With The Wild Storm #5, writer Warren Ellis continues the engrossing slow burn that has defined this series so far, and that continues to be no bad thing at all, given how rich the world he’s creating is. If you’re looking for a series that takes seriously the concept of creating a super-hero universe for a realistic modern world (as opposed to thinking that just means being grim and bleak) then you should look no further than The Wild Storm.
The Wild Storm #5 continues re-establishing the Wild Storm universe, and Ellis proves himself a master at slowly and deliberately creating an bold aesthetic, strong tone, and intriguing thematic material needed to support a new universe. The narrative is split between three main characters, each of whom are at a crossroads in how they will continue to exist within the shadowy and morally complicated world in which they operate. The terminally ill covert operative Michael Cray, only now realizing that his life spent doing the dirty work for mega-corporation International Operations may have been a lie, must decide how exactly he wants to spend his remaining time. Angela Spica, terrified post-human hunted by pretty much everyone, has a heart-to-heart with otherworldly altered cosmonaut Adrianna Tereshkova, but will she find solace in the knowledge she’s not alone? And the enigmatic warrior code-named Zealot lurks in the background, her mission and her opponent somewhat revealed, but is the battle she’s fighting really what she thinks it is?
These disparate elements are continuing to be pulled closer together by Ellis and artist Jon Davis-Hunt, and the pace at which they are unravelling the story is one of the series’, and this issue’s, rewards. We really feel we know all the players in the game and even though there’s a lot to establish (Ellis and Davis-Hunt are trying to relaunch a universe created over years and different titles in one main book, after all), you never feel lost or without a clear idea of what’s going on and what everyone wants. There are still mysteries to be revealed, and not every character is as sharply defined yet (I’m still wondering how the Voodoo character is going to fit in, for instance), but the creative team has so much confidence in what’s going on and the direction of the story that it’s rarely been easier to sit back, relax, and let the richness and specificity of the story wash over you.
The artwork matches the tone and approach to the story perfectly. Ellis clearly wants The Wild Storm #5 to feel like it exists in world not that different from ours at all, and I love how realistic Davis-Hunt’s approach is. The action and design of the book has heft and manages to not come across as fantasy like most super-hero books, but rather an only slightly exaggerated future vision of the path we’re already started on.
In that way, the story and the art both combine to give this universe a much more grounded, sophisticated and grown-up feel than a lot of other books of this type. To be clear, I’m not just talking adult meaning mature themes, violence or sexuality. I mean grown-up, thought-provoking and compelling even as it is thrilling and somewhat escapist.
For every reader who laments not having a smart, exciting and accessible new universe to jump into, I point them to The Wild Storm #5, further evidence that giving a creative team this level of control to express their vision can pay off with something special. 9.5/10