Stormwatch, Volume 2: Enemies of Earth Review – Peter Milligan
If these New 52 Volume 2s are anything to go by, DC should be called Enemies of Good Comics as...
If these New 52 Volume 2s are anything to go by, DC should be called Enemies of Good Comics as Stormwatch, Volume 2: Enemies of Earth, sees the series that started off so promisingly completely drop the ball in just their second outing!
Stormwatch are basically The Authority, a superhero team from the ‘00s featuring Superman/Batman facsimiles Apollo and Midnighter (who’re also gay lovers), Angie the Engineer who’s swapped out her blood for liquid technology enabling her to manifest any machine she can imagine, Jack Hawksmoor who can talk to and control cities, and Jenny Quantum a 12 year old who is the literal manifestation of the zeitgeist or spirit of the age. Also included for some reason is J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter.
The writer of the mediocre pun-y Batman New 52 title “The Dark Knight: Knight Terrors”, Paul Jenkins, writes the first two issues of the book in what might be ironically titled given this review – “Supercritical”. This story is the worst part of the book because of the pseudo-scientific dialogue Jenkins has loaded the issues with. The headaches begin on page 3 when J’onn says “the protonic mass is p+ at 1.673 x 20-27 and merely predicts the end result. G.U.T. tells us a branon must exist in higher dimensional space”. Got that? Me neither. (To be fair this particular dialogue is taken from a science lesson J’onn is giving Jenny but this kind of speech percolates throughout this book).
Also included are references to anti-leptons, Compton scatter fields, pradesh gravitons, Golbach’s Conjecture, and 5-space which I can’t tell are real things or made up to make it seem like J’onn and Jenny are hyper intelligent. All I know is reading those things means absolutely nothing to me.
But what’s the story of Supercritical? An electric tentacle monster in Chernobyl somehow relates to the mash-the-keyboard-with-your-head named Chrszy-rr who’re the baddies mining our dimension for gravity – really. It involves Midnighter travelling to their dimension to shoot some kind of energy thing into something else… this “story” is as messy as the aliens’ name.
It ends with this nose-bleed-inducing exchange between J’onn and Angie:
J’onn: Time exists at all points in 5-space. Now that the Chrysz-rr know we are here, they need only come back in our distant past and begin again.
Angie: Wouldn’t that create a temporal paradox?
J’onn: Only in this dimension.
Angie: Is there anything we can do to stop it?
“Supercritical” is the kind of storyline that might excite someone who’s really into abstract sci-fi stories but for most people, it is utterly inscrutable and painful to read. It is the worst thing I’ve read in the New 52 so far – and I’ve read Blackhawks!
Thankfully Paul Jenkins was ejected from Stormwatch after his dreadful 2 issues and Peter Milligan was brought in. It’s a slightly better fit as the stories Milligan writes are more comprehensible and interesting but he is the writer of Red Lanterns and Justice League Dark, both of which are as mediocre as Jenkins’ “Dark Knight” series.
Instead of establishing a large story arc, Milligan chooses instead to write done-in-one issues so there isn’t a good flow to the rest of the book, no overarching story to follow. The villains in these stories are kind of obvious but also slightly abstract – a metahuman modelled after Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, some kind of possessed human/alien hybrid, a shadow group who’ve been around for millennia dead set on destroying Stormwatch. They’re obvious in that they’re monstrous and powerful shooting colourful energy beams, etc. but also have the decency to be defeated by Stormwatch before the end of the issue only for the team to do it all over again in the next issue, etc. etc. ad infinitum. It’s so tedious to read when there are no stakes involved.
Milligan brings in the Red Lanterns for a crossover which was may be the best issue in this book which is shocking as it’s pretty dumb. Skallox, the goat(ish)-headed Red Lantern crashes into Devon, England for some reason (probably explained in the Red Lanterns series?) and Apollo and Midnighter beat him up. Taking him back to their ship, the badly named Eye of the Storm (what was wrong with the Carrier?), Atrocitus, the mad leader of the Red Lanterns, shows up with his cat, Dex Starr, having been drawn by Skallox’s ring. Fighting ensues with Midnighter punching the cat and, like all crossover fights, it ends abruptly with no real winner. The dust settles, the pointlessness of the crossover is further underlined by the fact that nothing has changed, and the book carries on.
As bad as Jenkins’ “Supercritical” storyline was, the worst issue in the book is definitely the final one where J’onn J’onzz, for no reason, decides to Men-in-Black everyone, wiping their memories of his time in Stormwatch, effectively retconning himself out of the comic! Well there is a reason – he’s now part of the newly re-launched Justice League of America – but in terms of this series, there’s no discernible reason and feels horribly contrived. The issue’s sloppy plotting and bad writing left a bitter taste in this reader’s mouth and was the perfect terrible ending to a badly put together second volume in this series.
The excellent Paul Cornell wrote the first Stormwatch book, as well as the superb Demon Knights, but for whatever reason left this title after the first volume. His absence is keenly felt as Paul Jenkins and Peter Milligan combined don’t match Cornell’s writing ability at all and the unevenness of the writing and general plotting of the series makes “Enemies of Earth” an absolute disaster of a comic.