The Programme #1 Review

When artist C.P. Smith left Wildstorm a few years back, I remembered being surprised to see Marvel actually sign him to an exclusive agreement, as there was nothing in his Stormwatch artwork for Wildstorm that impressed me all that much. Since then, Smith slowly turned into one of the finest artists Marvel had in their employ, and he now makes his triumphant return to Wildstorm, alongside writer Peter Milligan, for this trippy series about Cold War super beings in the present day.

The basic hook of the series is the concept that, seeing as how the United States and the Soviet Union built up large nuclear arsenals during the Cold War to theoretically combat each other if it ever came to that point, what if both sides also built up an arsenal of super-powered beings?

And hey, what if one of those beings awoke in modern day Afghanistan (called Talibstan in the book) and destroyed a bunch of U.S. soldiers? What the heck would happen next?

It's quite an interesting premise, and one we will see develop as the series goes on, but is a fascinating premise enough to make this issue a good one? I would say no, but luckily, Milligan gives us a few other interesting characters to hold our interest.

The main ones being the President's adviser on Talbistan, who is new to the job (her direct predecessor has just been indicted) and the American who may be America's super-powered answer to the fellow who suddenly awoke in the middle of the Middle Eastern desert.

Milligan's story is impressive, but Smith's artwork is staggering. Smith here reminds me a bit of J.H. Williams, from around the point in Williams' career where he was beginning Promethea - wonderfully emotive characters living in fully realized, detailed and stylized environments that perfectly capture the mood of the story being told.

His storytelling skills are strong as well, as he does not let an ample amount of shadows muddle the story at all (Colorist Jonny Rench deserves credit here as well, of course).

The end result is a strong opening arc to an interesting look back at the kind of lunacy the Cold War brought to both the United States and the Soviet Union in terms of weapon development. Once you throw in strong characters and amazing artwork, and you have yourself a winning comic book.

Definitely Recommended.

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