Countdown Presents the Search for Ray Palmer: Wildstorm #1
“The Search for Ray Palmer: Running Wild”
Writer: Ron Marz
Pencils: Angel Unzueta
Inks: Oliver Nome, Richard Friend, Saleem Crawford & Trevor Scott
Colors: Allen Passalaour
Letters: John J. Hill
Cover artist: Arthur Adams
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.65 CAN
DC is offering up several Countdown spinoff books such as this one to introduce readers to some of the parallel earths that make up DC’s resurrected multiverse. It’s not a bad idea, as the high-profile event book is bound to pique the curiosity of readers who have never ventured outside of regular DC continuity. Personally, I was curious to read a story in which the more traditional DC heroes interact with the edgier champions of Jim Lee’s Wildstorm universe. There’s a problem, though: there’s no story here. Ron Marz’s script takes the reader on an uninformative tour of the world of Wildstorm. So there’s no story, next to no information about the Wildstorm characters and no resolution to or advancement of the heroes’ quest. Throw in some loose, distorted artwork and you’ve got the makings of a thoroughly disappointing super-hero comic.
Bob the Monitor guides Donna Troy, Jason Todd and Kyle Rayner from the microscopic “Palmerverse” to one of the 52 worlds that make up the new multiverse. The quartet splits up to scour the globe for Ray Palmer, AKA the Atom, who apparently holds the key to avoiding a coming crisis. Each encounters strange heroes somewhat like themselves and their colleagues back on their earth, but these superhumans are darker, harsher and quick to use lethal force. One of their numbers — Green Lantern Kyle Rayner — unwillingly takes a brief side trip, as another player in the cosmic drama tries to recruit him for a much different mission.
Unzueta’s artwork boasts a thoroughly rushed look from the first page to the last, and the employment of four different inkers in the production of this one-shot certainly seems to reinforce that notion. The characters contort in impossible positions for no apparent reason other than to make things seem more dynamic and action-packed. Instead, it has a distracting effect. Key figures are rendered without any real detail, making for sketchy, loose figures that are difficult to recognize. Colorist Allen Passalaour does a good job of bringing the Green Lantern effects to life, but otherwise, the colors are far too dark. There are panels later in the book, for example, when the black-clad Midnighter is lost when he’s presented up against a dark background.
So, the heroes are drawn to “Earth 50” in search of Ray Palmer, spend the better part of an issue searching for him, confirm he had been there (which they would have known already, right?) and then set off for another parallel reality in the hopes Palmer loitered there a little longer. Where’s the conflict? What’s the point? The reader isn’t even told why s/he should care if the heroes find Ray Palmer, why he’s needed or even why he’s retreated into other worlds. The script fails to provide even the most basic of exposition.
Unbelievably few of the Wildstorm characters are actually named here, and to say it’s puzzling is putting it lightly. This book is clearly meant as something of a primer on the Wildstorm Universe. I was quite disappointed there was no coherent plot presented here, but it might have been easier to understand and even accept if this one-shot served some kind of informative purpose. The Gen13 kids are unnamed. The Wetworks crew goes unnamed. Original StormWatch heroes return here, only to remain unnamed. Only the Authority gets any kind of exposure here, and that’s mainly limited to the Superman and Batman analogues among their number.
One has to give Marz credit, though, for humanizing the cosmic circumstances with the narration. Of course, Marz created Kyle Rayner as an everyman kind of hero, so it makes sense that he’d opt to explore the story through his eyes. I like that amid the dimension-hopping insanity, Kyle dwells on his history with Donna and his jealousy regarding Jason’s bad-boy flirtations with her. Still, those small touches of characterization are far from enough to distract from the book’s many shortcomings. 2/10