Ever since Peter Milligan and Will Conrad took over “Stormwatch,” I’ve felt the series has tried to find its own voice. It’s a little funny then, that it’s only when “Stormwatch” starts tying up a loose end left from Paul Cornell’s run on the title that I think the book starts to finally do just that.
It would have been easy for Milligan to ignore the on-the-run ex-member Henry Tanner (and the kidnapped Projectionist) from those original six issues, but instead it’s been a slow burn in the background as soon as Milligan took over the title. Now, with Tanner having disguised himself as one of the Shadow Lords that controls Stormwatch, that plot is firmly on the front burner as his attempted takeover enters its next phase.
What’s nice about this plot is that it takes the typical storyline — infiltrator turns the team against its most powerful member who then has to go on the run — and accelerates it to a story that ends up much more palatable as a result. Three issues of the Midnighter being set up as a bad guy would have been intolerable, but boiled down to just one, it’s actually not a bad read.
More importantly, as soon as that particular hurdle is ditched, “Stormwatch” #16 starts zooming off in a direction that you might not have seen coming. It’s what makes this storyline work; the ever-shifting allegiances and betrayals keeps you hopping, and you start to get the impression that anything and everything can happen here. For a book that feels curiously isolated from the rest of the DC Universe (despite existing smack in the center of it all), it’s the internal machinations of “Stormwatch” that keeps things interesting.
There are still some slight issues. Milligan still doesn’t seem to have any more idea of what Jenny Quantum’s powers are than anyone else has, so for now they’re a sort of catch-all, whatever-the-plot-requires contrivance. (In many ways, she’s the second coming of the Scarlet Witch over at Marvel.) For a book that’s supposed to be the secret eyes and ears of the entire line, that previously mentioned isolation doesn’t quite vibe with the basic purported thrust of the title.
Conrad’s pencils are fine; his characters look a little lean but are drawn consistently and reasonably. The panel flow is good, and I feel like he understands how to put a page together. There’s nothing particularly flashy about Conrad’s pencils, but they don’t need to be; they get the job done in an unobtrusive way. And in some ways, that sums up “Stormwatch” #16. It’s not going for an in-your-face manner, and I think that suits the title much more than the bigger, louder earlier attempts this comic has taken. All in all, a nice, good comic.