Yes, it’s late. There have been a number of technical difficulties this month, but I finally bring you the second part of our Stormwatch write-up. Enjoy, and as always, please feel free to comment.
This next story arc focuses mostly on Backlash and the lead up to his solo series. It also brings into the mix the Daemonites, villains from WildC.A.T.s, which we will be discussing at a later date. Also included here is issue #0, which is dated just prior to Stormwatch #4.
People to Watch
I’m just covering new characters and updates to previously introduced characters. Also, after using ‘ethnicity’ in my previous articles, I am changing to ‘nationality’ here. Thanks to Mr. Beam for suggesting something that I should have thought of myself the first time around.
Daemonites – an alien race at war with the Kheran (sometimes called ‘Kherubim’) race. Though physically powerful in their natural forms, they cannot survive long in Earth’s atmosphere outside of host bodies. Similar in look to the creatures from the Alien films.
Main Team Updates
Fuji: Toshiro Misawa
Cannon: Mitchell (no indication of whether that is a surname or first name)
Strafe: Malcolm King
Powers: energy blasts, flight
Appearance: black and purple
Flashpoint: Foster McClane
Powers: Directional eye blasts
Nationality: White Australian
Appearance: Blue and red costume and yellow goggles
Nautika: Maya Royko
Powers: Flight, electrical charges
Nationality: Looks Asian, but uncertain
Appearance: Green and black costume, noseless
Backlash: Col. Marc Slayton
Powers: Psi-whips, can turn himself into mist for short periods, superior speed and agility, but not to superhuman levels
Major LaSalle: First name now given as Diane
Lt. Riggs, Stanton, Meyers and Thompson
Skywatch patrol team (all deceased)
Human terrorists under the lead of Marco and Pedro. One named as Trask, the rest unnamed (all deceased, incarcerated or otherwise dealt with)
S’yrn, L’ndru, D’kar and T’pau
Daemonite strike team in search of new bodies (presumed dead, apart from S’yrn)
Back to the story…
Written by – Jim Lee, Brandon Choi
Drawn by – Brett Booth (1st half), Jeffrey Scott (2nd half)
Heroes – Stormwatch 1 (Battalion, Fuji), Original Stormwatch (Battalion, Nautika, Flashpoint), Backlash, Synergy
Villains – Terrorists (Marco, Pedro, Trask, team of unnamed terrorists)
Others – John Windsor, Fenwick
The issue opens with a small, cloaked ship attaching itself onto Skywatch. Two men get out.
We cut to a ruined cityscape, where Battalion and Fuji are laying into each other. Battalion is obviously getting the upper hand as he blasts Fuji through a wall, but Fuji gets his own back by hiding under some rubble and pulling King under. Their dialogue whilst the fight is going on indicates that this is a training session.
Cut back to Skywatch and we see a team of four people in red body armour stalking through the corridors. One called Marco appears to be leading them and exclaims that he has waited over ten years for this and that he’s here to kill someone for what they did to his brother. Trask argues with him as they have another mission (to plant a bug in Skywatch’s mainframe) and gets shot in the head by Marco for his troubles. Not a man to disagree with then.
Back with Battalion and Fuji, this time noted as the training suite. Fuji hits King hard and exclaims when he thinks he has seriously hurt him. Battalion however is playing possum and demonstrates to Fuji why he should never let his guard down. I like this sequence, as it demonstrates the position of Battalion as the team leader and how the members of the team care for and respect each other. It stands in stark contrast to a similar sequence in issue #4, featured later in this very article. In the meantime, our two combatants are interrupted by the alarm, and Weatherman informs them that there are intruders heading in their direction. Said intruders arrive, and we learn that Marco’s grudge is against Battalion for “stealing” his brother Pedro’s life. They open fire with energy weapons, which rain casings on the floor. Hmmm. Marco declares Pedro avenged, until the smoke clears and we see Battalion and Fuji in the same position they were in. It’s obviously an illusion projected by the training suite. Battalion attacks, and lets loose — it’s a very short fight, especially when Fuji stops Battalion from killing Marco. He has already taken care of the rest of the team off-camera. King says Fuji shouldn’t have stopped him after what Marco has done, but Fuji reminds him that it is not their place to decide these things. Battalion answers that Fuji should save his sympathy for the families of the people Marco killed today. It’s not much, but it sets us up for the flashback sequence that is the second half of the comic.
Next we get a shower scene (watch the ears of the straight gals and gay guys prick up!) in which Jackson is thinking back to the simpler life before Stormwatch. We get a quick breakdown of the theory behind Stormwatch as a concept — a comet collided with a space station, killing many of the crew, but changing those that survived (kind of like the Fantastic Four). Those people eventually became the awesomely powerful Warguard (of which we’re never told how many there are) and their children become the seedlings. Synergy interrupts King’s reverie; it appears she has a security override to get in to anyone’s quarters. Now wouldn’t we all want one of those? She asks about the event earlier, explaining that it’s been placed above her head and she can’t access the report. She asks if Jackson wants to talk about it, but he sends her away. After she’s gone, he stands in front of the mirror and lets his mask drop, allowing us to finally see the true face of our hero (dramatic pause for revelation)…He has scars. Not a massive revelation, but a nice bit of plot — Jackson uses a psionic mask to hide his battle scars in order to pretend to himself that nothing hurts him. Cue flashback.
This section of the comic is where the artists swap over. It gives you a visual contrast to the flashback that makes it a little easier to differentiate between the two time periods. Scott’s style is a bit more cartoony than Booth’s, who uses a lot of small lines to add detail to muscles and facial expressions. We open up with Battalion and the other two founding members of Stormwatch being run through their final paces under the watchful eye of John Windsor. Foster is baiting King with racist comments and starts a fistfight. Jackson ends the fight by punching Foster out. Windsor asks about Malcolm joining, but Jackson warns him off. A bit later on, the team is trying on their new costumes, when a group of terrorists, members of the “Third World Liberation Front”, storm the building. They attack the scientists and try to steal scientific data. Jackson communicates with the team through telepathy and alerts Backlash, who mists in shortly afterwards. McClane and Maya show off their powers, at which point I have to stop and enthuse for a minute. Foster’s eye blasts are one of the coolest powers ever. This is no Cyclops clone, oh no, these are definitely not your father’s eye blasts. McClane can control the direction of the beams in flight, going so far as to fire them around corners and, as evidenced in the comic, do the whole Looney Tunes skiing round a tree thing to Maya.
And here we get to the important part of the flashback: Pedro, calling them all monsters for their powers, shoots Jackson through the shoulder. In a fit of rage, King turns around to yell at Pedro for daring to call him a monster, after what they’ve done as terrorists. He fires off a powerful psionic blast, not knowing yet that the cyber-tran suit amplifies his powers. Pedro’s mind is completely wiped. The team have a talk about actions and consequences, Backlash telling King that he did his job, nothing more.
We quickly cut to Washington DC, where one of the escaped terrorists is talking to a woman wearing a harsh black skirt suit in a limo. He explains that they were never expecting such resistance, to which the woman replies that it appears the program is more advanced than she realised and pulls out a folder entitled project Genesis. For those of us in the know, Genesis is the project resulting from the infection of Team 7 by a genetically created virus, leading on to Gen 13 (though that’s a few years in the future, as this is still 1978). The lady? Though we never see her face, she is the one and only Ivana Baiul of international operations, still fully human at this point. Cue ominous music.
Shortly afterwards, the team is being introduced for the first time at a press conference, and this is also the first time we hear each of their codenames: Battalion, Flashpoint and Nautika. It sets us up nicely for the ongoing series (as this issue occurs after the first story arc), as well as giving us a number of questions to be going on with. First of all, of course, is “who the hell are those two?” in reference to Flashpoint and Nautika, who we will encounter shortly enough in the series. Second concerns what Project Genesis is, though this is really there to spark interest in Team 7 and Gen 13. Still, it gives us an idea of how the series were designed to stand against each other, with Stormwatch being a UN initiative compared to the American attempts. It would have been nice to see some background on Weatherman here, seeing as how he evolves into one of the more interesting characters through the course of the series.
The big revelation of the issue is the Comet Effect, which has been mentioned before but not really expanded upon. We still don’t get a lot of information here (and indeed won’t get more information), but at least we have a very basic origin story. I’d like to invite anyone reading this to share any other information on the comet, such as references to it in other Image titles of the time. My current theory is that the origin was more of an afterthought, tacked on to give a little background. We’re meant to be focusing more on the characters and what they are doing than where they came from. Hey, it’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
It should also be noted that Backlash is not a seedling, but is Gen-active as a result of his time in Team 7. We’ll discuss Team 7 (team and book) at another time, though Backlash’s appearance here dates those stories as taking place before 1978.
The art is a little less cheesy than our first arc, with Booth giving us some very gritty looking pieces, set nicely against Scott’s cleaner style. The two halves of the comic look similar, but are obviously not the same.
Written by – Brandon Choi, Sean Ruffner
Drawn by – Brett Booth
Heroes – Stormwatch 1(Battalion, Fuji, Cannon, Strafe, Winter, Diva), Backlash, Weatherman 1
Villains – Daemonites (S’yrn, L’ndru, D’kar, T’pau), Warguard (Talos, Nychus, Hexon)
Others – Skywatch Patrol Team (Lt. Riggs, Stanton, Meyers, Thompson), Major LaSalle
Back to our scheduled ongoing series. The first section is narrated by Jackson King as he watches a training session with Cannon and Strafe (Malcolm) being trained by Backlash. The object of the session is for the two of them to work together to catch Backlash whilst avoiding the room’s defences. Typically enough, Cannon, being the crotch stain that he is, runs off by himself and starts by firing at Backlash. That’s right, we have what is effectively a game of tag, and Cannon decides to shoot at a senior officer instead. As can be expected, it goes from bad to worse at this point, ending up with the two younger members lying in a battered heap on the floor and Backlash having harsh words with Jackson about troops having a little more common sense before they are sent to him.
We next see a small Skywatch shuttle, out investigating a distress beacon (team consists of Lt. Riggs, Stanton, Meyers and Thompson). It appears to be coming from a ship that has been sheared in half, and although there’s a distress signal, the ship shows no life signs. Weatherman authorises the team to investigate and report back if they find anything. Riggs, Stanton and Meyers go aboard and promptly get attacked by an unseen opponent. Several hours later the shuttle docks back on Skywatch, and the team come aboard. They’re greeted by Dr. Jenkins and a security guard with the biggest quiff you’ve ever seen. Riggs’s shadow, when he’s talking with Jenkins, is of some sort of large-mouthed creature, and the team smile ominously to each other before addressing each other by different names (S’yrn, D’kar and L’ndru). It’s obvious that whatever was aboard the ship they investigated has now possessed the bodies of Riggs’s crew, and S’yrn says they must find one other host body. The one objection I have with this scene is that there is no real distinction between members of the team — I can’t tell you who has possessed whom. On the plus side though, it does indicate that Stormwatch isn’t just the super-powered team, the rest of the humans on board actually do stuff as well. The scene is a rip off of the original Alien film.
We then cut to the canteen, where Slayton is dining with Major LaSalle. The conversation is awkward, but it’s clear that the two have been seeing each other for a while. This is the start of what ends up being a character trait for Backlash — he’s confident and decisive on the field, but hopeless talking to women outside combat situations. It seems to be a set up to Slayton getting on one knee, but his awkwardness leads LaSalle to think he wants some distance. Fuji interrupts and asks if he may join them for a drink. Diane excuses herself and heads back to her quarters, where she encounters Riggs and Stanton. As the weird aliens leave their borrowed bodies, we find out that they’re after the Warguard — they need LaSalle to open the vault. Cue a fight seen, in which the Major handles herself quite admirably. She thinks to herself (and explains to the readers) that she’s thankful that she did do training sessions with Slayton. She manages to get to the alarm but is cornered. I like this, as it shows us LaSalle is a bit of a badass herself, not just a fainting love interest. Unfortunately, the art really lets down this sequence. LaSalle’s proportions are awful, with her entire upper body taking up less space than one thigh. Also, her hair; I don’t know what they were drinking when they came up with that style, but I think it’s safe to assume it can’t be bought legally.
The team comes running to the sound of the alarm whilst Weatherman informs them that four people are leaving the scene, with a dead body left behind. The body belongs to Stanton. Weatherman discovers that the four leaving are the three other crew and Major LaSalle, and that they’re entering the Cryo-labs using LaSalle’s pass. Battalion splits the group into two teams, with Backlash in charge of the second (Diva, Cannon and Winter). At the Cryo-station, S’yrn, in LaSalle’s body, has opened one of the Warguard freezers. They wait for their “new, invincible” host bodies. The three come out of the chamber and we hear a scream. Backlash pushes on, wanting to save Diane. “Save me, lover?” is his reply, as S’yrn enters with Talos, Hexon and Nychus. Cue big trouble.
It is a little unclear at this point whether or not the Warguard are possessed, though they should be. In addition, it appears that joining the Warguard includes signing an agreement to wear a gigantic facemask at all times. Seriously, those things are huge. It’s also worth noting that, although it isn’t mentioned here, these three are not the entirety of the Warguard. Many more still remain on ice.
Written by: Brandon Choi, Jim Lee, Sean Ruffner
Drawn by: Brett Booth
Heroes – Stormwatch 1 (Battalion, Fuji, Cannon, Winter, Diva), Backlash, Weatherman 1, Synergy
Villains – Daemonites (S’yrn, L’ndru, D’kar, T’pau), Warguard (Talos, Nychus, Hexon)
Others – Skywatch Hanger Team (unnamed), Major LaSalle, Dr. Cohen
This issue begins with a fight. Unfortunately, Cannon is involved, so the fight doesn’t go well for Backlash’s team. Hexon batters Cannon, whilst Diva and Nychus go at it. Winter saves Cannon by blasting the six-armed wonder (who seems to use his three arms on each side as one, at least as far as attacking goes — you’d think there would be more creative uses for that set up). Meanwhile, Diva gets her ass handed to her. Backlash and Talos (or L’ndru, as it turns out) are busy trying to strangle each other, with our Slayton on the receiving end until Battalion and Fuji turn up. Talos/L’ndru starts soliloquising as he leaps at Fuji, saying he will feast on his heart and other “I’m a crazy bad-guy”-type phrases. Fuji asks him to hold that thought, and floors him with one punch. This actually reminds me of an issue of Deadpool, where the protagonist asks if Wolverine’s mutant power is to make long speeches whilst leaping at his opponent. Hey, it just fit.
Backlash confronts LaSalle/S’yrn, who promptly shoots out one of the viewports, which sucks Backlash, Nychus and Hexon out of the gap. Fuji rips up a large chunk of floor to seal the hole. Battalion and Winter take out Talos (it has to be said, for all the Warguard were hyped up, they’ve been pretty easily beaten). Meanwhile, Backlash is holding up in space, finding his psi-whip is just too short to grab on to anything. LaSalle, meanwhile, has made it to the hanger, where she “commandeers” a stealth ship. She flies out and, caught in a tractor beam, starts launching missiles at Skywatch, causing some significant damage. Weatherman launches the Stormwatch team in a shuttlecraft to stop her. Winter makes a blooper during this section that casts serious doubts on his suitability as a protector of the Earth. He comments on how much trouble just four of the Warguard caused, even though there were only three. Winter is obviously a man who drinks on the job. Either that or he mistook LaSalle’s crazy hair for one of the Warguard’s trademark door-sized masks.
LaSalle/S’yrn is obviously not known for its intelligence, and has flown close to where Backlash was hanging around. Our Slayton is now on board and tries to get Diane to respond instead of S’yrn. LaSalle is more intent on striking a rather silly pose (seriously, what’s up with Booth’s insistence on drawing LaSalle in stupid poses?) and firing the last of the missiles at Skywatch, which will presumably destroy the station. Backlash flicks his whip around her wrist, and warns her not to. The Daemonite goes ahead anyway, and Slayton releases his full psychic feedback down the whip, forcing S’yrn out of LaSalle’s body. S’yrn dishes out a bit of a beating and Backlash blacks out.
Cut to the medical bay as Slayton wakes up. He asks what happened and is told that the Warguard burned up on entry to the Earth’s atmosphere. Only he and Major LaSalle were found aboard the ship. Backlash gets out of bed and runs to LaSalle’s bedside. She’s in a coma, as it appears the forced disconnection damaged her psyche quite badly. The story ends with Slayton weeping at the side of her bed. There’s no sound effect, but if there was, it would be the rhythmic ‘beep’ of the life support systems.
All in all, a viable story arc. Backlash as a character was properly introduced and fleshed out, ready for his departure to his own title in an issue or two’s time. Malcolm now has a superhero name and spandex outfit and looks to become a valued member of the team once he finishes training. Unlike Cannon. The questions raised by issue #0 also give us something to look forward to in the future.