StormWatch 0

Today, Patrick and Peter are discussing StormWatch 0, originally released September 5, 2012. StormWatch 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.

Patrick: It’s interesting to me how frequently comic books want to convince me that a secret battle has been raging for centuries. Guardians, The Court of Owls, The Rot – they’re all tied up in this sense of infinite history. But when the comic in question employs relatively new characters zipping around outer space and the entire publishing line has a “superheroes have been around for no more than five years” rule, that becomes a trickier sell. The song and dance that does eventually extend the StormWatch history back through the ages is either a Herculean feat of planning and foresight, or a cleverly observed play on words.

Aboard StormWatch’s spaceship — the Eye of the Storm, which rest in hyperspace — Jenny Quantum avoids her responsibilities to the rest of the team when she’s approached by a man named Adam One. As both the editor’s note AND the dialogue between them notes, this is strange because Adam had disintegrated in issue 5. But, hey whatevs, maybe he’ll explain that to us later. Right now, he’s got a lot of other explaining to do: mostly on the subject of Century Babies. Y’see, Century Babies are young women throughout history that have had special powers. Also, their names always sound like “Jenny”  – so, “Janeen,” “Jeannine” and “Sister J.” (a nun, not an 90s R&B singer) – all these names totally count. The Century Babies are always guided by a mysterious old man, who turns out to be Adam One aging in reverse. One such Century Baby is tasked with defending the Earth from the very first attack of Daemonites in 1347. Naturally, the CB gathers up a band of Knights to help defend against these Daemons. (Hey! Those are the Daemon Knights! They have their own comic book!) Blah blah blah, they defeat the daemonites and continually watch for the red storm that heralded their first arrival. They watch for the storm so much, they eventually call themselves StormWatch. (Hey! Same revelation we just had a second ago!) But then Adam One delivers his last message to Jenny: watch out for the superheroes. Then Adam disappears.

I don’t read StormWatch regularly. In fact, I’ve been actively avoiding it. Whenever an editor’s note pops up in another series and says “*read more about it in StormWatch 7 & 8,” by immediate reaction is “NOPE!” Partially, its because those editors notes always appear where the rubber meets the road on the WEIRDEST SHIT in the DC Universe. You wanna know just how weird StormWatch is? Princess Janeen, the first Century Baby, wages a war against… I’ll just let the picture speak for itself:

I did a double-take reading this. Killer dolphins in mechanical armor attacking an ancient Arabian princess? It sounds like a fucking Douglas Adams joke or a particularly goofy episode of South Park.

The second reason I’d been avoiding StormWatch was it’s author, Peter Milligan. Milligan has been at the helm of the largely-terrible Red Lanterns series – and I always go into that title with my expectations sufficiently lowered as to enjoy a book about plasma-belching rage monsters. And even still I find myself disappointed by the general lack of action and endless sophomoric pontificating from his characters. The writing here is a lot more engaging than in Red Lanterns, and there’s no shortage of action. The “here’s our secret history” angle of Adam’s monologue means that the action feels disconnected – especially in the early pages of the book. Going from robot-aided dolphins to Crusaders to 14th century German deamons… it’s hard to see the inherent commonality there, no? There’s also some weird anachronistic language being thrown about in these sequences. Like here – Jeannine is a knight of Arthurian legend:

“A pox on your portents” and “You slippery toad” both seem like era-appropriate things to say, but “Stuff your warnings?” She might as well tell him to eat a bag of dicks.

But as the issue goes on, Milligan and artist Will Conrad find more effective ways to marry the various Century Babies, telling a more cohesive story. Take this page that touches on the brief careers of Jennies Freedom and Sparks.

I love the idea that these powers manifest themselves in ways that characterize the centuries in which they operate. But there’s also that cool middle panel that shows both the characters at the same time. It’s a quick and easy visual, but it goes a long way toward connecting all of these Century Babies.

Ultimately, I’m disappointed that this zero issue didn’t introduce me to the StormWatch gang. They seem like interesting heroes, but we don’t get anything about them here. Instead there’s just some semi-intriguing connective tissue between this and another series I don’t read. Yay? Peter, what’d you get out of this thing?

Peter: Yeah, I agree. I didn’t get as much out of this zero issue as I wanted it to. I read the first issue of StormWatch a year ago and left it because the first issue was the same way. There was just no enticing hook. Sure, I enjoyed the history of the team, and how it was woven into the history of the world, but it didn’t really get me excited about the series (and certainly not about picking it up every month). Also, other the brief history lesson, I don’t know what makes this a zero issue. I mean, there were the tiniest character introductions for other members of the team, but I still don’t have any idea who these people are, other than what I got. I mean, I know who Apollo and Midnighter are – a little – but other than that, I guess I just read a book I know nothing about.

The idea is just so sound, though: super-secret group that works behind the curtain to stop paranormal and alien threats and not tell anyone? Sign me up. However, the execution doesn’t seem to be working. I think I know why. Maybe since they are going to be somehow interacting with superheroes, they will actually participate in the Universe at large. That’s the problem: this is too much of a bottle book. It is simply too self-contained. There have been hints of this series elsewhere, so maybe they will expand outward.

Also, did the Martian Manhunter leave this book? I know he is going to end up in JLA, but I was reading this book in hopes of some J’onn Jones action, especially since it was sweet to see in Superman Annual 1.

I guess the next time I want to hear from the StormWatch clan is if they somehow get caught doing their dirty work. I feel like this could be one of those interesting ethical discussions about their actions. That I would read.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

29 comments on “StormWatch 0

      • Don’t sell the medium short Zach! Just because they could be attacked by an army giant turds with dildo’s for legs and Donald Sutherland’s face carved into their pumpkin heads, doesn’t mean I can continue to take the story seriously when they show up. If this series was more like Dial H – and had more Crazy Bullshit – then I could just chuckle about the dolphins and move on. But as it stands, they’re presented like they were a serious problem to be feared. Which was just a bridge too far.

  1. First off, I’d like to say that the Douglas Adams and “bag of dicks” reference may have made this the best Alternating Currents I’ve ever read! As for Martian Manhunter, he quit in the last issue. Oh, and he didn’t just quit, he MIND WIPED everyone on the team because he’s just that secretive (or something) effectively making his appearances in this book pretty much meaningless. And considering that he was the only reason I was reading the book I think my time with Stormwatch has come to an end. Even though the promise of this team fighting against the Justice League is intriguing I just don’t think Milligan has what it takes to keep me interested in this book. What happened to this guy? Did any of you ever read his X-Force/X-Statix book over at Marvel? That shit was crazier than “Mecha. Dolphin. Assassins.” but at least it was good!

    • Did you see that in the little StormWatch bio thing at the end of the book, Martian Manhunter was listed as both a current member and a former member? BELIEVE IT. We can all get our J’on fix in JLA next year (coincidentally, that’s also where we can get our “team of superheroes fights the Justice League” fix as well).

      • Well that is extremely admirable good sir! As for JLA, I really can’t express how excited I am for this book. I hope it’s not a let down but I just can’t shake the feeling that it will a be a big departure from what we’ve seen in Justice League (which can only be a good thing). I LOVE B-LISTERS! They are just more fun to read (and I imagine to write).

  2. Hey also, while “Jenny Freedom” is a terrible name, how fucking awful is “Adam-One” as a character name? Not enough to name a stand-in for the original man “Adam,” we have to tack a “one” on there for good measure? OBVIOUS does not equal GOOD.

  3. easily one of my least favorites of the new 52. I too love the whole illuminati watching over major threats, but no real development of characters, half of them are boring (the other half are too interesting for the group), and at the end of each issue I simply felt I wasted several minutes of my life.

    • I dropped the title when Martian Manhunter exited though I had been contemplating doing so the second Paul Cornell left as writer. I wish MM would mindwipe the fact that I bothered to follow this one

  4. I disagree with everyone here as far as The Stormwatch title as a whole in the New 52 and the zero issue.

    Issues 1-12 have been weird, funny, and have one of the few believable super-hero relationships with Midnighter and Apollo. It’s also explored a very strange father/daughter type relationship with Jenny and Midnighter (who tried to have her killed/terminated). I’ve really liked it.

    Zero issue: One character that has not been deeply explored or explained so far has been Jenny Quantum. It did here. It also had Vandal Savage punching an evil mecha-dolphin, Merlin, the Stormwatch origin, and the Stormwatch ties to Demon Knights. It was a bit clunky in places and a bit goofy, but I really like that Jenny is written as a kid who acts like a kid, not an emotionless super ninja killer trying to be good (although I like Robin as well).

    The first pages were clumsy and a bit weird (I couldn’t tell if they were for a new reader or just awful) and the dialogue was not perfect, but I liked the tone and I think it fit in with what I wanted as a new (in the past year) reader to Stormwatch.

    • I’m certain that I would have liked this issue more if I had read the series. We’re approaching those series that we’re not reading as a possible IN for new readers. That’s part of the reason we pulled in so many guests. But yeah, this didn’t make me feel like I was getting in on some fun StormWatch origins stuff.

      I actually didn’t feel like the issue did a very good job of demonstrating the Jenny Quantum. There’s a lot about the characters that laid out the legacy for her, but Jenny herself feels a lot like an audience surrogate – hearing the same crazy shit for the first time. If I had these questions about Jenny, then maybe I could have been excited about the answers. This is as much my fault as it is the creative team’s.

      Hey, dude are you reading Demon Knights? I want to hear from someone who’s reading both – is that revelation meaningful? Is it profound? Is it bullshit?

      • LOL I just dropped StormWatch after #12 and now I’m going to have to pick up this one now that I know about the Demon Knights part… that book hasn’t crossed over with *anything* unless you count the glimpses you catch of Etrigan’s armor in The Black Room during the FCBD issue and one JL Dark issue

        • A lot of the reasons you guys have already mentioned – for a book that has such a simple and awesome premise it seems kind of muddled and misdirected IMO. I also tend to drop books when writers I’ve been burned by come on board… someone above mentioned X-Statix/X-Force from Marvel (which Milligan did with the wonderful Mike Allred) and that’s probably the one and only thing I really enjoyed buying by Milligan month-in and month-out. I stuck through the Jenkins fill-ins to see what Milligan would do, but it hasn’t set my world on fire so that money is going to Team 7 to see if that one is worh a read. I already subscribed to Sword Of Sorcery, Phantom Stranger, and Talon for wave 3 and since SW wasn’t doing anything for me I figured I might as well try the last one instead. DC needs to convince Warren Ellis to come on board at DC and do a SW arc… that would get me back in a heartbeat. His tech-crazy, widescreen-cinema vibe is something writers have tried to emulate unsuccessfully on this book IMO

      • “Hey, dude are you reading Demon Knights? I want to hear from someone who’s reading both – is that revelation meaningful? Is it profound? Is it bullshit?”

        I actually didn’t know the answer to this question. I read too many comics and am far too busy on a daily basis to actually think about anything. However, I decided to re-read Stormwatch from start to finish to see, and. . .

        The answer, after all of one issue before passing out last night, is maybe. Issue one, 4th page: Jack Hawksmoor, while recruiting a reluctant Apollo, explains, “Stormwatch has been protecting the world from alien threats for centuries.” He doesn’t describe any more, but hints to the long history.

        Also, on page 11, when Harry Tanner is having his mind read by the moon (seriously) and the moon is confused, asking him, “What is Stormwatch? Heroes? Scholars? No, you are soldiers,” there is a panel depicting Etrigan (almost definitely) and possibly Exoristos and Vandal Savage, although it may just be a fighting man and woman. Hard to tell.

        Later, while Adam One and Jenny are exploring the weird giant horn (that maybe never got resolved), Adam One/Merlin explains, “I’ve looked after hundreds of “Century Babies” like you.” He also tells her it’s time to “Test her powers again,” and “All we know is they’re based on 21st century physics, whatever that turns out to be.”

        She says, “Teleportation – I got it.”

        That’s issue one. It’s meant to be an introduction, so perhaps this is the only place with hints that will help with the Jenny story and the Stormwatch story, but at least there are some hints that there is a tie in. I’m going to read more, but maybe not tonight as I’m tired and still have a lot of grading to do.

        Is that what you were asking? I actually didn’t remember Harry Tanner having an image of Etrigan stolen from him by the angry moon, so I’m glad I went back to re-read.

        Greg

        • I had expected these links to lessen once Paul Cornell left StormWatch and no longer wrote both titles but I guess this #0 dispels that notion

        • Ok, I’ve reread the whole series. I still like it a lot, although the zero issue is not one of its strengths. There are limited clues to the Demon Knights tie in, mostly in issue one and the occasional Adam One comment, indicating he’s Merlin (or thinks he is).

          There are tons and tons of references to Jenny’s power and how limitless it is (Midnighter tried to kill her she’s so scary). It’s even stated that she’ll lead Stormwatch some day. As a newcomer to DC and a complete novice to something as obscure as Stormwatch, but someone who has read every issue of the New 52 Stormwatch, I guess I appreciated this story more than most here who were coming from a very different place as a reader. I think this story was completely designed for someone like me – Never heard of any of these characters outside of the past year’s reading and actually wanting a Jenny Quantum story.

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  7. Milligan and Ennis put a lot of black humour in their earlier works, and this is what made them superstars. At some point, Ennis decided to change his style, to make it completely sharp and cynical, but, being a talented writer, he went on writing very well. Milligan, on the contrary, has become the shadow of his former self, since he stopped writing in a satiric, provoking and nonconformist way.
    DC didn’t help him, because they gave him 2 series (Red Lanterns and Stormwatch) that don’t have an ironic style at all. If you hire Michael Jordan, you must put him in a basketball team, not in a baseball one. I hope Milligan will reach the peeks of his earlier works again.

    • It’s funny when you look at Ennis on Punisher he has two volumes with Steve Dillon in that black humor/Preacher style and then he abruptly switched to his newer writing style right there in the middle of his Punisher material and we get his completely different Punisher MAX run

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