So Did Peter Milligan Save Stormwatch?

Every different ‘branch’ of DC’s New 52 Universe has a central book which acts as the cornerstone to everything else. Scott Snyder’s Batman dictates Gotham for the rest of the Batman books, Justice League Dark oversees The Dark section, and Stormwatch was meant to be the flagship title for The Edge.
The only problem was that the book started off on the wrong foot, and swiftly fell apart under a mixture of reader apathy and bland storylines. The Edge books were meant to be where the various DC imprints finally lined up together and characters like Voodoo, Grifter and Resurrection Man could have a second chance at leaving a mark. Stormwatch would be in charge, slowly rebanding the characters from beloved DC series The Authority and setting them up as an authority whose work would touch in from time to time on problems encountered by The Edge’s solo books. Paul Cornell never fit for that kind of role, and left after only a few issues. Paul Jenkins followed him, and that didn’t work either, because again – Jenkins just isn’t suited for that sort of story.
So DC, in a panic, tore Peter Milligan from his job writing Justice League Dark, gave that title to Jeff Lemire, and told Milligan to please make Stormwatch a worthwhile book. While all the other flagships were doing well, either critically or commercially, Stormwatch wasn’t selling, and if it collapsed it would take the rest of The Edge with it. This week saw Milligan step in with issue #9 of the series.
I don’t know too much about The Authority, but as far as I’m aware only a few characters from the series have thus far shown up in Stormwatch. These also happen to be the two most interesting characters, and the ones Milligan focuses on most. Midnighter and Apollo are two fairly standard ‘dark and gritty’ heroes, who this issue fight one of Milligan’s pet Red Lanterns in a fight which is designed to get new readers up to speed with a few of the central concepts of the series. The first is that Stormwatch is an untrustworthy organisation, which has existed for centuries of deliberately vague, misreported dark activity. Another is that Midnighter is struggling to accept his role as ‘team killer’, and is also – if this book is going to sit alongside the old Authority continuity – going to date Apollo. If he isn’t gay in this book, then the LGBT fanbase will be angry, and continuity buffs will be dismayed. So, Milligan has them flirting wildly during the fight scene in this issue, and entertaining it is too.
The other half of the book deals with the unmemorable characters finding an insane guy in Italy causing trouble, and bringing him back to the station for analysis. Apollo and Midnighter do the same once they capture the Red Lanterns, and the two plots intertwine in a rather lovely, simple fashion. The issue doesn’t go into complications and the characterisation isn’t as strong as it was with Justice League Dark. And that’s to be expected, when Milligan is coming into the book new. But he manages to convey a single tone which works for every character, and that helps set up the ongoing mysteries of the book (which, also Milligan seems eager to quickly get over and done with, thankfully) and line up the characters. The artwork, by Miguel Sepulveda, is superb, but special attention has to be given to the sterling work done by colourist Alex Sinclair, which is fantastic. The creative team seem surprisingly stable and coherent already, in fact, with letterer Dave Sharpe keeping up with all the weird stuff Milligan throws at him, and the whole of the team creating a solid, smart world for these characters to inherit.
There’s a little bit of the ‘widescreen’ style of art which made The Authority famous, but also several moments where the pencils rein things back, and keep readers from a big picture. Stormwatch #9 is an interesting book, and a simply enjoyable one, which could well be back on track now, and ready to take its place as the flagship for The Edge. Here’s hoping.
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