Storm Leads X-Men To Africa in AMAZING X-MEN ANNUAL #1

Amazing X-Men Annual #1 double-page spread by Salvador Larroca
Credit: Marvel
Amazing X-Men Annual #1 cover by Salvador Larroca
Amazing X-Men Annual #1 cover by Salvador Larroca
Credit: Marvel

She’s getting her moment in the sun later this year when the solo series Storm is launched, but Ororo Monroe is prepping early in an upcoming annual – and taking her fellow X-Men with her. In June’s Amazing X-Men Annual #1, Storm is drawn back to her homeland of Africa – and what she finds is a death in her family that will impact her second family, the X-Men.

Scheduled to ship on June 4, Amazing X-Men Annual #1 will be the Marvel debut of Scottish writer Monty Nero, and he’s working with veteran X-Men artist Salvador Larroca. Nero, whose creator-owned series Death Sentence debuted last year from Titan, grew up as a fan of both the X-Men and of Larroca in particular, making this much more than just another assignment. Nero talked with us about his fascination with Storm and the X-Men, along with his thoughts on Larroca, even sharing adolescent drawings Nero did based on Larroca’s earlier X-Men work.

Newsarama: Monty, you’ve made a name for yourself in a short amount of time with your other comics work – how and why did you come here to Marvel to do more?

Amazing X-Men Annual #1 by Salvador Larroca
Amazing X-Men Annual #1 by Salvador Larroca
Credit: Marvel

Monty Nero: Marvel editor Nick Lowe rang me up and asked me to do it! That was really exciting! He'd read Death Sentence and liked it. The great thing about Marvel is they embrace a much wider selection of art and writing styles than they used to back in the day. They're really switched on to new stuff. It was actually Mark Paniccia from Marvel who first dropped me an email, just a few weeks after Death Sentence #1 dropped. I nearly fell off my chair, He put me forward for some Iron Man stuff that didn't work out. Then Axel rang with some ideas, and then Nick. And it all comes from them all being huge comic fans, and digging new work.

Nrama: So what can you tell us about this story in Amazing X-Men Annual #1?

Nero: Hrmm. How to put it in a non-spoilery way. If you love the X-Men, and Storm in particular, you'll love this. The great thing about an annual is you can simply tell the story you want to tell, you don't have to worry about what everyone else is doing. You get a satisfying resolution and lots of stirring action all in one, a cool new villain - a thrilling take on Storm. It all ties into crucial elements of her heritage and history, so hopefully it feels really fresh while respecting the traditions.

Nrama: This centers on Storm – why choose her for your first Marvel story?

Amazing X-Men Annual #1 page by Salvador Larroca
Amazing X-Men Annual #1 page by Salvador Larroca
Credit: Marvel

Nero: She's such a great character, and there's so much untapped potential there. As a writer you're always looking for the ingredients for a mind-blowing comic, and Storm has weather powers and this fascinating history. I’m really intrigued by all her abilities and characteristics, and how her mind and body works to process it all. Everything about her stirs the emotions in a really visual or lyrical way. I can't picture a scene with her that doesn't do something interesting. So it was a golden opportunity to write Storm the way she should be, I was simply very lucky to be the guy who could do that.

Nrama: Who are the X-Men joining here in this trip to Africa?

Nero: She's fighting alongside Wolverine, Beast, Firestar, Iceman and Nightcrawler. I wanted Logan and Kurt there because they were there when she started and bring that emotional connection. And we see the other characters from Amazing X-Men too.

Nrama: The solicits say this deals with a death in Storm’s family. I’ve always been interested in her parentage, with her Kenyan and American roots. What can you say about her family in this story?

Nero: Ha-ha! Me too. You'll have to read the annual to find out what happens.

Nrama: Superhero comics often boil down to hero versus villain – what is Storm and her X-Men team up against here?

Nero: Yeah, that's the key. I wanted someone who tests the X-Men to the limit, and compliments Storm to the max. So it's a new villain with similar powers but a very different origin, outlook, and way of using those abilities. It's makes for an explosive conflict, to say the least.

Amazing X-Men Annual #1 double-page spread by Salvador Larroca
Amazing X-Men Annual #1 double-page spread by Salvador Larroca
Credit: Marvel

Nrama: Marvel has paired you up with veteran illustrator Salvador Larroca, who has drawn a number of X-Men stories in his time. What’s it like having him be the person to illustrate your scripts into comics?

Nero: It's a surreal dream. The man's a legend, one of the best artists there's ever been. His “Five Nightmares” Invincible Iron Man story with Matt Fraction is one of my favorite ever comics, and I used to buy his X-Men comics a decade or so ago and copy the pictures, trying to learn. I'll be making some toast or whatever and my mind wanders off and goes "Salvador Larroca! Drawing my script? Holy s&*$!" I am not worthy, basically.

Nrama: These are great sketches you showed us from your childhood. Can you talk more about going from being a fan, admirer and homager of Larroca now to working with him?

Early art by Monty Nero homaging Larroca's work
Early art by Monty Nero homaging Larroca's work
Credit: Monty Nero

Nero: Ha-ha Yeah, I was very art led back then - because I figured I needed to understand how to draw comics before I could write them. I'd only pick up books with the best art in, to educate myself, and I'd redraw the pages in my own way. I'd swap the characters around and redesign the costumes sometimes - have some fun. So I'd look at what Salva and Chris Claremont were doing on X-treme X-Men, and compare that to Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison, and try and draw it differently but tell the same story. Just in terms of the nuts and bolts of how to tell a sequential tale, panel to panel, not the overall arc. Even back then it was obvious Salva was a cut above the rest: the storytelling, the anatomy, the composition, the perspective. He knows his stuff. That's why he's so fast and was able to switch to a more photorealistic style with such apparent ease - his art's always been based on sound fundamentals. I learnt a lot.

Nrama: Did you know he'd be drawing your script when you wrote it? If so, how did that affect what you asked for in the script?

Nero: When I was told he was drawing this it really inspired me. I knew I could write with total freedom, and go nuts with the visuals, because I had total confidence he could handle it all and make it seem authentic. I tried to think "If I was drawing this, what kind of scenes would inspire me to do my best work?" He's really excited to do it, because it's Storm, and I think the end result will really blow people away.

Early art by Monty Nero homaging Larroca's work
Early art by Monty Nero homaging Larroca's work
Credit: Monty Nero

Nrama: After this, what's next for you? More Marvel? More creator-owned? What do you have in mind?

Nero: I’ve got a story in Vertigo Quarterly: Cyan #1 which we’re pretty excited about. I came up with a ton of ideas for Storm and the X-Men, but in the end it's a 20 page story so I only used a small percentage of it. I'd love to do more, but Marvel aren't exactly short of brilliant writers. My long term plans all focus around Death Sentence. I'm very lucky to be able to make a living from a creator-owned comic, so we're deep into creating the second arc. And we just finished the hardback collection which is available to order now. Getting a creator owned comic off the ground is the hard part, so now is the time to enjoy it. I can't ever see a time when I won’t be creating my own stuff. Financially and creatively Titan Comics have been great for me and Mike Dowling, the artist on the book, so I'm keen to keep working with them and break new ground. And if something comes up like this, I’ll jump at the chance – it was a real blast!

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