Review – Wildstorm 30th Anniversary Special #1: All Hands on Deck

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Wildstorm 30th Anniversary Special #1 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Wildstorm 30th Anniversary Special #1 – Brandon Choi, J. Scott Campbell, Warren Ellis, Christos Gage, Brett Booth, Dan Abnett, Matthew Rosenberg, Greg Pak, Ed Brisson,Meghan Fitzmartin, Joshua Williamson, Writers; Jim Lee, J. Scott Campbell/Scott Williams, Bryan Hitch/Paul Neary, Dustin Nguyen; Brett Booth/Norm Rapmund, Neil Googe, Stefano Landini, Minkyu Jung, Mike Henderson, Jeff Spokes, Will Conrad, Jonboy Meyers, Artists; Alex Sinclair, Peter Steigerwald, Laura Martin, Randy Mayor, Andrew Dalhouse, Carrie Strachan, Rain Beredo, Sunny Gho, Hi-Fi, Romulo Fajardo Jr, Sebastian Cheng, Colorists

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: This is the second major anthology this week, this one having twelve stories paying tribute to the most iconic Wildstorm characters. However, given some of the creators involved, I think the odds are good some of these are either reprints or inventory stories. Let’s see what this tribute to the independent-turned-DC universe looks like.

Credits. Via DC Comics.

First up is Brandon Choi and Jim Lee on a Deathblow story, as the steely assassin is sent on an assassin mission—one with a dark and tragic twist. This is a character who has undergone some major evolutions over the years, and this tale largely takes him back to his “gritty ’90s antihero” roots—which may be the point.

J. Scott Campbell returns to his most famous creations, Gen 13, for a three-page story set in 2017. This seems to be a parody of what the team would look like if they took place in the present day, with Rainmaker being a political activist, Grunge being an overt stoner, and Lynch being a right-wing jerk. Overall, it feels like a funny gag comic that Campbell did on a lark.

Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch return to the Authority for the next story—surprising, to say the least, give Ellis’ recent controversies. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was done before that happened, but this Jenny Sparks-focused story as the Authority takes on a massive plant monster looks amazing. Hitch’s work is as good as it ever was.

The Wildcats are the main Wildstorm franchise right now, so it’s not a surprise that most of them are getting solo stories. First up is Spartan, by Christos Gage and Dustin Nguyen. This doesn’t look like Nguyen’s regular style, being much more glossy and less stylized. As for the story, this is largely just a recap of Spartan’s history as told through a conversation with his old handler Marlowe.

Brett Booth writes and draws a Backlash story, featuring one of the more obscure characters in the Wildstorm stable. Mark Slayton, the half-Kherubim super-spy, goes up against an army of his most iconic villains with the help of his backup team—but there’s a twist to this parade of villains. This story feels a lot like the last one, in that it’s mostly here to remind us of this character and his backstory.

“Better Days” by Dan Abnett and Neil Googe focuses on the Superman archetype Majestic, as the powerful alien hero reflects on his past—and particularly, a fateful meeting with the Wildcats and Authority years ago before a tragedy that left the others’ fate ambiguous. This is the first story in this volume that feels like it’s looking forward rather than backward, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Abnett follow up on it.

Matt Rosenberg, the writer of the new Wildcats title, has two stories in this volume—the first being a Grifter tale with Stefano Landini on art. Set in present continuity a year back, it focuses on Grifter battling an army of ninjas to protect a scientists—only for the entire thing to be an elaborate feint. It’s a clever take on how Grifter operates as an assassin, and it fits neatly into the character’s presence.

Greg Pak and Minkyu Jung take on one of the most intriguing characters in Wildstorm—Jack Hawksmoor. The King of Cities encounters a young man with similar powers—who seems to be using them for theft and scheming instead of protection. This is a setup for the new character, City Boy, as he will apparently play a key role in Lazarus Planet, and it’s an intriguing start in only a few pages.

War of the cities. Via DC Comics.

“Building a Better Bomb” by Ed Brisson and Mike Henderson teams up Director Bones and Winter in the aftermath of the “Death” of the Justice League, as they put together a new team of assassins, featuring Wildstorm heroes, DC heroes and antiheroes including Ravager and Peacekeeper-01, and some originals, it’s a fast-paced and bloody adventure that will likely be followed up on in Brisson’s DC work.

Oddly, Michael Cray gets a second story this issue—this one by Rosenberg and Jeff Spokes. This one feels like a new take, as Cray is revealed to be part of an elaborate experiment and cycling through multiple identities. This is likely setup for Cray’s role in Wildcats, and it does a good job on that front, but there is way too much information here for less than ten pages.

“Together” by Meghan Fitzmartin and Will Conrad focuses on Apollo and Midnighter and takes place amid the final battle in Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths. As Apollo deals with a twisted pair of supervillains, his trauma on Warworld comes back to haunt him and he starts to lose control. This is a really good look at the kind of mental stress a world like the DCU could leave on its heroes, and emphasizes that Fitzmartin is a very good writer despite some recent hiccups.

Finally, “Forged” by Joshua Williamson and Jonboy Meyers reveals the secret history between Zealot and Angel Breaker, and hints at the two of them putting together an all-new all-female superhero team including Catwoman, Big Barda, Cass Cain, and others—including a possibly-reformed Cheetah. This is a teaser that gets me intrigued for sure, although I wish it was a bit longer.

Honestly, this has some decent stories in it, but so many of them are throwbacks or just clips of what’s to come that it doesn’t really feel like a cohesive anthology.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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