Friday, 7 October 2016

There's A Wildstorm Coming, And Ellis Is Coming With It!

Some very good news has arisen in the comicbook world. The kind of news which can even get an old cynic who has completely sworn off Marvel and frequently ignores DC, to take interest. The kind of one which, despite receiving some minor attention from big websites, lacks the kind of impact it deserves.

The Wildstorm Universe is returning.

This is one of the old, sadly forgotten settings, that I have personally been an evangelist for despite its death in late 2010. Why is its return something worthy of celebration? Because it was one of the best things to emerge out of the dark days of the early 90s. While initially embracing the nightmarish stories and awful art Rob Liefeld made popular, Wildstorm evolved towards the end of its tenure. Hiring the likes of Alan Moore, Warren Ellis and other high respected creators, the company shifted to become a shining beacon of hope. 

The company proved that 90s style antiheroes could be done right, and pushed to even examine how a universe might work bereft of a "sliding timeline" to keep the heroes active. While many comics began as poor copes of the X-Men or the Punisher, under the right creative staff they quickly evolved into something more - 

Wildcats delved into the issues surrounding the moral ambiguity of their heroes and the impact alien tech would have on the world. 
Stormwatch became a kind of police procedural/central intelligence series, examining how a United Nations backed team might operate. 
Welcome to Tranquility asked what would happen to Golden Age superheroes and villains if they reached the age of retirement, and what problems would arise trying to keep them in line.
Majestic displayed what would happen if Superman showed less restraint and all but openly flaunted his powers.
The Authority asked what would happen if the Justice League were effectively reformed villains and former soldiers, and if they could "nudge" the world into being better after it had failed them so many times.
And finally we had Planetary AKA some of the most entertaining meta commentary you will ever find on comics.

Even without getting into the excellent creator owned franchises like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Tom Strong, Astro City and Ex Machina, it proved to be a world unafraid of change. An imprint willing to take risks and stick with the results and, while the odd hero would be resurrected, more often than not any serious developments would be felt for years to come. Case and point - Wildstorm's final crisis event was turning the world into a post apocalyptic wasteland. No alternate dimensions, no time travel, the world was wrecked despite their best efforts, and we were shown the heroes attempting to rebuild society from scratch.

While it lasted for quite a few years after being bought up by DC Comics, the universe sadly closed down after dwindling sales, and was folded into the New 52 universe. The results were, unfortunately, quite mixed. While Stormwatch had a strong start, the quick departure of Paul Cornell and a meandering, uneven story arc eventually led to its abrupt end. Others like Voodoo and Grifter proved to be failures, thanks largely to being handed over to Rob Liefeld. Only Midnighter could be called a true success in the end, and many changes to prior heroes such as turning Majestic into a human experiment were not well received.

Fusing the two settings together was an obvious mistake, and while it has taken them some time to realize that, we now have the chance at a fresh start. While small scale, the setting is set to follow the same formula as the Vertigo universe's successful restart - focusing upon a limited number of titles at first, then gradually snowballing over time. At the moment their main title, The Wild Storm, is set to debut in February next year, with Warren Ellis returning to shape this revitalised world. The others mentioned have been Michael Cray, WildC.A.T.S. and Zealot

Great things are to come, and we can only pray that a wonderful new age for these comics is soon to come.

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