Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wild Storm: Michael Cray #2 Review and SPOILERS

Killer Queen

Written by: Bryan Hill with Warren Ellis
Art by: N Steven Harris and Dexter Vines
Colours by: Dearbhla Kelly
Letters by: Simon Bowland
Cover Price: $3.99

The notion of the Wild Storm universe featuring twisted versions of the regular DC universe’s heroic characters is an interesting one and last issue’s introduction to a psychopathic Oliver Queen was elegantly and engagingly executed. With Michael Cray taking it upon himself to enter Queen’s dome of death and face being hunted by Queen in a lovingly rendered replica of the island on which Queen honed his skills – and presumably lost his mind in the process – the stage is set for a mouth-watering showdown. Let’s see how it all pans out…

Somewhat unexpectedly, we start off this issue with Michael Cray being targeted by a group of three characters we’ve never seen before, one of whom appears to be preparing to assassinate him with a sniper rifle. Oddly, all four characters (including Cray) are dressed in steampunk outfits including goggles, waistcoats, puff-sleeved shirts and various other examples of steam couture, while airships hover in the smoke-wreathed sky. Cray dispatches the three in a reasonably well-drawn action sequence that, in a somewhat confusing double-reveal, turns out to be not only some sort of training/recruitment exercise, but also a VR session. Despite the three having failed to take him down, Cray hires them anyway, because they failed… in interesting or thoughtful ways, I guess. Hmmm…

Where’s Oliver Queen, by the way? You know, the psychopathic version of our beloved emerald archer who hunts armed forces veterans in his aforementioned pseudo-island? The character who was so skilfully presented to us last issue? Any idea? Just wondering…

Cray has a chat with Christine Trelane and then goes to see the doctor. (No, not her. A normal doctor. Well, as normal as a doctor working for a top-secret espionage outfit can be, I suppose.) We’re about a third of the way through the issue at this point. This conversation is nice characterization and reminds us of the decidedly odd things that have been going on with Cray recently: exploding mice, disintegrating coffee cups etc. We’ll return to this in a moment. Incidentally, a couple of the panels here have some weird perspective going on – almost as if they’re trying to indicate that the doctor’s office is bugged and cameras are recording everything going on in there. That’s moderately interesting, I suppose, and is something that might get followed up in subsequent issues.

Gee, I wonder what psycho Oliver’s up to…

A thinly-disguised Cray goes to the ‘Queen Second Chance Center’, where he meets (presumably) Thea, who asks him some preliminary questions and then stuns him in order to transport him to the Queen-dome. This is an odd conversation. Thea volunteers the information that, although Oliver regards her as his sister, they’re not related by blood. The significance of this information is not immediately apparent, although it feels like it should be important. The dialogue here lacks finesse. “We’re not biologically related, but he found me. His generosity is boundless. And so is his rage.” This last line leads to the tasering of Cray, but, given what we’ve seen of Queen so far, it feels like an overly simplistic explanation of the character.

But at least Cray’s going to get to fight Oliver. At last.

The fight between Queen and Cray is, to be fair, dramatic and well-presented. Artist N Steven Harris, although not especially accomplished with faces, draws a clear and exciting action sequence, but I can’t help feeling that this scene, which should be the centerpiece and main focus of the issue, should be better than this. The way I see it there are a number of problems here. Firstly, Oliver already knows who Cray really is when he wakes up. On the one hand, this emphasizes how powerful Queen is; on the other, though, it deprives the reader of the potential drama of seeing Queen work it out for himself. Then, there’s how Cray defeats Queen. Having already referenced his mouse-exploding powers earlier, the creative team now make them a much more integral part of the character, first having them involuntarily disintegrate Cray’s gun and then having them rather handily… ahem… disarm Oliver.  While it’s clear that Cray has no conscious control over them, the sudden dramatic increase in both the frequency with which they manifest themselves and the strength of their effect seems rather convenient.

Add to this the fact that it isn’t actually Cray who eventually kills Queen and it’s hard to shake the feeling of disappointment. This is at least partly due to the excellent job the last issue did in introducing the character. It’s a shame that this issue doesn’t quite deliver on that promise, although it should be said that the double page spread, on which some of the fight is played out, is really rather impressive.

That can’t disguise, however, that this issue is a step down in terms of storytelling and impact compared to issue 1. The limitations of N Steven Harris’ art are clear in the conversations Cray has with Dr Shahi and Thea, while the mystery built up around how precisely this twisted version of Oliver Queen came about is mostly squandered in a confrontation that, while well-drawn, is ultimately unsatisfying.

Bits and pieces:

Despite some moments of intrigue and some generally engaging characterization, this issue doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of the first. The development of Cray’s character continues apace and the expansion of the title’s supporting cast is welcome, but the feeling that it has crowded out what should have been a much more satisfying conclusion to the story of the Wild Storm universe’s Oliver Queen is, unfortunately, hard to shake.



  1. I agree that this was not as strong as the first issue, and the art is lacking in some aspects. The ending of the book has me worried that this book will just end up being "Cray takes down evil DC dudes: the 12 issue maxi-series".

  2. Yes. I'm hoping that the series is more than a one-trick pony. We'll have to see.