The original Wildstorm was an independent comic publisher started by Jim Lee, primarily releasing superhero books set in Lee's own universe. After DC purchased it in 1992, it retained its independence, similar to Vertigo, with its own lineup of creator-owned (like Brian K. Vaughan's Ex Machina) and licensed comics. That ended with Wildstorm's closure in 2010, and the imprint's own characters were incorporated in DC universe's ill-considered New52 reboot. Sadly, aside from Midnighter and Apollo (who flourished in Steve Orlando's caring hands), none of them made an impact, quickly fading into obscurity. Until last year, when DC announced the relaunch of the imprint under the curation of none other than Warren Ellis.
In many ways, Ellis owes his cult status to Wildstorm. While he didn't start his career there, he gained general recognition in the industry thanks to his work there, in particular thanks to the influential The Authority. It's understandable, then, that he decided to agree when asked by Jim Lee to head the imprint's relaunch.
Wildstorm's return is a highly publicized event, equal to last year's Young Animal launch, with The Wild Storm serving as the foundation of the entire imprint. In an essay published in the backmatter of pretty much every DC title released in the two weeks prior to first issue's release, Ellis outlined his big plans for the next two years. In essence, he took the inspirations that drove Lee in creating his universe--government conspiracy, ufology and genetic experimentation--and modernized, putting it all in a complex series bible. The imprint will work similar to a cinematic universe: one 6 issue series will be released after the other, each building upon the former, culminating in a giant event ending in two years.
It's a complex endeavor; but all of this is the future. Here and now, we have The Wild Storm #1, the first step for the entire story.
The issue's focus is Angelica Spica, a researcher for Miles Craven's IO and a relaunched version of the classic Wildstorm character, the Engineer. When we meet her, Angelica is in a bad state: aimlessly walking through New York, bleeding and clearly anxious about her research, until she ends up saving a man falling from a skyscraper. The manner of that rescue--a metamorphosis into a flying armored suit--along with the man she rescues and the circumstances that caused him to fall through the building's window are the inciting event of Ellis's entire four year plan. It's what will cause all of the characters introduced in the issue, members of different secret societies, to come to blows.
Sadly, the comic's status as a prelude to the entire story is its biggest flaw. In the span of 22 pages we're introduced to a whole slew of characters, and thanks to their number most of them don't get very developed. However, it's only the first chapter of a six-part story, and Ellis's writing is as skilled as ever. We only get glimpses into the characters we're introduced to, and only get a peek under the story's curtain, but they are so well written that they betray hidden depths that will likely be explored in the future issues and series. For the time being, though, it's all a work in progress.
What isn't a work in progress, though, is Jon Davis-Hunt's art, with Ivan Plascencia's coloring. Davis-Hunt is a fantastic artist, primarily known for his work on 2000 AD, and more recently on Gail Simone's Clean Room. He brings to The Wild Storm his trademark clean and detailed artwork, with the characters' facial expressions revealing more about themselves than the writing can in such a limited space. Plascencia's colors build upon this foundation, using a duller palette for most panels allowing the brighter, more important elements to grab our eye.
Despite the comic's limitations as a first part of a bigger, very promising whole, The Wild Storm #1 still manages to shine, with fabulous art and Ellis's trademark writing craft. It's more than enough incentive to find out how it all develops next month. I'll see you then.
The Wild Storm #1 is written by Warren Ellis, with art by Jon Davis-Hunt and Ivan Plascencia, and published Wildstorm, a DC Comics imprint. You can buy it at your local comic shop, or at comiXology.
Dominik Zine is a nerdy demisexual lad from northeastern Poland and is generally found in a comfy chair with a book in hand.