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X-Treme X-Men #39

Posted: Friday, January 30, 2004
By: Shawn Hill



“Storm: the Arena: the Conclusion (aka Gladiator)”

Writer: Claremont
Artist: Kordey

Publisher: Marvel

Plot:
Storm and Callisto (and Yukio and Guido) kick Masque’s butt.

Comments:
Yes, it’s just that simple. This by-the-numbers story may have represented Claremont getting back in touch with his deepest feelings about Storm, but there were precious few new revelations. She likes to fight, and win. She’s a champion. She has an inner darkness that threatens to overwhelm her. She’s just like all the villains she fights, except she never kills.

We know all that, Chris.

So what is this story? An excuse to try on fetish gear? Claremont can’t seem to resist turning out “new” villains one after another, but none of them are in any way distinctive or memorable. Morrison and Kordey got more mileage out of the quarter-century old Legion knock-offs the Imperial Guard than Claremont and Kordey do her with all their varied gladiators.

Well, if the story isn’t up to anything, let’s talk about the art. Kordey is not playing to his strengths here. Even at his least-rushed and best, there’s a subtle comedy to Kordey’s style that undermines the super-heroic perfection that Claremont takes all too seriously. Remember that strange opening page on the last four issues, the figure emerging from the shadows through an ornate door? Seems it was a visual metaphor for Storm accepting her place as an extreme gladiator, a character journey I’m sure no one was really longing for her to make. Would the opening sequence have been included in the original graphic novel plan? I have to imagine it would make even less sense in one book than it did here spread over four.

At any rate, Kordey’s extreme fighters, I’m sure meant to be awesome and fearsome, come off as fetish-oriented clowns. Literally, bozos rolling around an arena, like rodeo clowns. But Claremont never once drops even one line to capitalize on this aspect, leaving us with a curious disconnect on our hands. It’s not that Kordey can’t do BDSM; he got kinky just fine, and appropriately, in the excellent Black Widow mini-series. There, amidst KGB spies and cold city streets, he found a workable expression for desperate and all too human foibles and fears.

There’s nothing human here, though, as Storm learns all over again how exceptional she is. Really, this is the sole justification for all she’s been through, delivered near the final pages: “But Cal and I are champions … that’s all the edge we need.” Yeah, I guess, if you were never really challenged in the first place.

Kordey excels in one facet, and that is in his newly Marilyn Monroe-ized version of Masque. He has a real way with such a pop cultural icon. But that’s slim pickings for a story with so many uber-babes, leading me to wish he and Silvestri had traded places these past few months. Silvestri might have been able to sell the costumes with his idealized bodies, and Kordey definitely could have grunged-up Morrison’s dark future in his last New X-men story.

Oh, there’s one more result: apparently Storm, now commander of the gladiator underground, has a new mutant army at her fingertips. Bets on when she’ll use them?



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