I place all remixed songs into one of two categories: enhancing or reimagining.
Some remixes enhance the original. Add more rhythms, speed things up, restructure the song. Other remixes reimagine the original, taking just one or two elements like a vocal or a prominent riff and build a whole new song from scratch – often sans the identifying bass line or chord changes of the original.
I’ve liked both kinds of remixes over the years, but sometimes when I hear a reimagination I think, “Why didn’t they just write their own song?” Aside from a copped vocal hook, sometimes they can be an entirely other creature than the original. Why call it “Song X (remix)” rather than “Song Y (featuring samples from Song X)”?
It’s all a study in taxonomy, I suppose – calling things by a name that will generate the most interest and success for them.
Which brings me to The Wild Storm.
WildStorm was one of the original Image Comics studios and the one with the richest expanded universe of characters. That’s what made it attractive for DC Comics to purchase from original studio head Jim Lee when he wanted to ditch administration to return to illustration, and why the WildStorm characters have continued to appear in DC-published comics for over a decade.
DC has done a lot of different remixes on the WildStorm characters and concepts since they first acquired the publisher in 1999. They’ve published straight-up continuances of the original continuity. They’ve done a trademark soft reset of continuity. They’ve mashed WildStorm into DC’s own history, putting characters like Grifter and Deathblow in league with DC stalwarts like Deathstroke and Amanda Waller.
The Wild Storm is something different entirely – a reimagination rather than an enhancement. Warren Ellis, one of the most famous and famously-reliable writers in comics today, has been handed the WildStorm intellectual property as a whole by DC Comics and instructed to create his own reimagination of the original with no strings attached.
Is it recognizable as WildStorm? Is it another great Warren Ellis book? Is it any good.
The Wild Storm #1 (digital)
The Wild Storm (2017) #1, written by Warren Ellis with artist Jon Davis-Hunt, colorist Ivan Plascenia, and lettered Simon Bowland. This issue will be collected in The Wild Storm, Vol. 1.
Warren Ellis has the entire palette of classic WildStorm players to work with to launch his reimagined WildStorm Universe. He selected some of the best characters of the bunch for this first issue, but the story relies on a lot of nostalgic expectations of what WildStorm consists of in order to click.
This is not the unrelenting debut issue you’ve come to expect from Ellis after reading books like Injection, Trees, Karnak, Moon Knight, and even as far back as Planetary. Even on the Astonishing X-Men, a run that left fans lukewarm, Ellis’s first issue was a bomb disguised as a puzzle box.
Compared to all of those, The Wild Storm #1 comes off a bit flat. Maybe it’s because we get to see every side of the main mystery, meaning we know more than the characters (not generally an Ellis hallmark). Or, perhaps it’s that half the issue is spent telling and even repeating rather than showing.
The teasing two-page introduction of Zealot as a buttoned-up assassin with blood spatter to suggest her warrior woman past is the most obvious fan service here – not only to WildCATs but of Ellis’s own Red.
It’s also the most tangible thrill in the issue, with Zealot seeming petite and harmless against the violent backdrop of her handwork. Her cryptic warnings about contamination from the body are the most-interesting hints dropped in the issue.
On the opposite swing of the pendulum, two-pages with the oblivious and ominous pop star version of Voodoo feel like wasted space – a hint dropped too early in the series and a pause to early in the issue when we’ve just got our hearts racing.
The best reinvention is the diminutive Jacob Marlow as a charming, Steve Jobsian CEO who is a secret alien. It makes a lot more sense than the sudden billionaire ladies man conjured by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi in the original WildCATs launch. Less successful is a younger and more droll Miles Craven, who reads exactly as Tony Stark, Director of SHIELD.
There are a lot of panels on the pages here, from six- and nine-panel scenes playing out like movie storyboards up to one 17-panel page which could be its own flipbook. Jon Davis-Hunt is mostly known for work on 2000AD and Judge Dredd. He brings a literal plainness to the title that’s grounded in reality, reminiscent of Jamie McKelvie.
Part of that plainness is down to a desaturated color palette from Ivan Plascenia, who only allows the red of blood to pop out from the unattractive blue-orange cast that permeates the book. It’s as if grounding a story in reality means it has to be the color of dishwater.
Perhaps this issue would have been better as a Rebirth-style launch special so that its multiple character introductions could have more space to breath. As issue #1, it feels like it’s trading heavily on existing good will in these characters to keep me interested in a second issue. Without that, it would feel like any random indie comic book first issue, with nothing to suggest Ellis’s pedigree. There’s nothing about it to recommend it to a new reader.