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Stormwatch Vol. 1: The Dark Side (The New 52) Paperback – May 29, 2012
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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“Deftly juggles storytelling with character-building with backstory-laying.” – Time Out Chicago
“Wild and wooly, verging on wonderful.” – iFanboy
About the Author
Paul Cornell is a British writer best known for his work in television drama, Dr. Who fiction and as the creator of one of the Doctor's spin-off companions. He has written for other television dramas including Robin Hood, Primeval, Casualty, Holby City and Coronation Street. His comics work includes Action Comics, Knight & Squire, Stormwatch, Demon Knights, Captain Britain and MI-13, Black Widow: Deadly Origin and Dark X-Men.
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Ellis in particular made excellent use of this in his fun, if at times too over the top parody, "The Authority" and the superbly meta "Planetary." As a further point of disclosure, while I understand the business basis of DC decision, I continue to mourn that in shuttering Wildstorm, DC asphyxiated the truly exciting potential of the post-apocalyptic "World's End" story line. (For reasons of decorum, I won't review the sad history of the Levitz/Millar editing feud or the rumors that DC acquired Wildstorm just to recruit Alan Moore and Jim Lee, or the recent news that DC has now recruited Jim Starlin to "reboot the reboot" meaning this book will have had three writers since its first issue). All of those caveats aside, the 52 "reboot" of "Stormwatch" proved surprisingly entertaining (with a few other issues to follow).
The team consists of a mix of old Wildstorm and wholly new characters - along with a rather darkly rebooted Martian Manhunter. A few of the brand new characters have real potential. This team's mission? Protect the Earth from alien threats without anybody knowing they exist, a task that apparently they've been doing for a long time. As with any team book, the chemistry between characters remains perhaps the most key element to success. Cornell's dialogue works well. Not only does he create several obvious points of tension, but the characters are, for the most part, well individualized (though they can seem a bit one note).
Some readers who are wholly new to Wildstorm may feel a bit lost, imagining themselves ignorant of some huge backstory. Take heart! From what Cornell's shown so far, he's pretty much whipped most of the past clean, leaving us all in the same boat. Still more exciting, some of this new material offers rich potential for the future (just as one example, I love the idea of the Demonite alien baddy from the old Wildstorm universe now turned into devout xenophobes on a righteous quest to wipe out humanity). Even classic powers are here reimagined, as is the case with Sepulveda's visual representation of Hawkmoor's communing with cities, which may well have been the highlight of the book. All and all, interesting stuff.
What I don't quite understand is how Stormwatch will fit into the broader DC universe. For example, we are supposed to believe that they operate in secret (indeed, they make fun of "the capes" as "amateurs"). This idea worked in Wildstorm (though in the Authority, not Stormwatch), but seems forced in the world of Batman and Green Lantern. I can't imagine how it will work for long. Indeed, I'm more than a little curious about Stormwatch's relationship with the GL Corp (which isn't a fault so much as an idea with a lot of potential to be done well or poorly). In the same vein, one might even ask what makes this a reboot at all?
Consider the facts. None of these characters were in Stormwatch (for nitpickers, Midnighter and Apollo first appeared in that book, but didn't join the team and this Engineer didn't show up until The Authority). A team dealing with existential/cosmic threats? this again feels closer to The Authority. By contrast, the fun of Stormwatch was that they were mired in the world of politics, which was dirty, compromising, and ultimately corrupting. Far from independent, Storwatch was part of the UN. The US torturing civilians to make super powered soldiers? Stormwatch needed to find political cover to go in and deal with the situation. Gritty reality doesn't quite mesh with the spirit of the DC universe, even post 52. So we have a book named Stormwatch, which is based far more on Ellis's Authority, with a dose of his Planetary treasure hunters thrown in for good measure (I won't spoil how). Only the idea of an orbital space station seems to remain from the old series (though now in some hyperspace, again more like the Authority). Indeed, there are precious view details of this book that don't seem derivative of some other comic series.
Why even give the book the same title? It is as if you picked up a reboot of Legion of Superheroes (as if that could ever happen) and learned that it was now about the children of the JLA living and fighting crime in 2099. A great book? Sure, it could be, but it wouldn't be the Legion of Superheroes, now would it?
All of the drawbacks aside, I am prepared to pick up volume 2 of this book (and even if unconvinced, will likely stick around to see where Starlin takes the story). There's a fun read here, but there remains a very steep mountain for the new creative team to climb.
Humankind has always needed protection from massive threats beyond comprehension. Ranging from alien threats to nature attacking. There are people with extraordinary abilities that have banded together to fight those threats and remain out of public awareness. This team is Stormwatch. They do not consider themselves superheros like the Justice League, nor do they have a strong moral code. They will do questionable things for the greater good of humanity. A new threat has arisen; the moon decides to attack earth and the team needs the recruitment of a special powered individual to help stop it.
This book was quite enjoyable. Paul Cornell is kinda of the forgotten about "new blood" in recent years at DC, but with the likes of Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire taking that spotlight it's easy to understand why. Cornell juggles a clever covert super team (and the powers of some of the individuals are really unique) in a bizarre sci-fi yarn. The cast is pretty large and lack of characterization left a bit of a gap in making a connection with the characters (throw out anything you knew about characteristics from the old DCU and Wildstorm universe as it really is a rebooted team). In the early chapters, the way Cornell introduces a given characters powers was through goofy banter. After awhile it grew on you but I would have rather have had the characters "show off" more and let the audience try and get it.
The story itself and the concept are great. Stormwatch has existed for centuries and hate the idea of "superheros", especially the Justice League, and we are thrown into a very important moment of this teams history. The lack of back stories, and quite a bit of unanswered questions, was a bit of a let down but that may be addressed as the series goes on, although no longer in the hands of Paul Cornell, as he left the series after the last issue contained here. The desire for more of this series is a good thing as the twists and turns that occur are great.
Miguel Sepulveda's art is solid. Nothing too phenomenal but there were some great panels of the Stormwatch headquarters set against space and really stunning monsters tearing the earth up.
Stormwatch: The Dark Side is a really interesting sci-fi adventure with some off-beat humor with strange yet intriguing characters making up it's roster. If Justice League is getting to run of the mill and you're feeling like something weirder this is worth checking out.
Characters are CONSTANTLY giving exposition-speak and TELLING us what they are doing, rather than showing us. Yes, Martian Manhunter, you are psychically reading someone's mind, we get it, you can read minds, you dont need to remind us your ability every other panel.
It's a hot mess.