illustration (c) Josť Villarrubia 2000 digital
illustration (c) Josť Villarrubia 2000
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Art by Chip Zdarsky. Copyright 2002.

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A stunning story of superheroes for the modern world

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artists: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary
Colorists: Laura DePuy, WildStorm FX
Letterers: Amie Gardner, Denice Park
Trade paperback
Published by DC Wildstorm 1999

Reviewed by Paul Hanna

Superhero comics are a dime a million these days, overpowering the market through sheer numbers. So when a good one actually appears, it demands attention. STORMWATCH: A FINER WORLD proves an exception to the dime-a-million rule, condensing action (but not gore) for the sake of story development. With his carefully selected vulgarity and uniquely terse writing, Warren Ellis has crafted what seems to be a simple story in 'A Finer World.'

Despite the soothing sound of the title, we find that the road to a finer world is often doused in much blood. The book is actually comprised of two stories: the title story and 'Bleed.' The themes of change and, more specifically, of striving for greater change flow throughout each story.

Both stories consist of Jackson King's StormWatch team, a superhero group subsidized by the United Nations, struggling with human dilemmas and questions about authority on an international, even interdimensional scale. They often grapple with the question of when to interfere in others' affairs, trying to figure out how much is too much. 'Bleed,' the more ambitious of the two stories, addresses the idea more openly when two very different StormWatch teams from different dimensions encounter each other (though not in the way you'd expect).

Characters in A FINER WORLD borrow much from classic superhero archetypes. The ambiguously gay Apollo and The Midnighter, suspiciously analogous of Superman and Batman, are the most obvious. But the similarity ends there. There is no clear-cut hero or villain. Each hero has a moment where his or her righteousness is questionable; the "real" villains can be very difficult to define. Heroes manipulate others, and others manipulate heroes.

Ellis and Hitch do not innovate new storytelling techniques as much as they elevate the quality of them. The characters' human, multi-dimensional personas, dominated by the story, are better realized through certain illustrative details. Hitch's line is also nearly perfect; he has a true grasp on the emotive face of a person, and this is only accentuated by Neary's inks and the colors of DePuy and WildStorm FX.

STORMWATCH: A FINER WORLD is a strangely thoughtful and fulfilling take on the superhero genre, where the heroes wrestle with the notion of altering the status quo rather than protecting it.


STORMWATCH: CHANGE OR DIE, the first StormWatch collection, is also available. The StormWatch saga also continues each month in THE AUTHORITY.

Paul Hanna is Reviews Editor for PopImage.
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