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Stormwatch wasn’t immune to the widespread Image delays, but it had them more managed – its initial three-issue sprint was effectively a bi-monthly comic.
From that opening arc, it launched into a quick two-issue story that would connect it more strongly to WildCATs by introducing Daemonites into the mix. A subsequent special tells a weirdly rushed magical tale and a critical piece of background on second-in-command, Diva.
Brett Booth delivers marvelous work on pencils, with a set of vivid, superheroic colors from Joe Chiodo. Booth’s Warguard are positively Liefeldian, with mouths overstuffed with teeth and creases on every part of their clothing not stretched taut over a muscle. In keeping with the Liefeld inspiration, Booth does sometimes skimp on backgrounds.
This quick hit story only serves to emphasize how solid Stormwatch is as a comic and a concept. The cast doubles in this pair of issues, canon is deepened, the book begins to tie-in with the wider universe – yet, it’s still a coherent plot that moves the Stormwatch story forward.
The first Stormwatch Special isn’t quite up to the par of the main book even as it succeeds in upholding the strong continuity of Stormwatch.
Ron Marz’s story of a parallel dimension akin to He-Man’s Eternia would have been better suited across multiple issues. It’s difficult to understand Battalion’s actions as they occur over just a day, making it seem as though he was hypnotized or possessed by a sudden love interest. If that was Marz’s intent, I’d say the issue was great, but it’s unclear if we’re supposed to believe the relationship was on the up-and-up.
While traveling to a dimension of sword and sorcery seems somewhat out of left-field here, it’s consistent with Stormwatch’s upcoming appearing in Union that they are increasingly the team called upon to deal with dimensional breaches in the fabric of our reality. Dwayne Turner manages to keep up the title’s high standard of art (though he trends a little more Kubert-brothers here more than Lee/Booth), although some of the colors are a bit off (e.g., Diva’s outfit is more red than pink).
Marz and artist Richard Johnson turn in a second story that reveals Diva’s origin and takes a moment to humanize Cannon. It’s a well-crafted, heartbreaking little story of Diva encountering her former vocal instructor that’s completely unnecessary to the main narrative in Stormwatch, but it adds depth to Diva’s steely, no-nonsense leadership. Johnson’s pencils are more grounded in realism that typical Image work, and it makes for some genuinely great panels.
Want the play-by-play? Keep reading for a summary of the team’s first run-in with Daemonites. Here’s the schedule for the rest of this month’s WildStorm re-read – tomorrow we’ll read the biggest blockbuster yet, the “Killer Instinct” crossover between WildCATs and Cyberforce. If you want to get a headstart, you can read Cyberforce’s original 4-issue mini-series as background.
The first half of Stormwatch #4 is devoted to a training room sequence lead by Backlash for Battalion’s brother Malcolm (now called Strafe) and Stormwatch Two’s impulsive leader Cannon, complete with Claremont-esque narration from Battalion. Backlash is a cypher in this sequence – he’s as aerobic as Spider-Man, as tough as Wolverine, and has some manner of psychic or illusionary powers that different from Battalion’s. Also, maybe he’s old? Battalion reveres him and also accepts lip from him without comment.
Yet, as headstrong as he is in the training room, Backlash’s unable to confess his love (and maybe propose) to his partner Diane over dinner without being losing control of the conversation and being interrupted by Fuji and Winter – imposing, but not the biggest personalities to contend with. It’s an interesting effect that I don’t know if Brandon Choi and co-scripter Sean Ruffner intended. Backlash comes off as almost bumbling out of costume compared to his tight control of his words and actions in it.
Meanwhile, the security team on Voyager One detects an explosion while on patrol and discovers a derelict ship nearly sliced in half. As they enter it, we see monstrous eyes looking down upon them – Daemonites, which remain unknown to the general populace outside of WildC.A.T.s. Later, the crew (plus their new Daemonite ride-alongs) return to Skywatch acting rather suspiciously, and corner Diane, demanding she take them to the Warguard (Stormwatch’s predecessors, put in deep freeze for their insanity).
To her credit, Diane proves more effective than the entire WildC.A.T.s team at fighting off Daemonites, although perhaps these aren’t the royalty that Lord Emp usually attracts. She manages to kill one of their hosts and slam the security alert button, but it’s in vain – the alien simply inhabits her, which makes the retrieving of the Warguard that much simpler.
The issue ends with Battalion, Fuji, Winter, Diva, Cannon, and Backlash storming to the cryo chambers, where the latter quartet find Diane and three of the Warguard – though it’s unclear if they are yet possessed or just being their normal, charming selves.
Stormwatch #5 is pretty much one big bash-em up, pitting the unsubtle physical powers of the trio of Warguard against our six heroes. It’s a satisfying fight with strong choreography, especially because based on the opening trio of issues we understand that any character could be at risk. When a blast from Diane’s gun blows out a wall of the station, Backlash and Warguardian Nychus are sucked out into the void of space before Fuji can seal the breach with debris.
Battalion faces down Talos and realizes that he’s not his normal, homicidal self before subduing him with Winter’s help. Eventually, all three Warguard (and their Daemonites) are put back into stasis. However, in the flurry of battle Diane makes off with a small, well-armed ship and (after murdering its crew) begins firing on the station! Luckily, Backlash finds his way in and confronts his lover. When she doesn’t relent, he uses the full extent of the powers of his psychic whip’s on her – which forcibly ejects the Daemonite from her body! Whiplash briefly glimpses the beast, but is battered into subconsciousness.
The next thing we know, Backlash is waking up back on Skywatch, and he rushes into an adjacent room to find Diane in a persistent vegetative state. The Daemonite he faced was nowhere to be found…
(There’s also some confusing scripting here, with Battalion saying the entities burned up upon earthfall when no-one fell to Earth, and that there were four Warguard instead of three.)
Stormwatch Special #1 came out after issue #6, but seems to fit better int he gap between #5-6 than afterbecause of the ramifications of the next arc.
Itstarts with a thrilling glimpse of Battalion fighting Grifter and Warblade from WildC.A.T.s, but it’s just a training program. Weatherman pulls him out to share the news that Synergy’s team manning an excavation site on the moon has gone missing.
This tracks with Synergy’s absence from #4-5 except for in a final scene. Battalion and his core Stormwatch One team of Diva, Fuji, Winter, and Hellstrike mae their way down to the moon and discover a dead member of Synergy’s team, beheaded and riddled with arrows, plus portal in an unearthed arch.
On the other side of the portal, a sorcerer named Argos is attempting to capture some manner of warrior princess named Ajah to add to his collection of concubines before he’s interrupted by Stormwatch. They managed to drive him off, but Fuji damages the portal in the process – stranding the team in this dimension.
Ajah invites them back to the castle, where she makes sure Battalion has a set of the world’s traditional warrior gear to don. It’s pretty much a skimpy S&M costume, which gives a suddenly-modest Battalion – who is built like a brick house – some hesitation. The team meets Ajah’s sister and brother – all three blessed with special abilities (controlling wind, controlling fire, and shape-shifting into animals, respectively). Argos is on the hunt for their family, having killed their parents and brother. It turns out that the other “concubine” he has taken captive is none other than Synergy – and Battalion has some strong opinions on that.
Battalion retires to his chambers to prepare for battle only to be pursued by a sexually aggressive Ajah. He resists her advances repeatedly, but she finally convinces him in a creepy fashion – giving him a soul pendant that’s linked to her life force and then all-but forcing herself on him. She’s calling him “my love” the next day as they storm Argos’s castle to free Synergy, who has some strong opinions on that. However, Argos is nowhere to be found, having skedaddled back to Stormwatch’s reality through a sorcerous version of the portal.
The team prepares to mobilize back to the moon, but Battalion uncharacteristically volunteers to stay behind with Ajah to… sleep with her more? His motivation is unclear, which only emphasizes the sketchiness of Ajah’s sudden sway over him.
Suddenly, Argos ambushes the team, slaying Ajah while calling her his sister before leaping back through the portal to the moon. Of course, Battalion is devastated to lose his one true love who he met less than 24hrs prior. The team follows Argos and is getting their butts kicked (despite the fact that Winter ought to be able to handily defeat him) before Battalion comes through the portal. He nearly kills Argos, but in a second of hesitation the sorcerer escapes and Battalion blows up the portal by mistake, severing the connection between the two worlds.
As the team bemoans their failure to do anything other than retrieve Synergy, the stoic-but-inconsolable Battalion looks down and sees his soul pendant glowing. Is Ajah really still alive? Or, is there some creepy additional layer to her connection to her brother Argos?
A backup features Diva and unlikely date Cannon out to enjoy a night of opera at The Met when they have a chance encounter with Diva’s former voice teacher. He unwittingly unlocked her powers by pushing her in lessons, and he was blinded when her sonic blasts destroyed all of the glass in the room. Now blind, he was simply asking for a hand in reaching his seat. Diva flees in tears, and Cannon follows to console her in an uncharacteristic moment of empathy.
They decide to skip the opera.