the use of her weather-controlling powers, she comes to terms with her loss and decides to reunite with the X-Men.

It might seem odd that a story about Storm accepting the loss of her mutant powers would be considered among her best. There were precious few female superheroes as titanically powerful as Storm in the 1980s, much less Black ones. But starting with his two “Lifedeath” issues, Chris Claremont made it clear that the point of taking her powers away was in fact to tell a powerful story, one that added layers of complexity and humanity underneath the character’s operatic veneer. Storm would have a ton of adventures with with the X-Men in the three years before Claremont wrote the story in which she regained her powers — she even dueled Cyclops for the role of team leader, and won!

So there’s no reason that Storm would have to get her powers back in this season of X-Men ’97, and with a second season already greenlit, it’s entirely possible that she doesn’t. We’ll have to wait for “Motendo/Lifedeath – Part 1,” airing on April 3, and “Lifedeath – Part 2,” airing on April 17, to find out.

X-Men ’97 is winding up for one of the best stories about weathermancer Storm ever told (2024)


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