Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Wild Storm #23 Review


Written by: Warren Ellis
Art by: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colours by: Steve Buccellato
Letters by: Simon Bowland
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: May 29, 2019

It's penultimate issue time! Last month's stunning action-fest will probably take some beating, but there are only two issues to go till the end of this wonderful series and those plates that writer Ellis has been spinning the last few months are finally synchronizing rather nicely. Jenny Mei Sparks' proto-Authority team are in the middle of preventing Skywatch abducting the residents of a small town in Utah. Let's find out how they're getting on.

After last issue's jaw-dropping final page revealing just how big and dramatic Jenny Mei Sparks' powers are, the first few pages of this issue showcase her in action, her giant electricity-construct form reaching for an escaping Skywatch UFO and failing to catch it – only for Jack Hawksmoor to destroy it in suitably dramatic fashion. I'm beginning to wonder if Jon Davis-Hunt is engaged in some form of one-upmanship with himself. The full page in which Hawksmoor uses his link with the urban environment to drive underground cables through the asphalt and into the hapless Skywatch UFO is extraordinary stuff and might – just – beat the ludicrously excellent action sequences from the last issue. 
In any case, having seen the Authority save the town, Henry Bendix activates his implants in the heads of Midnighter, Apollo and Hawksmoor, sending the first two (but not Jack – he's had too much of Shen in his head for the tech to work) off to New York on a mindless mission of collateral-drenched retribution. The next job of this newly-formed group, then, is to save itself – preferably without killing its Superman and Batman analogs in the process. Shen to the rescue again, then, in a high-speed chase that pits Angie's tech and Shen's magic against Skywatch's mind control devices. In some respects, this is the most entertaining section of the comic as it takes Angie and Shen multiple attempts to match Apollo and Midnighter's speed and get themselves in position for Shen to break the hold Bendix has on their minds.

Once Midnighter and Apollo are mentally restored, the two have an opportunity to join the Authority more formally. This is an offer Midnighter is understandably reticent accepting, but Apollo's sense of responsibility and more trusting nature win out. (Midnighter's "is this a sex cult? And are we expected to join in?" probably gets the award for the line of the issue, closely followed by his "we're not available. Or in the vagina business.") Bearing in mind that it took Shen and Jenny multiple issues to get Hawksmoor on board with their group (they did go down the alcohol and sex route of recruitment, to be fair), the addition of Apollo and Midnighter to the group is reasonably speedy. Mind you, it has to be. A disheveled and increasingly unhinged Miles Craven has ordered the destruction of all Skywatch facilities in the continental United States and an already unhinged Henry Bendix has sent his 'experiments' to destroy IO, not caring if New York City gets obliterated in the process.

The stage is set, then, for the Authority to announce its presence to the world in as dramatic and heroic a way as possible. And this it will, presumably, do next issue. Throw in Marc 'Backlash' Slayton and the cover's reminder that Michael Cray is also on the way to New York to kill Miles Craven, and it's safe to say that the stage has been skillfully set for a finale that will be worthy of this series' long, meticulous build-up.

Having expressed concerns in the previous arc that the series was meandering a little, I must admit that this issue continues the trend of Ellis and Davis-Hunt showing they know exactly what they're doing. The issue is perfectly paced, skilfully intercutting high-powered action with important plot developments and throwing in some engaging character beats along the way. It's excellent comic book storytelling with Davis-Hunt's art, in particular, continuing to impress whether in the big-screen moments of spectacle or in the subtle moments of character interaction and tension.

Bits and Pieces:

As might be expected, there's a certain amount of set-up for next issue's finale in this month's story, but there's a fair amount of action, too. Throw in some great character moments and you've got an issue that continues to deliver intelligent, engrossing and exceptionally entertaining super-powered action. Unreservedly recommended.


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