Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Wild Storm #16 Review and Spoilers


Written by: Warren Ellis
Art by: John Davis-Hunt
Colors by: Brian Buccellato
Letters by: Simon Bowland
Cover Price: $3.99

The expansion of the Wild Storm universe continues apace this issue as John Lynch's road trip brings him into contact with possibly the weirdest and creepiest Project Thunderbook alumnus yet, and elsewhere Angie Spica finds a new friend on the internet. (Well, it's all about connecting people, isn't it?) Let's dive in and see how they get on…

The issue starts with Angie reclining on her bed experimenting with the new IO technology Jacob Marlowe's WildCAT stole way back in issue 12. The main benefit appears to be that it enables Angie to control her 'drysuit' and its capabilities through pure thought which means that it becomes considerably more responsive and easy to manipulate. This has implications later on in the issue, but for now, the main result of her experimentation is that she becomes visible to Jenny Mae Sparks, who is still holed up with Shen and, presumably, Jack Hawksmoor – although we don't actually see him this issue. What follows is a leisurely conversation that's actually quite touching. In a book in which first encounters tend to be strained and/or antagonistic and/or violent and messy, it's rather pleasant to see Angie and Jenny striking up an instant rapport.

Elsewhere, John Lynch locates Gloria Spaulding and the resulting conversation drops a few interesting nuggets of information. Like most of the other Project Thunderbook subjects we've encountered this issue, Spaulding has felt a compulsion to have a child, but, when the baby arrived, had no qualms whatsoever in handing her over to be raised by someone else. Perhaps most intriguingly of all, though, is Spaulding's revelation that she knows about Marc 'Backlash' Slayton and that his implant 'remembers where it came from'. While there's a palpable tension in this scene (Spaulding is depicted as a shadowy entity hanging above Lynch's head, red eyes glowing and hair writhing Medusa-like around her head) and Spaulding's matter of fact dialogue suggests that she, like Slayton and Chang before her, is probably insane, the sense of a repetition that doesn't advance the overall plot very much is inescapable and, along with the Angie sections that bookend the issue, the effect is to deliver a very muted chapter in the Wild Storm saga.

It's for this reason that, despite acknowledging the skill with which Ellis and Davis-Hunt present their story, my overall reaction to the issue is one of mild disappointment. Now might be as good a time as any to take stock of what I think Ellis is trying to do at the moment. Clearly, the Lynch road trip is set up a version of Gen 13. Which is a pretty exciting prospect. The problem is that we've had four issues of the road trip so far and Lynch hasn't actually found and met any of the Project Thunderbook subjects' offspring yet. He should, to be fair, be able to find Spaulding's daughter without much trouble and Fairchild's with a little more effort, but the leisurely pace of his journey, while understandable from a purely logistical point of view, does not make for particularly engrossing storytelling no matter how well-structured (and they are, generally) each individual encounter may be.

Meanwhile, there are two independent groups of super-powered individuals being formed. There's Marlowe's WildCAT which already has four important members but really needs to meet up with Zealot and Voodoo to come close to the classic line-up. (And where the hell is Voodoo??? Come on, Warren! More Priscilla, please!) Then there's an Authority-type group that is slowly coalescing around the Shen-Jenny friendship, but, again, still needs one or two characters (Midnighter and Apollo?) to make it work. The war between IO and Skywatch has, after promising cataclysm and catastrophe, calmed down somewhat and, to be honest, become just a little anti-climactic. Where is the pressing threat coming from at the moment? Slayton? Maybe. His one-man crusade to provide souls for… well, we're still not entirely sure what certainly bears investigating. While Jenny Mae Sparks says this issue that both IO and Skywatch terrify her, she and Shen are still in recruitment mode before they make their play and, in lieu of anything else significant happening at the moment, it feels very much like this series is spinning its wheels.

That's not to say it's poor, of course. Ellis writes interesting, engaging characters and I'd take a relaxed, friendly Ellis-penned conversation between Angie (oh, Angie… *sigh*) and Jenny Mae Sparks over most other writers' output any day of the week; Davis-Hunt's art remains spectacular (Gloria's ascension after the destruction of her house is the image of the issue) and magnificently expressive. The overall plot needs more impetus, though. Difficult to provide when there are so many pieces on the board, but all the more important as a result.

Bits and Pieces:

For the first time in a long while, I find myself a little disappointed with a Wild Storm issue. While Davis-Hunt's artwork is characteristically excellent and Ellis continues to write his characters beautifully, an injection of urgency and drama is needed along with a clearer idea of just what the threat facing our incipient superhero teams is. I still trust Ellis and I feel almost churlish saying this, but I'd like a little more zip (or maybe even zap) to go with the meticulous and intriguing world-building.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This is the least dense edition of this arc, I agree. There was room for further development of the Thunderbook Project, which could have been inserted through flashbacks instead of those two splash pages or the panels with Lynch entering the house. But the dialogue between Angie and Jenny really made me love this issue, it was natural and colloquial. A character-relationship class that opens the door to joining The Authority in a very organic way, which is one of the benefits of the pace of this series. About the meeting between Gloria and Lynch, I thought it was great to build the panels around the central hexagon (base form of the tower), while we have the movement of the character in the air and the dialogue flowing, as an architect can say that was the perfect union between graphic narrative and architectural space. Gloria is also interesting as a character, it is an interpretation of the evil witch's archetype: it does not age, it floats, it follows a hedonistic lifestyle, it has a connection with the house it owns (here almost alive through its powers). About the last dialogue between Cole and Angie, I find it a bit unnecessary for her to need to learn from him about the operation of weapons, since she herself can search for it on something called the internet. I think this dialogue only serves only to tighten the bond between them to validate Angie's escape for Jenny's group.

  3. And what a great graphic piece on those data visualization splash page, wonderful. Angie's first-person view only increases empathy for her and immersion in the story.

  4. I think you make some excellent points and there's nothing here that I'm inclined to disagree with. I do, however, feel there's a lack of narrative momentum at present. Something can be beautifully, intelligently and creatively presented and still fail to engage on a narrative level and that, I believe, is the case here. I have mostly been in awe of Ellis' ability to keep the many plates spinning, but there's some wobbling going on at the moment and it's got me concerned.