“Superman” Vol.3 issue 1 and “StormWatch” Vol.3 issues 1 – 6

Superman written by George Perez, StormWatch written by Paul Cornell

Wildstorm concepts: authority-midnighter authority-apollo authority-engineer authority-jack-hawksmoor authority-jenny-quantum  stormwatch

all-star-westernThis story begins when a mysterious alien blows a horn in the Himalayas. This sends a signal towards outer space telling Earth to activate its defenses. A powerful threat has just arrived. In fact, this threat was going to be daemonites when it was originally planned, but plans changed along the way and the threat turned into H’el, a Superman enemy. All the Wildstorm-related titles from the “first chapter” of this universe were leading towards a crossover event in which the daemonites would reveal themselves on Earth, but this plans fell through so many plot threads were forgotten.

“Superman” issue 1 should be read because of a single page, unrelated to the rest of the issue, in which an alien blows a giant horn in the Himalayas. We don’t find out until “Superboy” issue 17 that this alien is called Herald, a cosmic being who seeks worlds without hope. It serves the Oracle, an even more mysterious cosmic being. Herald blew the Horn-That-Summons because the villain H’el had arrived on Earth and this signified it would be destroyed soon. As we learn in “StormWatch”, the horn activates some defense mechanisms to help the planet. These explanations are given during the long “H’el on Earth” crossover, which doesn’t involve any Wildstorm characters, so it’s best to get it out of the way here. “Superman” issue 7 also explains Herald had prepared a Horn-That-Summons on earth because it is the planet with the highest concentration of meta-gen, except for New Genesis and Apokolips.

StormWatch is a book which constantly changes artists and writers, but at least we get to see Al Barrionuevo, returning from the last volume of Authority. Paul Cornell, the writer, also handled Demon Knights, its companion book. Cornell was excited to be proposed for StormWatch because Planetary was one of his top three favourite comics.

Issue #1 begins with two situations going on: The horn caused the moon to start having strange quakes which seem to be changing its shape. Harry Tanner, the “Eminence of Blades,” is sent to deal with it. His origin is a mystery, but he’s the best swordsman in history, who uses some mysterious “blue blades” that he can summon from tin air. Up on Eye of the Storm, their ship headquarters, three members are trying to study the horn: Good old Angela Spica, Engineer; Jenny Emily Quantum and StormWatch’s current leader: Adam One. He was born at the Big Bang, appearing as an old man and aging backwards along with the universe. He’s the son of Lucifer, and it is prophesized Adam will be his killer. He was there when the team first formed during the Dark Ages, but in that time he used the name Merlin.

Engineer has some differences from her WSU counterpart; instead of replacing her blood with nanobots by her own will, she lost most of her body in an accident and then was helped by mysterious “pale men with no expressions”, who replaced her body with machinery. She thought of herself as mainly machine until she met Harry and they started dating. He gave her the strength to turn her body into flesh sometimes. Jenny seems to retain her old origin of a baby born with the century.

Anyway, Angie can’t seem to get any reading on the horn, so Adam wants to go down to the Himalayas and retrieve it. However, new readings indicate the moon is slowly taking the shape of a claw pointed in direction to Earth, threatening it. Angie is pissed off at Adam for having sent Harry alone. This is the first of several signs that Adam isn’t fit to be the team leader. Not worried about this, Adam decides to teleport himself and Jenny to the Himalayas after all, and the century baby sends the Horn-That-Summons onto Eye of the Storm. We get to see one of the differences between this Jenny and the Wildstorm Jenny: the powers of the century babies are now based on their centuries’ physics. This means Jenny is formed with “dark matter DNA”, and works with quantum physics, which pretty much gives her the ability to do anything. At least this is what Adam figured out; he’s the one who picked the surname “quantum” for her.

The rest of the members are in Moscow, trying to recruit mysterious superhero named Apollo. Apparently they found out about him when a sole witness caught him on tape after killing a child molester. The witness went on to write gay fanfiction about him, where she called him Apollo. All right then. Apollo in this timeline has a real name: Andrew, and he seems to be more psychical in his abilities; he can sense feelings, sense frequencies and emit radio waves.

The team sent to recruit Apollo are Jack Hawksmoor, J’onn J’onzz (Martian Manhunter) and Emma Rice (Projectionist), a woman capable of reading through the media and manipulate it, thanks to an alien processing lobe in her brain. Her powers allowed her to escape a life of crime and suicide attempts. She’s part of what allows StormWatch to remain hidden. In this timeline, it seems Jack isn’t a product of alien experiments; the title of “King of the cities” has been carried by several people before him.

Apollo rejects their job offer and flies away, feeling StormWatch is too “big scale” for him, and wanting to remain hidden from other heroes because of his murderous methods and sexuality. StormWatch won’t take “no” for an answer so they start fighting Apollo, but they are interrupted by the appearance of Midnighter, who knocks all of StormWatch in a few movements. He tries to recruit Apollo to be his partner; he’s been following him for over a year and he appreciates his deadly methods. He doesn’t remember anything about his past before being augmented, so seeing how Apollo has a “real identity” Midnighter comes up with the name Lucas for himself, in hopes it’ll bring him closer to Apollo. His origin is pretty different, as we’ll see later in his own book.

Back on the moon, Harry is attacked by rock monsters that rise from the ground. He falls onto a cavern, where he meets the being behind these transformations: The Scourge of Worlds, an intellect that animates matter and landed on the moon. It wants to prepare Earth for H’el; this villain had already attacked his people and Scourge was the only survivor. It travels through the universe ahead of H’el, trying to make worlds stronger for his arrival. When he heard the Horn-That-Summons, Scourge decided to prepare Earth by devastating it. It starts probing Harry’s mind, wanting to investigate a human to discover how it may best strengthen them.

Adam gets a sudden flashback to his birth, as having lived for so many millennia gives him too much memory and it interferes with his perception of time. This gives Angie yet another reason to wish Adam wasn’t the leader. They notice the Moon is suddenly back to normal: Did Harry fix things? Adam sends Angie and Jenny to the moon and teleports to Moscow to check on the rest of the team. Down there he calms everyone, proving he’s not such a bad leader. He even convinces Midnighter and Apollo to join them, or at least give StormWatch a chance.

When the girls arrive on the moon the satellite reacts by throwing more monsters at them, but it’s just a misunderstanding. Somehow Harry managed to resist the Scourge’s mind probing, and he wants to cooperate with it to make Earth stronger through nonviolent methods. In reality he just wants to convince Scourge to download all of its data on his mind to become the smartest StormWatch member and steal the leadership. Being the greatest swordsman in history also means he’s the greatest at misdirection; his real power is being the prince of lies. What nobody knows is that title is literal; his words actually have the super-power of influencing people. Scourge is downloaded onto Harry, and this loss of control causes a lot of meteors to be launched against Earth. And the first one which crashes down contains a giant monster!

The cover to issue 3 is homage to Authority Vol.1 issue 10, which is on itself an homage. Anyway, the first meteor landed in Nowhere, Colorado, a desolate place where Jack can sense a city somehow. He retreats into his subconscious to ask the spirits of the cities about this; in this timeline cities have a physical avatar they can use to have conversations with Jack. Apparently in Colorado there used to be a big, great city during the Dark Ages, the times of the first StormWatch team. On the moon, the cave is starting to collapse after the Scourge died, but Angie and Jenny find Harry and they teleport away.

While Apollo works on destroying the meteors before they reach Earth, everyone else gets together to face the monster in Colorado. Things don’t go so well: Apollo passes out and falls to orbit after breaking the last meteor, Hawksmoor passes out from trying to talk to the ancient city; and the monster absorbs all of the StormWatch combatants except for Midnighter.

Apollo had enough energy to aim his fall right to Colorado, hoping he can be of help. Projectionist opens a Door to the sun in front of Apollo, recharging him with sunlight and giving him enough strength to free all of the StormWatch members from the monster. After he’s caught a breath, Hawksmoor attempts to talk to the ancient city again: It seems to be called Alba Umbra, and it went into hiding after some terrible beasts attacked it. Jack convinces it to resurface to protect its land against the monster. When Adam looks at the city he’s reminded of his days as Merlin, but the holes in his memory cause him to lose focus again. Angie decides she’s had enough and takes control. Following her orders, the team works with the city and they manage to beat the monster. Immediately after that, they are teleported into Eye of the Storm; they were summoned by a representative of the Shadow Cabinet, StormWatch’s bosses. The Cabinet has decided Adam failed as a leader—and for that he must die.

The Black Cabinet representative summons a black pit and throws Adam onto the “Dark Side” – killing him, but not finishing him. Now Adam can join the Cabinet, for their realm requires them to be dead. The team is astonished, but the representative barely pays attention to them. His only concern is to decide who should lead StormWatch. He says Jenny is too young; her father is a high-ranking military man who still believes his child was murdered by terrorists, and she doesn’t even care. All of the members have faults too, so the Cabinet picks Projectionist as the new leader. During all of this, Apollo and Midnighter snuck away and try to run away. As they run through the city-sized ship, we get to see some Easter eggs like Jenny Sparks’ shirt. Midnighter tells Apollo that he wants them to work together because they’re both gay and they know the public isn’t ready to accept “their kind”, which is really silly.

Angry at not having been picked as the leader, Harry begins his betrayal against the team: He puts a bomb on the horn and makes up a fake proximity alarm, giving him a distraction to start stealing data from the base. He feels that the team has no chances of facing the threat heralded by the Horn-That-Summons if he isn’t the leader, so he plans on stealing as much information as he can. He’ll save Earth himself – even if he has to rule it. He’s encountered by Midnighter and they engage in a fight, but they’re interrupted by the Projectionist. Harry takes her hostage and opens a door to hyperspace, by which he manages to escape with her. Right in that moment, the bomb he had set explodes.

As the team struggles to survive the explosion, the ship is awakened by the shock; it was officially a city, and as such it had an avatar. Jack encounters it and meets a daemonite artificial intelligence which had been shut down when StormWatch first stole the ship. Jack manages to convince the ship to restore itself in exchange of not being shut down again and gaining a voice on the main deck. Even the horn turns out unharmed.

During a brief moment during the chaos Eye of the Storm was outside of Hyperspace; a moment long enough for the US government to detect them and aim lasers toward them. If they ever reappear they’ll receive a strike immediately. After things calm down and the members get a moment to heal, Angie regrets having been manipulated by Harry into forming a relationship. It is a moment that very much resembles what happened between Savant and Tao in the old Wildstorm universe.

Everyone votes for Engineer to be their temporal leader, and Apollo and Midnighter join the team officially. Angie wastes no time in assigning them a new mission: part of what Harry stole was the location of two kinds of StormWatch security caches, containers which might hold the most powerful alien artefacts from the hidden story of the world. And they need to beat Harry to them.

Meanwhile, we follow Harry and Projectionist as they arrive to some white dimension where Harry can remain undetected. The place somehow amplifies the Projectionist’s abilities, allowing her to listen to media from a different Earth. She notices there’s an awful threat coming: StormWatch will have to save the universe first if they want to go after Harry. After this first arc was over, the writer left the book by choice.

There’s one little StormWatch cameo in another title: Martian Manhunter is seen using a door in “Green Lantern Corps”, issue #4.

Next: “Legion Lost” Vol.2 issues 4 – 5 and “Voodoo” Vol.2 issues 1 – 4, written by Fabian Niscieza and Ron Marz.

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