REVIEW: Stormwatch #1

Much fuss was made of Justice League #1, the comic by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee that launched DC’s New 52 last week.  But another team book came along this week to less fanfare, nestled amidst some higher-profile new releases, and might just have trumped Justice League.  Say hello to Stormwatch.

Stormwatch #1, by writer Paul Cornell and artist Miguel Sepulveda, is one of the DC relaunch titles I’ve been most looking forward to.  I’ve never read an issue of The Authority or the original Stormwatch in my life, so my interest was based primarily around the presence of writer Paul Cornell.  His name alone was enough to sell both this and next week’s Demon Knights for me.  But with the more I heard about Stormwatch, the more I began to suspect this comic might be the dark horse of the whole bunch, the one to emerge and steal the show from all the others.  It is more a testament to the incredible quality of DC’s output this week than any real detriment to this particular comic that Stormwatch #1 wasn’t among my favorites, as in most other weeks this would have been a standout.

One of my issues with Justice League #1 was how little actually happened here.  In this first chapter of Stormwatch, we have a superpowered smackdown on the streets of Moscow, a quest to the Himalayas where a giant, monstrous creature is discovered, and a battle with the moon, which has become sentient and turned against Earth.  Yes, you read that right.  Any one of these plot strands could sustain Justice League for several issues at the pace its currently going.  Furthermore, whereas in Justice League we only got to meet a few team members, here we get a whirlwind introduction to the whole Stormwatch roster, with a glimpse at their powers and personalities.  This was my first time reading a comic with a lot of these characters, so this exposition was appreciated.

If there’s any shortcoming, I’d probably single out the ending.  I’m aware of the relationship between Midnighter and Apollo, and for a longtime Authority fan the arrival of Midnighter might be a big moment.  But for a newbie like me, the conclusion lacked the jawdropping impact of some of the other cliffhangers the DC #1s have provided thus far.  Sure, not every comic needs a big shocking cliffhanger at its end, but in the case of this week, with so many comics starting with a screaming bang, beginning with a polite introduction puts you at risk of being overshadowed.

I’ve seen some criticism of Sepulveda’s artwork, which I don’t think is entirely fair.  His character designs might not leap off the page, but when you see his rendition of some of the crazier, epic stuff on display, you get a real taste of where Sepulveda’s strengths lie.  The giant eye that opens in the core of the moon, the creature in the Himalayas, the menacing forms Martian Manhunter shapeshifts into, even the Stormwatch HQ hurtling though hyperspace… this is a book that owes just as much to heady, high-concept sci-fi as it does superheroics, and that shows in the visual presentation.

Comparing this to Cornell’s other work, I wouldn’t say Stormwatch hooked me as fastly and as strongly as Knight & Squire (which, by a few pages into the first issue, had me wanting to just put the book down and scream, “I LOVE THIS BOOOOOOOOK!”), but there are big, inventive ideas here, and plenty of potential for this series to be a real grower.  Like most of Cornell’s work, it’s instantly likeable, and shows a skillful balance of the wildly inventive and the relatably clever and witty.  A promising start.

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