Comic Book Review: The Wild Storm #1
This week, Warren Ellis begins what is probably his most ambitious comic book project in years. Like Gerard Way with the Young Animal line, Ellis is shepherding a new era for the Wildstorm characters beginning with he and Jon Davis-Hunt’s “The Wild Storm” #1. Unlike (what seems like) everyone else, I have no more than a passing familiarity with the bulk of these characters. As someone who didn’t begin reading comics until around 2008, this remains a blind spot for me. Thankfully that doesn’t matter in the context of “The Wild Storm” #1 because Ellis and Davis-Hunt do something entirely new. “The Wild Storm” #1 is the beginning of a tense superhero story for a modern era that is accessible to new and longtime fans alike.
In New York City, a covert group of men and women are assembled for various secret missions. We are then introduced to a somewhat unhinged woman named Angela Spica. Angela wants to continue conducting research on something that could change the world but is repeatedly turned down. Everything changes when she harnesses an internal power to save the life of someone, putting this covert group in a position they’d rather not be in.
Despite knowing nothing about these characters, “The Wild Storm” #1 is very easy to settle into. Ellis and Davis-Hunt are not trying to recapture what came before in “The Authority”, “Stormwatch” and “Wild C.A.T.S.”. Instead, they are making a true attempt at bringing these characters into a very different time than when they first appeared. The plot is fairly straightforward and you get a very good early introduction to each character’s quirks and charms. What is undoubtedly missing is that emotional connection that some longtime fans may have. I cannot pick up on the changes that have been made (if any) but that doesn’t take away from the quality in the execution by Ellis. You don’t need that history to appreciate the story being told. The dialogue flows nicely with a certain level of wit and snark that I’ve come to expect from him but what stands out the most is the tension within these pages.
Like “The Omega Men”, “The Wild Storm” feels like the kind of superhero story that could only be told in this decade. It isn’t necessarily cynical but like the times we live in, there’s a feeling that things are ready to explode at any moment. One action can change everything in a second and it creates this uneasiness that can create a reaction in the reader. So much of this uneasiness is thanks to Davis-Hunt’s artwork and the choice to go with a grid layout over grander, page wide spreads.
Davis-Hunt’s work in “Clean Room” is some of my favorite work of last year and he’s somehow leveled up in “The Wild Storm” #1. He has the task of re-imagining the looks of these characters and bringing modernity to these pages. His designs are fantastic as each character has a distinct look that could not be farther away from the few images I’ve seen of their original looks. Instead of absurd, all black spy looks or outright superhero costumes, Davis-Hunt allows this covert group to actually be covert and completely blend in. The layouts allow Davis-Hunt to do a lot as far as character expression and movement. He can get into the specifics through closeups and interesting angle choices and with so many panels, it allows the tension to build up more. The eyes are drawn to the details and it makes this issue become visually awe-inspiring in a less than obvious way. Colorist Ivan Plascensia’s work reminds me a bit of what Jordie Bellaire does in “Injection”. He does a great job at separating “The Wild Storm” #1 from the rest of the DC Universe by being much less loud and in your face. His colors are quiet but with great details and an actual vision of what a city looks and feels like. There are bursts of color in each character’s clothing that constantly puts your attention on what these people are doing and saying.
“The Wild Storm” #1 is a very strong reboot that actually feels inviting to new fans. There is still a lot of mystery surrounding these characters and this new Wildstorm universe but I’m here for the ride.