X-Men '97 Episode 4 Begins A Key Comic Book Arc With Storm And Forge

The fourth episode of "X-Men '97" is, in fact, two episodes crammed into one. The first half, called "Motendo," is about Jubille (Holly Chou) being teleported into Mojoworld where she is forced to fight inside a violent video game at the behest of a TV goblin named Mojo. The second half, called "Lifedeath, Part 1," follows Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith) after she lost her weather-controlling superpowers in the previous episode. It was quite a blow for Storm who was essentially a goddess. Now a mere mortal with no mastery of the elements, Storm is approached by a character named Forge (Gil Birmingham) with a proposal that they team up for an unspecified mission.

Forge had previously appeared in "X-Men: The Animated Series" (voiced by Marc Strange) as the leader of X-Factor, a separate team of super-mutants. Forge has the uncanny ability to intuit machines just by handling them, making him the world's greatest mechanic. He is an amputee and sports a high-tech bionic leg, an injury he sustained while fighting in the Vietnam War (according to the lore of the original X-Men comics). This is the first time Forge will have a significant role in animated "X-Men" lore. 

The title "Lifedeath" will have already rung some bells in X-Fans' minds. "Lifedeath" was a notable story arc presented in "Uncanny X-Men" #186, published in July of 1984. It was part of a larger X-Men story called "Wraith War," and it seems ready to play out in "X-Men '97." Some fans consider "Lifedeath" to be the best story arc Storm ever received, as it dealt with the loss of her powers, as well as a notable romantic relationship.


In the original "Lifedeath" story, Storm did indeed lose her superpowers via a powers-robbing laser gun wielded by a villain. She falls into a river and nearly drowns, but is rescued by Forge. He lives in a remote home equipped with holographic projectors which Storm moves into. Storm is destitute after losing her powers and attempts to starve herself to death. Spending time with Forge, however, reveals a kindred spirit. He, too, has battle-based trauma, and they talk a lot about how the trauma can change their personalities, sometimes for the better. They swim together, have meals, and begin falling in love. Their nascent relationship hits a snag, however, when Storm learns that Forge invented the powers-robbing laser gun used by anti-mutant zealots. 

The version of Forge previously seen on "X-Men: The Animated Series" was from an alternate future, so it's unclear if the makers of "X-Men '97" intend to keep that version or offer a soft reboot of the character for their new show. Recall that "Animated" and '"97" are of the same continuity

The "Lifedeath" story, as concluded in "Uncanny X-Men" #187, sees Storm moving to Central Africa where she falls in with a group of local agricultural workers whose crops are dying. As a mutant, Storm would have been able to provide rain. As a powerless human, she finds that she still has the power to help through hard work, leadership, and more hard work. She finds that heroism doesn't require powers and decides to rejoin the X-Men. 

Storm wouldn't regain her powers until issue #225 which wasn't published until 1987. Even without powers, Storm dueled Cyclops for leadership of the X-Men and won.

Will Storm regain her powers?

One might assume that in "Lifedeath, Part 2" (due to air on April 17) Storm will regain her powers, and the status quo will be restored; that, of course, was the natural course for episodic TV shows of the 1990s. A return to the status quo was expected. It's worth noting, though, that "X-Men: The Animated Series" stuck close to its comic book source material, and that it wasn't afraid to keep story arcs going, to let characters go through big character changes, or to present long, multi-part episodes that lasted for months at a time. 

If "X-Men '97" is to follow the same route, Storm may be without her powers for the rest of the season. She may very well be a badass fighter who wrests control of the mutant team from Cyclops, even while being unable to control the weather. 

Forge in the comics was eventually welcomed into the X-Men as well, despite his work as a weapons contractor. He will use his mechanical abilities to improve the X-Men tech (which is no small feat given that they already own a holodeck). In the comics, Forge also tinkered with his power-robbing ray enough to reverse the effects, and Storm slowly re-gained her superpowers. 

Only time will tell if "X-Men '97" will cleave closely to the comics, or if it will stray into its own stories. Given the frantic pace of the series and the amount of dramatic events that spill out of the screen in a mere 30-minute episode, it's likely the showrunners will indeed restore Storm's powers pretty quickly, only to have the character beset by some other ultra-dramatic plot wrinkle. What's next? The Phalanx Covenant?