March 21, 2013

Judging the New 52: Stormwatch

Stormwatch was a superhero team created by Jim Lee as part of his Wildstorm imprint. To be honest they weren't very interesting until Warren Ellis took over as writer. He made it a dark, more mature work, came up with a bunch of really interesting ideas, and notoriously killed off most of its cast in a WildCATS/Aliens crossover. It's a very fondly remembered book thanks to Ellis: mention Stormwatch and people generally think of clever ideas, edgy characters and provocative superhero storytelling.

The Stormwatch that premiered as part of the New 52 is nothing like that: this time it isa corporate product, taking the characters from the original title and slotting them awkwardly into the DC Universe. The book was originally written by Paul Cornell, however he departed after six issues and was replaced by DC stalwart Peter Milligan. There were big promises when the series started that it would tie in closely to Cornell's other title, Demon Knights, although apart from the occasional name-check and cameo that hasn't proved to be the case. Promises were also made that Stormwatch was a team that would beat the enemies that the Justice League couldn't face - it turned out that this enemy was Stormwatch itself.

Maybe I'm doing the book an injustice, but when I think back over its first 19 issues all I can remember is an endless cavalcade of the team disintegrating, splitting up, finding traitors from within and being generally at war with itself. The only thing they have saved the Earth from is themselves. This is a comic book without a clear direction, particularly interesting characters or any form of rivetting narrative drive. It flickers with life every once in a while, enough to keep it teetering on the end of my pull list, but it really is a pointless book.

Let's look at how it's been selling. As with most New 52 titles, there was a sharp drop over the first four months as the wave of new readers died down and trailed away. Since then the book has been on a relatively smooth decline towards cancellation; I don't think I've seen another New 52 title with as smooth a downward ride as Stormwatch. The zero issue in September 2012 gave it a bump, like it did for all other titles, but that bump didn't translate into any longer-term interest (like it didn't for all other titles).

To be completely honest, it's a miracle that this book hasn't been cancelled already. Whenever the next wave of cancellations comes (I'd guess around September), I can't imagine Stormwatch is going to survive another round.


  1. I don't know if you've read the Authority, but it was amazing. I also don't know if you've read the recent Starlin issues of Stormwatch but they are even more horrendous than Milligan's work. This book is a hollow shell of what it could be. Thank you for writing this article so I know I have someone to pissed with.

  2. I've found that while the Milligan run was a case of good characters in bad stories, the Starlin run appears to be an okay story with really boring characters. Given its sales, I doubt it will be around beyond this year.

    The Authority was brilliant.


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