The Wildstorm #17
John Lynch continues his reunion tour to meet up with some of his former charges, this time catching up with a character that should be very familiar to many Wildstorm fans. Angela Spica and Emp continue to successfully deceive each other while a Deamonite finally reveals ‘their’ true intentions. Finally, Slayton runs across a meal that handles HIM instead, leading to a delightful reveal of two characters that many, including myself, have been waiting for since issue one.
Since its announcement, the concept of yet another Wildstorm reboot felt tedious to me. Why? And could it possibly recapture the fun and excitement these characters initially generated? DC’s first pass at this idea in the New 52 proved lukewarm, with some good, interesting moments interspersed in what was a pretty humdrum affair.
Of course, the new 52 didn’t have Warren Ellis; a name that demands at least a 3 issue commitment. 17 issues later, the story Ellis is telling here still feels fresh and interesting; not at all a tedious, obligatory cash grab (though I suppose it is that) exercise, but more like a nice familiar trip to a town you knew and loved that’s been given a modernizing, contemporary face lift. Everything feels familiar, but not in a way that’s cloying or pandering. It’s a delight to see how Ellis updates these characters by slowly peeling away the layers to show us how he’s remixed them for this latest go-around. This issue features some choice bits of this storytelling approach.
John Lynch meets up with yet another one of his older charges. Ellis draws us in into the scene with a concept that already proves initially exciting: a gender flipped Rainmaker, a character more fully committed to his Native American roots than a smoldering 90’s Image babe. The real twist, however, comes a little later when we find out that this Rainmaker is actually Sarah’s dad, and that his weather manipulation powers passed on to her; a revelation Lynch responds to by saying that the same has happened to the children of the other Thunderbook subjects. Lynch’s off-hand musing that he wants to find them and Rainmaker’s subsequent invitation to have them live at his reservation hints at how Lynch’s story arc will end and lays the seeds down for yet another direction for this reboot to continue/spin-off. The scene ends at a place that feels familiar to long-time fans of this imprint, but the way Ellis gets us there remixes enough elements to have the payoff feel earned, relevant, and full of purpose. This is a Gen 13 reboot I *need* to read now.
Meanwhile, Angela and Emp continue to try to deceive each other, with Angela arguably getting the better of Emp by spying on him via an Alexa-like Halo device. Emp and Kenesha discuss just how much of a threat Angela is fast becoming (she’s learning how to use guns now) as a Deamonite reveals itself to Angela, telling her that they are on humanity’s side. Angela’s visitor claims that Emp has been deforming our natural development by introducing new tech into our lives before we’re ready for them. I particularly enjoyed the reversal here. Ellis retains the original dynamic of the Kherubim/Deamonite conflict using humanity and Earth as the battleground upon which this ideological war is waged, but now reverses it the motivations of each side. The Deamonites now, if Angela’s source is to be believed, are more interested in ensuring that humanity achieves its true and natural destiny without the Kherubim’s interference while Emp and Kherubims in his employ seem more interested in social engineering through technology for ends and aims heretofore unrevealed. It’s a nice way to give the Deamonite more of a raison d’etre than just being the generic Alien boogeymen while nicely calling back to the later stages of the original WildCATS comic where the team becomes more of a corporate entity, trying to save the world from itself through the introduction of advanced tech. Ellis dangles enough bits to make things interesting, but not entirely resolved. Emp clearly is not in the business of creating nifty Apple-like gadgets solely for altruistic ends, yet the promise of technology that would make all of our problems a thing of the past is undeniably tempting. While the Deamonite Angela ‘meets’ seem to be looking out for best interests, they are hardly a uniform group. Is this concern for humanity something all Deamonites share, or this particular Deamonite an exception to the rule? Who knows what the majority of them really want? The one inside Slayton certainly has more basic, baser desires.
Speaking of the aforementioned Slayton, he meets up with a couple of potential victims near the end of the issue who are anything but. The silhouette of a halo and a trench coat reveals that Midnighter and Apollo are about to enter the fray, retaining all the same no-nonsense swagger we’ve all come to know and love. Though they will undoubtedly be remixed a bit when they make their full debut, It’s interesting to note that out of all the characters Ellis is playing with, the core members of the Authority seem to be the ones he seemed to have altered the least. I wonder why Ellis made that choice and how this plays into the overall conclusion of this story?
Jon Davis-Hunt’s art continues to draw my eye, in a good way. He is a very versatile artist, pulling off and feeling very much at ease with both the very minimalist, stripped down design needed in scenes involving Emp and the much more elaborate, detailed pencil work needed for the Deamonites and the bleed, a nice contrast seen in just one brief scene.
His character designs also continue to impress, particularly with Rainmaker in this issue, with each character getting one quirky thing that makes them identifiable as that character, even with how stripped and ‘MTV unplugged’ they look. It’s a much more interesting and thoughtful take on the Netflix-Marvel approach of dressing colorful, spandexed characters in civilian garb. There are only a few characters that appear ‘suited up’, Angela and Void among them, but Davis-Hunt still manages to convey the essence of each character with subtle and unobtrusive shorthand design choices.
This is also a Warren Ellis comic, which also means that there will be a lot of ‘talking heads’ scenes, which is often times difficult for an artist to make visually interesting and dynamic. Davis-Hunt pulls this off nicely, particularly in the scenes with Lynch and Rainmaker. The dialogue is the real star here, but Davis-Hunt still manages to make a lot of the panels interesting, with varying facial expressions giving the scene the dynamism and movement it needed to not be stale and just something to get through, rather than enjoy.
Brian Buccellato’s colors were fantastic in this issue, with each scene getting a distinct and appropriate palette. The rich purples and oranges in the scenes with Lynch and Rainmaker convey the barely simmering conflict and emotions roiling beneath the surface with each character. Angela’s encounter with the Deamonite gives Buccellato another chance to show off the bleed which looks fantastic) while giving Emp and Kenesha more muted before winding down the issue with a lot of shadows that nicely shows off Apollo’s halo.
Finally, I can’t end this review without mentioning the nice, subtle development of Priscilla’s (Voodoo) character. The Deamonites are writing her songs! It’s a nice update that streamlines her powers and character concept (the notion of a…vaguely psychic exotic dancer never seemed clear to me). The notion that the Deamonites are influencing us through our pop culture just as much as the Kherubim is with their tech is a nice bit of Ellisian science fiction and update to the overall Wildstorm mythos.
Overall, this has been a fantastic installment that has whetted my appetite whetted for all the other layers that Ellis will peel from this onion.
Ellis and Davis-Hunt continue to update the Wildstorm characters in a way that’s not cloying or pandering. This is a nostalgia dive that isn’t just dog whistling and coattail riding, but more of a remix that feels relevant, thoughtful, and full of purpose.
The Wildstorm #17: Tacking Into the Bleed
Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9.5/109.5/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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