‘X-Men ‘97’ Is Doubling Down On a Disappointing Marvel Habit

The Mistress of the Elements has finally returned. After four tedious weeks on the sidelines, X-Men ‘97s penultimate episode brought Storm back into the fold. With the super squad racing against time to save the world and mutantkind, there’s likely no better time for the character to rejoin the X-Men, especially with her classic costume and a newly-established power set.

As good as it is to see her fight alongside her found family, however — especially Jean Grey — it’s hard not to wonder what took the X-Men ‘97 team so damn long to bring Storm back. Looking back on the past season and all the growth therein, Storm has been an afterthought: acknowledged as an immensely powerful member of the team, but rarely given many opportunities to showcase her potential as a character.

X-Men ‘97 poised Storm for a substantial arc, only to fumble the character right out of the gate.

Marvel Studios

To be clear, X-Men ‘97 embraces Storm better than most adaptations. From the very beginning, the series seemed to have a clear idea where it wanted to take the character. It hit the ground running in Episode 2, setting the stage for an adaptation of Uncanny X-Men’s “Lifedeath” storyline. Storm lost her powers protecting Magneto from the X-Cutioner, and would later be separated from the X-Men — but in the search for a solution, Storm would return more powerful than ever.

X-Men ‘97 effectively follows those beats, but truncates an arc that took years to unfold in the comics. That’s not an outright offense, as each major development in the series is synthesizing months’ or even years’ worth of X-Men comics. But the show’s attempt to adapt “Lifedeath” felt awkward at best. X-Men ‘97 took an odd approach to the arc, splitting Storm’s ordeal across two episodes and splicing her story with other, far less interesting one-offs.

Given the importance of “Lifedeath,” that choice felt a little insulting. Doesn’t Storm warrant an episode all her own, without any conflicting storylines to distract from her unique arc? Even once she faces her biggest foe yet — her own insecurities — regains her powers, and unlocks her classic look (which serves as a callback to the original series), it all feels hollow because there’s not much substance behind it.

Storm finally makes her return in “Tolerance Is Extinction” — but is it too little, too late?

Marvel Studios

Things got worse after “Lifedeath,” as Storm was totally absent from subsequent episodes of X-Men ‘97. She didn’t make any moves to return to the team, even after the massacre on Genosha. Of course, she doesn’t necessarily have to rejoin the X-Men right away, as she deserves the opportunity to figure out who she is apart from the team — especially with a growing connection to Forge. The problem is that we never get to see what she was up to between “Lifedeath” and the “Tolerance Is Extinction” arc.

X-Men ‘97 doesn’t make much effort to flesh out Storm, or her relationship to other X-Men, until it’s too late. While her interactions with Jean Grey in Episode 9 do a lot with very little, it also serves as a reminder of what we’ve been missing throughout the season.

Like a handful of X-Men, Storm’s fate is unknown at the end of “Tolerance Is Extinction – Part 2.” Both Bastion and Magneto present a real threat to the team, and there’s a chance that some characters may not live to see Season 2. Hopefully Storm won’t be one of the finale’s casualties, as there’s still so much potential in the character. With Season 2 on the horizon, hopefully she can take on a more substantial role, and X-Men ‘97 can eschew the habits that plague other X-Men adaptations.

X-Men ‘97 is now streaming on Disney+.

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