The Wild Storm #8
Warren Ellis (writer), Jon Davis-Hunt (artist), Steve Buccellato (colorist), Simon Bowland (letterer)
WildStorm (DC Comics imprint)
October 18, 2017
In the murky depths of the Distant Past, there was another world. A world of pouches and unnecessarily large guns. A world with a lot of compound words where the second word was capitalized even though it was in the middle of a word. A world much like the DC Universe, but with more scowling: the WildStorm Universe. Separately, Rae Epstein and Annie Blitzen became fans of the comics line that gave them a chain-smoking lightning goddess, a very dangerous married gay couple, and a woman who thought it would be a great idea to replace all of her blood with completely untested nanites. Now, Jim Lee has kidnapped Warren Ellis and held him hostage in a basement in Burbank, forcing him to resurrect the addled corpse of those comics. Join Rae and Annie as they weather this new Wild Storm!
What were your general feelings on this issue?
Annie Blitzen: It’s still exposition, but it’s getting faster. It feels like Warren’s spinning up. The “learning curve” is inflecting upward. The number of impossible things before breakfast: rising.
Rae Epstein: I LOVED this issue! In it, we see several different threads from the first arc reappear and bring us deeper inside the new WildStorm universe. We all now know that Marlowe and his gang are aliens who crash-landed on Earth, although they hide the reasons why they came here in the first place from Angela. We also have a name and explanation for Jenny Mei Sparks (previously in the old Wildstorm universe, Jenny Quantum nee Sparks), which is super cool. The new term “techne,” a synthesis of a society’s technological state into human form, is basically what Jenny in the old continuity was as a Century Baby without the time limitations. So as Annie said: we’re speeding up. Basic mysteries are now coming into conclusions, meaning that we have more time to spare on the larger ones. Still a lot of exposition in this book, but you can feel it launching forward.
We’re seeing some elements of the old WildStorm come up. What are your feelings on how these elements have been treated?
Annie: We won’t have to put up with a shitty boy being the Doctor! And Warren has spent most of a decade thinking about what magic is, so none of that “it’s about CHANGE” garbage that several of the writers of the old Authority ran with, including Grant Morrison, I believe, who is a self-avowed practitioner. Warren has been writing and giving lectures on the line between technology and magic, the history of English magic in particular, and the purpose of a magical worldview in the modern world. It’s been a thread in his work for 30+ years, running through Druid, Hellstorm, Hellblazer, Strange Kiss/Strange Killings/Gravel, Supreme: Blue Rose, and most recently Injection. I’m very here for wherever he’s going with this.
Rae: Admittedly, this issue means so much to me because it’s SO my niche; we have the new versions of The Authority members Angela Spica, Jenny Sparks, and Shen Li-Min all in one issue. Shen Li-Min’s reintroduction in particular came as a surprise because in the last Wildstorm universe, she was by far the most neglected character. And, you know, a “Winged Huntress” with 90s aesthetic wings isn’t something that would fit in this new sci-fi world. I still think there’s room for improvement in her area, but wow, this was not what I was expecting for her character at all, and I am so into it.
I enjoyed how the team reincorporated The Doctor’s and Jenny’s realms. The concept of the Doctors remains essentially the same, but without the recognizable and problematic faces of the likes of George Washington and Mahatma Gandhi. Annie and I were going back and forth trying to identify them, but we couldn’t come up with any names. I can’t even locate on the internet Joan Silver, an alchemist mentioned by one of the Doctors. It’s possible that the team just put in original characters as the Doctors in order to avoid the problematic elements I mentioned before, since, y’anno, Washington unrepentantly owned slaves, and Ghandi vehemently hated Jews. Not exactly the type of baggage you want attached to your character.
As for Jenny’s realm, it’s undeniably an improvement. In the old continuity, 8-year-old Jenny’s realm was introduced by Ed Brubaker and Dustin Nguyen in The Authority: Revolution. It paraded out all the Jennys of the previous centuries, but it came off kind of cheesy. Appropriate maybe for what an 8-year-old would create, but still weird in its effect. In contrast, the realm we see in Wild Storm #8 has a more eerie quality with the faceless Jennys. Instead of personalities (personality?), they’re ghosts that quietly foreshadow that Jenny’s presence is an omen.
Annie: We’ve only gotten a brief glance at Stormwatch and IO’s technological capabilities, but it’s exactly what the past few years have led me to expect from Warren: extremely specific, reasonably extrapolated from current real-world technologies and research, and with disturbing/fascinating/exciting implications that are explored in ways that reflect how real-world technologies affect the world. Comic Book technology tends to be, within any contained work, either a small number of ideas that are allowed to just run roughshod over reality with no regard to existing technology, or a vaguely-defined heading of powers that might as well be magic. Even in The Authority, we saw things like “door” teleportation, Midnighter’s implants, and Angie’s nanites become deii ex machina and power-creep superpowers. We’re not seeing that here. Henry Bendix had to wait hours for a teleport to his own space station because solar flares or something. Angie’s armor fits under her skin…somehow…but it’s also killing her.
The other “element” of the Wildstorm universe I’m really glad to see here is the Bleed. The DCU has appropriated the Bleed, which, yeah, fine, it’s an inter-reality membrane, so it makes sense it’d connect all the realities you bastards own, but in The Authority, it was scary. Like, you don’t go there. It’s a Bad Place. There are Things out there. And while Doctor Shen’s vision of the Bleed isn’t precisely “scary,” it’s definitely unsettling. We need more of that, and we need it to carry over back to the DCU. Like, the DCU though the Bleed was so unscary they felt the need to create the Dark Multiverse to be the scarier version. Like nobody’s done “doomed alternate versions of your world trying to steal your light and life” before! (first arc of The Authority, Planetary, even Giffen’s run of The Authority)
We have been reintroduced to a number of WildStorm characters. What have you thought of their new incarnations so far?
Annie: Looking at Shen’s hair, there is zero chance she’s not queer.
Rae: HA, right! Technes are already bi as all hell to me.
Annie: Also, Jon Davis-Hunt, is maybe a lil racist? Two East Asian women, and neither of them opens their eyes through the whole comic? Like, Shen’s doing some kinda trance business or whatever, I guess, but Jenny wakes up, her eyes open a tiny bit, then as soon as it zooms out, her eyes are closed and stay that way.
Rae: That has been the case since he introduced Jenny in the interiors. Except for the cover for the 4th issue, he doesn’t seem to want to draw their eyes.
Annie: This is why this reboot shouldn’t have been done with a 100% white male British team. I mean, a small fraction of why. And I’m deeply disappointed in Warren for going this way.
Rae: He’s clearly hoping to make up for it via the offshoots, but it’s definitely a thing to worry about.
Annie: Steve Buccellato is American, but still.
Rae: He colored Jenny and Shen the same, and they shouldn’t be in my opinion. Asian people are not all the same! Show some variety!
Annie: I mean, it’s not like, evil, it’s definitely possible for them to have similar enough skin tone to literally paint them with the same brush, but c’mon, man.
Rae: We need better. And in general, there are a lot of issues with Shen from the old continuity that haven’t been resolved here. I doubt the terrible “raised by monks” background persists, but there’s still the issue of her name. Her first name, Shen, isn’t even a name. It means “God” in Chinese, and is a term sometimes even associated with God in Asian Christian circles. Her surnames Li and Min, respectively come from Chinese and Korean. We don’t know her background now, but for the previous continuity it was pretty racist seeing a Tibetan character have names from other languages, which again conflates East Asian cultures as if they’re all the same. I really think the team should have made her name fake. But more importantly: the WildStorm line needs Asian creators. Jim Lee creating cover variants is not enough.
Who’s left? Who do you want to see the most?
Annie: The big names left to add, in my mind, are Apollo and Midnighter, obviously, and maybe Jack Hawksmoor, which would round out the original Authority line-up. Of those, I could stand to lose Jack, but Uncle Warren’s been reading a lot of books about the Significance of Place and all that, so I’m betting we’ll get Jack back. Hopefully Warren will have more of a plan for what to do with him this time.
The other team we’ve been collecting has been the WildCATs, Majestic is the biggest name we’re missing. Introducing him and Apollo, both of whom are Superman analogues, will necessarily raise the volume unless the changes to their powers are much more significant than what we’ve seen so far. Showing Jenny teleporting with no apparent effort is an indicator that power levels are climbing, though. We’ve seen Marlowe, Spartan, Grifter, Zealot, Void, Voodoo, and Savant, though we haven’t gotten a real introduction to any of their capabilities. That leaves Warblade, who I honestly had completely forgotten about until just now, Maul, who’s a sweetheart of a Hulk analogue that I’d like to at least see, maybe TAO, who honestly would need his own arc and can we please not, and the one, true, real reason I even give a damn that the WildCATs are involved in this reboot: Ladytron.
Mister Uncle Warren Ellis Sir, I require one angry riot grrrl horny murder cyborg who looks like Joan Jett had a three-way with a Harley Davidson and a Hitachi Magic Wand. I require this for…health reasons. She needs to not have a tragic rape backstory and to not have a Bride of Frankenstein schtick. (Unless MAYBE she’s another lady’s bride, but even then, she was an original character, ALAN MOORE, why did you have to create another character for her to be derivative of?) That will be all.
Rae: Funny that you forgot that Warblade exists, because up until lately, I would always forget that Void exists. This has been solved by this book’s writing and design work on her. Warblade might not be coming back; however, in a previous issue, IO released a couple of machines they called Warblades while chasing Angela, so that useless character may have been folded into a type of technology. Better off without clutter, honestly.
Most of my concerns, as usual, regard the queer characters. Alan Moore and Travis Charest’s WildC.A.T.S run had a fascinating take on Majestic that depicted him as a bitter Silver Age Superman character who had zero interest in relationships, including the sexual and romantic varieties. An ace Superman! Less talented creators later stamped that out and introduced female love interests, but if this upcoming version of Majestic could return to the ace spectrum, that would be pretty neat!
Then, as you said, there’s the other Superman analogue Apollo. I’m interested in Davis-Hunt’s approach to Apollo’s design because while Midnighter’s remains evergreen no matter the setting, Apollo’s New 52-set garb is unlikely to work in WildStorm’s universe. I hope Davis-Hunt’s design doesn’t lean too practical because Apollo in the original universe benefited from a very not-pragmatic depiction. Bryan Hitch pushed the classic body-hugging superhero costume material to its absolute peak when he made the first design for Stormwatch. And while I have quibbles with the gloves and boots, Cully Hamner did a fabulous job for the main part of the New 52 redesign. Both costumes hit every part of Apollo’s themes, highlighting his solar-based superpowers and his body to indicate that he essentially a god on Earth.
Also, I don’t expect that Apollo’s superpowers or their sci-fi explanations from Stormwatch are going to change that much, but I am very interested in if his new personality will resemble his shiny older version. This has so far not been the case for some of his teammates on The Authority. Angela is the best she’s ever been, but she’s certainly had all the optimism scraped off of her. Shen’s not exactly cheery either. Ultimately, my question is: does this book have any room for a character that’s not 100% bitter about their world?
Do you have any reservations about what we’ve seen of the series so far?
Annie: Regarding the core title, it’s very white. Very British white male, really. They’re being very thoughtful about it and avoiding being overtly shitty about things, but there are definitely some things, like skin tone coloring, that show a bit of cultural myopia creeping in. Michael Cray, the first spin-off titles, is a book about a Black man with Black men writing and drawing it, which is good, and presumably Zealot will have female creators, but that kind of compartmentalized diversity does not bode well.
The other issue is that the core title, at the very least, is very, very insular. It’s a good book in its own right, but it’s clearly aimed at us, at old WildStorm fans, especially old fans of The Authority. And while the mainstream comics industry does run on about 85% nostalgia, it tells me nobody intends for this imprint to continue past the two years we’ve been “promised.” I’m sure Jim Lee will keep signing checks for it as long as they let him, since it’s his baby to begin with, but I’d love if they made an effort to bring in new readers. I think a Gen13 title could go a long way toward that.
Rae: What can I say that myself and others haven’t said before a million times in the context of other books, DC Comics, and the direct market as a whole? I had this whole thing here coming off of Annie’s point of insularity, how the direct market is a soul-sucking viper, and how DC probably doesn’t know how to market this book. Then I wrote a screed on how WildStorm’s diversity is important both in its cast of characters and how it’s opening up opportunities for creators of marginalized groups. And then I fucking gave up because I’m done repeating myself like an imbecile and would better off spend my time either despairing or rereading The Wild Storm instead. I believe I’ll choose the latter.