Wednesday, 22 September 2010

RIP Wildstorm 1992-2010

Founded in 1992, Wildstorm was the Jim Lee and chums' sixth of the original Image partnership, and as of 2010 DC have finally taken the poor old dog round the back of the shed, shotgun in hand. That noise you hear is a resounding "meh" from Action Ash and a large percentage of the comic book buying public, but personally I'm a bit sad to see it go. Strangely Wildstorm universe was one of my lasting comic book love affairs. I had nearly everything they produced in the '90s, I was genuinely smitten. They had by far the best artists in the business at the time, many of today’s superstars got their big breaks in Wildstorm; John Cassaday, Brian Hitch, Adam Hughes, J Scott Campbell, Humberto Ramos, Ed McGuinness, Adam Warren, Travest Charest, Dustin Ngyuen, Tom Raney, Cully Hamner... And on the writing side they had Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker, Brian K Vaughan, Alan Moore (for a bit) and... er... Brandon Choi? Did I say Warren Ellis already? It wasn't that bad, but the draw was for the most part style over substance, for me at least.

Eventually the second generation of artists were a bit of a let down and some of the reboots were downright shocking (Al Rio's DV8 art is some of the most inappropriate art I've seen in any book, and Cedric Nocon's Wetworks issues some of the most unrelentingly shit). There still remained a strong stable of characters and some really cracking runs, gems like Planetary, Sleeper, Point Blank, the first year of DV8, the Gary Frank/John Arcudi Gen13 run, The Gen13/The Maxx crossover, the Last years of Stormwatch that lead to the first year of the Authority, Aaron Wiessenfeld’s art in Team 7 and Deathblow Wolverine, Tim Sale's in the first year of Deathblow's solo title... those are few off the top of my head. Guilty pleasures like the entire run of Wetworks, which was a gold-plated black-ops team vs vampires vs werewolves vs corrupt secret agents vs aliens vs pretty much any other monster you can aim an RPG at before any of that was overplayed. I don’t know how good they'll be to reread now, and I can't imagine anyone even remembering the existence of things like Savant Guard or Hazard now, let alone in years to come, but I loved that shit when I was 15.

The last decade has been a bumpy one for Wildstorm, after the move to DC, its fully realised superhero universe, was reduced to a smattering of occasionally critically acclaimed, but seldom read series. Some high profile relaunches failed due to poor sales and delays, and everyone seemed to just give up. I genuinely can’t remember anyone talking about new Wildstorm books since Sleeper and Ex Machina came out (2003 and 2004 respectively) and Ex Machina had no connection to the WsU. By the late '00s Wildstorm seemed to comprise of a huge amount of franchise tie-ins for video games and the like and a few of the old flagship titles popping up every once in a while having been rebooted again. It really was a shadow of it’s former self. The last hurrah of Wildstorm was to completely devastate their version of earth and set all their stories in a post apocalyptic wasteland. Really. This last Hurrah, this Worldstorm, and the post disaster, post apocalyptic continuity rebooted Wildstorm U seem to have been in vain, as there were about seven people reading those books at the end; the readership breakdown I think was that two were just buying to review them, one was a Grifter completist and the others were the mums of the books' creators. Shame really, even I didn't bother, and I'm a Dingo completist.

As this is comic books, death is of course not the end, DC have even announced that the Wildstorm characters will be folded into the DC Universe at some point down the line, like Captain Marvel and many other characters from now defunct publishers have been over the years. As of Countdown (or 52? I dunno I don’t read that nonsense) the Wildstorm Universe is officially in the DC Multiverse, so it's not like they had a rigid distinction anymore. The question remains though; will they become DC stalwards like the Blue Beetle, Captain Marvel and The Question, or forgotten inserts like Icon and the vast majority of Milestone's largely underrated pantheon?