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Are you ready to get political?
This trio of issues of Stormwatch play up the geopolitical aspects of the team in a big way while also serving satisfying action and backstory and fantastic arc. Despite some 90s tropes along the way, the title has hit its stride as a high-quality comic.
The opening two-issue arc of this run is firing on all cylinders. Issue #6 is the heftiest WildStorm comic I’ve read so far. It has political intrigue, finally gives the team around Battalion some depth, and continues Stormwatch’s genius streak of nodding to its implied deep well of personnel and their accompanying stories.
Then, #7 is a well-paced battle that limits the amount of reversals and people back from seeming KOs. Thanks to the lack of see-sawing, it has a legitimate “hooray!” moment at the climax, especially when the dispassionate Weatherman joins in piling on the enemies.
Brandon Choi wisely leans heavily on the caption boxes in issue six, helping us get reacquainted with the team – who we haven’t seen together outside of the special since the opening of the first issue.
This is at once a strength and weakness of Stormwatch. It has a large enough cast with multiple teams, historical personnel, supporting staff, and enemy mercs that sometimes I can go issues without ever being entirely sure of someone’s name or power.
That’s emphasized by the fact that we’ve stayed almost entirely with Battalion (and, briefly, Backlash) as our POV characters so far. At this point we know enough about Diva, Fuji, and Winter, but past that trio things get hazier – especially as Choi seems intent for us to pick up on their countries of origin from a few spare foreign words, which is a bit less than we had to go on in Giant Size X-Men.
Issue #8 adds a few surprising names to the credits – H. K. Proger co-scripts, and Jim Lee contributes layouts along with Scott Clark for Trevor Scott to finish. It’s also surprises on just about every page, which makes for an engrossing single issue.
Amidst a lot of great material, two things stick out in a big way:
One is Ripclaw and Rainmaker as indigenous characters without a lot of stereotyping attached. Sure, we get the opening monolog about the Apache Warrior, but otherwise they’re two heroes who the story happens to focus on in a clear callback to the first issue. It’s not “A Very Special Indigenous Episode of Stormwatch.” It also gets the politics right, by identifying the US forces as rogue agents on sovereign land (an interesting contrast with Stormwatch’s role in the prior issue).
Two, is that we get a great, brief training session with Battalion and Backlash that actually deepens their characters and advances the plot! It leads to another strong conversation with Backlash. Sure, it’s just setting up Backlash’s spinoff series, but why can’t Choi manage that on WildCATs!
Want the play-by-play? Keep reading for a summary of these two teams going head to head. Here’s the schedule for the rest of this month’s WildStorm re-read. Though both Kindred and Gen13 are referenced in today’s read, we’ve got some more WildCATs ground to cover first, starting with #8-9 tomorrow. Enjoy the light reading day!
Need the issues? You guessed it – never before collected! You’ll need to purchase single issues – try eBay (#6-8) or Amazon (#6, 7, 8). Since further Stormwatch series hit these same issue numbers, be sure to match your purchase to the images in this post.
Gamorra gets a mention across all of WildStorm’s books, but is never really fully explained. At the top of Stormwatch #6, Battalion gives us a brief monologue of context to open the book
The United Nations Expeditionary Force has been stationed off the coast of Gamorra for nearly a week now enforcing the economic blockade of the outlaw island state. For twenty years, Gamorra’s practices in human rights violations and blackmarket arms trade had gone unchecked with the island’s despotic ruler, Chairman Kaizen Gamorra, reaping incredible wealth.
That ends now.
Determined to bring about change, the security council has finally decided to enact and enforce the sanctions that have been threatened for all these years.
This is where we find Battalion, Diva, Fuji, Winter, and Hellstrike – in the coastal waters of Gamorra, helping to enforce a blockade. A hydro-skimmer tries to sneak past, but Diva catches them in the act, Hellstrike disables their communications, and Fuji acts as a personal bomb to take out their engines. When the team descends on the ship, they find them smuggling Warborgs.
One of the smugglers has a big surprise for Battalion – he’s seen three members of Stormwatch Prime – Flashpoint, Nautika, and Sunburst – alive and in captivity in the capital. We get to see Battalion really cut loose with his psychic powers for the first time as he rips the confession from the smuggler’s brain.
It’s the truth. They are the members that Battalion thought dead after he was ambushed in Kuwait in his first run-in with Deathtrip and his mercs. Of course, he wants to storm the capital and save them. Diva and Winter try to prevail with cooler heads, but the other three will hear none of it. At the trio flies into the country, they witness the lab explosion from the end of WildCATs #5.
Unfortunately, their infiltration spirals out of control quickly, with them dogfighting Gamorran security forces in the middle of the city, ejecting from their chopper, and then watching it crash into a skyscraper (fortunately unoccupied).
Yeah – they’re definitely terrorists at this point. And, we learn Deathtrap and the Gamorran’s are baiting them specifically to entrap them and then use the moral outrage over their terrorism to get the sanctions lifted.
Note that this is not completely dissimilar to the plot of The Phantom Menace, only good.
Stormwatch #7 opens with Battalion facing down Deathtrap, who is like the Deadpool design to Battalion’s Cable but who also has psionic abilities because WildStorm dudes can have mental powers, damnit. Equality for men is part of feminism, too.
(Really. It is.)
Battalion and Deathtrap play battlefield chess, trading Hellstrike for Hellslayer (seriously) so that Battalion and Fuji can make it to the elevator bank. Apparently it’s just the one elevator, because Deathtrap ten tells his team they’ll have to take the helicopter up.
Meanwhile, Diva and Winter are violating her directions from Weatherman to stay in international waters with what Diva deems a rescue mission into Gamorran airspace. En route in their stealth vehicle, Diva gives us some much-needed backstory of Stormwatch Prime.
The team was comprised of the three captives, Battalion, and Backlash – in a rare turn in the field. They were sent into Kuwait to protect oil fields from being destroyed by “Kussein,” the same dictator Deathblow was sent to assassinate. We see the three captives in action and… really? Two more fire/energy dudes and another leggy flying lady with a weird disfigurement? At least Flashpoint is a peculiar Cyclops copy to add some variety.
Anyhow, inexplicably the experienced trainer and the tough-as-nails leader with psychic powers split up from the three canon-fodder members, who get captured by Deathtrap without much of a fight and appear to be blown up in his escape.
Diva isn’t sure she believes they are really in the capital, but she can’t leave Battalion to fend for himself. She detonates an EMP blast over the building where their former teammates are supposedly being held.
And, they’re really there! A squad of Warborgs arrives to execute them before Battalion can fight his way to the penthouse. Why, I’m not sure. To mess with Battalion’s head? Just in case Deathtrap can’t stop him in time? Anyhow, the Warborgs are about to do the dead when Diva’s EMP wave hits and disables them.
Battalion immediately senses Diva’s the one abetting them and communicates with her psychically, but he stops short when he, Fuji, and Hellstrike arrive to an empty penthouse. Did the Warborgs manage to go through the execution? Before they can divine the answer, Deathtrap’s team blasts through the window. He faces down Hellstrike again, and this time gives him some manner of grievous telekinetic head injury (but not before we get a hint of their past connection).
Suddenly, the trio of Stormwatch Prime materializes from thin air. Which one of them can camouflage? No matter – they turn the tide of the battle, and Battalion has to almost physically pry them away from Deathtrap to meet Diva and Winter’s cloaked ship on the roof to escape.
Above the planet, Weatherman shows no sign of his disappointment with the team’s rogue operations. He blackmails Gamorra’s chairman Kaizen to let his teams escape Gamorran airspace or he will go public with news of the black market Warborg shipment they intercepted at the start of the story. Checkmate! The Gamorrans were seriously outplayed and outgunned at every step of this encounter. To be fair, their attention was split between this and the WildCATs losing battle against Cyberforce.
The combined Stormwatch team arrives back at… somewhere? The neutral international waters? To a cheering crowd… of fishermen? It’s all a little hazy. What you need to know is Sunburst decks Battalion; he’s grateful for the rescue, but still a little cross about the years of captivity and torture.
Stormwatch #8 is a one-and-done issue that further ties in to happenings elsewhere at Image – it features RipClaw, fresh off his brainwashing by Misery in Killer instinct, and I introduces Rainmaker, who will shortly joins Gen13.
It opens with Ripclaw quickly crossing over a hundred miles of San Carlos Reservation on foot. He’s seeking a young Apache girl who is hiding in that tribe’s territory, but he finds her at the same moment as a pair of armed Keepers – US government agents who want to bring her in.
On Weatherstation, Battalion and Backlash are enjoying an intense training session. Backlash is pushing Battalion to get his mind of their recently-rescued teammates, but Battalion is more concerned with the fact that the UN Executive Council would have barred him from rescuing them if he had obeyed their orders.
Elsewhere on the station, Diva and Flashpoint stand vigil over the injured Hellstrike, although Flashpoint brusquely excuses himself when Backlash and Battalion pay a visit. Backlash pursues him and they almost come to blows. Flashpoint has no plans to forgive the former teammates who assumed he was dead.
The Executive Council has called a meeting for Weatherman, Battalion, and Diva to attend. Before they can, Backlash confides in Battalion that he plans to leave Stormwatch! He cannot continue his work there with his partner Diane in her Daemonite-induced coma from issue #5, so he’s going on the hunt for more information about the aliens in Kindred #1.
The trio of leaders enter the disciplinary meeting to find it has been coopted by a more important piece of news: a “high-level seedling” has emerged on the San Carlos Reservation, and she’s being pursued by hostiles. Stormwatch One needs to retrieve her immediately. The bombshell is that the hostile isn’t Ripclaw, as we might expect from a superhero beat’em up – it’s the US Keeper agents! Though Cannon is subbing for Hellstrike, he’s pulled from the rotation due to his hot-headedness, and replaced with Battalion’s brother Malcolm, codenamed Strafe!
Back on the ground, many more Keepers have swarmed Ripclaw and the girl, who lashes out with the power of wind against them! She is Rainmaker, future star of Gen13. As she takes on the hovercraft that had been hunting her a moment prior, Stormwatch arrives and Ripclaw nearly beheads Stafe before Battalion talks him down psychically. They unite and begin to fight back the Keepers.
Meanwhile, the US government is petitioning the UN Executive Council for custody of Rainmaker, but they consider Apache territory inviolate. However, the US representative draws the (obvious) comparison to Stormwatch’s raid of Gamorra, and threatens to make a bigger deal of it if they won’t bargain over Rainmaker.
(Of course, Gamorra was holding foreign nationals against their will and probably violating Geneva Conventions while the US wants to kidnap a citizen from her home…)
Stormwatch, Ripclaw, and Rainmaker dispense of the Keepers in a epic right and return Rainmaker to her family’s village in time for one final shock: Synergy arrives and informs them that it’s been ruled that Rainmaker must be turned over to US government custody, or else Stormwatch will be disbanded for their intervention in Gamorra.
That’s messed up, yo.