A woman wearing a revolutionary piece of alien technology burst on the scene out of nowhere, saving Lord Emp’s life. Now, the diminutive lord of the Kherubim and his rival agency, International Operations, are trying to get a hold of that tech before it falls into enemy hands. For Emp, that means reaching out to everyone’s (like third or fourth) favorite masked mercenary: Grifter.
The Wild Storm #2 (DC Comics)
In the introductory issue of this re-imagining of the Wild Storm Universe, I credited writer Warren Ellis with being able to reintroduce these familiar characters with extensive backstories to an audience that may not be well versed in the lore. In this second issue, I worry that I may have jumped the gun. Don’t get me wrong, issue 2 is still a good read, it’s just that with the constant introduction of new characters, development of old, and the creation of a THIRD agency to consider in this still ill-defined Kherubim conflict, it’s beginning to feel a bit like Game of Thrones. Like, is it essential that I know the traditional lineage of the Kingsguard through Ser Arthur Dayne or how it is that Cole Cash separated from his Team 7 compatriots and found himself working for Marlowe? No, but while it does make the story a touch more interesting when you do, it also makes it harder to get into a story that some readers may find confusing.
Issue 2 opens with a mostly textless sequence in which Angela, the character once known as Engineer in the Authority series, is fleeing the scene from her midday rescue of Lord Emp, knowing full well that she’s now been targeted by both the Halo Corporation and the IO. It’s a simple five page spread wherein our protagonist breaks into a secret IO black site and, once she finally has a moment alone to herself, breaks down when she realizes what that means. It’s a great bit of simplistic storytelling, giving us everything we need to know (at the moment) about this character, her emotional state and the weight of her actions. It’s also a phenomenal example of artist Jon Davis-Hunt’s contributions to the emotional resonance of plot.
What follows, however, is a series of super dense conversations between three different parties with their own personal thoughts, histories and conflicts between them. There’s so much to unpack in these conversations that when Mike (the character formerly known as Deathblow) begins talking about the emotional weight of his career choice and his inoperable brain tumor (uh spoiler alert?), it feels like a comparatively light read. The conflict between Halo and the IO is no clearer–in fact, it’s complicated by the emergence of the Skywatch organization as prominent antagonists to both (though Zealot’s connection to either Emp’s organization or the IO is unclear). So far, Ellis has been able to handle these developments like a tapestry, weaving things together to create a more intricate pattern, but he’s teetering on the edge of over-complexity. There’s a lot of worldbuilding happening in these early books, I just hope things don’t get much more ornate or else I’ll need to keep Cliff’s Notes on the series.
Of course the big development for fans of the source material is re-emergence of Grifter, the red-masked gunman of indeterminate age that was the poster boy for the Wild Storm imprint. He doesn’t fully suit up or anything, but the fact that he and Void are going after Angela–with both the IO and Skywatch also sending teams–means that we’re likely looking at some fireworks in the coming weeks. Paradoxically for a series that I’ve already complained about growing too complex, I’m kind of hoping to see other WildCATS originals join the fray, like Warblade or Spartan.
In the end, issue 2 does a lot to lay the ground for the world of The Wild Storm; hopefully that world grows at a reasonable rate and doesn’t try to burn its audience out on canon. Still, a strong read from Ellis with good plotting from Davis-Hunt.