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    Review: Stormwatch #2

    By | October 7th, 2011
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    Written by Paul Cornell
    Illustrated by Miguel Sepulveda

    The moon is alive! Following the events of SUPERMAN #1 where [TEXT REDACTED], the covert team of sci-fi Super Heroes known as Stormwatch must not only battle the Earth’s moon, but find a way to hide its monstrous metamorphosis from the rest of the Earth! How? Uh, they’re working on it. Meanwhile, the recruitment of Midnighter goes poorly, and we learn why the Martian Manhunter is a member of the team. Written by Paul Cornell (Doctor Who)!

    Stormwatch was one of the most anticipated new series of the DC relaunch because of two reasons: 1) Paul Cornell has been on a hot streak lately and 2) Stormwatch, in its original iteration, was a hugely influential and well received series for WildStorm. I was familiar with the concept of the book before picking up #1 last month, but had never previously read any Stormwatch stories. I am being kind when I say that the first issue was not Cornell’s strongest work.

    Many comics fans are unfamiliar with abstract powers such as being “the Spirit of the 21st Century,” or being able to observe and manipulate the media, and these ideas were not necessarily explained clearly or cleverly. For an organization that was supposed to be around for centuries, there sure was a lot of establishing happening as to who or what Stormwatch is. Even worse, it was the clumsy, Silver Age sort of exposition that really has no excuse in 2011 (“Yes, Peter Parker, sometimes known as Spiderman, I am worried about Mary Jane, your longtime girlfriend who is not aware of your secret identity”). The book wanted it both ways: this was both an origin tale and a story that picks up hundreds of years into the action. And, sadly, neither was handled very well.

    Let this also be said: I am the exact target demographic for this comic. I love team books and, more specifically, I love overstuffed team books; I want characters floating around the periphery that pop in now and then. I also love weird superpowers — we have enough Superman clones, let’s see something totally new and bizarre. And, I love conspiracy rich stories about hidden cabals running everything from a smoky, shadowy location. I should love Stormwatch.

    But so far, I’m pretty meh on the whole thing.

    I can’t say Cornell and co have a total disaster on their hands, because I don’t think 2 issues are enough to make statements like that in anything less than Mister Terrific circumstances. However, nothing about this book is exactly working, and there are far more prospective disasters in play than potential successes. However, despite all the problems, I still think this has, possibly, the most potential for any DCnU book. Find out why after the jump.

    These are things that need to be fixed in order for Stormwatch to be a viable title, but they can all be pretty much summed up as this: TELL US STUFF.

    1 — We need to know who these individuals are and what exactly they do.

    Even for those who read the original Stormwatch, there are a lot of pieces in play here. And even the familiar faces (Martian Manhunter, Midnighter, Apollo) all seem to be quite different than when we last saw them. Show us them in action, give us a cheesy scene of people reading a dossier, something. The most clear example of someone’s powers so far is Jack Hawksmoor, who “controls, manipulates and communicates with cities.” That is one of the most abstract powers I can think of, but because I’ve seen him do it, I understand it. A few more scenes like that, and we may have some actual character development.

    2 — We need to know what Stormwatch is supposed to be

    This has been hinted at, but if I’m trying to convince someone to pick up this book, I want to be able to tell them flat out “Stormwatch is _______.” This isn’t like relaunching the Justice League, which is a household name; you need to entice new readers with an actual purpose for the book.

    3 — Stop being so coy

    Continued below

    Every theme in this book gets winked at, but never actually addressed; Apollo and Midnighter’s sexual orientation, Adam One’s powers/role, the giant horn, everything. There is a place for mystery, but there is also a place for engaging us with details. Right now, I don’t care about any character at all, because all I get are hints as to what they are all about. I know this is a team book, so the focus has to be a bit scattered, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be focus.

    Luckily, the second issue told us more stuff than the first one did — still not enough, but certainly a step in the right direction. We do get to see some more action than last time, some plot threads are planted for future growth, and we begin to get some sort of idea about what is going on.

    Unfortunately, the story is still quite fractured, with three team members on the moon and the rest in Moscow, arguing in an alleyway. The moon stuff is interesting to a certain degree, but for a new book, the main focus should, but isn’t really, on the team coming together. I love, LOVE, the idea of being at war with the moon, and I think that an idea this outrageous needs to be done big, and would have been a much better choice for an arc after we know who these people are.

    It should also be note that the artwork for this issue is split between regular artist (and recently announced DC exclusive) Miguel Sepulveda and fill-in Al Barrionuevo. I am not very familiar with either artist, but it appears that Sepulveda is handling the space stuff and Barrionuevo is taking on the more Earth-bound action. I personally wasn’t offended by any of the artwork this issue, but I think for someone of Sepulveda’s talents, the book is underwhelming visually.

    The worst part of the art, however, has been the covers. Now, I understand that covers don’t have to be literal scenes from the issue at hand, but both issues have had completely misleading covers. I understand wanting an appealing visual for issue #1, and yet the image chosen features two relatively unknown characters and Martian Manhunter standing around. And then, for issue #2, we have the same three characters fighting a character that they have not yet been made aware of. What is the point of this? Neither cover is particularly alluring, and both make the book look, frankly, more exciting than it is at this point.

    But, as I said in the introduction, I think this book has a ton of potential. First of all, the whole idea behind the comic is genius in part because of its malleability; the only criterion is that it must be a serious enough threat for this shadowy organization to want to stop it. So, the stakes are always high. Secondly, because of the nature of the stories told and the aforementioned high stakes, characters can join, quit, die, or simply disappear for long stretches of time and it not feel like a sales boosting gimmick. There has already been a connection made to Demon Knights, Cornell’s other book, as a predecessor of Stormwatch, which could lead to lots of interesting flashback stories to prior incarnations, so the book doesn’t have to be rooted in the DCnU’s present if something more interesting can be told about its past.

    Finally, this is the type of book that DC just wasn’t publishing three months ago; to the mainstream comics fan, this is something relatively new. If this is a successful venture, we may continue to see interesting books being given a chance to catch on. One of the real pleasant surprises of the “New 52” has been seeing books like Animal Man and All-Star Western get such great reviews for this very reason. So, it is in the interest of comic fans everywhere to support these fringe books, lest they disappear for a 60th Bat-title.

    However, until the book is in a more stable place, I really can’t endorse buying it monthly. Let’s hope that mid-way through the arc things pick up a little — next issue, by its description seems like a step in the right direction — and this isn’t one of the books cut loose after 6 issues.

    Continued below

    Final Verdict: 5.0, Browse

    Brian Salvatore

    Brian Salvatore is an editor, podcaster, reviewer, writer at large, and general task master at Multiversity. When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his kids, or playing music with his kids. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, the New York Mets, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).