Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Comic Review - Stormwatch Volume 2: Lightning Strikes

The second volume of Warren Ellis' excellent Stormwatch run contains arguably the weakest set of stories from the first volume. This is relative, of course, and it's still good stuff. The first three episodes focus almost entirely on single characters.

Jack Hawksmoor's story consists of him tracking the bastard offspring of a certain US president that turns out to be a psychotic killer. It's a good showcase for Jack's urban detective skills, and gives some real depth to his powers and his personality. However, the biggest problem is the variable art of Tom Raney. It's actually quite difficult to spot the intended resemblance of two figures to historical figures, which hurts the script, as we don't get what's going on until the infodump. It does feature some nice sequences and cement's Jack's pre-Authority personality.

Jenny's tale is the best of the bunch. It's a origin-flashback type thing, where Raney shows his best side, an effortless patistiche of myriad of past comic styles which synch perfectly with the tales Jenny tells Battalion. It's full of superb moments and more importantly takes Jenny beyond the cardboard walking attitude problem a lesser writer would have made her.

Jackson's segment is a little bit of a let-down, being a rather by-the-numbers racist terrorist bomb story. It does succeed in revitalising the character a little by making him considerably more well-rounded, having defined him away from the macho field officer of the first 36 issues of Stormwatch with Ellis' meagre use of him in the preceding eight issues actually working as a strength. He's basically a new, more believable character finding a much-needed new direction.

"Rose Tattoo" is something of a misnomer. While the story does reveal considerably more about the disturbing title character and hints that all may not be well in Henry Bendix's mind, she's not the sole focus as the rest of Stormwatch go out and get pissed. It's probably to compare Rose's function as a living weapon with the humanity of the rest of the team, although you also get the impression Ellis was bored with single-character stories by this point. It's peppered with wonderful moments for many of the characters and several laugh-out-loud moments, but the Rose Tattoo scenes can probably only be appreciated fully once you've read the rest of Volume 1.

"Assembly" is an experimental piece, consisting of 22 splash pages by Jim Lee, with the only dialogue coming in narration boxes from Bendix and the mission log. It's a pretty good story, if inconsequential, while the unusual storytelling device comes across okay... It feels a bit like simply reading an issue summary, while the storyline itself is something of a throwback, simply featuring the team taking on some leftover Daemonite weapons. It's not bad, just pretty average, though there's enough spiky dialogue and Winter to keep the thing interesting.
Overall, it is the slightest of the three Volume 1 collections but it's still worth reading. In TPB form, it feels like something of a bridge, but it does take in a sense of scale and time, meaning that it doesn't feel like the revamped Stormwatch have only been going a couple of months before "Change or Die".

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