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Stormwatch vol 1 s/c

Stormwatch vol 1 s/c back

Warren Ellis & Tom Raney, Jim Lee


Page 45 Review by Stephen

Washington DC, America:

“What the hell is this?”
“Two of yours, Mr. President. These are the explosives experts who murdered one of my officers last night. You either have no knowledge of this, or you will pretend you don’t. It doesn’t matter. You, or one of your creatures, have decided for no good reason to commit an act of war against Stormwatch, and therefore the United Nations. There will be a reprisal. And then we shall see where we stand. Do not test us. We have received your message that we are not wanted or safe in your country. Stand ready for ours.”

This is it: this is where the real Warren Ellis voice finally emerged from its corporate restraints on a title far enough off the radar for anyone to be bothered to bleach it. He inherited a numbskull, run-down Image superhero title and turned it into a literate, Yukio Mishima-referencing, fast-paced, geopolitical, science-fiction action thriller starring a madman called Henry Bendix, the Weatherman, who ran the satellite-based Stormwatch from its platform’s Watch Hall with clipped, military precision.

Like THE AUTHORITY this title grew into, Henry Bendix wanted to change the world whether it liked it or not. And like THE AUTHORITY he quickly discovered that the United States government was amongst the first to stand up and oppose him. Unlike THE AUTHORITY, his methods grew increasingly ruthless. But Stormwatch should have guessed the second he foisted upon its metahuman officers a certain Rose Tattoo, a weapons expert who could drive a man irretrievably mad just by having sex with him.

What astonished me when rereading this 11-issue repackaging of the first two softcovers, is how swiftly Ellis nailed his ambition. I count one page of slightly awkward exposition and that’s it. Like Bendix himself, Ellis swiftly reconfigured the existing Stormwatch to his own tastes and ends, ruthlessly rejecting several of its extant officers, repositioning others and bringing in his own new recruits (Rose Tattoo, the lemon-sharp Jenny Sparks and city-centric Jack Hawksmoor who could commune with his urban environment:

“In situations like these, Jack always checks the windows first. In cities, windows hold images for longer than you’d think.”

It was ridiculously full of new ideas and relevant, news-headline issues, setting the strategically split three teams against Japanese Death Cults, America’s paranoid, racist and deluded militias (claiming to protect its indigenous citizens from the Federal Government by bombing them both into oblivion), and rogue states like the fictional Gamorra funding terrorists to bring down planes over Britain. We are, of course, talking Lockerbie and Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi dressed like the legendary Fu Manchu. Throughout the book it’s all-out mutagenic warfare, while Bendix cleverly, covertly, moves his pieces into place while covering his tracks in the process.

There’s one particularly clever issue in which the ageless, no-nonsense Jenny Sparks, the spirit of the 20th Century (“I won’t wear one of those damnfool spandex body-condom things. I don’t have the bust for it.”) finally reveals her 96-year-old history. And hats off to Tom Raney for each decade is drawn in its relevant, predominant comicbook style, successfully mimicking the 1920s’ scientific romance of Flash Gordon, the 1930s’ invention of Superman, Will Eisner’s THE SPIRIT in the 1940s, Kirby, Crumb and then finally Dave Gibbons’ WATCHMEN. Parenthetically, I should just add that there’s a nice (precise) juxtaposition at the end of that sequence of black Battalion’s optimism for the future and the harsh, racist reality he encounters the very next issue. These are not accidents.

But really, let’s get back to the main man Bendix and the madness in his methods. He’s speaking second.

“Torture me, drug me, beat me… won’t do any good. You’re not getting a thing out of me.”
“Torture you? Dear God, you are living in the Dark Ages. No, all we’re going to do is strip your scalp, drill a hole in your skull and push scanning needles into your living brain. We’ll extract the necessary information from your brain quite painlessly.”
“Unless we forget the anaesthetic. Hi, I’m the surgeon, and I’m drunk.”

Elsewhere, Jenny Sparks:

“Don’t ever touch my beer again.”
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