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?