Of the many questions heading into DC’s September relaunch, where exactly the Wildstorm characters fit in has been one of the more prominent ones. “Stormwatch” is the first of the titles featuring Wildstorm characters now integrated into the new DC Universe. It places the characters in both a position of prominence and the background. Originally, “Stormwatch” was a comic about the eponymous group, a superhero response team for the United Nations. When it eventually fell apart under writer Warren Ellis, it led to “The Authority.” What we get here may be called “Stormwatch,” but it seems to take more from “The Authority,” and, even then, more the forgettable recent revivals than the exciting, ‘change the industry’ first volume.
If you didn’t have some knowledge of “Stormwatch” or, better yet, “The Authority” heading into this issue, it’s not a good introduction. On the first page, we’re alerted that one of the central plots actually stems from “Superman” #1, which doesn’t come out until September 28, a puzzling way to begin a new first issue. From there, there’s no proper introduction to the concept of the team or its members beyond brief one-sentence descriptors.
The recruitment of Apollo seems like a plot tailor-made to introduce the team and its mandate, especially since Apollo seemingly wants nothing to do with groups like the Justice League. What sets this superhuman team apart from any others? It’s a little more secret apparently and... no, that’s it. Besides some quick flashes that suggest a long and rich history, this is a group that’s presented like any other, except they aren’t as well known and don’t really like costumes (aside from the Martian Manhunter).
Besides recruiting Apollo, there are two other plots introduced in this issue: the moon apparently deciding to attack Earth, and a giant horn that was blown that they’re interested in for reasons we may not know until “Superman” #1 comes out. The moon plot is the most interesting and entertaining of the three, introducing a new creature that’s come to “make your world stronger through devastation.”
Paul Cornell brings along a lot of the mannerisms Ellis introduced to the characters with snarky banter and a general sense that none of them actually like each other, and it falls flat since there’s nothing else there. His dialogue doesn’t have the bite of Ellis, nor the suggestive depth, leaving the characters somewhat hollow.
Miguel Sepulveda’s art is reminiscent of Gene Ha’s two issues of “The Authority” and is a good fit. There’s a real world quality to it that lends itself to a secret superhuman group operating in the shadows, while also showing great capability for depicting the fantastic. The ‘Scourge of Worlds’ comes off as horrific as Cornell’s writing makes it out to be, while a display of the Martian Manhunter’s capabilities shows that he will be pushing the limits on what a shapeshifter can do.
Sepulveda does fall down on the horn subplot, never getting across exactly what it’s meant to be, visually, especially in the opening pages where the art doesn’t match the dialogue. We’re given the impression that the Engineer, Adam One, and Jenny Quantum are looking at the horn while discussing it, but never see it. Even when it’s shown explicitly, it more resembles a giant worm than a horn. Maybe that’s because of how it will look in “Superman,” but, again, we won’t know until the end of the month.
From odd editorial decisions to a vague mandate, “Stormwatch” #1 isn’t exactly the best introduction to the team, its role in the new DCU, or its members. Despite some clever ideas, like one of the new characters, the Projectionist, and Sepulveda’s art, Cornell’s writing doesn’t get past imitating Warren Ellis and actually giving readers a reason to care about this book. Why read it over any other random superhero team book besides a lingering fondness for Wildstorm characters that aren’t the same anymore? I don’t know, and that’s a question this comic should have answered.