Rainmaker – The Wild Storm #17 Review

The Wild Storm 17 - coverAnother month, another stop on the John Lynch/Gen-12 reunion tour. While the general level of quality in terms of writing and art continues to remain extraordinarily high in this series, there’s little doubt that Ellis’ decision to shift focus from both the brewing IO/Skywatch war and Jacob Marlowe’s WildCAT to Jenny Mae Sparks’ Authority-building and Lynch’s trek down memory lane has resulted in a slowing down of pace and a certain structural repetition that, personally, I could do without. This issue sees Lynch visit yet another Project Thunderbook subject. Let’s see how he gets on…

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The Wild Storm – Best Covers

Wild Storm 1 variant

The Jim Lee variant for issue 1. It’s good, but not the best cover you’ll see below…

The Wild Storm came to a close last month and it occurs to me that I should probably mark the occasion properly instead of just putting up months-old reviews of mine from the Weird Science website. It is impossible to do justice to just how excellent and visually impressive this series is. Was. Whatever. Central to that was the exceptional art of Jon Davis-Hunt, who should probably get a post all of his own. His meticulous attention to detail; his grasp of layout; his designs of characters and hardware; the determinedly low-tech, slightly worn and grubby look of the series: all of the above contributed powerfully to the success of the series. (Although I should also point out that both the Buccellatos did phenomenal work on the colours throughout the series.)

Warren Ellis quite rightly gets the plaudits for creating a highly complex but believable world of super-powered experimentation and espionage, complete with its own secret history that goes back thousands of years. His script was erudite, sharp and suffused with his characteristic dry, somewhat cynical wit, and is an absolute delight to read. The comic book, however, is – say it after me, everyone – a visual medium and any script, no matter how good, needs a top notch artist to realize it and make it fly. Having extraordinary covers helps too. The Wild Storm had a lot of them. And here are some of the best…

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Gloria – The Wild Storm #16 Review

The Wild Storm 16The expansion of the Wild Storm universe continues apace this issue as John Lynch’s road trip brings him into contact with possibly the weirdest and creepiest Project Thunderbook alumnus yet, and elsewhere Angie Spica finds a new friend on the internet. (Well, it’s all about connecting people, isn’t it?) Let’s dive in and see how they get on…

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The Wild Storm #15 – Review

The Wild Storm 15 - coverAnother month, another slice of beautifully rendered, elegantly presented sci-fi comic goodness. John Lynch’s road trip across America and through the secret history of the Wild Storm universe continues as do the ramifications of the cold war between IO and Skywatch turning hot. Last month we saw Lynch meet Fairchild’s mother. Who will it be this time around? Will Lucy Blaze’s single-handed slaughter of two IO Razor CATs go unanswered? And will Jack Hawksmoor finally work out who he is? There is only one way to find out…

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The Wild Storm #13 – Review

The Wild Storm 13(This review first appeared on the Weird Science DC Comics website.)

The last month has been a Wild Storm free time, but, with last week’s issue of Michael Cray and now a new issue of the parent title on our hands, all that is over and it’s time to dive back into the rich, complex and slow-burning narrative that we’ve come to know and love. I hope that, like me, you’ve fruitfully used the month’s hiatus to meditate on the realities of life and death and the endless struggle that stretches out all too briefly before us as we shuffle through this veil of tears. Or perhaps you’ve instead been wondering just what the implications of the events of issue 12 of this wonderfully involving series will be: whether Mitch’s death will go unnoticed and/or unavenged, whether IO will be able to make use of the data they’ve just filched from Skywatch, whether Skywatch will do anything else to punish IO for its indiscretions. Or perhaps you’ve been wondering just what John Lynch has to do with any of this. If so, then welcome to issue 13. Answers await…

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Waiting Room – The Wild Storm #10 (Review)

The Wild Storm 10 coverWhy do we love comics so much? (I know I’m assuming here, but you’ve just started reading a comic book review so I’m reasonably sure there’s some comic love going on in that heart of yours.) I would imagine that there as many answers as there are comic book fans, but for me, it’s the coming together of a number of different factors. First, there’s the whole extended universe thing – the excitement you get from being plunged into a world that is rich and varied and capable of expanding in often surprisingly new directions. Then, there’s the fact that it’s a hybrid medium, a unique combination of image and text. Much has been made of comics’ increasingly filmic qualities and I get excited about that too, but a page of comic art can be studied in ways that a film scene can’t. That each figure is drawn, is deliberately posed, gives the artist greater control and, potentially, subtlety when it comes to conveying meaning (and, yes, we’ll be getting to some specific examples in a moment). Although, like film and television, the comic is a collaborative medium, the creative aspects of that collaboration are smaller-scale, meaning that the story can be created more precisely. Plus, comics are fun. Their potential to surprise, to play with narrative form and structure, is exciting. Anything can happen in comics. Anything at all.

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The Wild Storm #7

The Wild Storm 7 coverWell, we had to wait a little longer than usual for this installment of what is shaping up to be one of the year’s best series. It should come as no surprise to anyone that this issue has been worth the wait. Issue 7 marks the start of the series’ second story arc and sees an expansion of the title’s cast of core characters. It also fails to deliver on the dramatic ending of issue 6, but you can’t have everything, can you? Although we may have to wait to see exactly how Henry Bendix’s response to the revelation that IO has been stealing Skywatch tech plays out, let’s see what we do get…

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Picking At The Threads – The Wild Storm #6

The Wild Storm 6Aaaand… I was right. It doesn’t happen very often so allow me to bask in my own self-reflected glory just for a moment. As I guessed last month, this issue does indeed open with the kind of action sequence to make Michael Bay go weak at the knees. It’s been a long wait (since issue 1 actually), but we finally get to see Deathblow in action and, bloody hell, it is brutally, gorily glorious. But, this issue isn’t just about Michael Cray putting the beatdown on two hapless IO goons. There’s a lot more going on here and I suggest you buckle up. There’s a lot to take in.

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The Wild Storm #4 – Review

The Wildstorm issue 4 coverI’m not sure whether I’ve pointed it out before, but The Wild Storm is what was in the old days called a maxi-series. Each issue’s cover features a strip of numbers below the title running from 1 to 24 with the current issue’s number picked out with an arrow of the kind I used to use when keeping score at snooker as a spotty youth. I mention this simply to remind everyone that we’re currently only a sixth of the way in to whatever Warren Ellis has planned for this reimagining of the Wildstorm universe. Or, to put it another way, don’t let last issue’s explosion of action, glorious though it was, fool you into expecting more of the same this time round. For some, there’ll inevitably be a bit of disappointment at this and I understand that. I don’t want you to think, however, that we’ve returned to an issue of people talking wittily at one another about things of which they’re already aware but about which the reader doesn’t have a clue. Oh, no. This time around, we begin to get… information.

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Aaaand… Action! (The Wild Storm #3)

TWS_Cv3_dsThose of you who remember the brash 90s version of the WildStorm universe (or even its noughties iteration) might well be rather bemused with Warren Ellis’ character-driven intrigue-heavy take on it so far. Up to now, we’ve had two issues in which, while there has been some incident (the most important being Angie ‘Engineer’ Spica saving Jacob ‘Emp’ Marlowe’s life), much of the panel space has been devoted to groups of people sitting around talking to one another, all presented rather beautifully in Jon Davis-Hunt’s immaculate art. Well, if you were worried that this series was going to become a cerebral, over-talkative snoozefest (albeit a smartly scripted one), you can breathe a sigh of relief. All that talking was necessary to give this issue’s action context and emotional impact. And, dammit, it is good.

The issue opens with the kind of sequence that reminds you just how good a writer Warren Ellis is. In IO’s headquarters, important people are talking about the developments of the last couple of issues, while a rather attractive young Asian woman, whose casual dress comes complete with a tastefully understated union jack tee-shirt, moves from screen to screen taking in the conversation as she goes. All the while, the IO employees are completely oblivious to her presence.

As a way of introducing readers to a new character while reminding readers of the ongoing fall-out from the last two issues, it’s both economical storytelling and wildly imaginative. Not only that, but Ellis uses this opening as a way to tie the book into the (or at least a) wider DC Universe with references to Commander Steel, Martian Manhunter and Ted Kord before showing us the enigmatic young lady back in her apartment. It is here that she has a notice board on which post-it notes with the names of the major players we’ve encountered so far are stuck with thread linking them to each other and intriguing labels like “Hyperstitional Warfare”, “Nine Treaties” and “Human Property Schism”. While her identity is not entirely clear, it seems likely that this is either Jenny Sparks or Jenny Quantum. She appears to have the attitude, idiom and memorabilia (including a lighter engraved with the words “Mars Expedition 1955”) of the former and the ethnicity of the latter. In any  case, this is all we get of her this issue.

The CAT appearsBecause we’re back to Angie who’s holed up in her disused IO facility, tinkering with her flight equipment, when she’s visited by our rogue three-person CAT (Covert Action Team) of Void, Grifter and Kenesha who complete the teleportation they began last issue. They start a conversation with Angie but are rudely interrupted by the IO CAT we saw Miles Craven deploy last issue, too. Things kick off.

Look, if you’ve been a comic fan for any length of time, you’ve seen this kind of thing hundreds – if not thousands – of times before. A team of bad guys take on a team of good guys while the big bad guy watches remotely from somewhere far away. This is done so very well, though. For one thing, there’s no posturing or trash-talking. There is just an exchange of fire between two highly professional groups of killers, rendered beautifully by an artist who is at the very top of his game. Important details are shown without interrupting the ongoing flow of the fight. Craven’s commentary draws attention to one or two of these details, but, again, the brief interruptions reinforce the sense of excitement and tension rather than disrupting it. In short, this fight is well worth the two and a half issues we’ve been made to wait for it. Ellis absolutely knows what he’s doing here.

Cole CashAnd, to top it all off, there’s a gut-wrenching development at the end (which I won’t spoil) that suggests that not all the characters Ellis has introduced us to are destined to last the full twenty-four issues. The sense of jeopardy in that final page is powerful and I’m rather miffed I’m going to have to wait another month to find out what happens next. All of which is a sign of a very assured, accomplished bit of writing.

This issue was a remarkably quick read, particularly in comparison to its wordier predecessors. That is not to say, though, that the story is in any way slight or superficial. The art is not just beautiful (although it most assuredly is that); it is an integral part of the storytelling – important details are highlighted clearly and faces are both consistently and pleasingly expressive. In terms of pacing and development, the Ellis’ plotting is spot on; his dialogue is naturalistic but never superfluous. In short, this is comic book storytelling right out of the top drawer. I’ve been re-reading Ellis’ initial run on StormWatch and, as good as that is, this blows it away. It’s mature – both in its portrayal of super-powered characters and the moral universe they inhabit. If that interests you at all – or you have even a passing interest in the fate of characters you may have enjoyed a couple of decades ago – this book is a must-buy. It is effortlessly involving, dramatic, witty and intriguing stuff.

(This review first appeared on the Weird Science DC Comics website. Check it out for reviews, comment, podcasts and fun.)