It never seems to stop for the Stormwatch team. After defeating the last big crisis you’d think they might have some downtime, but Paul Cornell throws them straight into another one. Even though this issue is dense with exposition, it does still manage to run at breakneck speed as Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda deliver another slice of bonkers action.
Sepulveda delivers possibly his best work on the title. He’s getting a real grasp for the characters and he continues to detail the emotional moments well. Midnighter and Apollo’s flirty moment comes to mind. Cornell’s script allows him to cut loose creatively, as the characters race through Stormwatch HQ. Even though the room the characters populate at the beginning of the book is the same old space station milieu, metallic with cool feeling colours. The rest of the HQ offers some great set pieces. From a cathedral to a forest environment, the place seems to have it all. This makes the cliff-hanger somewhat of a shame. These environments are well rendered by Sepulveda and he even throws in some nods to previous adventures and characters that fans of previous incarnations of the title (and The Authority) will enjoy.
But it isn’t just the station that impresses as Sepulveda manages to create an interesting and unique looking new character in the form of The Shadow Cabinet. Slightly reminiscent of Marvel’s Genis-Vell, The Shadow Cabinet is a great visual presence that suits the overall tone of the book. Sepulveda also throws in some more great panels: the opening page with The Shadow Cabinet pinning Adam to a wall, the map of the solar system and even the simple panel depicting Apollo flying out of an airlock. But the true artistic centrepiece is the fight between Harry and Midnighter. It’s a dynamic fight with sparks flying. Sepulveda draws an increasingly frustrated and angry Harry as he tries to defeat Midnighter. However Midnighter moves with such efficient grace, it’s a joy to look at. Both characters have clearly defined fighting styles, which is a testament to Sepulveda’s work. His art has definitely improved and it serves Cornell’s script perfectly.
It’s a script full of great ideas, character and a pace that seems breathless. It’s what you’d expect from Cornell if you’ve been reading the title from day one. The Shadow Cabinet is an interesting idea, a group of people who live in another reality where you have to be dead to survive. The only problem with it is in execution as Cornell delivers some heavy exposition. Some of which comes off as clunky, however the Martian Manhunter moment throws up an interesting mystery. The apparent “death” of Adam is clearly not the last time we will see him, but the way it is handled is effective in defining the Shadow Cabinet as an unfeeling creature that means business. Cornell’s and The Cabinet’s decision to make the Projectionist the leader is a nice moment, even if it’s short lived. It is a shame that it looks like someone else will end up being in charge, but the moment works well in keeping an element of surprise in the narrative.
The book is littered with wonderful concepts and moments that help flesh out the characters. The who cathedral in the HQ so that Hawksmoor can live there is a nice idea. The flirty banter between Midnighter and Apollo not only shows that that relationship will happen, but goes quite a way into describing Midnighter’s abilities. Unlike the Shadow Cabinet moment, the exposition doesn’t feel so forced. But much like the art, it is the confrontation between Harry and Midnighter that impresses. An electrifying fight with great banter, what more could you want? A master of lies vs a master of perception. A great idea and no better characters are suited to fighting each other. Even the reader doesn’t know if Harry really is telling the truth by the end of the issue. Does he want to save the world or not?
It ends on a massive cliff-hanger, which apparently will have repercussion for other books as well. Granted one of those books is Grifter, but it is exciting. The fringe comic that effects major titles is a great hook indeed.
As the final page states, “2012 the end of the world starts here”, you can’t help but get excited. It’s pure hyperbole but it is in keeping with the over the top nature of the book. The book is delivered by a creative team on fine form. Although some of Cornell’s script doesn’t work as well as one would hope, the overall narrative is solid. Sepulveda runs away with the issue as his art hits new heights and hopefully he can keep this standard up. Stormwatch has now been placed on a bigger canvas and it’s clear that the book will be important in the coming months. Whatever happens it looks like it’s going to be one hell of a ride.