Posted by: Brian Hibbs on July 17, 2007
Wildstorm confounds me.
It’s no secret that the Worldstorm revamp pulled a Britney and went completely off the rails. What’s shocking is that it’s been almost a year, and no steps have been taken to realign the imprint.
For those unfamiliar with the plight of DC’s redheaded stepchild, here’s the Sparknotes version: WILDCATS and THE AUTHORITY were meant to be Wildstorm’s flagship titles, only neither of them got past issue 2 before disappearing. The gap was unofficially filled by GEN13 and STORMWATCH: PHD, and they ended up becoming the de facto core series.
All well and good, except no one’s treating them that way.
I’m no marketing expert, but when you have two books that set the agenda for the entire line (by virtue of being published while Morrison, Ha and Lee play Dance Dance Revolution or whatever the hell they’re doing), it’s probably not a great idea to have them come out on the same week every. single. month. Factor in a serious case of underpromotion, resulting in abysmal sales, and it certainly seems like Wildstorm is doing everything in its power to self-destruct.
The real sticking point? Gen13 and Stormwatch are probably the best series currently under the Wildstorm banner.
Let’s start with STORMWATCH: PHD #9, the conclusion of a two-part “whodunit”. John Doran and his team are investigating the attempted murder of Stormwatch overseer Jackson King, and this is where Christos Gage’s background in procedural drama really comes into play; most of this issue strongly resembles the middle act of a typical “Law & Order” episode, where the detectives go about questioning suspects and, through these interrogations, we learn more about the various people involved. It could’ve gotten tedious rather quickly, but Gage also uses these scenes to reintroduce Stormwatch Prime, and the subtle comparisons between the superhero squad and the detective squad lead to some solid character beats.
If there’s a drawback inherent to this issue, it’s that Gage is working with a heavy backload of Wildstorm continuity: not only is he running his own storylines, he’s also integrated the cast and history of the pre-Authority Ellis run from the late ’90s. I don’t know how confusing this would be to new readers – technically, you’re given all the information you need about Diva, Blademaster, Cannon and the others, but I can definitely see how it might be a little daunting.
Overall, though, it’s a GOOD issue: the large cast is balanced well, everyone gets a scene or two to shine, and the twist ending was foreshadowed months ago yet still manages to come off as a surprise.
Moving on to GEN13 #10, which is sort of an antithesis to the cool, professional veneer of Stormwatch: this series is all about a bunch of amateur superkids running blind and wreaking havoc. In a way, it’s DC’s answer to RUNAWAYS: a group of distinctively characterized teenagers discover they have powers, their parents aren’t who they seem to be, and they decide to stick together while being chased by evil forces. But while Brian Vaughan mostly played it straight, Gail Simone prioritizes comedy, and that makes a big difference in how the stories play out.
There’s actually a lot going on this month: we’re at part 3 of an indirect crossover with Simone’s other Wildstorm series, WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY. The Gen13 kids have stumbled onto the quaint but quirky superhero retirement community, and almost immediately run afoul of the resident teenagers, who call themselves the Liberty Snots. (“We’re thinking of changing it. But we had T-shirts and everything made already.”) Meanwhile, Bobby’s backstory is revealed, and a third group of superteens prepare to attack.
It’s a VERY GOOD issue from start to finish, funny in all the right places and satisfyingly unpredictable at times – I can’t think of another teen hero whose primary influence is Bob Marley, and Eddie’s choice of codename is accompanied by a poignant moment that gives a degree of depth to the giant goofball.
And that’s it for Wildstorm. Why do I have the feeling I’ll be saying that in a broader context within the next six months?