Don't let it be said that Paul Cornell's brief run on "Stormwatch" isn't going out with a bang. As it winds down, characters are shuffling out of the cast left and right, and the new status quo is being created for the next creative team.
"Stormwatch" #4's cliffhanger promised a character death this issue, and it turns out no one was kidding around with that promise. It's such a swift and expedient moment that it accomplishes two things. First, it takes the reader by surprise with its suddenness, whipping around the corner and striking almost immediately after it's announced. No drawn out scene, no prolonged struggle, just bam. It's all over. Second, it says to the reader, "This can happen to anyone. No one is safe." How true that promise is, well, that's up for debate; doubly so with Cornell's departure next month. But for now, at least, it's a bit of a warning.
The rest of the issue feels like it's moving at warp speed to try and push the rest of the plot into place. A new leader, a chase scene, a fight between two members, and a lot of wholesale destruction. This feels almost like an issue and a half's worth of material crammed in here, and I appreciate that Cornell isn't stalling or dragging things out. It makes everything feel a little extra exciting, that the situation is spinning out of control faster than anyone at Stormwatch can handle. There's even a fun joke about Jenny's last name and powers apparently being in flux; a nod, perhaps, to the fact that each new writer has defined her a bit differently and no one has the slightest idea what to do with her.
Miguel Sepulveda does a good job overall. The appearance of the Shadow Cabinet member works well in this issue; his finger pointing at the team while asking who should lead has a nice bit of dramatic heft, and his look is strange even as it makes sense. I do wish the computer coloring techniques were toned down a bit on the first two pages, though; some of that initial fight loses its impact because it's hard to get past the explosion of lens flare and glowing sparkle tendrils. The one part of Sepulveda's art I'm not so crazy about is when he draws Apollo and Midnighter talking, sans costumes. Midnighter's face looks a little misshapen, and shirtless Apollo varies from overly muscular to not muscular enough from one page to the next. With costumes on, they look good, but it's not quite clicking out of them.
I'll miss Cornell's time on "Stormwatch," but this issue certainly has shown not to count him out until it's all over. For now, I'm fully prepared to sit back and enjoy the ride.