New 52 Team Trade Post: Stormwatch & Suicide Squad Volume 1

Stormwatch Volume 1: The Dark Side (DC)
Written by Paul Cornell, drawn by Miguel Sepulveda & Al Barrionuevo
Collects Stormwatch #1-6

I read through about half of DC’s New 52 #1 issues a while back, but it’s hard to judge an entire series based on just one issue, so I was pretty jazzed when I got my hands on some of the trades. One of the books I was most curious about was Paul Cornell’s Stormwatch, which I had read none of. On one hand, I’ve liked Cornell’s work in the past and on the other, I’m a big Wildstorm fan and was curious to see how some of those characters and concepts were integrated into this new DCU. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised with the results.

The tricky thing about doing anything with the Stormwatch and Authority characters is that Warren Ellis put such a stamp on them. He added a seriousness and a weirdness to the proceedings of these characters (and created half of them) that you really can’t separate them from him. Heck, most writers who tackled the team after Ellis left did their best, but it was difficult to pull off. I think Cornell did a pretty great job of playing in that same kind of sandbox, but making it more of a solid superhero story that, as far as I know, works well within the framework of a bigger superhero universe.

The basic idea with this team is that they deal with the dirtier and darker problems that the JLA can’t or won’t deal with. The series picks up with the team — which very smartly includes Martian Manhunter — trying to recruit Apollo and Midnighter and deal with a world-threatening bad guy. It’s a cool, fun and weird superhero story that throws out some rad ideas (I like how Jack Hawksmoor talks to the personifications of cities) and includes some rad action that sets up a larger story, something that works very well for an episodic adventure like this. I also dug Miguel Sepulveda’s artwork which suits the darkness and the superheroics both quite well.

I’m curious about the rest of this series, but right after this collection, the writer changes twice. Paul Jenkins, a writer I’m not wild about, comes on and is soon followed up by Peter Milligan. Did anyone read those issues? Does it flow well? Does it continue to pay off the promise of the sixth issue? Let me know in the comments.

Suicide Squad Volume 1: Kicked In The Teeth (DC)
Written by Adam Glass, drawn by Federico Dallocchio & Clayton Henry
Collects Suicide Squad #1-7

Suicide Squad is a concept I dig in general, criminals being used on missions instead of rotting or dying in prison. I liked it the first time I saw it in The Dirty Dozen (such a great movie) and every time I encountered them in comics. So, this was another book I was primed to like. I think this one caught some flack, didn’t it? I can’t remember, but it’s definitely a darker and dirtier book, something I dug because you don’t need every comic to be on the same wavelength. In fact, I give DC a lot of credit for casting as wide a net as possible when it came to tone and themes with the New 52 books.

Anyway, the New 52 version of the Suicide Squad includes Harley Quinn, Deadshot, King Shark, El Diablo, Voltaic and Black Spider. They’re sent by Amanda Waller to take care of the smaller, dirtier missions that even Stormwatch isn’t paying attention to. The thing I liked most about this book is how fast it moves. They literally go from one mission to another as quickly as possible. Writer Adam Glass also doesn’t drag things out to six issues when he can do shorter ones, which I really appreciate.

This book covers all kinds of bases, from zombies to heroes-on-the-run and lots in between, plus the fun of seeing some of the weirder, smaller characters pop up (Mad Dog!). Because it’s a new team and a new universe, you really don’t know who’s going to make it out alive from issue to issue or who’s going to try and turn on the others, so it makes for an exciting ride. My one gripe with this series is the inconsistency of the artwork. It changes by page sometimes which is a real bummer, especially because some of the guys don’t hold up as well as others. Worse yet, some art styles look cartoony while others look darker, so it kind of throws you out of the story a bit.

One more thing I want to say about these trades in general is that I like how consistent the trade dress is. I know that might sound goofy, but it’s something I pay attention to, especially as I look at my trades on the shelf. I like consistency. So far, all the trades I’ve seen have that bar across the bottom front cover displaying the creative team, but then the spines all have the same font and are separated by color bands at the top that I believe denote which sub-section of the new DCU they belong to. Kudos on that.

Wildstorm Trade Post: Stormwatch PHD & Gen 13 World’s End

StormWatch PHD: World’s End (Wildstorm/DC)
Written by Ian Edgington, drawn by Leandro Fernandez
Collects Stormwatch PHD #13-19

By now, I assume readers are somewhat familiar with my love of Wildstorm. Not only have I written about many of their trades in many previous Trade Post and Pile reviews, but also did a full post about how much I like the universe. While at Wizard, I became the de facto writer of all things Wildstorm for a while there, but was over at ToyFare by the time World’s End started. If you’re unfamiliar, after a mostly unsuccessful attempt at restarting the universe (flagship titles Wildcats and Authority written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Jim Lee and Gene Ha respectively only produced a total of three issues combined) the powers that be at the ‘Storm decided to take drastic measures: they blew the world up. Not entirely, mind you, that wouldn’t make for very interesting comics. Instead, the kind of threat that the heroes of Marvel and DC always thwart succeeded and an army of deranged, formerly captive and brainwashed heroes went bonkers on the world before literally exploding. The trauma killed millions and even temporarily knocked the earth off its access. Much of this is covered in Wildstorm: Armageddon, Number of the Beast and Wildstorm: After the Fall.

It was bad. But there were survivors, both of the hero variety and normal folks with the former doing their best to look out for the latter. Which brings us to Stormwatch PHD. For two trades, this was a book set very firmly in the Wildstorm U that brought back members of the classic Stormwatch team and put them on more ground-level type missions. With the end of the world, though, the book shifted focus with its heroes up in the orbital Stormwatch satellite trying to keep people safe. Run by Jackson King, he has split up the super powered operatives left at his disposal into two teams and sends them on missions to both save people (they’re keeping as many as they can on the satellite, but are quickly running out of space) and defeated threats to humanity.

What I like most about this book specifically and the World’s End books in general (those that I’ve read) is that they really went for it. The world is screwed and these heroes are doing their best to keep things afloat. Even with all their teleportation and super powers, there’s only so much that you can do. This book also did something that would become a standard of the rest of the Wildstorm U in that it incorporated elements from the history of the company in ways that made sense. In this case, you’ve got Deathblow working for Stormwatch. This is not something that happened before, but it doesn’t really need explaining (though what happened between Deathblow’s last series and this does get explained at some point in a way that was pretty clever). This would become SOP a few issues down the line when the heroes were split between one group staying on Earth and the other going to space. I’ve gotten really annoyed with how bogged down and sometimes boring mainstream superhero comics can be, so it was nice to see a company stick to something as crazy as this.

I might not be the best judge on something like this, but I would even say that it’s pretty new-reader-friendly. That might sound a little crazy, but it seemed to me like enough was explained that an open-minded and curious reader could easily jump right in and follow along. That continuity stuff I mentioned is fun for people like me, but I don’t think the series as a whole is bogged down with it.

Gen 13: World’s End (Wildstorm/DC)
Written by Scott Beatty, drawn by Mike Huddleston & Dan Hipp
Collects Gen 13 #21-26

I think that same can be said for the first Gen 13 installment in World’s End. This team was what actually got me initially excited about Wildstorm. I was a huge fan because it was the it teen comic of the day. For some folks that was Teen Titans or New X-Men, but this was mine. I have been routinely disappointed by pretty much every incarnation that has come since the awful Chris Claremont relaunch years ago. It also didn’t help that they had one of the muddier post-continuity shift histories. Something about being grown as superpowered sex slaves or whatnot? Even after being so confused the first time around, I gave it the good ol’ college try again recently when reading the trade of the second volume, but it just didn’t do it for me.

But, I didn’t feel that way with this collection. Sure, there are references to the new status quo, but it kind of felt like I had just missed one arc of the old series. Beatty does a great job of capturing that old dynamic between Grunge, Fairchild, Freefall, Burnout (now blinded) and Rainmaker.

Unlike Stormwatch or Authority, which have larger, more global goals, the Gen 13 kids are just trying survive and figure out what happened. They were hopping around in time or somesuch and came back in after the big event, so they missed the whole thing. This is a pretty fun and interesting concept that fits in with the characters pretty perfectly. Same goes for the art by Huddleston and Dan Hipp, who has an awesome sketchblog you guys should all check out.

I’ve got a post in the works covering the two Authority books and the second Wildcats one (thought I had the first, but don’t). The bummer about reading through these is that they’re so fun and yet the rest of the issues leading up to the line-wide cancellation of Wildstorm haven’t been collected. I’m not going to hold my breath for them to be either. I think I’ll keep an eye out for cheap copies of what I don’t have (I made a checklist) and see how it ends. If it’s rad, I’ll probably get them bound!

What I’m Thankful For: The Wildstorm Universe

2008-11-11
10:13:41 pm

As far as comic book universes go, I think the Wildstorm one might be my non-DC and Marvel favorite. Gen 13 was my gateway into Wildstorm back in the day. #14 was my first issue (with Roxy going to school on the cover) and I was hooked immediately. I didn’t really branch out into other Wildstorm books for a long time, but I was really impressed with how historic this new comic book universe felt even back then. Gen 13 were the kids of guys in a group called Team 7, whose members were on all kinds of other teams or hanging out in their own solo books (Grifter, Backlash, Lynch, Deathblow, etc.). I didn’t really know what all was going on, but I was super intrigued. So intrigued that I bought a few other books like a Team 7 mini that came out and whatnot, but not a ton of books.

I completely dodged the initial Image onslaught of comics when the boom hit, which I’m still thankful for, but I did wind up with some random issues here and there thanks to various grab bags I picked up over the years. I also watched the Wildcats cartoon when it was on, because, at the time, I’d watch ANYTHING comic book related. So, with all that I had a basic idea of what was going on in their universe and it all seemed really cool. A big part of that has to do with the artists working on these books. Man, they looked slick and definitely appealed to me as a kid, but I was also into the “super powered kids on the run from adults” story that came along with Gen 13 as it was my first exposure to such a concept. Oh yeah, I also remember Sarah from the Real World Miami being a Wildstorm editor. On the very first episode they showed her getting kicked out of her place after a big party. If memory serves (which it probably doesn’t) her roommates were J. Scott Campbell and another notable who I can’t remember. Her desk in the RW house was also surrounded by comic book pictures, which totally geeked me out back when no one on TV ever talked about comic books.

Skip ahead a bunch of years, I’ve dropped Gen 13 from my list because of Claremont’s relaunch (yeesh) and not really interested in Wildstorm anymore, but I’m hearing a lot about this book called The Authority. I eventually score an internship at Wizard where Rickey recommends I read Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch which leads directly into The Authority. I did and dug it and then read Authority and got less and less impressed as it went on. So recently, I re-read all five Stormwatch trades and they’re really good. Ellis does a surprisingly good job playing in a super hero universe that doesn’t have as many rules as DC or Marvel. I’m looking forward to reading his Authority again soon in the next few weeks too. Ellis’ Planetary is also a lot of fun, but I want the last trade dag nabbit!

Once I started working for Wizard full time I jumped back into the Wildstorm pool and was surprised to see some names that I wouldn’t necessarily associate with the company like James Robinson and Alan Moore who both did stints on Wildcats. I can’t remember how far I got, but I started with Wildcats #1 and read through Moore’s stuff (which includes Robinson’s run). Both Robinson and Moore’s arcs are pretty fantastic (especially Moore’s, no big surprise there). Like with Ellis, it was great to see Moore coming in and picking up elements from previous Wildcats stories and running with them. Moore did a bunch of other stories here and there that have been collected in one big trade that’s definitely out there, but still a lot of fun.

I also read Ed Brubaker’s Point Blank which lead into his Sleeper series with Sean Phillips. Man, this story blew me away. It could have very easily been it’s own stand alone story of espionage and intrigue, but Brubaker set it squarely in the WU, with references to Alan Moore’s Wildcats and plenty of other goings on. It’s a great series and one I recommend to anyone who loves dark and dirty comics.

From there I jumped into more modern Wildstorm as they shook up their universe with the Wold Storm event. Even now I’m not really sure what the deal was. Things were predicated by the Will Pfeifer-written Captain Atom: Armageddon mini which placed Cap in the Wildstorm U. He blew up and so did the WU, but it reformed in similar and different ways after that. I got to talk to most of the creators for the big relaunch (this is when Grant Morrison was announced to be writing both Wildcats and Authority) which was a lot of fun, but as a fan of the existing Wildstorm U, I was left mostly confused. Unlike Crisis on Infinite Earths there wasn’t a “we’re completely starting over” vibe as some teams seemed to be unchanged (Stormwatch PHD which was a great book seemed to be exactly in line with previous Stormwatch stuff) while others were way different (my beloved Gen 13). There were a few stumbling blocks as Wildcats and Authority have only put out one and two issues respectively, but overall Stormwatch PHD, Deathblow and Midnighter were all pretty solid books and Gail Simone added a whole new element with her Welcome to Tranquility series.

But the changes weren’t over as Wildstorm geared up for another big shake up with their trilogy of stories: Wildstorm: Armageddon, Wildstorm: Revelations and Number of the Beast which I liked for the most part though I wish Number of the Beast would have picked up more elements from Revelations. Anyway, now you’ve got the Wildstorm U in a kind of post-apocalyptic Mad Max-like world where everything’s turned on it’s ear and all these familiar heroes are fighting just to keep humanity going.

It’s not an easy universe to break into with over a decade’s worth of stories, but I’ve had a great time exploring the good and the bad of the Wildstorm U, which is a lot more intricate and detailed than you might think at first. If you’re looking to get in, I’d recommend Sleeper, Moore’s Wildcats, the upcoming James Robinson Wildcats trade, Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch and Authority and Stormwatch PHD. I’m really curious to see where they go with this new path and I can’t wait to see what they do and what new creators and characters will pop up in the future.