Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Wild Storm #12 Review and Spoilers

Taking Down The Tower

Written by: Warren Ellis
Art by: John Davis-Hunt
Colours by: Steve Buccellato
Letters by: Simon Bowland
Price: $3.99

Well, it's here. We've had a lot of build-up to this, the issue that marks the half-way point in this series. Nice build-up. Gorgeous build-up. Amusing build-up. Even absorbing build-up. But build-up all the same. Now, it's time for the members of Jacob Marlowe's wild CAT (Grifter, Void, John Colt and Kenesha) to put their plan into action, while at the same time Jackie King's team of IO tech-geeks set theirs in motion, too. Will there be sparks (and blood, for that matter) flying? Will it all go off without a hitch? More importantly, will the patience of this series' generally enthusiastic readers be rewarded?

Let's find out, eh?

This issue does not start out particularly explosively. As impressive as it is to see Davis-Hunt depicting Jackie King, lit cigarette in mouth, tracking down a hard copy of John Lynch's Thunderbook files, it's all a little… low key. Similarly, I'm not sure we need a recap of Marlowe's team's plan to covertly enter IO's Hightower facility, as it was rather thoroughly spelled out for the reader last issue. That said, these delays don't last very long. The first part of the wild CAT's plan is executed smoothly and depicted in a very clear sequence of dialogue-less panels by Davis-Hunt.

The focus then shifts to Jackie King's IO team who are about to go live with their plan to hack Skywatch using a swarm of North Korean bots as cover. This attack is represented, handily enough, by a giant screen filled with hexagonal tiles that change from red to green as the data theft goes live. It's a somewhat novel twist on the download bar (or percentage figure) as a mechanism for generating tension in a spy story and it works pretty well here. What also works is the dialogue – forced levity and Miles Craven's uncertainty about whether he should authorise this attack on Skywatch both help to ratchet up the tension that little bit more. When, on his huge satellite orbiting the Earth, Henry Bendix watches in frustration as the attack plays out in front of him, there's a palpable feeling of relief that it looks like IO are going to get away with it. Which makes it all the more disturbing when Bendix takes a call from Zealot telling him that her remote surveillance of Mitch's phone has borne fruit and that it's clear that IO (and not North Korean hackers) are behind the attack. Bendix demands a body as retribution and, by this issue's end, one is duly delivered to him and it's to the creative team's credit that that moment of execution delivers a real emotional impact.

But, we've got the raid on Hightower to see before then and what a spectacle it is. While the 'banter' between the wild CAT members (particularly Grifter and Kenesha) prior to the fight is arguably overdone, the moment of action is magnificent as Ellis and Davis-Hunt, who have presented us with plenty of action from individual characters in the past, now show us Colt, Grifter and Kenesha working together to tackle a group of HAZMAT-suited IO operatives. 

To say this is a breathtaking moment would be an understatement. Davis-Hunt has already proven that he can portray beautifully choreographed (and yet, at the same time, incredibly visceral) combat with considerable elan. What he and colorist Steve Buccellato give us here is a different kind of action sequence again.  Each team member takes down his or her chosen target with brutal precision, but Davis-Hunt's portrayals of Colt's graceful almost ballet-like movements, Grifter's acrobatic gunplay and Kenesha's raw firepower are distinct and say something meaningful about the characters' individual personalities. It's impressive stuff made all the more so by Buccellato's dual colour scheme which evokes the strobing emergency lighting and emphasises the speed with which the CAT operates. This is richly detailed, clever stuff.

There then follows an unsettling sequence that highlights, as if we needed any reminder, just how unscrupulous IO is and the issue begins to wind down. Although it still has a double sting in the tale. Firstly, there's the execution. I'm not going to spoil who the victim is, but suffice it to say that I will miss the character now that they're gone. Secondly, the issue ends on a two-page sequence which introduces John Lynch to this version of the Wild Storm universe and, in an elegant way, manages to return the issue to where it started while simultaneously opening up a pathway for the next stage of the ongoing story. In short, things just got a whole lot more intriguing for the reader and a whole lot more dangerous for some of our characters.

Bits and Pieces:

Another excellent issue from the gentlemen who have quickly become my favourite creative team in comics right now. In turns spectacular, intriguing, disturbing and heartbreaking, this is top drawer storytelling that oozes creativity, care and supreme confidence. Arguably, some of the banter is overplayed and the early page of recap is unnecessary, but these are minor quibbles in an otherwise hugely enjoyable comic.


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