The Wild Storm #7 (DC Comics)
There’s got to be something immensely satisfying about giving Warren Ellis the keys to your kingdom.
We’ve read what he can do with forgotten characters and concepts (Nextwave), read what he can so with meta-narratives (Supreme: Blue Rose), read how he can take old characters and modernize them (Injection), even taken established characters and rebuild them into something recognizable-but-new (Moon Knight). We’ve even seen how he can take a bare-bones video game story and turn it into something awesome (Castlevania). It’s Warren Ellis. No one can touch him.
So, let’s talk Wildstorm. The imprint was the embodiment of the nineties – flashy and kind of stupid but groping towards maturity and surprisingly deep. There were some very serious questions about god and mortality, some quiet meditations on personhood and evolution and the true nature of power, on expectation meeting reality. Some of the very best comics spilled out of the Wildstorm imprint (for Emp’s sake, read Sleeper).
The nu52, with its weird nineties obsession, tried to marry the Wildstorm imprint in with the DCU – and this didn’t work. The DCU is about opera and all that entails, while Wildstorm evolved into stories about shades of gray and conspiracy. The two could crossover with one another (and frequently did!) but not co-exist because they are so thematically different.
When the powers-that-be at DC Comics decided they wanted readers again, they rebooted their world with Rebirth, and that ended up being an insanely wise decision that has seen their whole line meet widespread acclaim. Good for them. The Wildstorm imprint got left to one side, though, its characters and mythos abandoned in that moment.
I like to imagine Warren Ellis as more of a force of nature than a mere mortal. I have pretty wild head-canon about how Nextwave came into being and I’ve got a similar head-canon for this comic: the DC Comics editorial board gets ready for a meeting against a window sunset. The room is locked, protected, sealed – and yet, when they gather, a single chair slowly turns around. The chair is empty.
The door closes. Warren Ellis is behind them.
“I have an idea,” Warren says, and the whole room panics. They catch glimpses of the unknown realities that dance in the frame of this one man. They fear him, the small hairs on their arms standing up from the sheer electric creativity he brings with him.
“So do I,” says Jim Lee, the lightning infecting him. “You should re-write the whole Wildstorm universe.”
And Warren smiles because the idea he had has permeated reality. He is an ascended being, you see. He, along with a very few masters, has loved the written word so much that he has become the very spirit of Writer.
He’s gone slowly with this, introducing the complexities and concepts of the Wildstorm he’s envisioned. We’re just now getting into the aliens that circle the world and live within it, devoured the concept of covert action teams and the human division of heaven and earth. A small cast thus far, but a promise of more to come as the story demands them. This is what the Wildstorm imprint looks like all grown up, building to the sword of Damocles hanging lightly overhead.
Artist Jon Davis-Hunt has a knack for expression and structure that serves this story well, underlining the underlying text with subtle cues. He’s plotting out soul architecture here, and it brings a sense of realism to the ground-level identity this comic craves. Colorists Steve Buccellato and John Kalisz work with varying shades of being, painting a world into hues that seem light but bleed shadows.
This comic is the perfect echo of the nineties having found the maturity a decade spent groping for. It’s immaculate, quick and lethal and thoughtful, prone to eerie revelation, terror, and resignation mingled with a chance that things might be okay again someday, if only we are willing to fight right now. Find your halo, pick up this comic, and get ready for the war to come.