STORMWATCH: LIGHTNING STRIKES
"If you're feeling sinister..."
by Warren Ellis
Pencils by Tom Raney and Jim Lee
Inks by Randy Elliot and Richard Bennett
Colors by Gina Going
Letters by Bill O'Neil and Mike Heisler
Published by Wildstorm/DC Comics
Reviewed by Alex Bernstein
confess I'm a rather late convert to the school of Warren Ellis.
I 'd been hearing about him for years - the next great British writer
- many comparisons to Alan Moore. I picked up his run of EXCALIBUR and
the first arc of TRANSMETROPOLITAN - and it's not that I
wasn't impressed. It's that I was looking for Alan Moore and this
wasn't him. While Warren's work has the mark of excellent storytelling
it isn't remotely like Alan's. And so, unfairly, he suffers in this
kind of comparison. Here then, is my own godawful, pathetic, British
comics invasion vs. British music invasion rock analogy: if Alan
Moore = the Beatles, Grant Morrison = David Bowie, and Garth Ennis
= the Rolling Stones, Warren then, for me, = Eric Clapton.
like Eric Clapton at first, either. While a brilliant musician and
a stunning bandmate, his lyrics were awkward. He had hits - but
they weren't the perfect mega-pop-hits of the Beatles. But as I
got older I began to understand him. Clapton's music was the blues.
It was personal. It was, essentially, about Pain and Loss. Awkward
perhaps, but always emotionally charged and incredibly human. And
this is exactly how I would characterize Ellis. The baseline of
everything I have ever read of Warren's is that someone - generally
one of our "heroes" - is in pain. Ethical, moral, physical. What
I remember of his EXCALIBUR run was that Colossus loved Kitty,
Kitty loved Pete Wisdom - and all them were suffering. What I read
of Spider Jerusalem was a man tremendously in pain trying to fight
brings us to "Lightning Strikes," the second volume of Ellis' STORMWATCH
run - and something of an "Ellis Sampler." The book has five separate,
stand-alone stories. A major respite for a series so associated
with Big Sweeping Arcs. There are many minor highlights in the book:
Battalion, a perpetually uninteresting character is suddenly made
real and worthy of being Stormwatch leader in the space of 22 pages;
a touching and extremely ironic drinking scene with the bulk of
the Stormwatch crew; a walk down memory lane with Jenny Sparks (weakened,
in my opinion, by Tom Raney - an otherwise excellent artist - aping
various art styles - to illustrate Jenny's longevity); and an end-piece,
textbook-type story of the crew taking on an Aliens-type entity
(which doesn't hold a candle to the real thing, a couple years later).
This story seems mainly to serve as Jim Lee's opportunity to draw
the team. No harm done there.
the real standout piece stars Ellis' strongest creation - Jack Hawksmoor
- "a man made to live in cities." Yes, Jack's a cool concept, but
Ellis is constantly reminding you that the hero became this way
as a child abused by aliens. Hawksmoor lives with his pain - day
to day. And while he's accustomed to his abilities - he's passionate
that no one else suffer such abuse (which we see even more prominently,
later, in "Bleed"). In this tale Jack goes after the illegitimate
son of a president who "kills because he kills." While the action
is straightforward - the nature of the character makes it so much
Ellis' nicest touch is the recurring motif of characters staring
down at the Earth from their Skywatch orbit, constantly questioning
their motives - whether or not they've done the right thing. I think
it's this element of introspection - humanizing the ultrapowerful
- their doubts and fears - much moreso than the sheer widescreen
shock value - that's set STORMWATCH (and THE AUTHORITY)
as the strongest books in the industry.
any other product coming out of Marvel or DC - there's no guarantee
here that the heroes will triumph. Physically or morally. But that's
the hallmark of great fiction. You have to keep reading to find
out what happens.
Recommended with Reservations (You're better off starting with FORCE OF NATURE.)
Alex Bernstein is a regular contributor to PopImage.
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