The Wild Storm Volume 1
Reprints The Wild Storm #1-6
Written by Warren Ellis
Illustrated by Jon Davis-Hunt
In 1992, comics were at one of their financial peaks with superstar artists at the forefront of what was driving the buying frenzy. This allowed several Marvel artists to strike out on their own and created Image Comics, a creator-focused publishing house where they could feel free to play and know they had ultimate ownership of their properties. Jim Lee was one of those artists, having made a name for himself illustrating X-Men, the highest-selling comic of the day. Lee and fellow artist Brandon Choi co-founded Wildstorm, their branch of Image and it was home to the most consistently produced titles at the company. Some of these titles were WildCATs, Deathblow, Stormwatch, and Gen13, all existing in an original shared universe with very complex back history. In 1999, as the market cooled down, Lee sold Wildstorm to DC Comics and took on a more significant leadership role with his new company. Today, Jim Lee is the Co-Publisher and Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics.
In 2011, DC did a line-wide reboot of their universe, and one of their big decisions was to merge the Wildstorm Universe into the DCU proper. This had been hinted at for years with storylines in Captain Atom and Superman that introduced Wildstorm as a potential parallel reality. The inclusion of Wildstorm in the New 52 was awkward, to say the least, but it was more due to the decisions to only partially reboot some characters’ continuities that made the whole initiative confusing. Stormwatch (principally The Authority) was a launch title, and other character popped up across the universe in books like Superboy and Superman. With DC Rebirth, the company’s attempt to “patch” the bugs in the New 52 Wildstorm appeared to be shunted to the side.
In 2017, The Wild Storm was released. This was a 24 issue maxi-series penned by phenomenal writer Warren Ellis and illustrated by Jon Davis-Hunt. Ellis stripped down the sometimes confusing continuity of Wildstorm to its core, getting rid of the superpowers and garish costumes. He kept the core concepts but played up the behind-the-scenes counterespionage elements making this a story of how humanity is caught in the middle of a massive intelligence agency war.
Ellis chose to make Angela Spica our entry point into The Wild Storm. Spica is a medical engineer for International Operations (IO), the organization that essentially runs every government and industry on Earth. Well, except for the Halo Corporation which is run by the mysterious Jacob Marlowe. Spica happens upon an assassination attempt by IO on Marlowe during which she manifests a new form. As a result of her job, Spica has gotten access to alien technology stolen from Skywatch, the org that governs everything beyond Earth, and has merged this tech with her own body. Using these new powers, she saves Marlowe and begins an odyssey that reveals the real history of Earth and who the authorities are behind our lives.
Meanwhile, the use of this stolen tech draws the attention of Skywatch and its director, Henry Bendix, are infuriated but know their next move against IO needs to be calculated. Along the way, we encounter new versions of old Wildstorm characters like Lucy Blaze (Zealot), Priscilla Kitaen (Voodoo), Adrianna Tereshkova (Void), and Cole Cash (Grifter). These characters are somewhat visually familiar for fans of the original Wildstorm Universe but wildly reimagined. What Ellis does best is strip the superhero elements out of the book, thereby removing the stigma of characters like the WildCATs being blatant X-Men ripoffs.
This is a dense book, with lots of information thrown at the reader in rapid succession. Ellis takes the approach of eschewing needless exposition that the characters wouldn’t exchange and has them talk with full knowledge about each other. It’s the reader’s job to fill in the blanks and make connections to understand the long-running conflicts. Each issue doesn’t end on the “To be continued” note we’ve come to expect from comics and just sort of stops because Ellis has run out of pages for that issue. That made reading the book month to month almost incoherent, so I stopped and waited for the series to end so that I could read issues in quicker succession. There’s a lot of seeds planted in these first six issues and not a lot of culminating of any subplots. Ellis is laying the groundwork and once you have a basic handle on who is who the series is very intriguing and is prepared to explore a brand new comics universe.