Pipeline #1071: Wildstorm: A Celebration of 25 Years

wildstorm a celebration of 25 years cover
(Photo: Jim Lee, DC Entertainment)

There's no way that you could produce an authoritative celebration of WildStorm's comics in 300 (!) pages. There's just way too much stuff to cover.

The new "WildStorm: A Celebration of 25 Years" book does its best to touch on all of the highlights. It creates a fun book, but one that's also occasionally frustrating.

For example: Did we need to see two whole issues of the Mark Millar/Frank Quitely "The Authority" run republished in black and white, when there's so much other stuff left uncovered? Given the amount of "editing" that went on with that story, it does serve as an interesting historical artifact to show all the things DC, at the time, was afraid to show. It's also nice to see Quitely's art in black and white. But devoting 40+ pages to that corner of WildStorm's history seems excessive to me.

The book is an interesting mix of rarities, new stories, and new pin-ups to celebrate the characters and creators of the Image Comics imprint that DC later purchased.

In fact, that's the first thing I noticed about the book: It bends over backwards to avoid saying "Image Comics." Here's the back cover copy:

In 1992 a revolution was kicked off by superstar creator Jim Lee when he launched his game-changing publishing imprint, and the modern comic book market was forever altered. WildStorm Productions would go on to help revolutionize the industry and launch the careers of many top creators....

WildStorm's computer coloring corps is legendary, and was highly influential in the comics universe. The creators it brought to a large audience are legendary. Many of the characters are memorable, though they've all mostly been rebooted or rethought on more than one occasion by now.

That back cover copy looks to be giving Jim Lee the identity and power of Image Comics. WildStorm was a part of Image, which did all those things.

Also, that first sentence is passive tense. Fixing that is so easy, it surprises me that nobody noticed it at DC. (Yes, I realize I just set myself up for corrections to some typo I missed. I apologize and am embarrassed for myself in advance.)


New Works

The biggest draw of the book is the number of new short stories commissioned for it. They mostly feature characters from WildStorm looking back at their times earlier in the WildStorm Universe. I'm not sure if that's just coincidence or editorial guidance, but it's there.

wildstorm michael cray deathblow
(Photo: Jim Lee, DC Entertainment)

Jim Lee draws a new Deathblow story by Brandon Choi that involves the character saving someone who saved him a long time ago. It's a quick five page story, but effective. Lee doesn't stick with his classic Deathblow "Sin City" style. He's using his more usual sketchy style that you might see him using in sketches on Instagram or Twitter. It's much looser and less slick than the usual stuff, and it looks great.

J. Scott Campbell writes and draws a Gen13 short that puts them in current times, before flashing back to 1993. It's a humorous look at how the characters might react to current events, and how they might look now. (Grunge in a man bun? Of course!) If nothing else, it's nice to see Campbell drawing more than just a cover for a change. This must be his first sequential art storytelling work in a decade....

wildstorm a celebration of 25 years new authority story
(Photo: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, DC Entertainment)

Warren Ellis and Brian Hitch reunite for a new "The Authority" story, set in the era of their original series. It has a bit of Jenny Sparks looking back at her life, lots of Hitch's trademark widescreen art, and good use of Hawksmoor's city fixation to save the day from a gnarly green alien/monster that's threatening everyone. It's also a great team superhero comic involving a smart combination of powers to defeat a specific threat.

Brett Booth writes and draws a new eight page Backlash story. I never read the original series, so I'm not the one to judge this story. If you liked that series, you'll want this book. It looks like it fits right in with the original work.

Christos Gage writes and Dustin Nguyen draws a return to Wildcats 3.0. It's a short discussion between Spartan and Lord Emp that serves to cover their history together, throw a few nice images up to remind us all of how great that series was, and then stop before anything happens. Gage does a good job, but it's too bad Joe Casey didn't write this one, or the "Mister Majestic" story that follows.

Given how the series ended, I'd have loved to see any unpublished scripts or plots that might have been abandoned that might have finished the whole story.

wildstorm25_majestic
(Photo: Neil Googe, DC Entertainment)

Finally, Dan Abnett writes a story that Neil Googe draws where Mister Majestic has a meeting at the diner with folks from StormWatch and The Authority. It's a story from future Majestic's point of view looking back, but one that, as the introduction accurately describes, has a fair amount of hope to it.

The new stories that I've read have a fair amount of wistfulness and dramatic time shifting narratives, but that's OK. This is a "celebration" book with short stories. They're quick shots of adrenaline for WildStorm fans. It's nice.


Reprints

The book starts with a reprint of "WildC.A.T.s" #1 that started everything off in the first place. It's printed in its original black and white. That's a fun look back, though I did that already earlier in the year.

I also have to wonder if your average 20 year old might read that issue and not have a clue what that twist ending is. Heck, would a 30 year old even "get" it? Probably not. (25 Year Old Spoiler Alert: Dan Quayle is an alien.)

The more interesting reprint near the end of the book is Jim Lee's second "WildCats" #1, as written by Grant Morrison. I guess it's been long enough now that this project is a forgotten rarity. It's another attempt at rebooting the universe, and it's all we got. Until now.

This hardcover includes Morrison's script for the second issue, as well as his series proposal for 12 issues, with character descriptions. I haven't had time to dive into all of that yet, but as a part time comic book archaeologist, I'm looking forward to it.

This is a good time to point out that there's no table of contents for this book. There is a bare timeline. The book just caroms from one series to the next, one set of characters to the next series. You never know what character you'll be looking at when you next turn the page. Some of those images are new, some are rare alternate covers or unreleased images.

A reminder, once more: This is a "celebration" and not a "complete" history or collection. No "Savant Garde" that I saw, for one example. "Astro City" is the only creator owned project that is mentioned, likely because DC is still publishing it.


What's Next?

Now that I've read the celebration, what I really want to read is "Wild Times: An Oral History of WildStorm Studios." That one has a laundry list of WildStorm talent talking about their time at the studios, often in very uncensored/unedited ways. It's a book that DC didn't publish, so they had the freedom to be more honest.

In the meantime, this is a fun book for fans of any corner of Jim Lee's corner of the WildStorm Universe and, to a lesser degree, the DC/WildStorm Universe. (ABC gets a couple pages, but still gets short shrift in this book. There's a new Gene Ha "Top Ten" pin-up, so I'm happy.)

The book is 300 pages for $30, with no dust jacket. The cover image is printed directly onto the hardcover. There's a digital version of it available on Comixology that might be a better deal for you, if you want a bargain. (Hint: There's a DC sale going on right now...)

PipelineComics.com|| Twitter || Instagram || E-mail || YouTube