Two columns in one week? Yes, it’s true. Thanks, technical hiccups! Enough preamble. I’m excited and raring to go, so let’s just get into it.
I’m re-reading a lot of my old comic books as part of my de-cluttering project at my apartment. (Kudos to Danica for being a good influence on me; it only took five years to figure this stuff out.) Sometimes I read stories that I have no idea why I kept after reading them the first time; sometimes I read books that I really enjoy a second time through but realize that they’d be better off in someone else’s collection. Shockingly often I read a book that I like so much that I know I’m going to re-read it at least two more times, and back it goes on the shelf. The best ones, though are the ones that I find I still like, but the re-read unearths aspects of the work that I’d never noticed before.
The most recent example of that is Warren Ellis’ run on StormWatch from 1996 to 1998. In 25 issues, Ellis took an Image superhero property, gutted it, revamped it, gutted it again, and turned it into fertilizer for some of his most interesting and influential comic book works. It’s hard to talk about StormWatch without talking about how it set the stage for The Authority and Planetary, two series that get a lot of acclaim and changed the superhero comic book landscape forever, sometimes for the better, sometimes not (I’m looking at you, Ultimates). In these discussions, StormWatch is often looked at as a footnote, which is unfair. It’s not as groundbreaking as its progeny, but it’s where Ellis developed and refined his ideas about the inherent contradictions in the average comic book reader’s impressions of superheroes, and the difficulty in trying to make a finer world while being above it.