For the ~18 years that the WildStorm Universe was around, Stormwatch and its later offshoot, The Authority, were two of the linchpin teams of Earth-50. Stormwatch, created by Jim Lee, was a United Nations-sponsored team that acted as a powered international police force, while The Authority, created by Warren Ellis, was a rogue team that enforced the higher law as they perceived it, by whatever means they felt appropriate. Both of the eponymous titles were dark and gritty, full of mature content, and often commented in some way on societal issues and politics.
When DC announced that the WildStorm Universe would be one of the casualties of the 2010 DC restructure, fans were dismayed at the prospect of losing their favourite characters, although hints that some characters would be incorporated into the main DC Universe did mollify some. Fast-forward to the announcement of the DC relaunch, commonly referred to as either “DCnU” or “The New 52″, and fans were excited by one of the “lesser” titles named in the new line-up: Stormwatch. Shrouded in the DCnU secrecy, the public details about the title were few; it would be written by Doctor Who-stalwart Paul Cornell, and would reboot members from the original Stormwatch and The Authority teams into the DC Universe, while adding newly created characters.
Released this week as part of the first major wave of DCnU titles, Stormwatch #1 is essentially an introductory issue, establishing who the team are and what their place is in the new DC Universe. For a first issue, Paul Cornell packs a bit of a mixed bag of storylines into the 21 pages. As a result of some significant event only alluded to in the issue (to be revealed in Superman #1, scheduled for September 28), some of the team are in the Himalayas, one is on the Moon, and others trying to recruit a new Superman-level powerhouse to the team. Of course, nothing ever really goes to plan.
As a fan of the original WildStorm titles, I’m of two minds about Cornell’s writing for this title. For one, he does a fantastic job of channelling the writing of the first Stormwatch and The Authority. The way the team interact with each other and others is comfortably familiar, and the hubris of The Authority shines true. However, this is offset by the feeling that the title has been “dumbed down” for the target audience of readers new to the characters. Instead of letting the reader discover the various characters and their abilities for themselves over the series, it is painstakingly spelt out through dialogue. For example, as one character fires up her powers for the first time in the issue, she says, “this is me connecting the alien language processing lobe that got lodged in my brain…” This clumsy mechanism is used quite widely throughout the issue, and while one could argue that this is an introductory issue, it is quite jarring and disappointing.
The issue’s art also provides mixed results. Like the writing, there is a lot of seemingly circumstantial detail that’s a clear nod to the to the WildStorm predecessors (e.g. what appears to be The Bleed), but some of the core detail seems a little off. Miguel Sepulveda’s pencils look to be going for a gritty look and this doesn’t always translate through into the final panels; a character may be drawn with a strong outline against a more muted background, making them stand out unnaturally, or heavy shading is used where little detail exists, washing out the overall detail. In addition, while most of Allen Passalaqua’s colours flow with the storyline context of the panels, there are some jarring uses of bright colours where more muted colours would seem appropriate.
In conclusion, there are a few faults with this first issue of the new Stormwatch, but there are enough glimpses of what I’ve previously experienced with the WildStorm Universe for me to continue reading this title for now. I’m willing to put the faults down to first issue jitters, and can only hope that this “mature” title amongst the DC Universe isn’t a forerunner of what the likes of Grifter or Justice League Dark will be like. For me, Stormwatch #1 isn’t a pass or a fail — it’s a “did not achieve”.
Pros: All the cool characters of The Authority have survived the reboot, Martian Manhunter has become a badass, Midnighter!!
Cons: Some clumsy character and ability introductions, some dumbing down, the art doesn’t always feel right.