Thursday, August 11th, 2011
By David Hyde
When we first released the covers for DC Comics-The New 52, we held off on unveiling the STORMWATCH #1 cover to maintain the mystery of who was on the Stormwatch team.
Now, take an exclusive first look at Chris Burnham’s cover for STORMWATCH #1. The issue will be available in stores and digitally on September 7th.
I think the burning question on all our minds, and this relates to the whole of the New 52, is "Why?" Also, often, "what were they thinking?"
You see, I was intrigued by the prospect of the Martian Manhunter joining Stormwatch, a United Nations sanctioned super team that was something like a serious version of the JLI. Especially once it was revealed that the Manhunter-less Justice League would flash backwards five years to the new origin of the team, it would have been neat for Stormwatch to follow suit. J'Onn working alongside Winter and Fahrenheit and Fuji and the rest, with maybe a Global Guardian or two thrown in for flavor. Then you could flash forward to the new status quo with J'Onn recruiting Wildstorm heavy hitters Apollo and Midnighter to the team. We already knew Jack Hawksmoor was team leader, and since all three started out in Stormwatch before forming the Authority, you already had a ready made spin-off in the works. If the Martian Manhunter is more of a by-the-book, peaceful heroic type against the fascist socialism of the other leads, we would be bound to see a schism into two teams eventually. It makes sense to launch Stormwatch with Wildstorm's most popular characters, then evolve from there. Plus, it made for a very solid cover that would naturally appeal to fans of guys like Bryan Hitch and Frank Quitely.
As rendered, Midnighter's horrible new costume was downright tolerable, even with that ridiculous spike on his chin. Now look at the top image. It isn't terrible, and as third issue covers go, it's kind of cute. However, it sucks as a debut cover, especially following up on the solicited image. If I ordered one of those cover portfolio packages DC was soliciting, I would be pissed. Either because the advertised art was excluded, or because it was included but not the actual comic cover art, you're screwed one way or the other. Further, the first two covers as solicited match the grim tone of the interior art by Miguel Sepulveda and Al Barrionuevo, neither of whose names I will spell check by Google at my peril. The "revealed" cover sharply contrasts with not only the interiors and marketing to date, but also is garish in a way sure to display their base of Authority fans. Those guys like an air of sophistication, whereas this looks like a Marvel seriocomic mini-series starring former members of the Defenders or Champions thrown together with irony.
By the way, I don't believe I've mentioned this, but Wildstorm fans are kind of ticked off about this merger. Midnighter and Apollo were a married couple helping to raise Jenny Quantum, and now they're just meeting with the prospect of Midnighter being closeted being dangled. Wildstorm continuity is totally getting boned here, which is not endearing anyone.
Setting aside the fanboy complaints and the aesthetic dissonance this new cover represents, another excellent question is what exactly DC was trying to hide in not revealing this image. When Green Lantern: The New Guardians #1 was solicited, they tried (in vain) not to tip off the fact that Kyle Rayner was leading a group of already familiar power ring wielders. We still didn't know that Hal Boredon was going to once again lose his ring to Sinetro (or basically any opposition besides Guy Gardner,) and maybe somebody cares that the Star Sapphire rep appears to be Fatality instead of Carol Ferris. Point being, there was a reason to conceal the art and membership. With Stormwatch, why? We knew Apollo, Midnighter, Martian Manhunter, and Jack Hawksmoor was on the team straight out of the gate. The cover confirms the Engineer, Jenny Quantum, and a new character. So? We knew this from interviews and the cover to #2, which expands the membership anyway. The second cover image was also a far better debut prospect, I might add.
What do we gain from the switch in covers? Retailer and reader animosity at the deception? Guaranteed returnability at the distributor level? A less aesthetically appealing cover that turns away potential readers through art less indicative of the actual content? The revelation of a goofier looking team than promised, and a better look at J'Onn J'Onzz's increasingly worse costume? Is this just artistic license, or is DC screwing with the shape of J'Onn's head again, and what is with the endoskeletal forearm gauntlets? Dude is tucking his harem pants into his boots, which I guess kind of goes with the dhoti, but GTFO with that whole angle. Somehow, cavalier boots and trunks are seeming less hokey, y'know?
All I know is that I've been sold a bill of goods, which I have paid for in advance and spoken well of in a public forum. I'd prefer DC make this a variant, but the same art style looks to be on the third cover. It's a better piece, and I have nothing against artist Chris Burnham in general. I'm just going to be really unhappy if I have two issues of this story in a very distinctive, moody style, only to go straight super-hero with the third. It will be yet another indication that DC has made massive, controversial changes without the forethought to do the job right.