Written by: Mathew ‘JJ’ Simoes
DC Comics released The Wild Storm, which is a relaunch of the Image Comics Imprint they acquired from it’s owner, Jim Lee. Wildstorm flourished under DC Comics with critically acclaimed titles from well known, as well as up-and-coming creators. However lagging sales led to the end of the first iteration of Wildstorm, and the universe was then folded into the DC Universe in The New 52. That, however, didn’t work out well with several of the Wildstorm based titles quickly being canceled. Recognizing that, DC put together a new relaunch of the Wildstorm line, this time shepherded by acclaimed former Wildstorm writer Warren Ellis, who wrote the line’s inaugural title, The Wild Storm. This is a review of The Wild Storm Book One, which consists of the series’ first six issues.
Ellis brings back many concepts, characters and themes present in the Wildstorm universe of old, this time with a modern twist. The first arc focuses on the search for Angela Spica (better known to fans as the Engineer) who has used secret technology owned by I.O (her bosses), to create a mechanized armor. She uses this armor to prevent an assassination attempt on the like of I.O enemy Jacob Marlowe. The search for Spica soon brings in many different characters, while introducing several sub-plots. Ellis re-introduces several characters, such as Voodoo and Jenny Sparks, who are given very brief roles in the first arc that hint at something more down the line. While they promise intriguing things down the line, their inclusion in the first arc is very brief, making we wonder why they were included at all. One sub-plot that is interesting is I.O assassin Michael Cray re-evaluating his position with the organization following the reveal of a life threatening illness. This mainly serves as set-up for Cray’s solo book, but is an interesting sub-plot that has some neat parallels with Spicca’s story. Zealot, another I.O assassin is introduced, but plays a small role in the story. However her connection to an alien race established mid-way through the arc makes her far more important considering what’s revealed in the series final issue (more on that later).
This arc really serves as the build up for a much larger universe, but it can feel slow at times. Ellis doesn’t move the story forward very much in these first six issues, as much time is spent establishing the various organizations that run the world, and the place various characters hold within it. While that does slow down the story’s pace, Ellis’ world building is excellent, with few to no moments that feel like an exposition dump.
The series spends much of it’s time focused on conversation between talking heads, which leads to the sometimes slow pacing of issues, but Ellis’s writing makes it all worth while. Ellis has a knack for dialogue, especially when it’s being spoken by sardonic characters, that makes his books very enjoyable. This mainly comes in the form of characters like Henri Bendix and Marlowe, who are the two most entertaining characters in the series. This makes The Wild Storm an excellent example of what Ellis does best, write smart people saying intelligent and witty things to each other.
John Davis Hunt is the visual mastermind behind this book, and his art never disappoints. The artwork is clean, yet expressive. It perfectly fits the tech modern tale Ellis is weaving. The story telling is very clear, with very simple page layouts, though the page layouts get more complex during the action sequences. Speaking of which Hunt perfectly executes the brutal action sequences, adding a cold efficiency to them, which is fitting considering many of the characters are expert killers. The series brings back many concepts from the Wildstorm of old, but superhero costumes isn’t one of them. Hunt redesigns many iconic characters, giving them grounded and realistic costume designs which also hearken back to those iconic looks.
It’s focus on secret organization, controlling world power and developing advanced technology very relevant. These concepts go back to the original line-up of books from the Image days, but they haven’t gotten old, or stale. While the main arc is the search for Spicca, Ellis makes it clear that this is only one part of a much larger conflict over who has the most power in the new Wildstorm Universe. I.O and Stormwatch are two powerful organizations who are very close to open conflict, and Spicca’s flashy new suit may tip them into war. The idea of powerful men causing incredible amounts of damage to individuals who get caught up in their war for control resonates today, and most likely always will. What adds another layer to an already compelling set-up is the presence of aliens which is shown twice in the book, and the solicitations for issue seven seems to indicate that this will become a main story thread in Book Two.
The Wild Storm Book One is a compelling read with excellent art and world building, though is does suffer from a slow pace at times. I would highly recommend this series, espeicially to fans of the original Wildstorm who, much like me, were disappointed in The New 52’s relaunch of the mythology.
What did you think if the Wild Storm Book One? Leave a comment and tell us your thoughts.