Stormwatch Volume 1: The Dark Side

Collecting Stormwatch #1-6

Writer: Paul Cornell

Artist: Miguel Sepulveda

DC Comics, $14.99, color, 144 pages

Is this supposed to be a joke?

What made the original Stormwatch fascinating -- and dangerous -- was "superheroes" acting as a genuine global police force. In the original run, Stormwatch evolved into The Authority, where the most powerful people on the planet executed dictators, policed corporations, punished brutal armies/police forces and let powerful countries like the U.S. know exactly how limited their power really was. It was Justice League with the gloves off, and it was both subversive and seductive.

All that's gone here. In The New 52, Stormwatch is an organization that has been guarding against alien invasions for centuries, and has nothing to do with, you know, Earth. In other words, what made the original Stormwatch/Authority so transgressive -- and therefore interesting -- has been completely neutered.

And yet, these guys are still as arrogant as The Authority -- who at least had a reason to feel that way (because, you know, they could administer a bare-bum spanking to the president if they wanted to). These guys strut around like peacocks with nothing to support it.

For one thing, they are clearly not very good at their job. Just ask the Kryptonians, Martians, Daemonites, Thanagarians, Parademons, Green Lanterns, Red Lanterns, Black Lanterns, Star Sapphires, Sinestro Corpsmen and God knows what else that are running around on Earth in The New 52.

But also because this very collection demonstrates this team to be the most incompetent in the DC Universe:

  • For issue after issue, they argue about who should be the leader, with several members acting like children in pursuit of the job.
  • Every character they invite to the team turns them down.
  • The only time they succeed at fighting off an alien invasion is when one of their own members steals the alien's power so he can conquer Earth himself.
  • They answer to unknown masters, and don't even ask any questions about that.
  • One of their own is killed before their eyes by one of these unknown masters, and not one of them lifts a finger to stop it. Nor do they really seem very concerned about it.
  • Did I mention that one of their own betrays them? And kidnaps one of the other members to boot. And also steals something really valuable. And nobody has any idea how to fix this. Or, again, seems much concerned about it.
  • Yes, we know Midnighter and Apollo are gay. But why do they act like smirky children about it? Are they 12 years old, or does Cornell think we are?
  • These guys sneer at the Justice League a lot. But who was it that turned back Darkseid's invasion?

Going back through the book for this review, I actually laughed out loud when I ran across the page where Martian Manhunter says, "I am known in some quarters as a hero. I can wear that shape. But when I need to be a warrior, I do that with Stormwatch!"

Substitute "joke" for "warrior," and then the assertion fits its context. After all, Stormwatch doesn't whip anybody anywhere in this book. They just seem to lose a lot while arguing among themselves.

Honestly, if DC wanted to do a parody of a Marvel-style superhero book, they couldn't have done a better job. It's almost as if they wanted to castrate the book that under other ownership had routinely exposed the flaws in DC's own characters and concepts. Gee, they wouldn't do that, would they?

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