Wildstorm has been through quite a decade. The line struggled for the longest time attempting to craft an identity for itself since being bought by DC. After several successive reboots and relaunches that never took, Wildstorm entered what could perhaps be considered a nadir period after being incorporated into the DC Universe proper. While the intent was good, with the exceptions of Grayson and Midnighter, the use of the Wildstorm characters just never took. That was down to a combination of factors like the seeming disinterest in using these characters after that initial wave (bar Future’s End, which we shall never speak of), or that the DCU in general had adopted a lot of the broad mannerisms of classic Wildstorm which made them largely redundant.
Bringing in Warren Ellis is simultaneously a head scratcher and a no-brainer. The former being due to how rare it is you see someone restart a franchise they helped define, though that’s pretty much erased by the fact that The Wild Storm is very different from the ideas that Ellis used to define books like Stormwatch or The Authority whilst still retaining a lot of the hallmarks of it. The Wild Storm is a wholesale reboot in the style of a modern day Ellis book, and largely resembles what a Multiversity version of the Wildstorm universe might look like.
In large part it’s a good move to make a clean break. In a sense it’s like what Ellis did with Newuniversal, though this time Ellis is deconstructing himself in large part. It also allows for Ellis to strip the characters and ideas down to their bare parts, as well as to build a world from the ground up. While the first issue leans on the typical themes of transhumanism, technological advance, and their impact upon society, it does craft a very different veneer compared to that prior version of Wildstorm which acted largely reactionary to the post-9/11 United States. This version is more of a post-Silicon Valley boom, post-Trump comic and it shows in the the batting between people caught in the race between corporations and government towards bottling human advancement. The plot begins with a pretty Ellis plot of several events: Zealot finishing a hunt for a rogue bio-hacker, the Engineer taking her first step towards transhuman evolution, and Deathblow trying to take down a rogue corporate figure all crashing into each other in a world that’s beginning to change beyond recognition.
A large chunk of what makes Wild Storm work and tick however is down to Jon Davis-Hunt’s art. Which similarly is very stripped down and business-like with a heft of panels and less in the way of the widescreen action which defined Wildstorm during the Hitchian early 2000’s. Anyone who’s seen Davis-Hunt’s work in The Clean Room is probably going to be a bit jarred in the shift, it’s a wholly different animal. That’s also aided by Ivan Plascencia’s soft colors accentuating the drabbier world this comic occupies compared to the typical Earth-0 DCU’s brighter more bombastic atmosphere. Either way, no matter how you shake it: the first issue of the Wild Storm definitely succeeded at what it attempts to do. If Ellis can bring to the rest of the line what Gerard Way was able to bring to Young Animals, the Wildstorm line will probably be able to succeed once more.
4 Gene Edits out of 5