A Look Back at What If #40 (1992)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Welcome back superhero enthusiasts, 1990s arts and culture enthusiasts, Marvel Comics fans and comic book collectors! Today we go back to the year 1992 and explore a part of Marvel Comics’ universe through the reimagined tales emphasized in the What If monthly series.

For this particular retro comic book review, we look at a What If tale that is related with the X-Men, specifically through one of their major characters – Storm. For the newcomers reading, Storm is the black X-Men member whose mutation allows her to manipulate the weather. As seen in X-Men comic books decades ago, Storm was portrayed to be tough and brave, and she became a highly valuable learner under Professor X (Charles Xavier). In the 1990s, Storm rose in prominence among the X-Men, she became leader of their Gold Team. Storm was portrayed in the live-action movies by Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp. It’s just too bad Storm’s role in X-Men: Days of Future Past (note: for me, it is the best X-Men live-action movie ever) was minimal.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at What If #40, published in 1992 by Marvel Comics with a story written by Ann Nocenti and drawn by Steve Carr and Deryl Skeleton.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with the Watcher recalling scenes from the life of Ororo who was born to a mother (a tribal princess in Kenya) and a photojournalist father. After moving from America to Egypt, Ororo loses her mother and became an orphan. Along the way, she experienced severe claustrophobia as a result of being buried under tons of rock. Having survived, she became a thief in Cairo and eventually traveled into Africa by chance. There she discovered her true nature as a walking idol. She eventually meets Charles Xavier.

The Watcher then explores another thread of scenarios of Ororo’s life in which she never stepped on the eventual boat, never sailed for Africa and never met the tribe that worshipped her.

In Cairo, Ororo is a very young thief who made herself look like a male. She uses deceptive tactics on a foreigner who walked by. A short time later, Ororo goes to New York City identified as Jack serving an old man who teaches her to work hard, to gain respect from his friends and immerse herself in a world of grifters and hobos. Ororo lives and works as a thief in the city targeting people who have more than enough…


A look at Storm as the super-powered thief. It’s also a portrayal of her as a super villain on the rise.

Among the many What If tales related to the X-Men that I have read so far, this is one of the most well-written and most intriguing alternate universe stories I have read thanks to Ann Nocenti. This was also released at a time when Storm was already established as a brave X-Men team leader and a potential successor to Professor X. In this comic book, there is this strong twist to the established legacy of Storm as a youth and the exploration of what would happen had she remained a thief (a super-powered thief no less) and never followed Charles Xavier turned out to be very compelling in my experience. For one thing, Storm definitely would have given police officers – who clearly are inferior to the powered heroes and villains – a hard time and even help the crime wave overwhelm society’s defenders. It is also quite striking to see Storm to follow and serve a principled yet theft-oriented superior. In fact, this story shows the popular X-Men team leader as a super villain on the rise.

More on storm, Ann Nocenti’s script literally dissected notable traits of Storm’s personality that are connected to the established comic book legacy which creatively created something new that fits in well in this alternate universe story. Through Storm, the story also sheds light on how thieves view life believing that theft is a necessity and their so-called principles justify it. No matter what the thieves and criminals in general think, nothing justifies theft and crime at all and those who commit such acts must be punished accordingly Without spoiling the details, I can say that there are some grey areas within Storm that were nicely emphasized.


Storm as a male-looking teenager behind bars with the ladies who got apprehended. Scenes like this should remind you NOT to vote for political candidates who are soft and sympathetic towards crime.

What If #40 (1990) is indeed a great alternate universe portrayal of one of the X-Men’s most prominent characters of the time. The story is very well structured and the characterization of Storm was clearly organized by Ann Nocenti to be powerful and intriguing to read. This comic book also has a twist that you must see for yourselves as well as an ending that will either surprise or satisfy you depending on what you anticipated. Ultimately, this comic book should remind you all to avoid committing crime and the truth is that poverty is a curse and it NEVER justifies theft. Always remember that the Lord is watching you. For enlightenment, read Exodus 22:1-4, Exodus 22:10-15, Leviticus 6:2-7 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 in the Holy Bible.

Overall, What If #40 (1990) is highly recommended!


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