Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wildstorm comics: 1992-2008

(Note: I'm giving out a spoiler for an upcoming book, and I'm not even going to try and hide it, so if you actually care, you better avert your eyes NOW).

Ok, there you go. Moving on.


First, I'd like you to go to Newsrama or CBR or wherever it is you go for the latest comic soliticiations. Look up the latest batch for DC, then scroll on down to the WildStorm section and check out the cover for "The Number of the Beast". Or just look below. Take a look at the figure at the bottom of the cover.

See anyone familiar on the cover?
Yes. Yes it is.

John Cumberland. The High. The guy who became a two-mile wide stain on Skywatch's forcefield at the very height of Warren Ellis' Stormwatch run.
And so it is now that the last of Ellis' noteworthy and poignant contributions to Wildstorm has been removed. This to me is the final sign: Wildstorm is effectively dead as any kind of coherent universe; it has become a marginalized ghetto of the DC universe: Earth-50 or whatever; a tiny little place that other creators will occasionally go to do some beta-testing on their ideas before bringing them to a "real" comics imprint. Like Malibu became to Marvel. Like Impact comics and Milestone before them at DC.
Now you may ask, how did this happen? Well, honestly, the handwriting was on the wall when Wildstorm went to DC in the first place. Yes, yes, going to DC did free up Jim Lee...to draw Batman every few months. Oh, and it gave them access to some DC's name talent that they might not have had otherwise. Maybe. On the other hand, it ultimately cost them Alan Moore and the entire ABC line.
However, the final nails in the coffin can be contributed to the following:

1) the Loss of Scott Dunbier: Clearly, the heart and soul of the franchise: A guy who rigidly kept track of the universe's coherence and kept it's creators striving to do their creative best. And generally, they did. But since he left, it's not hard to see the quality drop-off in titles. What little remains. Looking at the sections of Wildstorm comics in previews, you can see two patterns emerging; lots of wild grasps at using D-list characters to try and make something cohesive (which is failing) and successive apocalyptic scenarios (Let's see: we have "Wildstorm: Revelations", "Apocalypse", "Armageddon", "Number of the Beast". Lots and lots of new and old characters and rehashes of what has come before, but not a lot of it that was true to what made the Wildstorm universe UNIQUE: that the superhumans who existed in the WSU were generally not NATURAL phenomena: They were the products of conspiracies and covert government ops and secret cabals and rare things. All of this is now gone, expunged from Wildstorm cannon. It's just another super-verse where these things just sort of happen. Which brings me to my second point:
2) Everything that made the WSU "sexy" and "Daring" has since moved on to the bigger names of Marvel and DC proper. Let's go down the list, shall we?

-Graphic Violence? CHECK
-"Widescreen Action"? CHECK
-Warren Ellis (who remember, was in the Wildstorm ghetto for a long time)? CHECK.
-Jim Lee? CHECK.
-Provocative, Sexy Superheroine costumes? CHECK.
-Grim, gritty, realpolitik superheroics? CHECK.
-Superhumans that are under the control of government operations or large corporate interests? CHECK.

I could go on, but I think my point is made: There's nothing left that's truly singular to Wildstorm anymore. Except massive delays on flagship titles (The Authority, Wildcats).
And so it is, that I do make this declartion. To be fair, some of Wildstorm's satelite titles that aren't tied to the "Wildstorm Universe" will probably still be published for a long time to come. Ex Machina, Kurt Busiek's Astro City, the World of Warcraft comics, to name a few. But I feel very confident in saying that come 2010, you shouldn't be expecting to see any new issues of "Stormwatch" on the stands.

Unless a miracle happens.

I'm not holding my breath for one.

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