Written by Jim Starlin
StormWatch faces a twofold threat: The alien conqueror Extremax The Omega is coming to the Milky Way, and they learn the true nature of the Kollective’s, and the danger they pose to Earth. Extremax The Omega, named that way because things end around him, is most powerful warlord in space, more than 50,000 years old, having killed more than 60 billion souls. He’s coming to Earth to collect an ancient artefact that was so powerful that it was divided into three parts to ensure it would never be used. One part was hidden on Earth, during prehistoric times; Extremax owns another piece, and the Kollective another. The central tenet of the Kollective’s plan is to destroy anything technologically advanced, so they naturally clashed with Extremax 300 years ago. To escape them, he managed to get his ship out of sync with the timeline on a varying frequency, but in three centuries of trying he hasn’t managed to slay one member of the Kollective. It turns out the Kollective holds dominance over countless planets, like Extremax. They instil a rabid distrust of technology and scientific advancement on their planets, in hopes they’ll herd societies towards an evolutionary path that will stimulate them to develop psychically, like the Kollective. Essentially, they’re looking for company. The results are tragic, though; the renounce of science also leads to no vaccines or medical treatment, and plagues that could have been cured with simple antibiotics now devastate entire species. Overpopulation woes and famine are also common among the Kollective-controlled civilizations. Inevitably, they all perish; whatever created the Kollective was a unique and unreproducible event, but they refuse to see these facts. Billions have died already, and this is what they have planned for Earth.
This is a really long arc, so sorry, but I have no easy way of making this review short. The second and final arc of Starlin’s run in StormWatch begins in the middle of their second adventure, with the team (now with Lobo in their ranks) fighting some aliens to save the waters of Earth from being teleported out. While they battle, Midnighter reflects on how he’s had to spend his whole life hiding his anger in shadow, and hiding in shadows himself (because using his anger to talk about being in the closet for being gay is a totally original idea). He remembers his new altered origin: He was 14 years old, returning home from working on a neighbour’s farm when he was abducted by aliens. These weird owl aliens experimented on him in the best Hawksmoor fashion for years, until he turned into Midnighter. They never communicated or explained why they did this; it took Lucas three months to open the air vent in his cell and attempt to escape for the first time. The air duct gave way under his weight, and that’s how he fell into Apollo’s cell and met him for the first time: the first voice he’d heard in more than three months. Was it love at first sight? Not quite, since Midnighter was a young man while Apollo a young child. Wow, kinda creepy. Lucas was quickly taken back to his cells by robots, and Apollo would only see him a few more times before Lucas escaped.
Back in the present, StormWatch leaves one of the aliens alive and give him a stern talk, warning them and any other aliens out there that Earth is not to be messed with, almost like Authority used to do. Back in Skywatch, team leader Storm Control rewards them for their first successful mission by informing them of the Kollective’s threat, something the Shadow Lords had advised against. The team can’t quite digest that there was another team before them, and fear nothing is stopping the Kollective from wiping clean the timeline again. The truth is the latest restart created Jenny Soul, and they don’t want to risk creating something even stronger. All the while, Storm Control is slowly realizing his memories are fake because he’s a clone, and fears he’s going insane because of the pressures of his job, like it happened with Bendix in the old WSU. Storm Control meets with Xiomar, who is finally learning to control his teleporting powers, gaining the codename X. Right at the same time, Engineer’s body is taken by an external artificial intelligence, who starts speaking through her and summons everybody to the bridge.
Midnighter immediately tries gutting this “A-I”, but she knocks him unconscious. After he wakes up, A-I begins explaining: she took control of Engineer and of the ship to help them act against Extremax. Her first action was to take them into the bleed so that she can explain calmly without fear of being detected. When Lobo hears this is the bastard coming his way, he attempts to escape, but Apollo knocks him out with one hit, proving he was just depleted last time they fought. But A-I knows the Kollective is the real problem, since they want to kill her as well, and they are enemies of Extremax: Although Extremax has refused many alliances against the Kollective, things might go differently this time.
They device a plan against Extremax: To attack his chief executive officer, Mordak. X will enter their ship, Alcazar Astral, since he can generate portals organically, so they don’t register on sensors. He’ll plant a bomb, and then they’ll track Mordak as he recovers the piece of the artefact on Earth for his master. Mordak is enormous like a transformer, so it’ll take all the heavy hitters from StormWatch to slow him down while The Weird races to obtain the artefact. They detonate their bomb to cut off all communications, but even so Mordak kills Lobo instantly and then proceeds to beat Hellstrike and Apollo. He’s so powerful that when Lobo regenerates he quickly runs away. Weird manages to obtain the piece of the artefact, so Jenny joins in the brawl, makes short work of Mordak and everybody escapes. Only Lobo is at large, but after he wanders more than half a light-year away from Skywatch, he’s teleported nearby instantly and captured back. Poor Lobo. Jenny studies the artefact, understanding it’s the physical manifestation of “a complex thought.” Meanwhile, the technicians complain that they’re not allowed to leave the ship while the crisis runs its course, but at least the extra pay is okay. They don’t notice, however, that one of them is a traitor, and steals some data for J’onn J’onzz of the Justice League of America. Now that they have an upper hand on Extremax, A-I takes the ship out of the bleed and starts taking it somewhere: she’s decided StormWatch must learn the Kollective’s threat.
Meanwhile, the technicians over at Skywatch complain that they’re not allowed to leave the ship while the crisis runs its course, but at least the extra pay is okay. Wait a second, they already said this before. Yep, we get the same dialogue twice. Anyhow, after Skywatch visits several planets doomed by the Kollective, the aliens reunite and decide Earth has become too dangerous, what with having spawned Jenny and attracting Extremax. They must travel back in time and destroy Earth before mankind ever exists!
Back in Skywatch, Storm Control singles out the mole technician somehow and has Jenny read his mind, finding out the JLA is involved. He passed intel to the Martian Manhunter on two occasions, but they’re still encrypted. They just need to go down to Earth and recover them. As for punishment, the technician has his memories erased, and Fuji earns his first line of dialogue when he mentions “it seems kind of harsh.” Afterwards, Jenny joins A-I for their first encounter with Extremax, with Apollo and Hellstrike as guards. Although X’s portals were supposed to be undetectable, now the ship has adapted and they have to face Mordak. But Apollo has been supercharged with the sun this time, and makes short work of the robot. They finally meet Extremax, and propose a bargain. Hearing Jenny was able to kill members of the Kollective, Extremax is intrigued, and they seal the deal by offering him the piece of the artefact they got. Yes, Extremax will be unstoppable if he obtains the final piece from the Kollective, but the Kollective is an even greater threat. What they don’t know is from the moment they arrived Extremax has been reading A-I’s database, finding out about the Bleed. Now that they’re working together, Extremax shares his intel: The Kollective’s Achilles heel is the Sole-Mind, the mechanism that allows them to act in a psychical level. Right at the same time, his ship detects the Kollective is travelling back in time to stop Jenny for ever existing, so Jenny and Extremax agree to travel back in time themselves, before any of the others have time to react.
Meanwhile, Storm Control creates a copy of Martian Manhunter’s costume to destroy the stolen StormWatch data; he read files on the previous StormWatch members, and found out he’s a clone of J’onn. He’ll be able to bypass the JLA’s DNA scans. X teleports him to Earth… and things get tricky when Storm Control bumps into Hawkman! Never mind, he just checks in on “J’onn” and lets him go. Anyhow, the JLA’s intel is all stored together, so Storm Control is forced to use a controlled electro-magnetic pulse burst to destroy all of it. That’s what J’onzz gets for spying on StormWatch.
The Kollective’s plan in the past, as it turns out, is to redirect the meteor that extinguished the dinosaurs so that it renders the planet completely uninhabitable. Extremax responds by simply destroying the meteor, though ensuring the dispersal of particulate matter will still doom the dinosaurs. The duo travels to space, where Jenny destroys the responsible Kollective member, but she’s not fast enough: the rest of them were notified that Extremax has abandoned the safety of his ship, and they begin a full-scale assault on the pair. In a rush, Extremax teleports them into the Bleed to hide. While catching a break, Jenny makes up her mind on whether she’ll be able to commit genocide on the Kollective; it’s them or her planet. As they phase back to space, they plan they must work together: Extremax will use his own personal energies to power up Jenny, making her more powerful than ever. She quickly starts kicking ass, psychically tearing apart the Kollective’s members. To deal with the sheer numbers attacking her, she creates avatars of her team members that she controls with her subconscious, and while an epic space fight rages on, she and Extremax head for the Sole-Mind. They enter a random asteroid, where apparently the Kollective keep their weak point and the piece of the asteroid they own. As soon as Extremax destroys the Sole-Mind, though, it creates a breach in reality, a vortex that starts consuming everything around it. Jenny and Extremax flee, but he doesn’t seem to be fast enough… until Jenny uses all of her strength and saves him. In return, Extremax promises never to harm Earth or anyone Jenny cares for. And now the Kollective has disappeared. But now Extremax has acquired the three pieces of the artefact, and what does that mean for the rest of the galaxy? Wait, are they still in the age of dinosaurs? The story kind of forgot about that. Anyway, it turns out the artefact is useless to Extremax unless he’s in possession of a natural telepath… like Jenny. But she threatens to kill herself if she’s ever enslaved. He proposes they travel together, with Jenny using the artefact freely under his counsel; she’d have total control over the fabric of reality, they’d chart the destiny of the universe. Their minds have been linked together, so Extremax knows Jenny is noble and will keep her word. However, she’s been raised in an orphanage; her entire life has been people telling her what to do: so she destroys the artefact. Extremax doesn’t try to stop her, knowing he’d never find another telepath he could trust just as much. He teleports her back to Skywatch, promising their paths are destined to cross once again.
Starlin’s run in the book is finishing, so everybody starts closing their arcs: Midnighter and Apollo agree they want to stay in StormWatch, since they have no place they’d rather be. X and Hellstrike finally have a talk, and Hellstrike admits his boss killed X’s family, but he swears he didn’t know he was going to do it. The family was crossing over the border illegally, but still, when Hellstrike had X on his range, he chose to let him live. X decides Hellstrike is a good guy, but that doesn’t bring his family back to life. Now Hellstrike must learn how to forgive himself. Engineer is finally free of A-I’s control, who is now her friend. We finally see A-I’s real robot body, but she refuses joining StormWatch, since she has a past that will eventually catch up with her. Storm Control faces the Shadow Lords and asks them why he was cloned; they needed a new team as soon as possible and they didn’t have time to find another individual who was as trustworthy to lead as J’onn J’onzz, or to train someone. Storm Control should be mad that he was lied to since his inception, but he feels gaining a life where he can do so much good balances things out. Now he just hopes the truth will flow both ways. Finally, Jenny decides not to focus on having killed a species, deciding getting her head straight will eventually happen. Instead of going back to her room like a hermit this time, though, she heads to the cafeteria: today she feels like being around people. She has moved forward. As the title’s closing words, the creative team urges all to keep dreaming of those wider horizons. Sadly, none of Starlin’s new characters will be seen again, as the following issue is the final one, and the old team returns when we return to the main Earth!
Next: “Stormwatch” Vol.3 issue 30, written by Sterling Gates.