The Wild Storm #1
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Jon Davis-Hunt and Ivan Plascencia
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by DC Comics
Warren Ellis somewhat famously never looks back. The writer’s scorched Earth approach to his previous work has kept him moving forward and insured that his fans never get disappointed waiting for some nostalgia-baiting reunion tour. So to see Ellis at the helm of a rebooted, reimagined WildStorm universe is something of a surprise. DC’s penchant for the curation approach (a la Gerard Way’s Young Animal imprint) has helped them make their line more broad and accessible overall. But how does a new WildStorm Universe fit in when those characters have already been integrated into the DCU? Simply put, it doesn’t – which allows Ellis free reign to take advantage of DC’s multiversal structure and create an Earth-Wildstorm that is wholly its own. But can it work? Jon Davis-Hunt is a great artist in his own right but his style is worlds away from what Ellis was doing with Bryan Hitch two decades ago. Can Ellis bottle lightning twice?
Ellis’ biggest strength in all of his best work is being able to boil down a concept to its essentials and put them front and center. For the WildStorm Universe to effectively reach a new audience, Ellis has to balance character introductions with intrigue and he succeeds fairly well here. The Wild Storm is the central title that all the other books in the imprint will branch out from so Ellis gives us peeks at the Engineer, Zealot, Voodoo, Miles Craven, Jacob Marlowe, and Deathblow. The big climactic action in the plot is exciting and a bit unlike what we’ve seen over at Marvel and DC proper. Ellis makes it clear that this is a different kind of superhero world. But a lot of the intrigue stems from having a base knowledge of these characters and how they intertwine. Ellis is clearly doing fresh takes on them but an uninitiated reader might be a little bit confused as to why what’s happening or certain interactions are important. But every scene is really good. Ellis’ dialogue is tight and there is absolutely no fat on the plotting. This is a lean issue but in a good way. It never feels light. The story is just told with scalpel-like precision and that’s something of a hallmark for a good Ellis tale.
Jon Davis-Hunt is a great fit for Ellis’ style of storytelling and for a reinvention of a decades old franchise. The original WildStorm was born out of the muscles and extremity of the ‘90s, but sensibilities have changed. With Ellis employing an almost TV pilot-like approach to his reintroduction to the universe, Davis-Hunt brings a certain slickness to the proceedings that is instantly familiar while still maintaining an effective edge. His character redesigns are distinct and stylish. There’s a feeling that everything is very intentional, that we’re joining a world that is already in progress rather than one being created on the fly. I’m a really big fan of Davis-Hunt’s modular layouting. If Bryan Hitch is known for bringing a cinematic feel to his books, Davis-Hunt is almost going the opposite way. The opening pages don’t feel like a film. They feel like a TV show because of their tightness and intimacy. Ivan Plascencia’s coloring works very well, too. The palette is generally muted but he uses brightness to help distinguish action.
The Wild Storm #1 is an exciting beginning. It’s important to remember that while Ellis may have played with some of these characters before, he’s never been able to completely redefine them. So in a way, this isn’t a retread. He’s already promised that we’ll see Henry Bendix and possibly Apollo and Midnighter somewhere down the line so there’s a lot to look forward to. Hopefully the imprint is able to hold onto Davis-Hunt for as long as possible because having his visuals at the center of the universe creates something for the rest of the books to rally around and demonstrates the approach that Ellis probably means to have employed across the line. This might not be the WildStorm you remember, but it has the potential to be even better. By Pierce Lydon