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We’re finally here! It’s the issue of Stormwatch that inspired this month of blogging even though I had never read it before.
With “Images of Tomorrow,” Stormwatch #25 leapt one year into the future to show the dark timeline that awaited the team …but I’m already getting ahead of myself. First, we have to read issue #9, with H. K. Proger on script and Ryan Benjamin penciling.
The issue makes the unusual move of giving us a second story in a row with a point-of-view character outside of our main cast. This time it is Sunburst, one of the members of Stormwatch Prime rescued from Gamorra in #6-7.
The story is a “race to defuse the bomb” tale that gives us some backstory on Sunburst as well as context for his relationships with his teammates Nautika and Flashpoint. However, that was just a red herring (both for Sunburst and for us as readers), as at the end we learn the point of the story was for Defile to finally crack Sunburst’s psyche after he proved unbreakable during his captivity.
This would seem like a minor fill-in issue on its own, but paired with the portents of #25 it takes on considerably more foreboding.
Steven T. Seagle randomly steps in on scripting duties on #25, but he’s abetted by Scott Clark on his Stormwatch swan song after penciling six of the first eight issues. Between Seagle’s script, Clark’s slightly perverted character designs, and the darkness of the tale, the book is fantastic.
Every page carries a chilling new reveal that you’d typically expect from a “What If?” tale, except this one professes that it’s really going to happen! If I had sat down to read it at the time I would have never dropped this book.
Silver Surfer scripter Ron Marz takes the title over with #10 for a run through #24. While I was a little peeved to lose Brandon Choi on his best title, Marz quickly made me forget my annoyance. You can feel his expertise lock in immediately with the dreadful pall that hangs over Battalion’s narration, and the nuanced descriptions of his teammates doubling as introductions we’re getting for the first time.
Marz is re-teamed with his Stormwatch Special collaborator Dwayne Turner, who does a much better job drawing a solid, dour version team of the team this time around. Maybe that’s because Marz gives him so much more room to breath than in the rushed pace of the Special. Each member gets their own spread to show off their abilities as he explains their histories.
It was a brilliant move to turn this Avengers-style procedural drama about policing the globe into a towering tragedy via glimpsing the horror of a future that cannot be prevented it. It elevates Battalion – already a great character – to the position of being WildStorm’s own tragic Hamlet. And, we the reader are left dreading every page turn for what it might reveal about Battalion and Diva’s fate.
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. Tomorrow we get to one of my favorite runs of this entire era – Gen 13’s original mini-series! Will it hold up to re-read 20 years after my last time paging through? I can’t wait to find out.
Need the issues? You’ll need to purchase single issues – try eBay (#9-10 & 25) or Amazon (#9, 25, 10). Since further Stormwatch series hit these same issue numbers, be sure to match your purchase to the images in this post.
Stormwatch #9 opens with a curious prologue, a single page of a mysterious time traveller arriving in the present day.
The entire Stormwatch crew, including the Stormwatch Prime members rescued in the last arc, are scattered throughout a city in search of a bomb. Sunburst picks up the signal and jets off to disarm it only to be savagely attacked by everyone other than his captive teammates – Fuji, Diva, Winter, Hellstrike, Cannon, and Fahrenheit, and finally Battalion (bearing the bodies of Nautika and Flashpoint).
By the speed and savagery with which Sunburst picks off his teammates it’s clear that this is a dream. We cut to Sunburst waking up in a panic beside Nautika, who we learn is his wife.
Elsewhere on Skywatch, Weatherman and Synergy contemplate how to respond to give simultaneous terror attacks in Europe. They want to hold back the members of Prime, but as the death toll rises Weatherman’s hand is forced. He deploys the trio of Stormwatch Prime to The Vatican with no other support. (Seriously, couldn’t Synergy tag along to keep an eye on them?)
They tear into the armored men terrorizing the city, but as they’re struck down Nautika notices something alarming. Each terrorist seems to be fuzed with a second, alien being. The team is facing Daemonites, but since they weren’t around for the fate that befell Warguard and Backlash’s partner Diane they aren’t in the know.
The possessed terrorists encircle our trio of heroes, and Flashpoint takes a bullet to the leg. In the distance, Sunburst spots a group of their foes carrying a strange device up the stairs of a cathedral. He breaks away rom holding the line with Nautika and Flashpoint, certain that the device is the bomb from his dream. But, if he was right about that, then what else…
Battalion arrives to assist with the bomb, but Sunburst can trust him. He grabs the device and zooms up into the atmosphere where he it can safely be detonated. He absorbs the energy and releases it harmlessly into the atmosphere.
He returns to the ground and the admonishment of Battalion – he had already defused one of the bombs at the Taj Mahal, so there was no need for Sunburst to risk his life. Battalion’s not too upset about it, as he’s more focused on checking in with Weatherman and Synergy to report their discover of aliens (which Weatherman confirms to be Daemonites).
We zoom out of that conversation to discover that Skywatch is being watched by a massive, horned figure named Defile! He was the one responsible for the terror attacks, for Sunburst’s dream, and also for bankrolling Deathtraps lengthy deprogramming of the members of Stormwatch Prime. The entire point of the attacks was to draw out enough of Stormwatch that they would have no choice but to activate Prime, and it worked. Now, Sunburst’s self-control is eroded – all according to plan.
Later, Battalion returns to his quarters, mumbling about time wasted on a subsequent manhunt in the Vatican. There he discovers the mysterious figure from the prologue. His name is Timespan, and he zaps Battalion, saying, “Come with me – we have to save our future!”
That brings us finally to the inspiration for this month of blogging, Stormwatch #25!
I never realized that this tale was both a glimpse of the future and part of Battalion’s chronological story, so that it fits both after #9 and after #24.
Battalion begins to argue with Timespan, but he can barely get the words out of his mouth before Skywatch crashes to the earth in front of them! Timespan can’t stop Battalion from rushing down to search for survivors, but he’s interrupted by the arrival of a somewhat familiar team – Fuji (with a metal arm?), Winter, Fahrenheit, Synergy (who is now Weatherman One!), an albino creature named Fiend, and a buff black man who isn’t Battalion named Undertow.
They’re all hunting for their team leader, who presumably went down with the station, but that’s not Battalion. In fact, they are shocked to see Battalion as he is to see them – in this timeline, he’s been dead for months! Even more shocking, their leader is none other than Spartan of WildCATs!
Spartan is malfunctioning after the crash, but he has the mental dampeners his team so desperately needs. They all put them on in a panic a sbefore freezing up Spartan kindly explains to Battalion that he died in the line of duty. Synergy has no time for sympathy – she’s terrified someone or something that “swatted us out of the sky with a single thought” is about to catch up with them.
It’s Warguard who finds them first – Hexon, Talos, Nychus, and three other members Battalion doesn’t recognize. Battalion enters the fray with his future team, but he’s disturbed to see the desperation and brutality with which they tear into Warguard. Warguard returns the favor, with Nychus gutting Undertow while Timespan sits idly by.
Battalion has words for Timespan as he watches his former team drop one by one, but the traveller refuses to intervene. Suddenly, Battalion’s brother Malcolm AKA Strafe is hovering above them. The shock of seeing his brother Jackson’s seems to break Malcolm out of a trance. He pleads, “Don’t join him!” and professes his love before he snaps back under some kind of mental control, but not before Timespan notes that this has never happened before.
Battalion engages with Strafe, assuming he’s been possessed by a Daemonite due to his sudden change in demeanor. However, when Strafe calls him Jack he realizes what’s wrong – not just with Malcolm (who he beats back savagely, perhaps killing), but with the entire future…
…is his father, Despot, who arrives with the reanimated corpse of Diva as his attendant. (That’s every bit as horrific as it sounds.)
Battalion cannot believe his eyes. Who would be so foolish as to free his father? Despot retorts that there was a threat so big that Stormwatch had no other choice. Father and son face each other down, and as each prepare to strike a killing blow upon the other, Timespan winks Battalion out of the future and back to his own time. He follows close behind, saying only, “I expected nothing different. You may think whatever you like, but I got exactly what I wanted…”
As Despot monologues to the empty air around him while subsuming the minds of every civilian nearby, he’s shot down by a bolt of energy from a mysterious, silhouetted figure (whose identity we won’t learn until Stormwatch #26 – 18 issues from now!!!)
Stormwatch #10 finds Battalion back in the present and understandably in shock as he tries to fill out his personal log, not knowing if it may be his last with his team (Here Diva, Fuji, Winter, and Strafe).
Their mission? Capturing Talos, who once was a man named Richard Talsorian of Monitor One. He, like Battalion’s father, was transformed by the comet that blazed past the station, imbuing the Monitor One team with powers and altered dispositions. Now Stormwatch One must to return him to stasis before he and a cadre of Warborgs can pilfer cybernetic Wetworks technology from the Ashita Corporation in Japan.
Ashita forces on the ground aren’t welcoming of the intrusion despite the Japanese government’s request for support. Battalion rages past them. I suppose once you believe you’re going to die somehow in the next year (and who from your team will live) there’s no use in being cautious. As the team engages the Warborgs, Battalion reviews each of their histories, though he knows more for some (Fuji) than others (the mysterious Winter).
Battalion fights his way into the Ashita headquarters and corners Talos. Diva isn’t far behind, but Battalion commands her to leave before firing directly on the unstable wetware Talos is so eagerly fondling. The entire building explodes in a massive plume of fire – Diva is sure that the men are dead. Yet, from the rubble emerges Battalion, with an unconscious Talos slung behind him; he used a psi shield to protect them from the brunt of the blast.
The Ashita representatives are beside themselves with anger and Stormwatch One is shocked at Battalion’s actions, to which he replies, “We’ve all got to die sometime.”
He wraps up his journal entry back on Skywatch and answers the door to his quarters to find Synergy dressed for a night out. She’s finally ready to give there relationship a chance, saying, “I think there’s a future for us. You have to be convinced of that, too.”
Battalion smiles and pretends to agree, but we already know how he feels.