Review: The Wild Storm #1.

Let’s talk The Wild Storm #1.

If you’re here I’ll assume that you are somewhat acquainted with the former Wildstorm universe, as well as with my previous post detailing my concerns regarding the art direction for The Wild Storm, the initial series that now serves as the lynchpin of the new pop-up imprint. If not, feel free to click here to catch up!

The Wild Storm #1Color: I stated that I wanted a war between colors in this series—the soothing pastels of modern technology, the vibrant hues of rogue agents and inventors, and the heavy blacks and deep grays of IO hardware. Ivan Plascencia does an incredible job providing readers with the first of the three. The mundane world that Halo dominates looks to be an absolute pleasure to reside in. Unlike the overwhelming and highly saturated colors you’d find in the real Times Square, the Midtown of Wildstorm is filled with baby blues, soft browns, and muted greens. It is relaxing—as deceptively nonthreatening as the company Marlowe has built. Unfortunately, those pastels persist in the underground bunkers of IO, which I think is a poor choice for what should be a grim and off-putting military environment. The struggle between Marlowe and Craven should play out via brightness. Halo hides in not only plain but illuminated sight; IO operates in the shadows.

But both IO and Halo are in different ways the establishment. And that should be shown via color—via a lack of vibrancy. Plascencia capably achieves that, and perhaps also leaves clues as to who our rogue agents will be via saturation. Angela’s independence is marked by color—her bright red blood and the vibrant blue of her transformation. Zealot’s eyes are a vivid blue. Voodoo’s? Green. And of course there is the crimson that bleeds from Cray. All four of these characters wear gray, making the flashes of red, blue, and green seem much more important.

Lettering: Normally you notice lettering only if it is bad. But I noticed Simon Bowland’s excellent lettering because the chosen font is terrible. It’s too narrow and reminds me of Comic Sans. Straight up. A nice nostalgic nod would have been to use the unique fonts found in the first Wildcats (not WildC.A.T.S.) series. And if I can remember a font from 1999 you know it must be good (or else I have an absolutely insane attention to detail).

I will add that I think the removal of bold to indicate speech patterns flattens out the work. It’s used less often now—probably a push back against its previous overuse (and also nonsensical use). American dialects and accents are so rhythmic, musical, and varied. Bolding is a great way to visually emphasize (no pun intended) that sonic uniqueness—that Voodoo doesn’t sound like Angela and Angela doesn’t sound like Zealot, etc.

The Wild Storm #1Pencils: I’d be lying if I stated that my previous concerns regarding the art direction had been alleviated. Jon Davis-Hunt is a talented artist, but the work here in no way presents itself as what one would typically want and expect from a Wildstorm book. The layout is, quite frankly, dull and devoid of dynamic movement. Nine-, six-, and three-panel grids dominate the pages.

I do understand their presence. Opening with a nine-panel grid harkens back to the era of Watchmena work that deals with a slowly unravelling conspiracy. I do not, however, want to go back to that era artistically. Watchmen is not a part of my comics canon (or Wildstorm’s canon) and I do not have an iota of the Anglophilic and nostalgic adoration others have for the work. I grew up on Jim Lee and grew out with Travis Charest and Dustin Nguyen. If I grew up on Ashanti and you give me The Amazons instead of Kehlani we’re going to have a problem.

We have a problem.

It is my hope that as there is a war between colors there is also one in regards to art. That the further removed Angela is from IO the closer we get to the innovative and cinematic layouts that define the glory days of the Wildstorm universe, via artists who not only pay homage to Wildstorm’s past, but push boundaries as well. In comics the marriage of art and script tell a story. A successful reboot must provide the essence of both halves. The art here is quite pretty. But it is in no way the essence of Wildstorm. Readers unfamiliar with the Wildstorm universe will likely not care. For a former reader like myself the change is jarring.

Script: Oh, we’re good. I’ve loved Ellis’ work since Stormwatch and that hasn’t changed in the slightest. It is my hope that the characters involved maintain distinct ways of speaking that feel natural and authentic. A challenging task given the wide variety of ethnicities, classes, and cultures these characters spring from!

All in all, I am pleased with The Wild Storm #1 and am curious to see where this new world leads.


Wildstorm world-building.

The early Image universes were often accused of cribbing from Marvel and DC lore. However, while one could compare characters such as the Coda to DC’s Amazons, Wildstorm truly had a unique voice—even in its infancy. With the announcement of the revival of the Wildstorm universe, I’d like to rummage through previous incarnations to discuss what I believe to be not only salvageable, but vital to the success of the upcoming imprint.

International Operations. Don’t let the name fool you, this organization dealt exclusively with protecting American interests. It was also a cornerstone of the Wildstorm universe. While not entirely villainous, the hats worn here were a very dark gray. Perhaps that I in IO should now stand for intelligence, no? For IO dabbled in everything—reconnaissance, robotics, genetic testing, and more. What would I like to see from a new Wildstorm imprint?

  • Team 7—a highly-skilled IO death squad that went AWOL in ‘98 after being subjected to genetic experiments its members didn’t sign up for.
  • Gen 13/DV8—the gifted children Team 7 sired.
  • Black Razors—IO’s mech-assisted military squad.
  • TAO—an IO experiment gone horribly awry, TAO is a tactical genius and has manipulated his way to the head of a major criminal organization called the Syndicate.

The United Nations. In the Wildstorm universe this organization had teeth. Most nations were eager to comply with the UN publicly, sending military personnel and funds; how nations behaved privately was another matter. With the new Wildstorm imprint the UN should possess one heroic crew assigned to deal with global threats and international disputes:

  • Stormwatch—an international selection of genetically gifted peacekeepers.

The Authority. I’d argue that the most powerful group in the new Wildstorm universe should be virtually unknown. IO’s interests? National. The UN’s interests? Global. The Authority? They should ensure not only the health of the universe, but the multiverse. In fact, it would be beneficial to allow these characters to exist simultaneously in the DC and Wildstorm universes.

Kaizen Gamorra. This character was one of the leading antagonists of the previous Wildstorm universe, so it is my hope that he returns sans stereotypical “yellow peril” references. Kaizen should be a paranoid despot driven to distraction by the machinations of the UN and IO. And yet, the best villains do not know that they are villains. After all, what could be more righteous than a desire to protect the sovereignty of one’s country from global interference? Gamorra should be responsible for:

Aliens. Earth should be home to quite a few galactic expats who use the glittering blue sphere as a luxury resort and trading post.

  • Wildcats—a group of multi-racial soldiers who abandoned the war the Kherubim launched against the Daemonites to become a dysfunctional family of jet-setters and rabble-rousers.
  • Coda—a small band of Kherubim warriors aided by a mercenary organization of women altered by Kheran blood.
  • The Cabal—a loose federation of stranded Daemonite warlords resigned to ruling Earth if they cannot escape it.

Vigilantes. The Wildstorm universe did not have “houses” as Marvel does; it had institutions. Where Marvel can be neatly divided into five realms (superheroic, cosmic, mutated, magical, vigilante), the Wildstorm universe unapologetically stressed science over magic to its benefit and focused on the corruption of military, political, and economic systems. However, while corruption flowers in the upper echelons, its roots are in the streets. In the past, Wildstorm ignored that region. It did not have the equivalent of a Punisher or Luke Cage. Given that a new Wildstorm would not be hamstrung by decades of continuity or tethered to IP devoted to children, it could now provide vigilantes who not only defend the streets, but are actually from them. The idea of inventing a “Wildstorm street” from whole cloth? Delicious.

Comics is obviously a marriage of words and pictures, so concept art is equally as important as a story bible when world-building. I’ve listed what I would like to see in the Wildstorm universe, but it is just as important to note who I would like to see design it.

Sophie Campbell. Her concept art for Voodoo and Zealot is absolutely stunning. Campbell’s ability to both think outside of the box and incorporate a wide range of physical forms are skills that are imperative when designing teams comprised of a variety of species and races such as the Wildcats and victims of Kaizen Gamorra’s experiments such as the Hunter-Killers and Cybernary.

Jamie McKelvie. McKelvie’s work on Young Avengers and The Wicked + The Divine provide proof of his knack for designing youthful characters who are an accurate reflection of the young men and women in our world today. His concept art for a 2017 Gen 13 and DV8 would be magical. Plus, he’s already down to play.

Oskar Vega. Vega is yet another wonder who should be assigned the task of redesigning Gen 13 and DV8. His concept art for the Teen Titans is a clear indication of that.

Adam Warren. Warren is best known for his “good girl” art, but longtime fans of the Dirty Pair are well aware of his talent when it comes to designing military hardware. I would love to see concept art from Warren for the Black Razors and the Engineer.

Jon Davis-Hunt. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Davis-Hunt has already been tapped by DC to work on the new Wildstorm imprint and his clean, simple designs would lend themselves well to a crop of no-nonsense vigilantes more concerned with performance over flashy displays.