Thursday, December 30, 2010

"The End" Week: Stormwatch #50!

I dunno.  Mail?
This time, a 'last issue' that has the ad for the new number one right at the end of the story. "Volume Two," sure, but straight-up the same book: Stormwatch #50, "Change or Die, part three" Written by Warren Ellis, pencils by Tom Raney, inks by Randy Elliot.

Superman-analog the High, and his team of utopian-minded superhumans, are planning on saving the world by any means necessary. "Saving the world is no good, if we leave it the way we found it," the High explains. The Engineer and the Doctor--predecessors of those that would follow in the Authority--will use their nanotech and their magic, to eliminate any want. The Eidolon, a seemingly deathless goth crybaby, works to destroy any organized religion, proclaiming he's been there and there's nothing after death. And they're not alone.

But, one man's utopia is another's "vandalism on a monstrous scale." Stormwatch's head, Weatherman Henry Bendix will stop at nothing to prevent what he sees as the utter destruction of human society; and sends the whole of the UN's superhuman force "on a killing mission." Although some of the team had fought the High before, not all of them are on board with execution-style killing.

And one, Jenny Sparks, the Spirit of the 20th century, has been trying to talk to Bendix, since she knows the High. Sparks hasn't seen him for years, since her approach to superheroing was "deal with the horror as it comes," and the High wanted more. Bendix knew that, since Rose Tattoo, seemingly mute assassin, told him. Back when Bendix had been a sci-fi superhero, he met Rose when she worked for the High; the ageless Rose is described as "the spirit of murder."
Oddly, Rose had more costume five minutes ago...and this scene is why the Crow wouldn't be in the JLA.
Invading the High's giant underground complex, some of Stormwatch talks to some of the High's team; the more reasonable ones. They planned on giving humanity a gift, with which they could do what they wanted. Others on the team, however, planned on elevating humanity to an interesting level to screw around with; or had no higher motivation than killing criminals.

After Bendix has a captured woman killed, Sparks confronts him. Bendix wants change, but not that kind of change. More control. Less freedom. This being a superhero comic, it turns into a brawl. Bendix powers down Stormwatch's satellite HQ, to keep Sparks from using it's electricity; but that has the unintentional and grotesque effect of killing a number of prisoners in cryogenic freeze. Sparks tries to kill Bendix mid-transport, but isn't positive she succeeded.

The fight with the High's team escalates, with several dead, and Jack Hawksmoor kills Rose Tattoo after she casually murders a hero. But, it comes to a sudden end, when Bendix's airstrike takes out all of the High's remaining teammates; and the nanotechnology that would've given the world everything. Enraged, the High streaks into space, intent on destroying Bendix, not realizing that 1. Bendix was gone. 2. His old friend Jenny Sparks was on the satellite, along with hundreds of U.N. support crew. 3. The Stormwatch satellite had a "storm door," a really good force field. The High vaporizes upon impact, killed instantly. Volume 1 of Stormwatch closes with a crying Sparks putting her cigarette out on her fetish/badge.
If Jenny cries, you know things are messed up.
Helluva book. Ellis does a great job of presenting ideas that would inevitably turn up when dealing with superhumans. And this is a pretty lean issue, even extra-sized; a lot of the ideas from this three-parter could use more space. The Eidolon, whom I believe was an analogue version of the Crow, could've been expounded upon: he does a little denouncing of religion, cries a bit, and is killed. Ellis also did the analogue/pastiche thing in Planetary; and like Busiek in Astro City, he doesn't always do it, but does it very well. I thought Smoke, a Shadow-esque vigilante, was more interesting than the regular model; and probably would've read a book with him, Blind, Wish, and the others.

Likewise, I don't know if Bendix's descent of crazy works or not: in previous issues, he seemed to still be walking a fine line between pragmatic dick and rabid dog. (I liked a moment from a previous issue, when Bendix pulls a murderer from the aforementioned cryogenic prison for questioning, shoots him in the face, then puts him back in the freeze to finish his sentence.)

Stormwatch hadn't quite gotten into the "widescreen" that would be the trademark of the Authority, but Tom Raney and Randy Elliot nail the art here. They also have three pages of flashbacks done in retro styles that work very well. And I think all of "Change or Die" was presented with a black-and-white story page on the inside front cover; which makes it feel like an extra page, and gives it a sense of urgency, like things are happening quickly.
Are we done? Time for a drink!
Hmm. Looks like I thought this was going to be the closer in our festival of cancellation, but it's still rolling! More today and tomorrow!

No comments: