The Wild Storm attempts to re-invent one of the more successful comics imprints of the ’90s for a modern audience.
On a parallel Earth, three powerful organizations, Skywatch, IO and HALO exist in a fragile state of equilibrium, while the public remains generally unaware of the emergence of enhanced humans and the arrival of aliens. When an IO operative attempts to assassinate the head of HALO, low level IO engineer Angie Spica, a bystander to the incident, deploys the bio-armor she’s developed (using purloined tech from her employer) to save a life. Angie’s actions put her in the crosshairs of a brewing war and threaten to shatter the brittle peace among the factions.
Wildstorm was one of the more successful imprints to emerge from the original Image milieu, founded by superstar creator Jim Lee. Unlike his Image peers, Lee migrated back to the majors after a relatively short interval, selling Wildstorm to DC and running it as a boutique for many years. Several attempts to resuscitate the line failed to match its early success. During DC’s New 52 era, Wildstorm was integrated into DC’s main continuity, but save for a well-regarded Midnighter series, the characters didn’t fare well when mixed with DC’s more classic concepts.
Fan favorite writer Warren Ellis did some memorable work for Wildstorm in its heyday and spearheads a new take on this universe with The Wild Storm. With the characters once again tucked onto their own Earth, Ellis exploits the ongoing fascination of readers with concepts like secret societies, shadow governments and power paranoia to infuse new energy into the Wildstorm properties.
Ellis and DC wisely didn’t try to launch an entire new line at once. The Wild Storm serves as “Grand Central” for a new imprint, spinning a saga that encompasses all of this fictional world. Ellis works some interesting ideas, giving the proceedings something of the feel of early Marvel, a “world outside your window” approach spiked with an insider view of power elites. Angie is a sympathetic pivot for the umbrella story, a well-meaning scientist caught up in forces she didn’t fully comprehend. The complex socio-political system Ellis devises provides a sturdy foundation for Sci Fi-influenced superhero stories.
Popular Wildstorm characters like Grifter, Deathblow and Zealot all figure prominently in the story, though Ellis keeps the use of those colorful codenames to a minimum, part of the more realistic approach that gives the series a distinct personality within DC’s larger publishing line. With a packed cast, some major Wildstorm players have yet to make appearances, and the first arc doesn’t have much time for others like Voodoo and Jenny Sparks, who pop up but whose roles in the story have yet to become clear.
Ellis has a lot of world building to do here, so even while there are several well-crafted action sequences, there’s also an abundance of “talking head” scenes. Fortunately, the author is good at injecting personality, including some wicked humor, into the material, which keeps the story engaging even when the action isn’t boiling. A small bit of gore and the occasional use of adult language give the material a “mature” sheen without going overboard. The series also effortlessly embraces a diverse cast without feeling the need to pat itself on the back for it.
Jon Davis-Hunt is a canny choice as primary artist, as Lee’s influence on his approach is apparent. He manages a similar balancing act of infusing plenty of detail and complex composition into his pages without them seeming cluttered or overly busy. There’s a clean, dynamic energy to Davis-Hunt’s visuals that keeps the plot moving along nicely, even in the quieter moments. He does some first rate figure work, giving the muscular heroes a more grounded appearance and presenting a greater array of body types than is typical for a superhero series. Davis-Hunt does some shrewd design work that updates the classic character looks, leaving the excesses of the ’90s far in the rearview mirror. He works well within the classic “grid” approach to page construction, but when given the chance, produces some truly gorgeous one- and two-page spreads that land with real impact. A trio of veteran colorists, led by Steve Buccellato, deploys a lot of bright, intense tones that capture the futurism of the concept, while knowing when to contrast with shadows and subtler tones. It helps the art achieve the kind of modern sensibility that the update needs to work.
While there are a few questions about how all this might play out in future stories, especially once the spin-offs start rolling out, the first arc of The Wild Storm provides a solid foundation that the strong creative team can build upon.