Monday, November 13, 2006

Random Reading: Five Worldstorm First Issues

The 1999-2003/2004 (maybe) period at Wildstorm was amazing. I loved what they were doing, particularly the Warren Ellis and Joe Casey stuff plus Adam Warren's Gen13, but then those titles faded away mostly and reboots happened and I lost interest, except for the odd title (Ed Brubaker's Authority series was decent). So, now that Wildstorm is rebooting its entire line, I thought I'd give it a look, picking up five of the first issues over the past month or so. Granted, this isn't a complete selection of the titles offered (I didn't get Wetworks because I never read it and didn't care, while the Stormwatch PHD because it looks like shit--which probably should have made me pick it up, but ah well, I'll survive). So, here we go:

WildCats #1

Before I begin, I should mention that I am one of seven people alive and reading comics that hates Jim Lee's art. I find it ugly, superficial and ineffective at conveying the story. But, I did my best not to let that get in the way. Figured I should get that out of the way, though.

I expect more from Grant Morrison. Compare this to various other books he's done--which, despite some people's views, is a fair thing to do--and this feels like a third of a comic. Maybe.

I like the little introduction to the universe, especially since this is the flagship title of the line. That works fine, but the rest is just.



Morrison puts us in a world that builds on Joe Casey's Wildcats Version 3.0 with Hadrian/Jacob Marlowe running Halo, expanding the technology of the world with Spartan robots and his own Carrier. Beyond that, there's nothing here. A few semi-interesting concepts and not much else. There's some hints of a renewed Daemonite conflict, but not much else.

The Grifter scenes are nice, but not really. They do the job, but there's no much there to do.

I don't know if Morrison altered his style to fit with Lee's or what, but this is, by far, the most unsatisfying thing I've read of his in a long time. For the supposed flagship book, this is a weak start.

The Authority #1

Now, this is more like it. I've read reviews that bash the issue for not having a member of the team appear in it, except the team does show up--firstly, on the cover, which I think is integral to the end of the issue--and, secondly, at the end of the issue (maybe).

But, it's made very clear that the world we see here is meant to be our world, not the Wildstorm universe. We are introduced to Ken who is having marital problems--as in his wife is leaving him--and work problems--as in he's at the bottom of the ocean investigating a terrorist attack on a submarine and there's an artificial craft 50 miles by 20 miles by 8 miles there.

I rather enjoed this issue and its set-up. Granted, the team does not appear here, but judging by the cover and the final pages, something fucked up has happened and the Authority now find themselves stranded in a world much like our own. It could make for an interesting take on the title, especially in comparison to what's come before. They've tried fixing worlds with superpeople, what about a world without them?

As well, Gene Ha's art is amazing. Top notch. The realistic style suits the material perfectly, especially the one-page splash of Ken's wife leaving. Amazing.

I look forward to future issues.

Gen13 #1

Holy stupid teenage cliches, Batman!

To be fair, Gail Simone didn't invent these stupid cliched characters, but she is playing right into those early years of the original book where they were nothing more than walking cliches.

Luckily, she attempts to make that part of the story. But, she fails.

It's hard, actually, to know how much of the lameness of this issue on Simone's shoulders and how much on the original book. The very, very, very basic premise of government-created superpeople is good and even done in a semi-original way here. The rest, though . . .

The art is 90s image lame, which goes to Wildstorm's roots, I suppose, but is just unattractive. For some reason, it has this weird squiggly line effect to it that I cannot figure out since the lines are straight. It baffles and annoys me.

The only time I enjoyed this title in its former incarnation was under Adam Warren, who balanced the campy aspects of the title with more serious emotional content. Simone seems to be trying to walk that line, but fails here. Maybe it's just too much vying for so little space, but I won't be reading this title from now on.

Deathblow #1

Speaking of bad, pseudo-90s Image art . . .

This is the first time I've picked up something written by Brian Azzarello and hated the art (the first trade collecting his Superman run aside, because I know why Jim Lee was on that book). I don't know why Carlos D'Anda is on this book other than the fact that he's a Wildstorm mainstay.

In fact, the art gets in the way on the second and third page when Cray is tortured and I cannot figure out what happened. I think his hand was hit with a big fucking knife, but other than some blood (and a lack of fingernails), the hand we're shown looks normal. What happened?

The story is engaging enough, I suppose--about as engaging as any single issue of an Azzarello-written story, actually. We get the details of Cray's rescue from a prison in some Arab nation. People die, he talks tough, some general tells him that they can't trust him, he's in Gitmo.

Not a whole lot goes on here, but I trust Azzarello to deliver a payoff. I'll probably pick this up in trade, mostly because that's the only way to read Azzarello.

The Midnighter #1

I rather enjoyed this issue. Ennis gives us a Midnighter that feels right. The bastard soldier who tries to play hero and husband and father, but is really just a killing machine.

He begins by taking out some tanks in Afghanistan and killing the American military liason who delivered the tanks to the Mujahs. There's the standard "make fun of Midnighter because he's gay" line, which feels oddly out of place, mostly because it's really tired.

Midnighter is captured by someone who's turned off his abilities and needs him to kill people for him. I never get stories like this. Somehow, we have a guy with the means to capture and deactivate the greatest killing machine ever built, but only so he can use it? Why can't he use his amazing resources to just do it himself somehow and not risk getting his skull punched in later (which I expect to happen--or some variation of)? I can never buy plots like this.

The last page is strangely amusing in that way that makes you both groan and anticipate what's coming next. Because it's Ennis, I trust him.

Sprouse's art is good here. I was concerned that he may not be the right guy to draw the title given the character and the writer, but he does it well, especially the movement Midnighter has in attacking the tanks. Very fluid.

Overall, these launch issues were good. None were perfect and most had their share of problems. The biggest flaw of the bunch is that nothing here rivals the period of greatness Wildstorm had in the 99-03 period. Maybe Morrison's Authority, but that depends on what happens next. Rather disappointing, actually. How does a line-up of Grant Morrison, Brian Azzarello, Garth Ennis and Gail Simone not at least compete with Warren Ellis, Joe Casey and Adam Warren?