Thursday, March 26, 2009



You know, I really like the Wildstorm Universe. Yeah, it started out with loads of terrible comics, but it grew into something interesting. Warren Ellis's Stormwatch was really good, and it's kind of sad/frustrating looking at the supercomics he writes now, because they're not even in the same league.Sure, the Authority eventually degenerated into terribleness after Ellis, but other Wildstorm comics were similarly good. Sleeper is fantastic, and a new edition of it coming out later this year means it has, rightfully, joined it's place amongst Wildstorm books that will stay in print.

I also really dug Stormwatch: Team Achilles, which I finally read a full run of last year. Yes, the writer lied about his past, but I sometimes wish he was still writing comics now.

Even the books I didn't dig that much (I even liked Gen13!), like much of Joe Casey's run on Wildcats, was at least doing something interesting with the superhero genre and trying to see what would happen if the crazy technology found in comics was for sale to the public.

But then came relaunch after relaunch, and I stopped caring. Mostly because the relaunches were supposed to make the Wildstorm universe less "grim and gritty" when, apart from its creators, that was really all the universe had going for it. It was a world that seemed far more like our own in regards to how superpowers would be dealt with and reacted to. The government would be trying to keep it out of sight from the public, while at the same time using people with superpowers to try and get an edge up on the other countries. People would be experimented on, some would have their lives ruined by powers that were given to them and they'd try to rebel, others would work for the government. People with too much power would become corrupt. People who were insane would end up with too much power. Organized crime would end up being run by people with superpowers.

And that's what the average person doesn't even know about. Sure they know about superheroes, but they're terrified of them because maybe seeing one means that their city is about to get destroyed by aliens, or maybe it just means martial law's about to be instated. Sure there's better tech, but that hardly matters when maybe tomorrow everyone you know will be dead. Or never existed at all.

But yeah, relaunch after relaunch. I tried to read some of it. The most recent Gen13 was awful, as it just brought the characters back to where they were when they started. I don't think I made it through more than an issue or two. Okay, so they'd died, but loads of Stormwatch and other characters who had died were brought back without needing to completely reset their status quo.

I read Azarello's Deathblow in trade, though I don't remember much of it, and I thought Stormwatch PHD was at alright and had pretty good art from Doug Manhke. I agree with the sentiment that Christos Gage wrote his scripts like someone who hadn't been reading Wildstorm comics that long.

And fuck, his Authority: Prime mini series was dreadful. Though a lot of the blame for that also has to be placed on Darick Robertson, who seemed to be doing some of the ugliest art of his career. Plus the miniseries just seemed pointless in general. I can understand wanting to continue to have the characters appear in between proper serieses coming out, even if only so that readers remember them. But putting out terrible books like this only damages the brand. You'd think that Wildstorm would have remembered that the last time they killed the buzz on the Authority by putting out a series of terrible Authority comics.

But then, then things started to go right. The Armageddon one shots started coming out, and while they weren't great, they at least indicated there was a direction for the universe again. Revelations was better, but seemed to be somewhat pointless time filling. I guess it was there to build up to the world changing event, make it seem more important. But it was essentially just another tour of the Wildstorm Universe.

And then Number of the Beast. I can't say I was expecting that much from the series, but it delivered exactly what I want from my Wildstorm univese comics. Secret military projects involving superheros, different, rival secret military projects involving superheroes. Combining elements of the Wildstorm universe we know with "the secret history of the 20th century" because there were no wildstorm comics coming out before the 90s, and so they're able to populate it with a fictional history, create new characters, or just analogues of existing ones, and do whatever they want with them.

For Number of the Beast Scott Beatty and Chris Sprouse have created an entire set of WWII era superheroes (yes another bunch) that had disapeared at the end of the war, supposedly vaporized by an atomic bomb. They weren't of course, they've been in a VR simulation based on alien tech set up by an evengelical Christian military leader. And hell, new old superheroes are practically stock in trade for Wildstorm now with Red Menance, the American Way, and Astro City all coming out from them. But they're still interesting! Sure some of them aren't that great, but I want to know more about a lot of them! I want more comics with Neandra and the Skeleton Crew! Even the weird desert plant version of Swamp Thing, Tumbleweed.

So those characters are running around. Other characters from the Wildstorm universe are running around (The High! That's how you bring back a character who died without/despite a line wide reboot!). Secret military organizations are being secretive and doing bad shit. And you know it's all going to end badly because of what happened next. But it's good, I totally enjoyed this series.

Plus footnotes! You never see those anymore!

At the end of the series we've gotten to the point where the Wildstorm universe was actually interesting again. The end of the world happened, what happens next on this post apocalyptic earth? There was some buzz going on, and I wanted to check out some of the most recent relaunches. And I was working in a comic book store! What better time to do so! Except that we ordered so lowly on the titles they'd sell out before my lunch break the day they came out.

There was actually some interest there, but retailers didn't even give the line a chance, it was pretty much dead in the water from the get go. I read that the guys writing Authority have a 15 issue arc planned. What happens after that I don't know, but I doubt Wildstorm can keep on at this level unless Jim Lee signed a contract with DC saying that Wildcats has to come out every month.

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