Escalation and Coincidence in The Wild Storm 12

by Drew Baumgartner

Wild Storm 12

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Towards the end of this issue, Jackie King dismisses the simultaneity of the attack on Hightower and IO’s own attack on Skywatch as “coincidental.” She’s not wrong, exactly — not only was the Hightower attack not retaliatory, it wasn’t even perpetrated by Skywatch — but she’s not quite right, either. In a series so fixated on cause and effect, there are no coincidences; these attacks may be separate bowling pins, but they were set in motion by the same ball. It’s a hell of an idea for us to get our heads around — especially when one of the most cunning characters makes clear she hasn’t quite internalized it yet — but it’s an attitude that Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt have woven into every panel of this series, creating a kind of fractal that keeps pointing to cause and effect. Continue reading

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Narrative Distance in The Wild Storm 11

by Drew Baumgartner

Wild Storm 10

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

As readers, we’re all duly familiar with the narrative modes — third person omniscient, first person, objective observer, etc — we’re taught them from an early age, and are aware of them in basically all narrative writing. We’re far less aware of the narrative modes in visual storytelling, and lack the kind of common nomenclature to identify them that we have for literary narrative modes. But there’s no doubt that they profoundly influence our perceptions of visual media — there’s a profound difference between a camera shooting from over a character’s shoulder to one that is meant to literally represent their point of view, and we can feel that difference, even if we don’t have precise language to describe it. It allows visual storytelling to be much more visceral and subtle than prose, as we’re not necessarily consciously aware of its effects. With The Wild Storm 11, Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt exploit this feature of visual narrative for all its worth, keeping us at a distance from any of the events of the issue. Continue reading

Best of 2017: Best Issues

Best Issues of 2017

Episodic storytelling is the name of the game in monthly comics. Month- or even multi-year-long arcs are fine, but a series lives and dies by its individual chapters. From self-contained one-offs to issues that recontextualize their respective series, this year had a ton of great issues. Whittling down those issues to a list was no easy task (and we look forward to hearing how your lists differ in the comments), but we would gladly recommend any (and all) of these issues without hesitation. These are our top 10 issues of 2017. Continue reading

The Narrative Meanders in The Wild Storm 10

by Ryan Desaulniers

The Wild Storm 10

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The opening panel of issue ten of The Wild Storm by Warren Ellis and artist Jon Davis-Hunt is a half-page shot showcasing a new table upon which coffee should not be be placed. Continue reading

Influence Become Explicit in The Wild Storm 9

by Ryan Desaulniers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

One of the first things I do when I’m in a budding relationship, the second I have the opportunity, is to scrutinize my potential partner’s bookcase. Admit it: you’ve done this is as well. The idea is that we can glean something about someone’s character based upon the literature or media they consume because a good book, for example, informs a person’s worldview. Also, since art itself is inherently tied to other art, what we’ve seen or read changes the way we encounter or create art. In The Wild Storm 9, Chief Jackie King of IO reports to the big boss, Miles Craven, only to catch him reading a novel, and my brain has yet to stop whirring about what this choice of literature tells us about not only Miles, but writer Warren Ellis as well. Continue reading

Embracing the Strange in Injection 15

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The Injection’s original purpose was to add some mystery and magic to a boring, mundane world. One could argue whether that’s a good or bad thing all day, but what can’t be denied is that it worked — the world of Injection is far stranger than it was before our protagonists’ original efforts. It takes a special kind of person to not only appreciate that, but to face it head on, and Brigid’s assistant Emma is certainly one of those people. Continue reading

The Wild Storm 8 and the Power of the Mid-Page Scene Transition

by Drew Baumgartner

The Wild Storm 8

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Every time I talk about this series, the first thing I want to bring up is clarity. Writer Warren Ellis and artist Jon Davis-Hunt have struck such an alluring balance of crystal clear in-the-moment actions and emotions while keeping the larger motivations and machinations in a shroud of mystery, I can’t help it. While I’m sure there’s fun to be had speculating on the unclear elements, I’m most excited by the ways Ellis and Davis-Hunt cultivate their clarity. Beyond being fun to talk about, the clarity is deployed with such deftness, each issue serves as a masterclass in comics storytelling, allowing our discussions to zero in on details like fight choreography or procedural elements. This issue affords us a closer look at another idiosyncratic element of comics storytelling: the mid-page scene transition. Continue reading

Spicing Up the Procedural in The Wild Storm 7

by Drew Baumgartner

Wild Storm 7

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I have a friend who loved Law & Order until someone pointed out to him just how predictable every episode is. Law & Order was notorious for having a particularly rigid structure, but I’d argue that predictability is built into all procedurals. That is, so long as we understand the procedure. Everything follows logically from what comes before — once the victim is identified, the police will want to talk to their home, work, family and friends, for example — so we have a rather strong expectation of what will come next. That may make it sound like it’s difficult to surprise people in a procedural, but those strong expectations actually make it much, much easier to do something unexpected, as the “expected” is such a known quantity. This is something Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt clearly understand, leaning hard into the expected of The Wild Storm 7 while simultaneously taking us in some unexpected new directions. Continue reading

Emphasizing Theme in Injection 14

by Drew Baumgartner

Injection 14

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Sandwiches are important.

Brigid Roth

When do you know something in a given narrative is important? Is it someone in the story saying as much? Is it that that element keeps coming back? Or is it some subtler means of emphasis that can make even the first appearance of an idea feel meaningful? Ultimately, these methods aren’t mutually exclusive, but I do see them as existing on a kind of continuum of obviousness, with someone stating the importance of something as “impossible to miss,” and those subtler methods covering a wide range from “clear” to “ambiguous” (the scale theoretically continues into “unclear” and “impossible to detect,” though those will obviously be difficult to notice from a reader’s perspective). Then again, those elements can be used in ways beyond their perceived meaning. That is, a character could say something was important in order to mislead the audience, or, in the case of Injection 14, to draw our attention to what really matters. Continue reading

Complicating the Schematic in The Wild Storm 6

by Drew Baumgartner

Wild Storm 6

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

If there’s an aesthetic that could define all of comics — perhaps we’d call it a medium-defining aesthetic — it’s that of simplification and omission. Those acts are simply built into creating comics, where characters, settings, objects and ideas have to be depicted in two dimensions. That is, even the most detailed, photo-realistic style is a simplified representation of the 3-dimensional space it aims to represent. But the rigors of a monthly deadline put even that level of simplification out of reach, leading many to an even more simplified line-art approach. And then, of course, there are storytelling choices, as only a finite number of panels can fit in a given comic — some moments must be omitted. The choices of which moments to include is really what the art of comics storytelling is, whether it’s this character’s face versus another’s hands, or picking up on these conversation a beat or two later, or even omitting a scene altogether. That aesthetic often comes together in a way that prioritizes clarity, simplifying designs and actions and omitting needless details to make sure every beat is understood by the audience. In this way, we might understand a given comic to function as a kind of schematic — a simplified version of the world it depicts. This is certainly true of The Wild Storm, which is brimming with truly schematic, almost clinically clear sequences, though it puts them to use in ways that are far more complicated than they may initially seem. Continue reading