Paul Jenkins and Ignaco Calero have a slightly thankless task when it comes to “Stormwatch” #7-8. As a two-issue fill-in creative team, they’re on board to bridge the gap between Paul Cornell and Peter Milligan while giving regular artist Miguel Sepulveda a slight break. Unfortunately, at times it feels like the biggest accomplishment of “Stormwatch” #7 is to make you miss Cornell and Sepulveda.
The basic thrust behind this two-issue story with other-dimensional aliens invading Earth to steal our gravity sounds wonderfully bonkers and exciting. However, the execution feels more like a huge amount of technobabble. When the conflict hits, characters force themselves in and out of the situation by having Jenny Quantum do something which seems to confirm, yet again, that no one has the slightest idea what to do with Jenny Quantum in terms of a power set. It’s just a series of physics phrases strung together to look clever, but having her pull out a magic horn and blow it would probably prove to be more exciting. In some ways, magic appears to be as good a reasoning as any. Similar to the later uses of the Scarlet Witch, Jenny Quantum’s powers seem to be defined as “whatever the writer needs this month.”
Jenkins does come up with one strong scene, where we see Jack Hawksmoor talking to the city of Chernobyl. It’s a clever moment both in the way Jenkins stages it as well as the conversation itself. I wish we’d had a lot more of this sort of thing in “Stormwatch” #7. Scenes like those are what could set “Stormwatch” apart from most other generic superhero titles, but they’re few and far between this month.
The bigger problem is Calero’s highly erratic art. The basic panel layouts aren’t very strong; look at the bottom of page 3, where the last row of panels has Jenny Quantum seeing Angie walk by, decide to run after her and then catch up with her. Calero switches the viewpoint from one end of the room to the other and then back again. In doing so, he barely rotates Jenny at all. The end result is a series of panels where at a glance we have the Engineer suddenly replaced with Martian Manhunter, then swapped back. A page later, both Apollo and the Engineer’s eyes are suddenly drawn like they’re blind with their faces looking like mannequins. They’re so expressionless, at first I found myself scouring the page and dialogue to figure out if this was some sort of attack I had missed. Likewise, when Midnighter is at the console while Apollo opens up an interdimensional door, Midnighter is suddenly a strange mixture of bug-eyed and distended; it’s such a sudden shift in visuals, it throws you right out of the comic. It’s frustrating because some pages look quite nice, but then you go to the next and suddenly Apollo has so many veins popping out of his neck and arms, he looks like the Scarecrow with loose blades of straw poking out.
“Stormwatch” #7 sounded good on solicitation, but the end product is quite disappointing. I wanted to like this comic, but I’m now content to just wait until Sepulveda returns in May with the arrival of Milligan. This issue is, ultimately, a mess.