Writer: by Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Publisher: DC Comics
There’s nothing about the idea of a Wildstorm relaunch that guarantees success. The original series rode on the popularity of Jim Lee and other headlining creators of the 90s. The characters themselves aren’t found on t-shirts and can’t be named by many current comics readers. The last attempt to relaunch the Wildstorm properties with comics like Stormwatch and Grifter in the New52 was a massive flop. Yet when you read The Wildstorm #1, it’s easy to understand why this new popup imprint from DC Comics is a great idea.
One of the reasons this debut issue works is that it eschews the past. If you’re a fan of old Wildstorm properties, you will certainly recognize names and concepts, but none of it as being sold as something you should understand. Instead, the issue treats itself like a true #1 and assumes readers know nothing. Each character is shown off with a mix of their attitude, profession, and drives. Woven into all of these character segments are a blend of organizations and conspiracies that arise naturally through conversation and action. The Wildstorm #1 is packed with information, a stunning amount for just over 20 pages.
That amount of information functions well as a read because of how it is presented. At no point do narrative boxes explain acronyms or backstory. Everything you need is on the page, emerging from the story itself. That is not to say there is no mystery. Plenty is left unexplained, but none of it is absolutely necessary. The driving force behind each moment is clear, even if the stakes rarely are. It’s a careful balance, but the instinct here lies with explaining too little rather than explaining too much; a smart choice as mystery is more tantalizing than jargon.
It’s possible for The Wildstorm to seem overwhelming still. An incredible amount of detail is found in this issue, and what allows it to overcome many accessibility obstacles within its density is the presentation. The issue relies heavily on variations of a 9-panel grid, blowing them up to the wide vistas of 3-panels or breaking them down to an incredibly tight-knit 36-panel. It evokes fond memories of formalism defined by writer Warren Ellis and his peers, but its use is why it is actually effective.
Panels are spaced to create a clear sense of time and detail. Nowhere is this more clear than in the introduction of The Engineer. Her high-flying exploits fill the page in horizontal panels, but her transformation is intensely detailed. The juxtaposition of mid-air action and small details of fractal-like armor and blood make clear the cost and effect of her technology. It’s a fantastic way to visually explain who the character is and why her accomplishments are impressive.
The Wildstorm #1 is packed with ideas and they are exceptionally pursued. Like with any first issue it’s difficult to discern whether the promise will pay off, but the promise is there. While it has roots in the superhero genre, this is a story focused on the rapid progress of technology and the obfuscation of systems within society. It’s a comic that wants to be smart and does more than enough here to convince you it is. Rather than being overwhelmed by its own ambition, The Wildstorm appears to be spring boarding off of it into the atmosphere. Only time will tell just how high it may soar.