The war between IO and Skywatch has started, and things get serious pretty quickly.
I feel like I say it every time I review an issue of The Wild Storm, but this week – s--t gets real. Lucy Blaze is on the run, we see more of Jack Hawksmoor than we probably wanted to and learned that Skywatch’s most devastating weapon may just be a little stick. That’s right Bendix, the lunatic that he is, doesn’t take too kindly to his crew being booted from terra firma, and decides to put IO on notice…by dropping foot-long diamond canes from deep orbit that strike the planet with the force of a small nuke. Yep, Stormwatch goes full on supervillain this time around, going so far as to obliterate a test site and threatening to essentially enslave all of humanity to prove a point. If there were any shade of gray remaining about the “both sides are wrong” debate here, however, it’s quickly stifled when IO operatives flatly say that they’ve tracked the location of Skywatch’s base and are ready to nuke the damn thing out of the sky.
As with most recent issues, the heart and soul of the story is the central scene involving Sam Elliot’s scary older brother John Lynch’s continuing search to root out and warn his former Project Thunderbook charges about the IO. This time around, he’s catching up with Philip Chang, nee Andrew Kwok. Much like Fairchild last issue, this month’s outing gives us a tease toward a member of 90s metahuman team, Gen13. Chang, the father of Percival “Grunge” Chang, has had complete facial reconstructive surgery in an attempt to flee his former life as a Khera-infused super soldier, and has seemingly managed to start a new life. Unfortunately, he misreads Lynch’s intentions with the warning and decides to kill his former commanding officer where he stands. What follows is a fantastically tense sequence where Lynch manages to get the drop on his telekinetic opponent through a trick straight out of The Matrix. It’s a really cool sequence, and after seeing Lynch run from Slayback and negotiate with Fairchild, it’s nice to be reminded that this dude is a badass.
Elsewhere we catch up with Shen, Jen and…Jack, as they delve deeper into the mystery of just what the hell the Mayor actually is. As a sort of pollution vampire capable of breathing toxic fumes and blend with urban decay, the scooby gang realizes that Jack is just one of many experiments designed to create a slave race of human-like beings that can survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s a firm reminder that the alien species floating around The Wild Storm universe (the Khera, the Daemon, etc.) have no desire to preserve the planet as it is, and combined with the devastation Bendix and his cohorts pull off – they aren’t the only ones embracing a scorched earth policy.
In other, briefer, vignettes we see Slayton and his Khera symbiote continuing their warpath toward John Lynch, and secret agent Lucy Blaze, the former Zealot, being moved out of the New York region due to last month’s bloodbath with an IO Cat. That’s about all there is for this week, but the ramifications of these events are sure to be dire. The first shots have been fired in the war between IO and Skywatch leaving both sides with bloody noses. Lynch’s search for Thunderbook operatives is going to leave a trail of bodies across the country, and Shen and Jen’s adventures will continue the series’ long-standing motif of raising more questions than it answers.
This is another good issue, sure, but what I think sticks with me most is the violence within. The Wild Storm has always been a violent book, but holy s--t. This month turns it up to 11. The Sequence with Lynch and Chang literally has a head explode, the Hawksmoor flashbacks showcase a lot of the sadistic experiments (and tortures) the Mayor has had to endure, and a city is literally razed to the ground by a falling crystal stick. That’s not even mentioning the bloodbath that was Slayton’s stop at a small town gas station.
Still, this issue definitely moves several stories along and plays to Davis-Hunts’ strengths – well paced and tense action scenes. Davis-Hunt really outdid himself this week by creating an action sequence built mostly around conversation instead of Paul Greengrass-style gun violence. It’s yet another tool in his arsenal and proves that he’s one of the most versatile artists in the game. I know we’re entering the end game of this series, but I’d love to see Warren Ellis and Davis Hunt take on a different kind of book to see what they can do. If The Wild Storm is any indication, I’ll probably dig that as well.