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Finally, we’re back to Stormwatch! This is the last batch of issues prior to WildStorm Rising – Stormwatch (1993) #17-21 & Special 02, plus a pair of stories in WildStorm Rarities I missed earlier in the month.
This run finds Stormwatch disintegrating without Battalion as the glue to hold it together. No one seems especially interested in obeying Synergy unless it suits them, and Diva has only marginally better luck. That lends an extra layer to Timespan’s egging Battalion on to his death – maybe the real goal was to destroy Stormwatch, and the only way to do it was to convince Battalion that he was fated to die?
Writer Ron Marz is still ably steering this ship towards certain doom and he’s now managed to differentiate the voices of the entire cast. Despite that, this run lacks the urgency of any prior portion of Stormwatch. It feels like a mismash of loose ends being tied up and chess pieces being maneuvered.
It’s hard to put a finger on why. Is it the lack of Battalion as our main point-of-view character leaving the book to feel adrift? Or, is it that with the future already glimpsed in #25 that the motion of the pieces to their appointed destinations feels too slow, and the side stories feel too unimportant? Diva’s encounter with Argos especially feels pointless, and Winter’s Russian adventure is a complete redux with little to improve upon the prior version. I suppose all will be revealed soon enough.
On the art side, this is also the weakest portion of the book so far. An amalgam of pencillers on Stormwatch #17 makes for the weakest art on the book to date, though they could afford the soft spot on an all-talking issue. #19 is back to all Mat Broome and looks strong.
Issue #21 is from fill-in from Terry Shoemaker, a Marvel fill-in artist, and it’s great! I always expect fill-in artists to leave us with an issue of big muscles and gawky faces, but he does a terrific job on keeping Winter, Cannon, and Bendix distinct in the midst of a lot of action. (I checked ahead, and he’s the artist of Zealot’s mini-series – I’m psyched!)
Stormwatch Special #2 plays out effectively as #20.5, showing what Stormwatch Prime is up to after their side mission in #20 – and addressing the subplot of their manipulation by Defile via their captor, Deathtrap. Of course, we all understood that was happening already, so this issue brings nothing new to the table with some wildly inconsistent art that’s far outside of the WildStorm house style. All you need to know is that Flashpoint may have finally shaken loose the subliminal programming that made him an effective mole (but it hasn’t stopped him from being an asshole), but Sunburst and Nautika are as deep as ever!
Also, in reading WildStorm Rarities yesterday, I realized it contained a pair of Stormwatch stories drawn by Jim Lee that I should have read earlier in the month! (Sadly, we never get more than a tiny glimpse of Lee’s Diva, but his Battalion is massive.)
Want the recap? Keep reading for the details of how our team is inching ever closer to their doom. Here’s the schedule for the rest of this month’s WildStorm re-read. I’m not looking forward to the next two days – another mercifully short trip through Backlash for #6-7 a new arc on Deathblow #13-15. Then we’re so close to WildStorm Rising!
Need the issues? You’ll need to purchase single issues – try eBay (#17-20 & Special #2) or Amazon (#17, 18, 19, 20, 21, Special #2). Since further series reached these same issue numbers, be sure to match your purchase to the cover images in this post (and, note that #21 was misnumbered simple as “1” on the cover). The two older stories were only ever reprinted in WildStorm Rarities (Amazon / eBay), a perfect-bound book with a spine.
And now, onto the story!
First, the WildStorm Rarities stories, since they both fit much earlier in continuity.
The first is “Urban Storm,” an interesting story from The Art of Homage Studios. It’s a tale set prior to Stormwatch #1 that sees the original team leaping into motion during a press tour to protect innocent bystanders during the unrest caused by the Rodney King verdict.
The second is “Deadly Tidings” from Image Zero, focusing on Deathtrap’s actions just before Stormwatch #6 and his torture of the Stormwatch Prime captives. It doesn’t give a hint of Defile’s involvement, but does somewhat spoil the surprise of Battalion uncovering his friends mid-arc if used as a prologue. (Apropos of nothing, it also informs us that Deathtrap has an issue with stamina in bed.
In Stormwatch #17, Strafe is back in NYC trying to contain his grief at Battalion’s death while Synergy does the same back on the station. The team has learned nothing from investigating the catatonic purple hulk who looks very much like Maul. Defile is pleased with this development, and waits patiently for another shoe to drop. Synergy calls a team meeting (where Strafe and the cocky Flashpoint nearly come to blows) to say she’s merging Stormwatch One and Stormwatch Two into a single team with Diva in command, which leads Cannon to quit in a huff (more on that in his backup). The entire team travels to Earth for Battalion’s funeral, presided over by former Weatherman, Bendix. After the service, Argos (from Stormwatch Special #1) pays a visit to the grave of his fallen foe.
In “Loose Cannon, Part 1,” Diva is woman enough to pay a visit to Cannon after the funeral, which he skipped like a little punk. He has a lot of complaints about how she got the job as a more qualified woman while he was passed over as an unqualified young hot-head. When she stands in the way of his exit he simply blasts a new one through the wall.
Developments come fast and furious in Stormwatch #18. Fahrenheit comforts Diva (in maybe her first lines of dialog outside of battle?) over Cannon’s departure when they’re summoned down to the lab by Fuji. Stormwatch’s doctor has discerned that their purple prisoner is indeed Maul (who only Diva seems to have heard of; maybe it’s a clearance thing). Before they can discuss anything else, Void ports in (from WildCATs #17) to whisk Maul away. Diva calls a meeting to update the team (and send Stormwatch One after a curiously MIA Synergy), and Sunburst strangely already knows about the WildCATs, though he can’t explain why.
Meanwhile, Synergy is speaking to Battalion’s tombstone planetside when she is assaulted by a mysterious figure who emanates crackling blue energy – who turns out to be Argos (who, you’ll recall, she has some history with)! He’s constructed a new technological version of his dimensional gate to bring his monstrous army to Earth, and he wants to use Synergy to power it. Across the globe in Russia, a mysterious man namedZond breaks into the prison where the man behind the M.A.D.-ONE armor from issue #13.
In “Loose Cannon, Part 2,” Cannon is suited up to storm a Gamorran research base on a hidden South Pacific island. We’ve never seen him be this violent – he disintegrates cyborgs left and right! The issue ends on a cliffhanger, which finds him discovering a purple, spider-y cyborg hovering over a half-constructed cyborg woman, who weakly pleads, “Help me, please.”
Stormwatch #19 opens with Stormwatch One returning with not much as a hint of Synergy’s whereabouts. Diva holds Winter back to show him that M.A.D.-ONE has been freed from prison. Diva hasn’t received clearance from Russia to send Stormwatch into the country to deal with the terrorist, so Winter stalks of to deal with it himself.
On Earth, Synergy is playing coy as Argos monologues, but she has a trick up her sleeve – she focuses all of her power at once into an energy blast the overloads the portal and brings the entire structure crashing down upon them. She returns to to Skywatch to relieve Diva with not a word of her ordeal.
Winter visits Bendix’s home, and… this is not a normal person’s home. It looks almost identical to the control room on Skywatch, and Bendix seems to be accessing Stormwatch files! Winter doesn’t seem to mind, as he’s completely focused on finding a way to take down M.A.D.-ONE, and Bendix has a perfect idea – Cannon.
Which brings us to “Loose Cannon, Part 3.” Cannon destroys the creepy cyborg scientist, but his incomplete subject begs him to put her and the rest of the test subjects out of their misery. Cannon, usually so eager to kill his enemies, cannot bring himself to take the lives of innocents – even ones pleading for death. He leaves them behind in the lab to rot.
Stormwatch #20 begins with Nautika teasingly modeling a barely-there swimsuit for her husband Sunburst for an upcoming leave, but their private moment is interrupted by Synergy. She needs to activate Stormwatch Prime to pick up two new recruits, Undertow (who we met in #25) and Pagan. Flashpoint predictably has nothing nice to say about being sent on a “milk run,” and when Nautika tries to shut him up he says the thing the other two cannot bring themselves to admit – they’re all having thoughts that don’t seem to be their own.
Winter and Cannon are on the ground in Moscow, where they’re joined by Bendix wearing “Think Tank Armor” (and editorial box teases that we’ll learn more in an upcoming Team One special). They catch M.A.D.-1 (they stopped spelling it out) pilfering nuclear material in the Ukraine, but he makes quick work of the three of them. Cannon and Winter pick themselves up and keep Yevgraf and his armor occupied long enough for Bendix to channel all of his suit’s power to offensive systems to blow up the M.A.D.-1 armor.Inside, Yevgraf’s life slips away, but not before warning Winter that the cause he is dying for is just beginning. Just as he takes his last breath, three new M.A.D.-1 style suits descend on our heroes.
Back on Skywatch, Strafe is delivering a peculiar confessional to his father, still in the Ice Box that Battalion needed to undertake a stealth mission to visit. Strafe thinks that his father’s sentiment about Stormwatch using them all as pawns was more right than any of them realized. I guess even psychotic mass-murderers are right sometimes.
In backup story “Cross Currents” we learn a bit more about our new recruit, Undertow. He seems to be struggling with a mental disability despite his body and strength being off the charts. He watches as his father dies on a commercial fishing vessel, and after saving the rest of the crew he calls his deadbeat mother – Madeline Bailey, who works in Stormwatch’s neurosciences division.
In Stormwatch Special #2, Stormwatch Prime gets their long awaited shore leave, but while Sunburst and Nautika live it up on the beach, Flashpoint is chasing down members of Deathtrap’s merc squad to interrogate for information about the dueling voices in his mind. When Kilgore won’t spill any details Flashpoint fries him to a crisp, which leads Synergy to send Sunburst and Nautika to collect him. Deathtrap uses an unwitting Hellslayer as bait to draw Flashpoint in to an ambush by multiple Mercs. He’s saved by his teammates, but in the confusion manages to slip away with Deathtrap to beat the truth out of him. Nautika conveniently interrupts the pair just as Deathtrap seems willing to spill information.
In an epilogue, Synergy visits Cannon in Max Security prison. She’s not going to break him out, but she does seem to think there’s some truth in his accusation that Sunburst and Nautika aren’t alone in their own heads.
Stormwatch #21 finds Winter and Cannon being decimated by the trio of M.A.D. armored revolutionaries, but Bendix is able to hack their armor from the fallen M.A.D.-1 unit. Winter and Cannon are delivered as prisoners to a secret M.A.D. factory by Bendix impersonating a single remaining M.A.D.. Once they gain access to The Director, Cannon kills Zond and departs with Bendix to initiate a self-destruct sequence while Winter sits down to have a drink and an ideological chat with The Director. There is no resolving their differences, and as the Director plans to shoot Winter with a gun secreted below his desk Winter makes a preemptive shot with his powers, melting the Director’s head clean off his body.
Synergy is dressing down Winter back on the station, and while he’s not pleased to have broken the rules he offers no apologies for his actions (or information about his accomplices). Their session is interrupted by Diva, who has news – the WildC.A.T.s have turned up in Washington, D.C. with Maul amongst them (in WildC.A.T.s #19) and she wants to bring them in.
The lizard-like Pagan is star of the back-up story, “Tagged.” Pagan is a mutant, the reptilian the product of a local woman, a general in the U.S. army, and the chemical testing he conducted in the new Guinea jungles. He’s captured by a team of armed men, who refer to him as a seedling – he’ll be brought to Stormwatch.