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A Year of Cool Comics – Day 100

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

For our 100th installment of a Year of Cool Comics, let’s take a look at Warren Ellis’ run on Stormwatch.
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Enjoy!

This bit contains some major spoilers about Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch run. Be forewarned!!

Okay, so let me note that yes, eventually, Warren Ellis did, indeed, kill off most of the cast of Stormwatch and then replace them all with a new team, The Authority, consisting of mostly his own creations (Jenny Sparks, Jack Hawksmoor, Apollo, Midnighter, The Doctor and The Engineer, with only Swift being a pre-existing character).

However, I think most readers were expecting something like that right from the get go, and instead, Ellis did one of the most respectful “revamps” of a major superhero team that I can think of.

Not only did Ellis keep almost all the main characters from the previous creative team, but Ellis even made a point to use the characters’ past histories to build his characterizations.

He added three notable characters in Jenny Sparks, Jack Hawksmoor and Rose Tattoo, and he did shuffle things around, but none of that took away from the book before him. He took the large Stormwatch cast and split them into three different sub-groups.

Stormwatch Prime – the “main” team

Stormwatch Red – a group of the most destructive members of the group (for deterrent purposes)

and

Stormwatch Black – for black ops, basically (this is the team that eventually became The Authority)

Here is Harry Bendix, the “Weatherman” (the guy in charge of Stormwatch), delivering the news in Ellis’ first issue…

In that same issue, Stormwatch comes across a bad guy who Bendix decides to get some background on – using some…iffy methods.

In one of the coolest issues of this early run, Ellis has the Stormwatch Prime discover an act of genetic terrorism…

Bendix discovers that it was an act from the nation of Gamorra…

Once the trauma was over, Bendix showed off his edgy side once again by showing how he wanted to get revenge…

Strong work.

The art during this run was handled by Tom Raney (as the “official” artist of the book), Pete Woods and a few other fill-in artists.

Then, of course, things changed with regards to Bendix towards the end of the run, and he went from being the driven but righteous leader of Stormwatch to being, well…still driven!!

After #37-50, Ellis launched a new volume of Stormwatch with artist Oscar Jimenez. But Jimenez had deadline problems and Ellis grew tired of the book pretty soon, but then Bryan Hitch, who had signed on to do fill-in work, ended up re-invigorating Ellis (Hitch’s first arc introduced Apollo and Midnighter), who then decided to take Stormwatch Black and make it its own book.

So he then killed off most of the cast and gave Stormwatch Black their own title, which was The Authority, which was very good.

But Stormwatch #37-50 is very good on its own, as well!

Other standout issues include spotlights on Jenny Sparks (showing her through history) and Jack Hawksmoor (a really twisted issue where he fights against a government cover-up).

Plus a good one-off issue where Jackson King gets taken prisoner by some white supremacists (or some other sort of racist group).

The last arc of the first volume, which later helped influence a lot of later characters for The Authority, was particularly strong. That one arc by Ellis has influenced a great number of later stories in the Wildstorm universe – heck, the current “Post-Apocalyptic Earth” story spun out of a story involving the main villain from Ellis’ last Volume 1 arc.

All in all, it’s definitely good enough for me to feature it as the 100th installment of a Year of Cool Comics!

12 Comments

Some of the greatest superhero comics ever were in that run, even moreso than Ellis’ Authority. The second volume ” Lightning Strikes ” has several standouts, such as the solo issue with Hawksmoor and the syphillitic serial killer Kennedy spawn, and the Jenny Sparks origin with the shifting period-specific art styles.

And when he did kill off Stormwatch, I love HOW he did it, in exactly the sort of crossover event where you expect nothing important to happen, and yet the sort that wouldn’t be particularly true to the genre if some bad, bad business didn’t go down.

As much as I liked The Authorirty, I thought the bulk of Stormwatch 37-50 was better. I missed Jackson King, Winter, Fuji, Fahrehneit, & Hellstrike. While The Authority was loaded with cool moments, none of them had the resonance of Fuji’s encounter in Japan, Jenny Spaks’ story, or the confrontation with The High.

That seems like some cool stuff. I might have to look into it.

John Lewis, Jr.

April 11, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Yeah, I always liked Ellis’s Stormwatch better than Authority. I loved Raney’s art too.

I pretty much enjoy Stormwatch V.1 more than Authority, but it’s interesting to watch the progression of a theme, as Stormwatch as an idea ultimately fails – that while Jackson’s struggling to find the best way to utilize his team’s power, the world isn’t waiting around, and things are getting bigger and scarier than Stormwatch can reasonably react to.

It gives a reason for The Authority’s existence that goes beyond “Ellis and Hitch didn’t want to be shackled by old Stormwatch tropes” – it argues that the big widescreen threats came FIRST, and The Authority grew to match those threats.

Now someone explain to me what’s been going on with Wildstorm ever since. Casey’s Wildcats ended? The world exploded or something?

funkygreenjerusalem

April 12, 2010 at 2:55 am

That Stormwatch run is one of my favourite superhero runs of all time… and coming out in the 90′s – what a breath of fresh air.

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I love Ellis and Raney, but I didn’t fine either of them until after this so I’ve never read it. Maybe I’ll pick it up….

I love this run. Way way better than Ellis’s Authority.

@ Buttler …I remember getting Final Orbit and just thinking it was going to be just another crossover…then bugging out and passing the around to my horror movie friends. We all agreed that the “Fahrenheit” scene would scare the living s*** out of us. Well that one and the teleportation into the mist scene…I don’t care how heroic you are, to land in literally a crowd of aliens obscured by mist….brrrrr

This is where I give it to Ellis, he gave new dimensions to the superhero and alien genres at the same time….

I still think about The High at the end of Change or Die and totally empathized with him. Heck, I empathized with the group in the cave as they squared off with Stormwatch because really, who hasn’t thought about changing the world like that if they had the power???

And heck, I admit it, I was a Bendix fan up until #50. I totally did not see him going off the rails like that…neither did Jackson King or anyone outside of Jenny Sparks….

Thx, now I have to re-read these books all over again..lol

” I still think about The High at the end of Change or Die and totally empathized with him. Heck, I empathized with the group in the cave as they squared off with Stormwatch because really, who hasn’t thought about changing the world like that if they had the power??? ”

And for the most part ( some exceptions, of course ), they were sympathetic. Usually these stories have the progressive heroes as dangerous radicals, with the status quo heroes to reel them in from hurting innocent bystanders. Here, the High was the real deal, and it was the status quo heroes ( under Bendix’s orders ) trying to repress change out of fear.

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