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WESTCHESTER COUNTY — Storm’s body hit the wall, casting shards of broken glass into her silky white hair.
       Marrow, a leader of the Gene Nationalists, had taken over a subway car full of innocent humans, intending to massacre them. Jean Grey, Northstar, Destiny and Rogue, Ms. Storm's fellow X-Men—a team of mutants who protect the rest of mankind from superhumans and alien threats—lay crumpled around Ms. Storm, temporarily stunned by Ms. Marrow's sharp projectiles.
       Ms. Storm, who has the ability to control the weather, is many things. A mutant. A superheroine. A woman. An African. One thing she is not: a quitter.
       Summoning a fierce burst of wind, she hurled herself upon her assailant, and plunged her nails into Ms. Marrow's flesh. “I had to rip her heart out of her chest,” Ms. Storm recalled months later at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters in Westchester. “Pretty gory stuff. More Wolverine's territory than mine.”
       What hurt Ms. Storm most that day wasn't the bio-energy blasts, the psionic attacks or the gouging bony protuberances of her opponent. It was the slight, real or imagined, of her mentor, Professor X, who is white. “When we returned to the school after the battle, he saw me and just nodded,” said Ms. Storm. “I had just ripped out this chick's heart. Her heart. For him to just nod that way, with his chin like he's all down.... I'm pretty sure I saw him hug Rogue afterwards, and touching her is totally dangerous.”
       Indeed, whenever Ms. Rogue, a white Southerner, makes direct contact with another person's skin, she absorbs that person's powers and memories. Ms. Rogue currently has a reporter's sense of mission and recollections of working at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
       Over coffee at the Xavier School, Ms. Storm still ponders the meaning of that day. She knows she's different, but not because of her mutant power to control the weather. After all, one of her colleagues looks like a shaggy blue Sasquatch. Another has giant angel wings. Yet another goes by the name “Maggot.”
       No, for Ms. Storm, “different” refers to something else: her skin color.
       Ms. Grey remembers the battle with Ms. Marrow a little differently. “I can hurl mental bolts with my mind,” she said in her room at the Xavier School, by way of explanation. “Storm likes to take credit for that victory, but we were all instrumental in that battle, regardless of who made the final strike.” As for Professor X's reaction, Ms. Grey said she doesn't recall whom he hugged and whom he congratulated. “That day was all a blur. I’m on a lot of anti-depressants.”
       But Ms. Grey is Professor X’s confidante, the mutant to whom is he closest. Is that a function of her race, Ms. Storm wondered. Could she ever be as close to Professor X as Ms. Grey was?
       The battle against the Gene Nationalists was just one of dozens of skirmishes between good and evil that the X-Men are involved in every year. Yet it was indicative of how Ms. Storm feels black superheroes are treated in the X-Men, as well as in other leagues and unions, from the Avengers to the New Warriors to the Fantastic (white) Four. How do her colleagues view her, she wondered. Do they see here as a mutant, or as a black mutant? Are all Children of the Atom equal? Around the school, there's lots of talk about good and evil, but never black and white.

Continued on page A32

This story was reported by John Aboud and
Michael Colton. It was written by Mr. Colton.

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