This is really where Warren Ellis the mainstream visionary got started. While his Excalibur run undoubtedly showed his skill for humanising and revitalising characters, the freedom given by Wildstorm allowed him to remould a whole series in the space of an issue. When Ellis arrived, Stormwatch was pretty much a dying book. It was never one of Image's biggest hitters in the early days and rapidly became one of those books no-one cared about. The series was hampered by having to keep in line with the 'Images of Tomorrow' gimmick put in place early in the run, and then by a ludicrous number of new characters thrown at the book by desperate writers.
thing Ellis does is seriously downsize the cast, using the fallout from
Wildstorm's convoluted 'Fire from Heaven' crossover as a convenient
excuse. Now, once I'd read Ellis' Stormwatch run I actually picked up some
of the preceding issues, and Stormwatch pre-Ellis was undiluted crap. Having
read some of that nonsense, it's incredibly pleasing to see the writer
slice 50% off the cast in a single, silent panel. Two-dimensional cyphers
like the manufactured maverick Cannon (co-star for much of the previous
36 issues) and most of the lame trainee teams just gone, without a word.
keep some old characters on, obviously. Winter, Hellstrike, Fahrenheit
and Fuji go back to the earliest days of the book, as do The Weatherman
and seedling activator Christine Trelane. In a masterstroke, previous
star of the book Battalion is decentralised and taken off the active
team. Of the more recent additions to the Stormwatch roster, only Swift
and Flint survive. Ellis instead drafts in three new characters - burnt-out
96-year old superhuman Jenny Sparks, modified city dweller Jack Hawksmoor,
and silent gun-wielder Rose Tattoo.
characters get a much-needed shot in the arm, and laudably take up a
fair amount of this first volume. "New World Order" sets the
format for this new Stormwatch, laying down the basic foundations for
the new characters, but largely focusing on the older characters as
they take on a Nietsche-spouting genetically engineered superhuman.
It's well-done stuff, with Ellis' dialogue adding much needed spark
to the formula.
sets up what will become the subplot for the rest of Ellis' run, that
of massive tension between SW and the USA, as American forces allow
the murder of Undertow. The storyline fleshes out Hawksmoor to a larger
degree, while also using Ellis' tried-and-tested "superheroes down
the pub" (cf. Excalibur #90), introducing the recurring setting
of Clark's Bar, ran by a retired... oh, you'll spot it.
focuses on the Stormwatch Black team (Jenny, Jack and Swift) infiltrating
a town under the thumb of racist, superpowered cops. It mainly serves
to add depth to Jenny, Jack and Swift (who, despite being an older character,
is basically a blank canvas as her previous characterisation was basically
"She's from Tibet and has wings and yeh").
is probably the best story from this collection, featuring a chemical
bomb attack on a plane that affects Scottish village. In features flecks
of characterisation for Stormwatch Prime (Winter, Fuji and Hellstrike)
and Red (Fahrenheit, Flint and Rose Tattoo), but is more notable for
the Weatherman's decision to kill 200 inhabitants of Gamorra as an eye-for-an-eye
reprisal for the bombing of the plane. At this point, Ellis doesn't
place judgement on the actions undertaken, and it's left to the reader
story in the collection is "Activator". While the focus on Christine
Trelane is a good idea, the plot is predictable, and the whole story
feels a little padded and inconsequential - while one part is an important
detail for future stories, it doesn't feel worth the effort. The book
closes with "Kodô", a welcome focus on Fuji, featuring
a great take on Japanese nationalism. It's packed with great moments
for the rest of the team as well, plus some superb ideas.
while it's not on the level of The Authority, it is a great collection
of superior superhero titles, and is the ideal place to start if you're
new to Ellis, or want to expand beyond mainstream superhero comics.