Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Wild Storm #22 - Review and Spoilers

Wielding Their Authority

Written by: Warren Ellis

Art by: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colours by: Steve Buccellato
Letters by: Simon Bowland
Cover Price: $3.99 
Release Date: April 24, 2019

The original The Authority series was high-concept big budget superheroics in an era when the first X-Men film was still in production and an Avengers movie was just a twinkle in Kevin Feige's eye. Following on from Warren Ellis' really rather dark and disturbing Stormwatch run, the series took the idea of superheroes to its logical conclusion. If there were super-powered beings running around the planet, of course, they'd take charge and police the world as best they could. And they'd do it in as spectacular and mind-blowing a way as is (super)humanly possible. Ellis' plotting was big and bold and his characters cool; artists Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary delivered page after page of visual perfection. It was awesome.

The last few issues of this series have been leading to the formation of this somewhat grimier, more low-tech Wild Storm universe's version of The Authority. Given the group's pedigree, the creative team has set themselves quite a task to match or even exceed the impact of those initial Authority stories. Let's see if they can pull it off...

Of course, they bloody well can. Look, if, after twenty-one issues of extraordinarily involving and just beautiful sci-fi/super-powered storytelling, you're entertaining even a scintilla of doubt about the capabilities of Ellis and Davis-Hunt, you need your head examining. I'll give you the blow by blow below, but the bottom line is that, yes, this issue does indeed deliver on the meticulous build-up of the previous issues and, yes, you would have to be clinically dead not to read this issue and feel your pulse quicken, your breath catch in your throat and the overwhelming compulsion to fall to your knees in gratitude to the gods of comics that DC (yes, the same DC that is currently screwing up its own main universe in Heroes In Crisis) has the foresight, good judgment, and tenacity to commission and keep publishing this wonderful series.

Now, if you haven't done so already, go away and read the issue. In fact, if you've already read it, go away and read it again. It's okay. I'm not going anywhere. I'll write about the cover for a bit while you're gone.

Goodness, that cover's nice. It's a group shot, naturally, and everyone looks cool. Angie looks sexy as anything in her full hard suit and she's flying higher than Apollo which, for some strange reason, pleases me greatly. Jenny looks troubled but determined; Midnighter looks terrifying; Shen's not bothering to look in our direction (she's got better, probably cooler things to look at); and Hawksmoor still looks like Jared Leto. Something's burning in the background and Angie looks amazing. (I want an Angie action-figure. Sorry, but I just do.)

Before we get to the Authority goodness, we have a pre-title sequence featuring Jackie King sneaking a 'Battalion device' (a nice reference to the original Stormwatch character) out of IO's HQ and using it to defend herself against the assassin Miles Craven assigned to her a couple of issues ago. The double page spread in which she disintegrates him is as gorgeous as it is gruesome and a clear statement of intent from Davis-Hunt. This issue is going to be spectacular.

And so it proves. The bulk of the issue is taken up with the current core of the Authority (Jenny Mei Sparks, Angie Spica, Jack Hawksmoor, and Shen) locating and recruiting Apollo and Midnighter while defending a small rural town in Utah from a Skywatch incursion. Words can't really do this justice. The action is spectacular, kinetic, glorious. The sequence is not over-burdened with dialogue; there's a double page spread that is left completely captionless and the effect is stunning. Davis-Hunt and Buccellato's attention to detail pays rich dividends here – the simply beautiful night sky; the solid-looking Skywatch gunships that suddenly fill it; the debris flying from them as Apollo and Angie trigger explosion after explosion after explosion.

And then there's that final page… There comes a point with comics when words fail you and you just have to tip your hat at the creative team and this is one of those times. Sorry, but there you are. What I would just like to point out, though, is that Ellis and Davis-Hunt absolutely do set up that reveal at the end and it absolutely is earned.

Right. I've sounded like a demented fanboy all review, but I can't find it in myself to care all that much. Davis-Hunt's artwork is exquisite, dramatic and compelling; Ellis' scripting continues to be mature and engaging, snappy and naturalistic without descending into the kind of self-indulgence that you may see elsewhere. Buccellato's colours are wonderfully subtle and, at times, genuinely beautiful. Bowland's lettering continues to be understated and clear, entirely in keeping with the low-tech tone of the series as a whole. The whole package is gorgeous and almost certainly the best thing you're going to read this week.

Bits and Pieces:

It's been a long wait, but this issue's gathering of The Authority is handled with all the spectacular and dramatic aplomb for which I'd been hoping. Ellis' script is its customary wry self, but this is, more than anything, Jon Davis-Hunt's show and, my, does he deliver! An outstanding installment of an already outstanding series.


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