by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
We met Angela Spica at a weird point in her life. While she was (mostly) passing as an eccentric engineer, her relationship to the world changed when she revealed her stolen transkeletal drysuit. That moment marked her as a fugitive, but she was already becoming something different before that, as her cybernetic makeup marks her as something more than “human.” That’s how she fell in with a group of oddities and aliens, but The Wild Storm 16 makes the case for Jenny Mei Sparks as a more natural peer. Their first meeting here doesn’t offer much more than the two simply sizing each other up, but Jon Davis-Hunt’s shot choices suggest that the two are on the same level — a stark contrast to the other big meeting in this issue.
Actually, maybe we start with that other meeting, as John Lynch tracks down another of his Thunderbook alums. In a series of single shots, John is established as completely alone. But it’s when Gloria reveals herself that things get interesting. She’s floating in the air several feet above his head, thwarting any normal two-shot compositions that might help us place them in the same space together. So Davis-Hunt mostly holds to a shot/reverse shot structure — even when he has a double page spread to sprawl out onto.
These choices emphasize the physical and emotional distance between these characters — they don’t occupy the same physical space, let alone mental space.
We can contrast this with Angie and Jenny’s first meeting, where Jenny literally enters Angie’s (computer) brain.
It can’t really get more intimate than that. But Jenny only being visible to Angie (and thus, only showable through Angie’s POV) limits the ability to explore that intimacy, so Warren Ellis provides an excuse to project Jenny into the space:
Being able to show these characters sharing the same space (even virtually) truly sells that intimacy. Their postures are casual, and their bodies are overlapping in every two-shot, suggesting visually that there is no space between them. Moreover, they’re sitting on Angie’s bed, heightening the sense that this is her personal space, but never suggesting that she’s uncomfortable with Jenny’s presence in it.
And I think those connections are important to our understanding of who these characters are and what they’re capable of. Putting Angie and Jenny in the same space puts them on a similar level, helping us understand just how powerful Angie might really be. Meanwhile, we’re reminded that John is decidedly not on the level of his Thunderbook subjects — he dwells on the ground in fear while they literally ascend to the heavens. I’m not sure if we’re meant to be more invested in John’s humanity or Angie and Jenny’s superhumanity, but when those details are handled this aptly, it almost doesn’t matter.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
The dialogue between Angie and Jenny really made me love this issue, it was natural and colloquial. A character-relationship class that opens the door to joining The Authority in a very organic way, which is one of the benefits of the pace of this series. And what a great graphic piece on those data visualization splash page, wonderful. Angie’s first-person view only increases empathy for her and immersion in the story. About the meeting between Gloria and Lynch, I thought it was great to build the panels around the central hexagon (base form of the tower), while we have the movement of the character in the air and the dialogue flowing, as an architect I can say that was the perfect union between graphic narrative and architectural space. Gloria is also interesting as a character, she is an interpretation of the evil witch’s archetype: she does not age, floats, follows a hedonistic lifestyle, has a connection with the house she owns (here almost alive through her powers). I love your series of posts about The Wild Storm, it’s like a complementary reading for me.