Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Wild Storm #21 Review and Spoilers


Written by: Warren Ellis
Art by: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colours by: Steve Bucellato
Letters by: Simon Bowland
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Last month's (full) debut of the Apollo and Midnighter Show was a bit of a doozy and I don't know about you, but I want to see more of that particular duet doing their routine. This being The Wild Storm, that's probably not going to happen (too many plates spinning; you know how it is), but at least we get that cover. Very nice. What’s under the hood, though? There's only one way to find out…

The Authority is forming, but there are one or two kinks to iron out first. The issue opens with the fab four (no, not them!) of Angie, Jenny, Shen and Jack coming to terms with what Jenny's found out about Skywatch and deciding what they're going to do with that information. Now that the group is actually going to do something (apart from hanging around Jenny's flat and getting frisky with one another), we get some genuine tension between the members – in this case Jenny and Angie. That tension is resolved by Jenny opening up about her guilt about having abdicated responsibility for the planet a few decades ago. While it is an extremely low-key version of the traditional heroes meet, fight and then team up to fight the real bad guy formula, it's surprisingly affecting, simply because Ellis writes these characters ridiculously well.

The shift from lived-in surroundings and genuine emotion to sterile IO headquarters and dangerous currents swirling below the surface of an otherwise straightforward conversation is effective too. Craven's over-compensating for his indecisiveness and is almost certainly going to come a cropper for it. Baiul clearly has resources at her disposal, so whatever Craven's got planned for her is not necessarily going to go smoothly. There was a point in this series when I might have had some sympathy for Craven, but that point has long passed. He's weak, petulant and a bully. Unlike Bendix, whose almost camp relishing of his power is perversely endearing, Craven is only worthy of contempt. I find myself quite eager to see him get his comeuppance.

Meanwhile, Jackie King discovers the same telepathic nano-technology that enabled Angie Spica to steal IO's tech undiscovered and, in one of those convenient coincidences that tend to suggest lazy plotting, we see Angie use the same technology to communicate telepathically with Shen. Except the scene is so beautifully scripted and wonderfully rendered that I don't care whether it's lazy plotting or not.

And the plates keep spinning…

We (finally) get a Lauren Pennington moment (and it's nice), as well as a great image of Apollo flying around the Earth to recharge before returning to have the kind of silly but tender-hearted conversation you might expect a Superman-analogue to have with his Batman-analogue lover. (Also nice.) The issue ends with an in-conversation reminder that Michael Cray is still out there and he's headed this way and a succinct summary of the current situation that highlights how power, paranoia and incomplete information make for an extremely bad mix. And that, as they say, is that.

No big action set pieces this time around, but the sense of momentum started in issue 19 is clearly growing here. Jenny and co are finally out in the field (I don’t blame them for spending half a dozen issues getting to know each other better, but it's about time to see them work together), Craven's plotting is (probably) about to become his undoing and a number of relatively minor (but nevertheless interesting) characters are given some long overdue screen time. The result? Talky, but touching; slow, but involving.

Bits and Pieces:

Very much a character-driven installment this time around with even relatively minor characters like Lauren Pennington getting their moment to shine, this issue is big on relationships and the slow unfolding of plot, but there's an undercurrent of urgency and menace making itself felt too. Davis-Hunt's art – his panel progression and layout; the emotional subtlety of his facial expressions – is, as always, exemplary. The best sci-fi superhero comic on the market is still, after 21 issues, absolutely worth your money and time.


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