Review by Joe Palmer
A little over a year ago when news broke about Wildstomr being shut down I was ambivalent. It was clear that no one knew how to write or what to do with staple titles like The Authority, Gen 13, and Wildcats. And the prospect of Apollo and Midnighter shuffling off into LGBT character limbo didn’t make me happy either, even if they’d been so badly written in the past few years that they didn’t create the same excitement as they did when I first encountered them. Head honchos Didio and Lee said characters from some of the books would be seen again but how many times have you heard a publisher or editor say that? Exactly.
“I’ll be damned!” was my thought after learning that they were being honest this time. So Apollo and Midnighter and other former Authority members are back, but not under the Authority name, and that may be for the better. If comic book characters need to rest after becoming radioactive (was it Busiek who said that?) then so can a title. But is the book any good? I’ll give you an enthusiastic yes, and here’s why.
There’s a mix of old and new characters. Gone for now at least from Authority’s original roster is Swift. The most obvious addition is Martian Manhunter, who we learn has connections still to the Justice League, only not as a founding member. “…when [he] needs to be a warrior [he] does it with Stormwatch.” Then we have Adam 1, who was ancient at the dawn of time and is aging backwards, retaining all his memories which can sometimes create flashbacks that alter his perception of time. The Projectionist is a woman with the ability to manipulate media and therefore can affect people’s actions such as leading the Justice League International to think a D list villain is responsible for the latest threat Stormwatch faces. This capability potentially sets up Stormwatch as very powerful group in its own right. Cornell sets up a mystery involving the Martian Manhunter when he lets us know the Projectionist also maintains Stormwatch’s cover from the JLA. Just how did J’onn discover Stormwatch and why did he decide to keep this knowledge from his other team? The Projectionist seems to share a penchant for drugs the red-haired Doctor from The Authority. Or maybe she uses them in a way to disconnect herself as I recall the Doctor did. Rounding out the new characters is Harry Tanner, the Eminence of Blades,or as the Engineer states: the “greatest swordsman in history” and “the Prince of Lies” because his greatest power is that of misdirection. Cornell doesn’t just tell us this. He shows it in a pivotal scene that I’ll touch on in a bit.
Cornell keeps the interest up by switching the action and intrigue between two simultaneous events, one literally on street level in the dark Moscow alleys as several members track down the elusive and reluctant Apollo to persuade him to join Stormwatch, while the other cuts back and forth between most of the other members on the Eye of the Storm headquarters floating in hyperspace monitoring troubling activity on the moon where Tanner has teleported to check things out first hand. As efforts by Hawksmoor, Projectionist, and J’onn to recruit Apollo stall, thanks in part to the unexpected appeareance of the Midnighter (who manages to deck the Martian Manhunter, a bit like Batman getting a jab in at Superman), Engineer and Jennie transport to the lunar surface because Tanner has disappeared. He’s actually fallen through the surface and has been having a little tête à tête with the self-described “scourge of worlds”, a giant sort of sentient non-green Emerald Eye, whose mission is to make the world stronger through devastation. It decides to make Tanner its host body, but Tanner has his own self-serving agenda that motivates him to ambush the entity. Remember, his greatest power is misdirection, and while Cornell makes this an obvious example I began to wonder if he’s setting up a future story line by creating friction between the Engineer and Adam 1. And so what that Tanner’s actions set off the first wave of meteorites smashing into earth that the cosmic entity had ready for its own course of devastation? That’s what Stormwatch on the ground has to deal with! But are Jack Hawksmoor, the Projectionist, J’onn, and Adam 1 up to the threat? And will Apollo help? And what is Midnighter going to do? Will he meet his match with a telepathic Martian?
Other questions are left to be answered in future issues. What connections does Cornell’s other book, Demon Knights, have with the centuries old Stormwatch? Now that he’s found “the one partner [he] wants to work with”, how will Midnighter react if Apollo joins Stormwatch? After having the pleasure of all too briefly talking with Cornell after Andy Mangels’ Gays in Comics panel I believe he’s committed to showing their relationship begin and grow, but how will it play out? Will there be a confrontation between Adam 1 and the Engineer for control of Stormwatch? Or is it a red herring? And do Midnighter’s spiked shoulder pads a bitover the top or just a cover for the fact that he’s really just a huggable bear under that armor?
Miguel Sepulveda and Al Barrionuevo bring their drawing skills to Cornell’s scripts and and what incredible work they bring! Mongolian Death Worm faux pas aside, mind. Parts of Sepulveda’s work in issue #1 look a little rushed while the outer space scenes in both parts is gorgeous. Barrionuevo worked on some issues of the last Authority volume and I found his work very exciting then as I do now with his earth-side scenes. With a few exceptions, most of the panel layouts subtly contribute to the wide format thanks to a horizontal configuration. For the most part the characters look integrated into settings and backgrounds. The one exception to my eye is the opening Moscow sequence in which the figures seem somewhat disconnected from the alley location. Both Passalaqua and Sinclair are integral to completing the cinematic feeling with their skillful special effects coloring.
Over a decade ago Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch made The Authority exciting by creating an action packed wide screen feeling on the printed page. They left to be replaced by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, and so on and so on until the characters became…what? Nearly regrettable I think. But the past is past – not that I want to slight Ellis and Hitch. Cornell and artist Miguel Sepulveda along with Al Barrionuevo are creating their own summer blockbuster ambience here and it’s starting to feel good again!