After the startling expansion of the Wild Storm universe last issue and the brutal action of the one before it, we’re probably due a bit of a rest and that’s more or less what we get with this ninth issue of the Wild Storm. That’s not to say that this issue is dull, boring or without incident, though. Far from it. It’s just that, whereas the last couple of issues have broadened the series’ focus, this one deepens it. Allow me to explain…
First, though. That cover. I know I raved about last issue’s cover; this issue’s is similarly impressive, but for a very different reason. Where last issue was adorned by an image that evoked lost worlds and bizarre alien technology, this issue is all about Angie “Engineer” Spica and, I swear, she has never looked better – beautiful, assured, powerful, a world of floating mechanical parts at her command. It’s a magnificent image.
And, as it happens, Angie’s visit to Marlowe’s secret lab frames this issue’s contents rather nicely. Together, Ellis and Davis-Hunt have a lot of fun here, the former with some characteristically snappy dialogue, including a line about polonium-laced whisky which is not only funny but reminds the reader that there are indeed people out to get Marlowe. Davis-Hunt, though, gets to draw giant mecha suits, single-seater space fighters and what looks like a toy ray gun from the 50s but almost certainly isn’t. It’s impressive stuff.
As is the following scene which, after a welcome cameo from Mitch (“Yo Ho!”), is mostly a conversation between Jackie King and Miles Craven, in which the latter tells the former to “be careful” as she ‘games’ a potential hack of Skywatch’s servers. As always, the dialogue is smooth like cream in the finest of coffees.
And then, just because, we get a full page of rain falling on New York City and it might just be the most beautiful page of art not featuring Angie Spica you’ve ever seen. The sky, the buildings, the shafts of light – everything is just perfect. And the rain acts as a nice link to the next section as John Colt reflects on a time many centuries ago when he was savouring a similar rainfall. Just before he killed five men guarding an ox-drawn cart which was carrying some of Marlowe’s technology.
To say this section is stunning would be an understatement. Davis-Hunt takes his time with this. The fight takes up seven pages and the range of techniques on display here is really rather remarkable. Colt is an extraordinarily brutal but precise fighter and the layouts reflect that very well. Small panels are used to highlight important – and often ironic or clever – details, and they are interspersed between larger panels that have greater impact. The sequence is breathtakingly good, but it isn’t here just to show off Davis-Hunt’s considerable skills. There are important points being made here about Colt’s character, about his devotion to duty to Emp, about his relishing of memories like this one. And the focus on Colt’s character doesn’t end with his remembered fight. In a short conversation with Kanesha, Colt gives us insight into the strong Kherubim caste system, a system that is displayed in the number of syllables a person’s name has. It’s an intriguing and clever bit of scripting.
The issue closes with three vignettes featuring Zannah, Mitch and Jackie and, taking us back to where we began this issue, Angie. All three mini-scenes are well-scripted, but it’s the plight of poor Mitch that is most engaging. His clandestine work has unforeseen ramifications for his ‘normal’ life and, not for the first time this series, you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. Concentrating on him is a nice touch, but I’m beginning to wonder if he might be set up to play a bigger role in the ongoing story. We shall, as always, have to see.
Well, once again, this is a supremely well-scripted and drawn piece of comic book entertainment. Davis-Hunt’s art is simply phenomenal and Ellis’ naturalistic, unhurried script is a delight to read. In terms of the overall plot, there’s not an awful lot going on here, but we do get a deeper understanding of some of the characters which will, I’m guessing, prove to be important later on.
Overall, another classy issue with characters like John Colt receiving some welcome attention, along with Mitch who, if he hasn’t already, must surely soon be crowned “comics’ most engaging dogsbody”. Davis-Hunt’s art is gorgeous, too, and the whole series remains something to savour.