After recently signing an exclusive contract with Marvel, award-winning Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson begins her “Burning World” arc on X-Men, a comic that was launched a couple years to focus on an all female X-Men squad. The lineup for X-Men #23 is Storm, who is still getting over the loss of Wolverine; Rachel Grey, Psylocke, Monet (who I had to Wiki and gets little to do), and Jubilee back on the homefront. The story is told from Storm’s POV and involves a huge storm in Colorado going out of control, and the X-Men investigating it. G. Willow Wilson has a good handle on Storm’s strengths and flaws, both her godlike feats and claustrophobia and plots a story that play to these aspects of her character. However, the other X-Men have little to do, but do action-type things or make snarky comments. (Rachel Grey gets the best lines.) Roland Boschi, Jay Leisten, and Lee Loughridge excel at showing Storm in her element with blue lightning and red flame crackling behind her, but Boschi and Leisten’s faces are similar looking and struggle at conveying any kind of depth of emotion.
If X-Men #23 was a done-in-one story in the Storm solo book, it would be an effective comic. Boschi turns in a gorgeous opening with page with Storm getting sucked into a type of a meteorogical black hole with electric blue lightning courtesy of colorist Loughridge. Wilson begins to unveil the woman beneath the goddess as Storm struggles to find any kind of control in this situation. She introduces an inner monologue which adds layers to a story, which could perceived as the first act of a disaster film featuring some female members of the X-Men. Without even getting to her claustrophobia until later in the comic, Wilson portrays a fallible Storm, which is a call-back to what made Marvel superheroes great: their ordinary human weaknesses.
However, most of the bits that don’t involve Storm going into action or being introspective are mediocre at best. Wilson’s non-Storm dialogue is hit or miss. She can go from a poetic musing on the nature of storms and their “eyes” to hackneyed stoner talk. There are a couple of funny cameos from well-known X-Men, but Boschi’s grotesque design for one of them hurts their impact on the story. Rachel Grey (being an Omega level mutant) gets more to do in the story, but her characterization is inconsistent as she goes from making goofy jokes to talking about acceptable number of casualties and back to playing a peacemaker or negotiator. This kind of inconsistency is the biggest weakness of X-Men #23 which feels less like a team superhero book than Storm Team-Up.
Boschi and Leisten’s art in X-Men #23 ranges from gorgeous to below average. There is a full page action scene towards the end of the book that shows the dynamism of these characters and their abilities, but it’s too little too late. Like Wilson’s writing, Boschi, Leisten, and Loughridge do a good job showing Storm’s powers and weaknesses, but they struggle with things like facial expressions and some of the pages could use more refined inking, like when Storm investigates this blue lightning sinkhole in the sky. Lee Loughridge continues to be a skilled colorist, and his use of cool blue or fiery reds to offset the faded brown of the Colorado desert adds to the naturalistic feel that Wilson was aiming for with her setting and story. X-Men #23 succeeds at exploring Storm’s character and power set, but it falls flat in other aspects.