Stormwatch Volume1: The Dark Side

Stormwatch: Volume 1 is one of those reboots that just works perfectly. It takes the core concept of the original Wildstorm series (a group of super powered beings appointed to deal with problems before they happened), but changes it just enough to make it different.

Writer Paul Cornell takes a core group of Wildstorm characters ( Jack Hawksmoor, Midnighter, Apollo, The Engineer and Jenny Quantum), and teams them up with DCU mainstay Martian Manhunter plus a bunch of new characters. Stormwatch has been a clandestine organization protecting the planet since the dark ages.

The first six issues are used to set up the groups’ status quo, with them fighting off an alien invasion that looks to be seen again in later issues. At the same time, new character Harry Tanner bonds with an alien parasite who warns him of an oncoming  cataclysmic event that he has to prepare for.

If Tanner going rogue wasn’t difficult enough, he’s also a master swordsman who also happens to have a mutant power that makes him a master liar. The main theme of the story is set; there is definitely something horrible about to happen, and Tanner is going to bring it about much quicker than expected.

Cornell wrote this with a lot of science fiction/mystery elements, which is what you would expect from someone who is best known as a writer for the Doctor Who television series. Art on the series is handled by Miguel Sepulveda adequately.

I think one of the reasons why i was able to get on board with this so well is due to my lack of long-term connection with the characters. Don’t get me wrong; I’m familiar with all the primaries, but it felt like I was reading something fresh and different.

The one thing I wonder about is if Midnighter and Apollo are married (or at least romantically involved) in this continuity. I guess we’ll find that out at some point.

Soldier Zero: Volume 1

A while back we talked about what a modern-day Jack Kirby without Stan Lee project, so lets talk today about a Stan Lee without Jack Kirby project. We’re talking about BOOM! Studio’s Stan Lee’s Soldier Zero: Volume 1, which packages the first story arch.

Lee’s involvement in this book seems to me mostly in the concept stage, with Dr. Who scribe Paul Cornell and artists Javier Pina and Sergio Arino rounding out the character. Soldier Zero is a combination of Knight Rider, the Guyver and Venom. Our hero is Stu Trautmann, a war hero who lost the use of his legs after a landmine explosion in Afghanistan. Stu is adjusting to both being in a wheelchair and civilian life when he unwillingly is bonded to the alien symbiotic/parasitic armor entity known as Soldier Zero.

Soldier needs Stu’s help in stopping Soldier One, another similar armor symbiote who has gone rogue. Stu has to begrudgingly agree to this, as Soldier One has already gone after his family due to his association with Soldier Zero. Things get only more complicated, as it seems there is a bigger intergalactic conspiracy at hand.

So how was this?

It was a decent read, and it really came across like a pitch for a new character. Everything made sense and it was a light read, but it wasn’t necessarily the most compelling story. I will say that it definitely peaked my interest to read the second volume once it comes out. It reads much better as a collection than as single issues. Had I waited monthly for each installment, I probably  would have given up on it. The art is fine, and Cornell should get a lot of credit for flushing out the character and making it work in a modern world. 

Like any comic book that wants to get attention, the issues of Soldier Zero got the multiple cover treatment. The end of the book features a nifty little gallery of all the variant covers from the series. The one on the left, which was an exclusive to New York City’s Midtown Comics was my favorite. I love the way it’s so retro looking.

But wait…doesn’t this remind you of something else? Does it remind you of something very familiar from Lee’s storied past, maybe something … silver?

If that cover reminded you of Silver Surfer #1, which graced comic book spinners everywhere in September 1968, you win a prize. This cover was done by comic artist extraordinaire John Buscema and is one of the most iconic images of the character.

To me, this was really appropriate to pay tribute, as this series featured some of Lee’s best written work. Getting back to Soldier Zero, it was a decent read that’s worth picking up if you can find it cheap or  at your library. You could do a lot worse…