It’s significant of something or other that so much in comics and comics-related work in recent years stresses “the Dark.” One of those is DC’s new version of Stormwatch, titled The Dark Side, which is something of a prequel to later (chronologically) Stormwatch teams and the Authority. The team in this version is composed of Jack Hawksmoor, the God of Cities, who can’t exist outside of one; Apollo, who may be the most powerful superhuman ever; Midnighter, deadly fighter and master tactician; Jenny Quantum, the Century Baby, whose powers depend on what century it is; the Engineer, who has a singular rapport with machinery; J’onn J’onnz, the Martian Manhunter; Adam One, an immortal born during the Big Bang and the team’s leader; Emma Rice, the Projectionist, who controls mass media; and Harry Tanner, the Eminence of Blades, whose power is deception. Their headquarters is The Eye of the Storm, an appropriated Daemonite spaceship in a hyperspace orbit around the Earth.
As the story opens, Stormwatch has a team in Moscow attempting to recruit a superhuman who goes by the name of Apollo. He’s not interested. Then another fighter shows up, who introduces himself as Midnighter, and who wants Apollo to team up with him. In the meantime, strange things are happening on the moon — like, it’s growing claws. Adam sends Harry Tanner to investigate; Harry promptly gets sucked under the moon’s surface and encounters an alien intelligence who is going to strengthen Earth against an approaching threat by devastating it — the Earth, not the threat. The first attack is against a city no one knew was there. And of course, it’s obvious that the series will continue — there’s been a defection, and the rest of the team has to figure out how to stop him.
This reboot is not as dark as the Authority series from a few years back — dark edged, yes, but not as relentlessly brutal. This is not to say that it’s lighthearted, although there are some humorous moments. What’s most interesting are the characters — they are more human, more fully developed as real people.
This shows up most noticeably in Midnighter (possibly because he’s the character I’m most familiar with). There’s an element of good humor there that was completely absent in such collections as Killing Machine; he’s even occasionally playful, mostly when interacting with Apollo (but more on that in a minute). The humanity comes across in various ways — the Engineer is determined to take over the leadership, since Adam is such a space cadet (it’s those billions of years of memories), and then when it becomes a possibility, she’s not so sure; Jenny Quantum is literally feeling her way, but is game to try anything; the Projectionist feels under-appreciated; even the Martian Manhunter has moments when he’s not sure he’s right. The way these motivations play out in the larger context of the mission(s) makes for some good, rich characterizations.
About Midnighter and Apollo: they are one of, if not the longest running gay couple in superhero comics, and this is their first meeting. The guy at the comics store said “Don’t look for anything happening between them at this point.” I don’t know how he missed it: they are right on each other from the get-go, ears perked up, tails wagging (if they had tails), especially Midnighter — Apollo tends to be rather more reserved. There are a couple of conversations that can — actually, must — be read on a couple of levels if you’re going to get a handle on this relationship.
Miguel Sepulveda’s art is of that chiaroscuro style that can be problematic in action/adventure stories — all too often, it’s hard to read. Happily, in this instance, it works pretty well, although there are a few frames where it tends to obscure the content of the image. He’s also done some interesting things with layouts, happily not at the expense of clarity.
This is the first volume of the series reboot in “The New 52!” It’s one of the better ones that I’ve run across, and it’s worth following up on.
Collects Stormwatch #1-6.
(DC Comics, 2012)