DC Comics is trying something new. In the wake of their Rebirth initiative, the publisher has rapidly expanded its content to include diverse new imprints such as WildStorm, Jinxworld, Wonder Comics, Black Label,
Young Animal, Ink, and Zoom. As their lineup expands, it can be hard to figure out what to pick up each week. That’s what our team is here to help with, every Wednesday, with the DC Round-Up!
THIS WEEK: Familiar characters return to the new WildStorm universe…with authority.
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Letters: Simon Bowland
The Wild Storm is a rare type of superhero comic (if you can even call it that). First, this series has now run for 20 issues with the same artist, and, perhaps more impressively, relatively few delays. Second, it has done so while exercising an extreme and deliberate patience of pacing throughout. Whereas recent landmark DC superhero runs have opened with Batman nearly dying while saving an entire plane, or Superman chasing a genocidal alien maniac all the way to the earth’s core, The Wild Storm’s first issue was much heavier on complex conversation. Conversation about power structures, technology, and the shadowy power brokers that control the world.
There have, to be sure, been occasional flourishes in these 20 past issues of action and violence. A shootout with a reconstructed Wild C.A.T.s team here, a violent samurai battle in the rain there. For the most part, though, tension has steadily built as the events on the pages in the foreground have remained at a steady simmer, promising something greater to come. Essentially, The Wild Storm has been like a light rain that continues to patter as the wind picks up and the dark clouds roll in. Well, the full brunt of The Wild Storm is here now, and phew, it is an incredible sight to behold.
This most recent issue is almost entirely action, or at least it seemed to be the first time I read it. There are exactly two pages of conversation before said action begins, conversation in which shadowy actors in a windowless room talk about how to maintain their grip on the world as it continues to slip away. One man suggest they distract by orchestrating death and murder. “Nobody’s got time to worry about dark capitalism when they have to think about their kids getting shot in school,” Ben says. The Wild Storm is heady and provocative stuff, and it reminds us of that here. Then it gets to the fireworks.
One of the main draws for me from the start of this series has been the artwork of rising star Jon Davis-Hunt, and his impressive skill set is on full display here, from his pristine-yet-detailed line work, to his willingness to set the action at a distance, to the massive explosions and kinetic panel layouts he deploys when the action calls for it. His work is colored here (as it’s been throughout the run) by Steve Buccellato, who gives the 20-page battle a moody and ominous dusk-colored palette at its start that lights up as the characters involved begin to exercise their powers. In one especially memorable segment, one of the characters fights his way through a phalanx of what may as well be storm troopers, and the constitution of the panels across a two-page spread turns and twists, with detritus from the broken guards armor flying outward as the panel borders leak blood (it sounds odd, but trust me).
And just who are the characters I keep referring to? They are, in fact, Midnighter and Apollo, the Batman and Superman analogs who became the breakout stars of Warren Ellis’ beloved and influential turn of the century The Authority run with artist Bryan Hitch (later taken over by Mark Millar). The characters are essentially the same as the ones we know, same powers and same general aesthetic too—Midnighter even lands a familiar line before he beats the panel borders bloody—just with some tweaks to reflect modern demographics. And savvy veteran writer Ellis knows what readers want here and gives it to them: double-digit pages of these two guys cutting loose and laying waste to flying saucers in epic fashion. Followed by the two of them embracing (they’ve long been coupled) and flying off together, likely to get together with the other Authority characters (most of whom are already kicking around) another day soon.
This series has operated at a tremendously high level of promise and complexity from its start. The fireworks weren’t there, not in the early issues, but the way the characters spoke to each other and the vague world-shaping structures they alluded to always seemed to promise grandiosity to come. The books being set in a new version of the WildStorm Universe simultaneously assured the return of old favorites. In this issue, we get the biggest eruption of action to date at the hands of the two most famous famous and (arguably) longest-enduring characters from the old WildStorm comics. I’m hard pressed to think of a way this issue could have been better, and I’m absolutely dying to read the last four comics of this run.
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Penciler: Robson Rocha
Inker: Daniel Henriques
Colorist: Sunny Gho
I’ve found Robson Rocha to be a strong artist for some time now, if a bit underrated. I, however, think that latter point is about to change as this Aquaman runs continued. Inked here by Daniel Henriques with Sunny Gho’s colors, Rocha’s artwork has never looked so good, taking on an aesthetic that is equal parts elemental and ethereal. Those two (admittedly flowery) adjective choices are important as well, because they are just so perfectly suited for writer Kelly Sue DeConnick’s ideas and plot for this new run, now in issue #3 of its five-part opening story arc (and slated to continue, we learned this week via solicits, past that first arc)
The concepts put forth by both the artist and the writer here are closer kin to those one might come to expect from a Sandman Universe comic, flitting between mythology and dream en route to something that is wholly its own. There’s a grand, soul-of-the-world scale at work here, played out in a style that is presumably more familiar to fans of DeConnick’s creator-owned masterpiece Pretty Deadly than those of her other marquee superhero run, Captain Marvel. The premise at the heart of this story really comes into clearer focus in this issue.
Admittedly, at the start of the arc I had some trepidation about its concept. Basically, Aquaman Arthur Curry loses his memory in the wake of the gigantic Justice League crossover event, Drowned Earth. He finds himself on what seems to be a sort of purgatorial isle, where he has been left to piece together core aspects of his identity. An amnesiac superhero is at this point a worn trope. They live normal, albeit a bit mysteriously, making a micro difference with the tremendous powers they may or may not realize they have aside, lifting cars with super strength of diving preternaturally into rough waters (as is the case here). We the audience yearn to see them put it all together again, and, eventually, they do, generally under great duress to save the new people they’ve fallen in love with or befriended.
That, however, really doesn’t seem to be the case here. Aquaman hasn’t just lost his memory, he’s maybe instead found himself in a new realm all together, a metaphysical prison within the very elemental soul of the earth (where, of course, threats loom). I’m not entirely sure, and there is some risk that if everything is ultra meaningful, nothing starts to feel meaningful. Still, at this point I remain thoroughly intrigued, and the high level of artwork is more than enough to keep me engaged and happy as a reader while the creative team’s larger narrative does its work of doling out our answers.
- I was absolutely blown away by Naomi #2 this week, and I would have written about that one as well if I had more room (and, let’s be real, time). Jamal Campbell is going to be a breakout artist after this book. There are two spreads in here—one of Superman presumably dismantling a would-be breakout at Iron Heights; another foreshadowing Naomi’s fate—that were better than any artwork I’ve seen in weeks. There’s also a heartrending scene between Naomi and her adopted parents that nearly made me cry. This is a must-read book.
- High Level #1 is probably my favorite Vertigo: Rebirth comic yet. It’s definitely one with the least heavy-handed premise. It lets us know what it’s interested in without telegraphic too much of where it’s going. I won’t say too much more about it because Louie did such a good job reviewing it earlier in the month.
- Lex Luthor and Brainiac are two of my favorite characters in all of comics, which means Justice League #18 was a great issue for someone with my tastes. I also think between the recent Justice League Annual and the previous two issues of this book, this Justice League run has hit a new level, one with a lot more clarity to it. It’s really becoming something special.
- In Damage #14, this comic that was originally about the military industrial complex continues to just go entirely off the rails (I tried to write around that cliche, but it was just too perfect). Damage fistfights a dragon here, and then becomes best friends with a giant ape. It’s…well, it will all be over soon. Shhhh.
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