I feel like I say it every month, but this issue of The Wild Storm is all about setting the stage for later events and world building. I know it may seem tiring for some readers to have this much exposition and so many layers of storyline crashing on top of each other all the time, but the initiated sci fi fan who is able to follow along with a rich mosaic of odd concepts, strange premises and call back characters to a scarcely read series that ended around 20 years ago will have their patience (and remarkable attention spans) repaid several times over. While Issue #10 does manage to move the plot along, it’s more of an excuse for Ellis to finally flesh out the personalities of some of the lesser-developed characters (which, with a cast this large, is not a small list) and humanize these people, though not all of them appear to be people in the strictest sense of the word.
The section most fans will enjoy is the opening sequence of Cole, Kenesha and Spartan plotting their next move. We get more of a sense of Kenesha’s impulsiveness, which had really only been hinted at in earlier issues. Contrasting Cole, whose decades as a secret operative for a shadowy military organization sees him urge stealth over destruction, Kenesha is a wise tool for eliciting bits of personality for them both. Cole is both fatherly (despite being several hundred years younger) and funny in his dismissal of Kenesha’s shock and awe campaign – that he comes around to it is also fun. When they bring the Engineer into their debate, Angela actually shows her first signs of humanity, removing a lot of the stigma surrounding the “joyless” and fairly planned Ms. Spica and making her relatable for the first time in the series.
Without a doubt, the most left-field of these segments is the shift of SkyWatch leader Henry Bendix from cantankerous old coot into grumpy grandpa territory. In past issues, the crotchety and seemingly ancient Bendix has been aggressively awful to everyone around him, barring his more tempered response to his assistant, Ms. Pennington. Sure he’s been funny at times, but never anything approaching warmth or personability, but there’s something off in issue #10. He’s got a bit of spring in his step and seems almost happy to interact with Laura, he seems like an optimistic presence on the control floor of Skywatch HQ he…oh, he’s literally being injected with a happiness serum? Oh, well that explains it. Still, it’s fun to see old grump Bendix turn from a glowering skeleton into a smiling….skeleton. Dude is like crazy old, there’s not a lot analogies I can use without conjuring images of the Crypt Keeper.
Interestingly, Bendix’s rundown with Laura Pennington also provides some much needed development of the Wild Storm’s sister series, Michael Cray, all while advancing the – to this point – hidden story of the Daemon. The Daemonites, who are for some reason labeled as green and reptilian even though they look gray and demonic, are also at the center of the storyline surrounding the hub-hopping Jenny Sparks and the time-spanning Doctor who is not Doctor Who, Shen Li-Min. Shen tracks Jenny down to talk about her peculiar pedigree (as seen in the panel near the top of this review) and how it ties to the mysterious Daemon creatures that are clearly about to be a big deal in the Wild Storm universe. Jenny has been tracking the war between IO and Skywatch for around 125 years, and seems pretty unaware of her own mysterious past. Looks like Shen is hoping to get her would-be boo to better understand her place in the world – and given the ending vignette featuring the inexplicable Mayor swimming through concrete and a baffled Voodoo suggesting that there is a war looming between the alien species, Jenny probably has an important role to play in the coming conflict.
Another issue in the books, and The Wild Storm only gets weirder. We’ve got a new wrinkle in the conflict between IO and Skywatch, provided great character development for some tertiary characters and introduced a new and ill-defined character that raises more questions than it answers. I think I’ve come to accept that this book is essentially Lost the comic and the only reason I accept that is that I have several years of comics that provide me at least a modicum of context for many of the otherwise baffling events and depictions in this series. Still, as a literate hipster it speaks to me on a real (though slightly superficial) level as a strong and dense read that is not for casuals.