We’re in the final two days of my Indie Comics Month now, but I still have a few more guides up my sleeve for all Patrons of CK. While it might seem as though I’ve already created guides for the flagship titles of each of the six founding imprints of Image Comics, that’s not entirely accurate. That’s because Jim Lee’s WildStorm imprint actually had two flagship team titles for the two halves of its camel-cased name. The “Wild” half is already covered in my Guide to WildCATs. Now it’s time for the “Storm” half, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this month! Welcome my Guide to Stormwatch!
To me, Stormwatch has always been the best of the Image Comics imprint flagship titles. That’s not just because I have forever been obsessed with the flash-forward gimmick of its “Images of Tomorrow” issue #25. It’s also because it was always the Image book with the most-obvious hook and clear stakes for me both as a young reader in the 90s and today.
Stormwatch was an answer to the question of “Who Watches the Watchmen,” a superhero book that could at time feel slightly akin to Avengers or Justice League but which had its own distinct tone. Stormwatch kept an eye on all of Earth and its many super-powered residents from its orbiting Skywatch station. Yet, this wasn’t a book purely about peace-keeping force. From the earliest issues it became clear that Stormwatch had as many internal threats as external ones, both from its captured foes to dissension within its ranks.
That came to a head in issue #25, telegraphed an entire year early, which revealed that everything about the title as we knew it would be torn to shreds.
It was one of the best-executed flash forwards in the history of comics. Seldom has a series so perfectly set up a dreaded inevitable future state and then carefully steered into it with no sleight-of-hand involved. Every bit of the tragedy unfolded exactly as promise, setting up a desperate climax.
I’m convinced it also set Stormwatch up to fail – or, at least, it set up future success but smothered any future nostalgia for the title.
That because the big twist at issue #25 meant almost the entirety of the early cast of the book became disposable. That was on top of the characters largely being less-toyetic than Jim Lee’s much more-colorful WildCATs. The exceptions were Diva (doomed by the twist in #25) and Backlash (quickly spun off into his own title).
With no beloved core cast to drive the book and sales barely registering, it was an easy choice to hand it off to up-and-comer Warren Ellis. Ellis was hot off a string of minor successes at Marvel, and he was given free reign to do what he pleased with Stormwatch. Over the course of three years and a relaunched 1997 volume, Ellis would strip away the remaining recognizable elements of the original title until he had honed it into a sharp, brutal point: The Authority.
The Authority broadly maintained the mission statement of Stormwatch – of super beings policing a super-powered world. Yet, it accentuated that with a cast of iconic characters and a no-holds-barred approach to committing violence in the sake of preventing violence.
With that honed version of the former Stormwatch a massive, industry-shaking hit, there was never a reason for the original version of Stormwatch to ever be revived. Its cast was largely dead, and even if they weren’t they commanded little nostalgia with readers compared to WildCATs or Ellis’s new Authority team. And, even a new cast based on Skywatch keeping an eye on Earth would seem redundant with The Authority patrolling Earth, its universe, and its adjoining realities.
As a result, future Stormwatch reboots went smaller instead of bigger, focusing on earthbound tactical forces who would police the superhuman community on the micro level while The Authority worked at the macro level. It yielded some interesting comics, but for me they never recapture the magic of the original 50-issue run and Ellis’s subsequent 11-issue run-up to The Authority.
(Ironically, the one time Stormwatch ever functioned the same as its original incarnation was in New 52, which it was effectively The Authority in all-but the title.)
Now that WildStorm’s characters are fully integrated with the prime DC Comics universe, will Stormwatch ever again have relevance in a world that boasts near neighbors the Justice League, the Suicide Squad, and The Authority? Only time will tell, but now the pre-Ellis original run has been added to DC Universe Infinite – making it accessible to new readers for the first time in decades.
Want instant access to this Guide to Stormwatch, as well to my guides to the Image Comics launch titles that preceded it in my Crushing Comics Guide to Indie & Licensed Comics? Become a Patron of CK for as little as $1 a month or $10.20 a year to gain access to this exclusive guide and over 70 other guides months before the general public gains access!
Exclusives for Crushing Cadets ($1/month): 45 Guides!
DC Guides (6): Batman – Index of Ongoing Titles, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: Hal Jordan, Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner, Omega Men
Marvel Guides (27): Adam Warlock, Alpha Flight, Angela, Beta Ray Bill, Black Cat, Blade, Captain Britain, Dazzler, Domino, Dracula, Drax the Destroyer, Elsa Bloodstone, Emma Frost – White Queen, Gamora, Heroes For Hire, Legion, Marvel Era: Marvel Legacy, Mister Sinister, Sabretooth, Spider-Ham, Star-Lord, Thunderstrike, Valkyrie, Vision, Weapon X, Werewolf by Night, X-Man – Nate Grey
Indie & Licensed Comics (12): Brigade, Lumberjanes, Codename Strykeforce, Cyberforce, Pitt, Princeless & Raven The Pirate Princess, Savage Dragon, ShadowHawk, Stormwatch, Supreme, WildCATs, WildStorm Events
Exclusives For Pledgeonauts ($1.99+/month): 76 Guides!
All of the 45 guides above, plus 31 more…
DC Guides (16): Animal Man, Aquaman, Books of Magic, Catwoman, Doctor Fate, Flash, Harley Quinn, Houses & Horrors, Infinity Inc., Justice League, Justice Society of America, Mister Miracle, Nightwing, Outsiders, Suicide Squad, Swamp Thing
Marvel Guides (13): Darkhawk, Falcon, Gwenpool, Hellcat – Patsy Walker, Kang the Conqueror, Loki, Power Pack, Red She-Hulk, Sentry, Silk, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Venom
Indie & Licensed Comics (2): Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – IDW Continuity, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Mirage Studios Continuity
Leave a Reply