Review: The Wild Storm #1.

Let’s talk The Wild Storm #1.

If you’re here I’ll assume that you are somewhat acquainted with the former Wildstorm universe, as well as with my previous post detailing my concerns regarding the art direction for The Wild Storm, the initial series that now serves as the lynchpin of the new pop-up imprint. If not, feel free to click here to catch up!

The Wild Storm #1Color: I stated that I wanted a war between colors in this series—the soothing pastels of modern technology, the vibrant hues of rogue agents and inventors, and the heavy blacks and deep grays of IO hardware. Ivan Plascencia does an incredible job providing readers with the first of the three. The mundane world that Halo dominates looks to be an absolute pleasure to reside in. Unlike the overwhelming and highly saturated colors you’d find in the real Times Square, the Midtown of Wildstorm is filled with baby blues, soft browns, and muted greens. It is relaxing—as deceptively nonthreatening as the company Marlowe has built. Unfortunately, those pastels persist in the underground bunkers of IO, which I think is a poor choice for what should be a grim and off-putting military environment. The struggle between Marlowe and Craven should play out via brightness. Halo hides in not only plain but illuminated sight; IO operates in the shadows.

But both IO and Halo are in different ways the establishment. And that should be shown via color—via a lack of vibrancy. Plascencia capably achieves that, and perhaps also leaves clues as to who our rogue agents will be via saturation. Angela’s independence is marked by color—her bright red blood and the vibrant blue of her transformation. Zealot’s eyes are a vivid blue. Voodoo’s? Green. And of course there is the crimson that bleeds from Cray. All four of these characters wear gray, making the flashes of red, blue, and green seem much more important.

Lettering: Normally you notice lettering only if it is bad. But I noticed Simon Bowland’s excellent lettering because the chosen font is terrible. It’s too narrow and reminds me of Comic Sans. Straight up. A nice nostalgic nod would have been to use the unique fonts found in the first Wildcats (not WildC.A.T.S.) series. And if I can remember a font from 1999 you know it must be good (or else I have an absolutely insane attention to detail).

I will add that I think the removal of bold to indicate speech patterns flattens out the work. It’s used less often now—probably a push back against its previous overuse (and also nonsensical use). American dialects and accents are so rhythmic, musical, and varied. Bolding is a great way to visually emphasize (no pun intended) that sonic uniqueness—that Voodoo doesn’t sound like Angela and Angela doesn’t sound like Zealot, etc.

The Wild Storm #1Pencils: I’d be lying if I stated that my previous concerns regarding the art direction had been alleviated. Jon Davis-Hunt is a talented artist, but the work here in no way presents itself as what one would typically want and expect from a Wildstorm book. The layout is, quite frankly, dull and devoid of dynamic movement. Nine-, six-, and three-panel grids dominate the pages.

I do understand their presence. Opening with a nine-panel grid harkens back to the era of Watchmena work that deals with a slowly unravelling conspiracy. I do not, however, want to go back to that era artistically. Watchmen is not a part of my comics canon (or Wildstorm’s canon) and I do not have an iota of the Anglophilic and nostalgic adoration others have for the work. I grew up on Jim Lee and grew out with Travis Charest and Dustin Nguyen. If I grew up on Ashanti and you give me The Amazons instead of Kehlani we’re going to have a problem.

We have a problem.

It is my hope that as there is a war between colors there is also one in regards to art. That the further removed Angela is from IO the closer we get to the innovative and cinematic layouts that define the glory days of the Wildstorm universe, via artists who not only pay homage to Wildstorm’s past, but push boundaries as well. In comics the marriage of art and script tell a story. A successful reboot must provide the essence of both halves. The art here is quite pretty. But it is in no way the essence of Wildstorm. Readers unfamiliar with the Wildstorm universe will likely not care. For a former reader like myself the change is jarring.

Script: Oh, we’re good. I’ve loved Ellis’ work since Stormwatch and that hasn’t changed in the slightest. It is my hope that the characters involved maintain distinct ways of speaking that feel natural and authentic. A challenging task given the wide variety of ethnicities, classes, and cultures these characters spring from!

All in all, I am pleased with The Wild Storm #1 and am curious to see where this new world leads.


Wildstorm designs.

The Wild Storm #1As I have said before I am excited about the relaunch of the Wildstorm universe, though I do have some concerns. Those concerns do not reside with Warren Ellis, whose breakdowns of the key players and organizations of the Wildstorm universe have only intrigued me. No, rather it is Ellis’ views regarding the art direction for the upcoming The Wild Storm and other untitled tie-in works he plans to launch that have raised warning flares.

I often compare Wildstorm to Milestone. I have an extremely high opinion of the two imprints and I believe the diversity contained within both had a huge impact on the quality and type of work released. Wildstorm and Milestone were clearly multicultural in nature. They made comics about everyone for everyone. However, the story direction at Milestone was led by African American men. The art direction at Wildstorm was led by Asian American men. And it—no pun intended—colored the work. If one is to relaunch Milestone (as Lion Forge has done in spirit with Catalyst Prime) or Wildstorm effectively, I believe this must be duplicated. The heart of both imprints reside with men of color. It is that simple.

Lion Forge has risen to the challenge. Though its selection of writers for Catalyst Prime is diverse, Christopher Priest and Joseph Illidge, both black men present during either the creation of Milestone or its flourishing, are at the helm. Lion Forge is poised to replicate what made Milestone unique in the marketplace—a multicultural band of talented creators building a world envisioned by black men.

Given the dominating presence of skilled writers such as Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, James Robinson, and Mark Millar, it is clear that Wildstorm’s story direction was overwhelmingly Anglophilic in nature even though the imprint’s roots reside with writer Brandon Choi. This is certainly not a negative, but a positive—the works produced were wonderful—and this setup has been reproduced with Warren Ellis’ return. What has not yet been duplicated, and something I think should be duplicated if this imprint is to successfully recapture the “heart” of Wildstorm, is to have Asian American men at the helm in regards to art direction.

Now just as Milestone hired writers of myriad backgrounds, so should Wildstorm have a diverse selection of artists. After all, men like J. Scott Campbell, Matt Broome, and Lee Bermejo all thrived there. But they did so under the watchful eye of Jim Lee. Wildstorm’s artists had multiple influences, of course, but one can clearly see that Asian and Asian American artists were not only among them, but in the early days those influences perhaps dominated.

“When Jim launched WildStorm, the look was best-in-class for commercial superhero comics—computer-assisted colour, pinsharp printing, great paper. We can’t replicate that, and, frankly, I can’t think of a technological way to top it. So let’s try something else. Stripped-down, stark and authentic.”Warren Ellis

Looking at the preview art released it appears as though Jon Davis-Hunt wears the UK on his sleeve. His work is lovely, and in the panel layouts and body language depicted one can see strains of Dave Gibbons and Steve Dillon. But an Anglophilic writer paired with an Anglophilic artist leaves one with an imprint highly reminiscent of Vertigo, not Wildstorm. And to follow in the footsteps of Vertigo does a clear disservice to what Wildstorm was and could be again—a marriage of the UK and Asia nestled in a multicultural American setting.

Academi GRS OperatorsI will paraphrase what I’ve said elsewhere in conversations with friends in regards to the stripped-down, desaturated, and spot-color approach to art and design in the new Wildstorm universe: I am not a fan though I understand its presence. It is my hope that the art and color in The Wild Storm apes multiple styles as a nod to the design wars taking place within the story—Academi (formerly Blackwater) versus Apple versus rogue street tech. I want to see heavy black mecha, sleek white tools, and the inventions of children of color who are working with the vibrant branded refuse discarded by our society.

“By the end of it I’d want an explosion of color as the universe drills down to the street. Renzi on Loose Ends. Or Bellaire brightness.”Cheryl Lynn Eaton

I think that vivid kinetic faction is where Asian and American artistic influences should make their presence felt. And if or when they do, Wildstorm will have truly become Wildstorm.