This completes (almost) Warren Ellis' run on Stormwatch and it's very interesting in that it is bookended by slightly weaker art than you get in the middle. The book starts with Change or Die. This was Warren's first big widescreen superhero story, complete with a mixture of golden age superhero and pulp adventurer analogues come back to save the world but also gone a little bit mad. It saw out the end of the initial volume of Stormwatch, and was Warren's chance to sweep out the last vestiges of what he'd inherited on the book. He then restarted the title. Change or Die is by Tom Raney. I love Tom, his art is slightly unkempt which I find charming, but there's no doubt that it feels a bit inconsistent at times. The first few issues of the second volume of Stormwatch is by Oscar Giminez. It's more Stormwatch Black, two of whom were Warren's babies and all of whom would be part of the Authority, in a politically intriguing little story. Oscar is far more consistent and produces a nice, doughy art that edges towards being a Jim Lee/Kevin Maguire crossbreed. The story is good but it's the A Finer World arc where things kick off. In comes Bryan Hitch, transitioning out of his Alan Davis phase and into the era when he becomes his own man and a big thing. In comes Midnighter and Apollo, Warren's Batman and Superman for the end of the 20th C, and the bell starts to toll for Stormwatch as a concept. What follows is an interesting moral conundrum story where a parallel universe version of Stormwatch led by Jack Hawksmoor faces alien first contact. Should our Stormwatch help another world? Politics intervene again. The art is a mixture of Hitch and Michael Ryan. The two have massively contrasting styles, not helped by the differences in the inking. I like Ryan again, but his line work is too tight and too obviously a drawing to sit alongside the pseudo-naturalism of Hitch. It works better when they aren't rubbing against each other. Then comes the end in a highly unexplained fashion in this volume. Previous collections have included WildC.A.T.s/Aliens, which shows the Stormwatch team encountering the xenomorphs from the Alien series, but DC seem to have decided to not secure the rights to republish, living a gap where the explanation of how Stormwatch ends is meant to be. We see the aftermath with very little mention of details. What then of Warren's scripts? Snarky and zingy as ever, laced with technobabble, he imbues the characters with character, develops some nice relationships and a sense of what life is like at Skywatch, before ending it violently with some body horror down the way. Much of what is done here shaped the way comics would portray superheroes from that point on and it's a surprise to me that the importance of these books are not trumpeted more. After this? Authority.
It's cool, but the final is a bit in a hurry. Probably because it does not contain the WildCATS miniseries that describes what happens between issues 11 and 12. It would be great to have also some comments from Ellis. Anyway, it's highly recommended!
Ellis's whole Stormwatch run is great fun, massive stories with an interesting political, world-wide scope that you don't get from many super-human comics. HOWEVER, this collected volume leads right up to the end of the Stormwatch comics that it collects but doesn't contain the cross-over story that explains what happens to the team at the end. The final issue collected here describes reactions to an event that readers of the book will be completely clueless about because it happened in a different comic and isn't even hinted at in this collection.