“The Dark Side, Part One”
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist/Cover artist: Miguel Sepulveda
Colors: Allen Passalaqua
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Pat McCallum
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
You never know what you’re going to find from one of these inaugural New 52 titles to the next. Some pick up where DC left off before the relaunch, and others feature complete reboots. Stormwatch falls into the latter category. Still, writer Paul Cornell keeps where the property came from in mind. He’s got an unenviable task, competing against the landmark Stormwatch v.1 run by Warren Ellis and Tom Raney, not to mention the heralded runs on The Authority by Ellis, Bryan Hitch, Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. Cornell certainly captures the spirit of those comics, but some of his efforts to offer an accessible introduction to the retooled concept are clunky. Still, the big ideas that serve as the foundation for the first story arc are worthy of those old Stormwatch/Authority comics, enough to satisfy old fans and more than enough to impress new readers. Miguel Sepulveda is an up-and-coming talent, and this represents the best work I’ve seen from him thus far. He’s not Hitch or Quitely, but he does capture the edgy tone necessary for to make the adventures of these extreme characters and concepts work.
There are dangers that threaten the planet, all of mankind, even all of existence, and no one knows about them. Well, almost no one. A team of superhumans polices reality in secret, doing what it can to eliminate or stave off those threats. Operating from a high-tech, satellite-like headquarters in hyperspace, agents from the team investigate such phenomena as the appearance of a giant alien artifact in the Himalayas or tectonic shifts on the Moon that suggest an aggressive posture toward Earth, while others search the globe for new recruits, for people of particular talents and power who can do more good than they ever imagined possible.
Sepulveda’s artwork reminds me of the style of Barry (FF) Kitson at times, and that more realistic approach certainly works well with the immense ideas and edgier characters that populate this title. He doesn’t quite have the same “widescreen” scope for the book that helped popularize previous incarnations of this team, but the visuals also distinguish this from a typical super-hero team book. While I think the new designs for Apollo and Midnighter to be a bit too busy, I liked the tweaks that have been made to the Martian Manhunter’s look, especially the ridges on the side of his head. The cosmic herald of armageddon we see inside the Moon is wonderfully grotesque and alarming.
Cornell’s script suggests the title team has been around for centuries, perhaps more as a secret society of superhumans defending the world from threats it never knew existed. The script even links Stormwatch to Cornell’s other New 52 title, Demon Knights, which I suppose is an interesting idea. I hope the connections between Cornell’s aren’t too overt or require one to read both. At this early stage in the relaunch, each title should stand up on its own. It’s too early in the game to set up crossovers. Of course, one’s suggested on the first page, as a plot development here is apparently linked to another in Superman #1, which isn’t set to be released until later in the month.
The writer offers too strong an introduction to one of the new characters, the Projectionist. The concept works well, worthy of the sort of novel idea Ellis or Millar would’ve come up with in The Authority, but Cornell’s script is too specific about her powers. The exposition isn’t woven naturally into the dialogue, making for an awkward scene. Conversely, he doesn’t tell us much about the other new (or at least unfamiliar to me) characters, Adam and Harry. Both seem to be in leadership roles, and neither one’s powers are clear.
This vision of Stormwatch is actually more like the Authority, operating from other-dimensional space, apparently under its own charter, not some government-directed program. Still, a lot has changed from the Wildstorm incarnation of the concept. Jenny Quantum is of a different race. Apollo and the Midnighter aren’t members. They’re not even familiar with the other heroes. The Martian Manhunter (who’s revealed as having an association with the Justice League, despite his absence from promotional material for the new Justice League book) actually fits into the group quite well, and there are some new figures I don’t recognize (though perhaps I just don’t remember them). Cornell’s script makes it clear to previous Stormwatch/Authority fans that things have changed considerably, but it also offers an accessible introduction to the characters and premise for new readers (which the New 52 initiative is bound to attract).
One of the big challenges Cornell faces in this series is incorporating these Wildstorm characters into a world in which Superman, Batman and other iconic heroes exist. How can Apollo and Midnighter work in a world that includes the heroes that inspired their creation in the first place? How can world-ending threats such as the one introduced in this issue go unnoticed by the more familiar and equally powerful heroes of the DC Universe proper? J’Onn J’Onzz’s role in the book seems to be to explain and resolve those storytelling conflicts. Stormwatch would definitely work better in its own continuity, but that’s apparently not an option anymore. Cornell’s walking a fine line here as a result, but he’s making his way across the tightrope capably so far. 7/10
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