Christos Gage returns to the Crossed franchise to revisit his character Smokey, the most intelligent seeming Crossed to date. Not only that, this story is almost a retelling of his original appearance with humans and Crossed collaborating. It does raise some interesting ideas as we explore the idea of a Crossed society.
We start off with a human protagonist who is narrating in the first person. But halfway through he is replaced by another protagonist who fulfils exactly the same role but we are left without a narrator. This is an unusual change in point of view and maybe could have worked in two related stories but switching abruptly mid-volume is quite mystifying.
The art is the usual vibrant red affair but the artists change halfway. There are plenty of covers, wraparounds and chapter breaks too.
Stormwatch and The Authority turn up and fight each other over some old Bendix hardware before teaming up to fight the man himself. Or his hologram. Or his clone, Or his A.I. Or whatever the Bendix of the week is. Didn’t the Fantastic Four do this in the 1960’s?
Gage has done some good and some bad work. Despite the hackneyed plot and blatant sequel bait this isn’t without redemption. If you can remember the original Stormwatch, with Lamplighter et al., then there are plenty of hidden gems for you. Otherwise this is a six issue fight scene with constant jabbering. Whilst there are clever twists and some jeopardy it isn’t a taxing or meaningful read.
Robertson puts a lot of effort into livening up the fight scenes but outlines can feel too heavy at times. There is good lighting and adept panel structure but it’s all about the words and not the pictures unfortunately.
There is also an irrelevant use of the Cthulhu Mythos as an opener. Clearly Gage has either never read or understood Lovecraft’s work.
A pair of stories focus on one of the great themes of Crossed – what would you do to survive. Would you make a deal with the Crossed or murder your friends to save your own skin?
Newcomer to the franchise Christos Gage tells a great tale injecting a few snippets of his trademark social commentary. The Crossed are fleshed out a little more and a Crossed character is introduced that could make a return appearance.
Lapham has been telling the same story over again and thanks to the law of monkeys and typewriters he finally does a reasonable job of it. Regular character Amanda returns and we see mental illness and paranoia actually done right. This is what Crossed: Psychopath should have been. Better late than never possibly.
The art is great. Crossed has established a style and visiting artists have no problem slotting right in. The colours for the first story are particularly good proving you don’t need gimmicks to please the eye. There is also lot of graphic nudity and sex. As it seems we have become inured to the violence this is what has been taking its place.
This volume kicks off with the missing issue 5 from the last book. You didn’t know there was a missing issue did you? Well it explains how people came back from the dead. You don’t need to know and would happily accept this is what happens in a reboot. The explanation is so-so and potentially sets up a good future storyline but this is the last volume in this series. The art for this issue is really different. It is clean and shiny with minimal detail making the characters feel poorly defined.
The next two stories are murder mysteries. One of the team members is shot and you will never guess who did it. Then someone is bumping off retired Stormwatch members. But you won’t care who did it. These are good stories that keep you guessing but without the continued character depth of the previous volume or the dark politics of the Ellis era they don’t feel like Stormwatch. The art for these two stories is more like volume one but not like the rich gritty textures of the classic Bryan Hitch run.
Could, and in fact should, have been more but still a Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: The Hound of the Baskervilles – Martin Powell
Christos Gage is the man who ruined Union Jack. I’m just laying out my prejudices before reading this book as I dread to think what he will do to Stormwatch.
Actually he does a really good job. There are some strong ideas, great characters, funny dialogue, thought provoking issues, and enjoyable action. It is also told at a wonderfully controlled pace allowing plenty of time to get to know the characters and setting and allowing things to build strong foundations.
This is a reboot set after the events of Stormwatch: Final Orbit. Some characters that died in the WildC.A.T.S/ Aliens crossover are back or referenced without any explanation of how. The premise is simple. The US government needs a team to help deal with post human mischief. But there is no money so you get no weapons, no orbital space station and no teleport. And no powers either. The goal is if this team works and normal humans can deal with supers all by themselves the idea can be replicated across America.
Jackson King, former leader of the last big budget Stormwatch, is chosen to head up this taskforce. Without his amplification suit and with literally no money he must set up shop in a New York police station. He recruits humans, has-beens and ex-cons including a depowered Fahrenheit from his original team.
The mix of characters is great. Everyone makes sense and is given equal time in the spotlight. Proper relationships form and you see genuine human emotion at work. Some very effective stories are told and you feel real empathy toward these people who don’t really count as superheroes. They behave plausibly and not like stereotypes with the female characters coming across particularly well.
The art is good stuff, all the panels have straight edges but there are some strong colour choices. Gimmicks have been dropped in favour of good storytelling. Something more writers should do.
Stormwatch has always had a political message and that seems to have been dropped in favour of human drama: although it does have a lot to say about the strength of ordinary men and women. All of the characters are faced with a crisis of confidence and it is interesting to see how they deal with it in different ways. The new or established reader should have fun with this and I am looking forward to seeing the next volume. Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Stormwatch Post Human Division: Volume Two – Christos Gage
How disappointing. The previous volume introduced a lone hero with a gun and a motorbike. It was a great example of how one man can make a difference. It was British of a sort. Now we have flying cars and super teams. Our one man army has now been joined by three foreigners we don’t care about who are barely more than cardboard cut-outs and fighting twice the amount of stereotype super-villains. Worst of all the only way to save the day is to phone up Captain America.
What we have here is a submarine designed by someone who has never seen the sea. Putting in the odd “bollocks,” or “innit,” does not make a character British. Neither does watching Mary Poppins and raiding Wikipedia qualify you to write Union Jack. The whole book is a mess. All the additional characters have no chance to develop or contribute and only serve to deprive Jack of much needed time in the spotlight. More attention is spent referencing other stories and titles in the Marvel Universe than revealing Jack’s.
There are some sparks of inspiration, the odd surprise and funny joke and the ending is certainly a good try but it is too little way too late. The art is fine and the London landscapes look like they are based on photographs which is a pleasing technique. There are some nice elements of framing and composition but you are too busy cringing at the text to appreciate them. It is my patriotic duty to give this tragic disappointment the Thumbs Down!
Tomorrow: The Cleaners – Mark Wheaton