Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: STORMWATCH!
The Concept and Characters: Stormwatch first appeared in 1993, part of the second round of Image debuts, after the founders of the company started to explore the fictional worlds they created with the help of their studios of young artists. When Stormwatch launched, it was a Jim Lee-conceived story of a superhero strike force, overseen by the United Nations, and it was the kind of series that was all about bombastic action and “cool” characters identified by caption tags affixed above their dramatic poses. In short, it was a stereotypical Image comic of that era, and its enthusiastic charm quickly wore off as the reader realized there was no substance beneath the garish style of the young artists from Wildstorm Studios.
But unlike most of its Image peers, Stormwatch gained a second life, re-energized by the appearance of Warren Ellis in 1996, a writer who brought a strong authorial voice to the series and shattered the paper mache façade of this squad of international heroes. Ellis didn’t deconstruct the superhero myth the way that Alan Moore and Frank Miller had in the 1980s, but for readers who came of age in the 1990s, he is the guy who showed them how different superheroes could be. His characters were rude and disrespectful. His stories were filled with ideas torn from the newest scientific journals. His comic were immediate, passionate, brutal, smart, clever, and yet direct. His signature mode of characterization and storytelling emerged in the pages of Stormwatch, and once he was joined by artist Bryan Hitch (with a series relaunch thrown in there for good measure, and a second relaunch, rebranded as The Authority, in the final act of the multi-year story), he helped to popularize the “wide-screen action comics” that still inform much of the mainstream comic book output today.
There’s no doubt that Ellis’s Stormwatch and Authority were an incredible influence on an entire generation of readers and comic book creators.
After Ellis left the series, Mark Millar and Frank Quitely picked up the tradition and pushed the boundaries of good taste even further. So far, in fact, that DC (who, by then, had purchased Jim Lee’s Wildstorm and all the characters that came with it) swooped down with a baton of censorship and drained much of the life out of the series. It limped it its finish and has never been successfully revived in all the years since. Not even by Ed Brubaker. Nor by Grant Morrison. Though both have tried.
So here’s a new take on Stormwatch, looking a lot like a DCU version of the Authority, looking down on the Earth from a space station, intervening in the affairs of the world.
The solicitation says, “Stormwatch is a dangerous super human strike force whose existence is kept secret from the world. Jack Hawksmoor and the rest of the crew look to recruit two of the deadliest super humans on the planet: Midnighter and Apollo. And if they say no? Perhaps the Martian Manhunter can change their minds.” In a recent interview, writer Paul Cornell sheds a bit more light on who’s involved with the team, and what they’re up to: “Stormwatch connects across to current DCU books, and back into the universe’s history,” says Cornell, indicating that the mythology of the team ties deeply into the DC Universe. He also clarifies that the team membership not only includes the above-mentioned Hawksmoor, Midnigher, Apollo, and Martian Manhunter, but that the new Stormwatch will include classic Authority characters like the Engineer and Jenny Quantum in addition to Adam One, Harry Tanner, and the Projectionist.
It’s looks to be a sprawling epic, with a large cast of characters, using the best parts of Ellis’s seminal run on the series and weaving it into DC’s past and present with a new series of adventures.
The Creative Team: Writer Paul Cornell has proven himself to be one of the best superhero comic book writers in the industry. A former Doctor Who writer, Cornell brings wit and intelligence to all of his projects, from the ill-fated (but critically acclaimed) Captain Britain and MI: 13 to his recent Lex Luthor-centric arc on Action Comics. If anyone’s going to do a smart Warren Ellis update in the New DCU (other than Ellis himself), Cornell’s the man for the job.
Artist Miguel Sepulveda has only been appearing in American comics for a few short years, and he brings a classical sensibility to the series. It’s appropriate that one of his first gigs for Marvel was an adaptation of Homer’s The Iliad, because Sepulveda’s statuesque figures and solid compositions effectively echo the ancient sturdiness that we associate with Greek epics. He’s not a flashy artist certainly not at all in the tradition of the early incarnations of Stormwatch, which is a good thing but he will bring his comfortable solidity to the book, grounding a series that looks to end its first story arc with a battle against the moon itself.
Recommendation: Buy it. The DC relaunch has plenty of interesting titles, but Stormwatch is definitely in the top tier. With Cornell helming the series, dealing with the secret history and superhuman interventions in the affairs of mankind, this comic positions itself as one of the few Must-Buys every single month.
Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.