Another week, another circuitous hint toward the introduction of the Gen13 squad, another set of classic StormWatch characters introduced via mysterious vignette, another wrinkle in the burgeoning conflict between the Kherabim and Daemonites. This is issue 17 of The Wild Storm, and while it may be a bit of the same, there’s some interesting storytelling going on in this week’s issue.
We start out by wrapping up the parade of Gen13 parents (Gen12?) with John Lynch heading out to a reservation in the middle of nowhere to meet with Stephen Rainmaker. Though the rest of the Project Thunderbook survivors have been driven varying degrees of crazy by the Khera implant that gave them their powers, Stephen is by far the most composed. There’s no sign of the mania in Marc Slayton, the deranged detachment of Andy Chang, the lingering thirst for violence in Alex Fairchild or the outwardly alien proclivities of Gloria Spaulding. Stephen seems to have mastered the violent urges that seem to come with the Khera implant, and is living a peaceful life – something that astounds even Lynch, given Rainmaker’s past.
More than that, Stephen is seemingly the only one still in contact with his progeny and has offered to house the wayward Gen13 on the reservation to keep them safe from the IO. Given that it looks like The Wild Storm title may wrap with 24 issues, I’m wondering if we wait for some sort of sequel series to see the likes of Grunge, Freefall and Fairchild (Caitlin, that is). Still, I’m down for the ride if that is the case, and this issue laid the groundwork for a potentially exciting second act.
Elsewhere we see Angie using her supremely ornate and complex technological wizardry to….use a so-called “Smart” device to surveil friends and family. And here I figured they all did that already. So yeah, Angie “Alexa’s” Emp and Kenesha to learn that her alien allies have been doing some snooping of their own – sussing out that the Engineer has been seeing the monstrous Daemonites in her dreams. Of course, the whole “Speak of the devil and he shall appear” adage proves true as a Daemon magics his ass right into Angie’s room and places her in some sort of techno-trance (no, not that techno trance) to have a revelatory conversation on the DL. According to the Daemon, however, the monstrous and pejoratively named alien species is actually a peaceful visitor to Earth, and the Khera, with whom she has seemingly aligned herself, are the aggressors in their centuries-old conflict. Knowing what we do about the Project Thunderbook survivors, that’s not exactly the hardest pill to swallow either. It’s an enticing wrinkle in the story as I’d love to see a sudden turn where we realize (probably alongside Cole/Griter, who has clearly drank the Khool-Aid) that we’ve been following the bad guys this whole time. Alas, I think it’s just some of that trademark duplicity from a species literally named after demons, but it is enough to make Angie – and readers like me – suspicious.
Finally, we check back in with the ever magnanimous Marc Slayton on his cross-country killing spree, tracking down whatever IO/Skywatch experiments he can find and ripping out their spines with his glowing pink tendril thingies. Of course, going after altered humans means you occasionally run into some super trouble, and there’s little trouble more super than GODDAMN APOLLO AND MIDNIGHTER. That’s right, the once and future Backlash pulls his Ford Escort up to a dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere only to chased off by a literal golden god and his mysterious partner. For the uninitiated Apollo and the Midnighter were the old WildStorm universe’s spin on Superman and Batman. Of course, it being the 90s, they were much grittier and more violent than their DC counterparts. They were also partners in more than crime fighting, which made them both an important piece of representation for the LGBTQ community (as the first out and proud superduo in mainstream comics) and dangerously devoted to one another. You only need think off the Injustice universe to see how dangerous the Man of Steel can be when the ones he loves are in harm’s way – now imagine that level of connection aimed toward a cowled lunatic with no powers who still faces off with the biggest and baddest the universe can throw at them. I’m really curious just how this dynamic duo will fit in with the rest of the series, but I am beyond excited to see superbeings with unfathomably strong powers can do in this setting.
So yeah, big things are on the horizon for the world of the Wild Storm, and I’m juiced. Ellis and Hunt continue to be the dream team of sci-fi action comics, and even issues like this (which are almost entirely exposition) give both the chance to shine. I love the trippy effect of the Daemon, it really gives you an understanding of the surreal experience interacting with these things must be like. Similarly I enjoyed the characterization of Stephen Rainmaker. It’s interesting that though there are some similarities between the survivors of Project Thunderbook, they each retain their own unique quirks and personalities. It’s attention to detail like that that helps this book keep standing out, and allows it’s ever-expanding cast of characters to continue to shine through. I say it every month, but this is the best series on the shelf.