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God of Comics – The Wild Storm #7

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 20, 2017

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.

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God of Comics – the Wild Storm #6

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 21, 2017

The Wild Storm #6 (DC Comics)

We like to say that Warren Ellis is the best writer in comic today.

Yes, he has his tropes and fallback techniques, the most egregious of which is writing interesting characters and complex stories. This is the guy what wrote Transmetropolitan, Next Wave, and Injection. Supreme: Blue Rose. Moon Knight. Everything he touches is impossible to put down or set aside.

Hell, that Castlevania series Netflix is touting? That four episode parade of pure horrific bliss? That’s him. He did that. Wrote and produced it. The man knows what he’s doing. In Ellis we trust.

And we’re not the only ones: Jim Lee and DC Comics have entrusted the whole of the Wildstorm universe to Ellis. They’ve given him the keys to the kingdom and let him go with one of the more expansive universes that nineties Image Comics produced – Deathblow, Wild C.A.T.s, Stormwatch, DV8, Gen13, the whole thing is currently in the hands of this one man. They’ve given him leave to remake that whole universe in what looks like a maxi-series, following a format that feels like more like Watchman than you’d expect. It’s got that scope, that depth, that sense of finality.

A friend of mine once told me that large comic stories happen in either four issues, twelve issues, or twenty-four issues (52 notwithstanding). Ellis is doing that last one, and traditionally this sort of story will be broken down into acts – and this issue is the end of the first act. Whatever spills out of this issue is going to leave us breathless and in need of an extra month just to take it all in, so this is it: the last fix we get until September.

In it, the world’s deadliest assassin is having some problems. Professionally, people call him Deathblow, but his friends call him Michael Cray, and he just turned down a target on an innocent person and aspiring dictator-behind-the-scenes Miles Craven can’t let that sort of thing go. Their conflict comes to a head here.

Meanwhile, Angela Spica saved tech genius and CEO James Marlowe from getting killed by Cray a few issues back, and in the process, we learned that there’s some technology lurking in her that various powers in the world would like to take from her. James is interested in protecting her and has sent out Cole Cash – the Grifter – to rescue her, but she’s more likely to befriend the woman some call Void.

Conspiracies abound, secret powers and players moving throughout the world, and none of them like being exposed in the way Angela has made people realize that there is more going on all around them. Treaties have been breached, secrets are being revealed, and a war spilling from shadows to light looks inevitable.

Warren Ellis is joined by artist Jon-Davis Hunt, working a style of clean lines and gravity, while colorist Steve Buccellato works a surprising sense of light into a story about shadows. This comic is one of the best things you can have your mind devour, so what are you waiting for?

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God of Comics: Wild Storm #4

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 16, 2017

Wild Storm #4 (DC Comics)

Wild Storm? Again? Really?

There’s other comics I cold mention, surely. Marvel’s got some interesting titles I’d love to discuss, but they’re in the process of killing them off while putting actual Nazis in charge, both in their comics and in their offices while blaming their fans for the flagging sales when it’s actually a problem of their own making, so I’m not going to talk about them. Seems fair: if they’re going to push a philosophy that encourages people to kill me, I’m going to do my level best to do the same to them.

Kids, the Holocaust wasn’t bad because Nazis did it. Nazis are bad because they did the Holocaust.

Thankfully, there’s plenty of other good comics being published right now: the four I’ve already talked about today, sure, and a host of others. Valiant, Boom, Dark Horse, Action Lab, Image, Dynamite, and others are all pushing some truly epic comics right now and mingling them with more down to earth ideas, peddling hope and stories of interest.

DC Comics has very much gotten on that bandwagon and is doing their best to make up for lost (nu52) time with Rebirth, and this comic spills out of that drive. Merging the characters from the DC Universe with those from Wild Storm doesn’t work, because the heroes from the DCU would, be definition, stop the Wildstorm problems from existing before they happened (see Grant Morrison’s JLA/WildCATs crossover to see exactly how that would have played out).

Thing is, the Wildstorm characters and stories are still good ones, even if they don’t fit in the proper DCU. DC Comics is combating this by setting a retelling of the Wild Storm in its own universe, a twenty-four issue series penned and plotted by Warren Ellis.

Ellis is pretty much the best person for this job, a talented writer who sifts through complex and layered mythologies the way that most people breathe air. He gets to pick and choose the best parts of Wildstorm and rework them into a modern setting, building up the conspiracies and aliens and other assorted madnesses of that world and reframe them, building them into a tale that grabs, haunts, and traps the reader while offering new takes on familiar characters.

It’s awesome.

We’re four issues in and Miles Craven is just setting up International Operations in his image, hunting down the Engineer as she seeks help from Halo Enterprises. This has resulted in a wild covert action team being spotted by Miles, a small team of killers led by Cole Cash – Grifter. Stormwatch is watching, Grifter is running, and Miles is trying to get a handle on everything before the storm gets too wild to control.

Jon-Davis Hunt excels at bringing small details to a world that needs them, and Ellis is doing that thing where he reminds the rest of us that he is probably the best at writing whatever genre of comics catches his interest (see also: Nextwave, Transmetropolitan, Injection, Supreme: Blue Rose).

Do yourself the favor: hunt this comic down and devour it. You will like it.

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