Yes, we took a little break, but we’re back with our monthly look at Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt’s THE WILD STORM. A lot has happened since my last column. We learned Adri has been altered by her death and rebirth more than we realized. Michael Cray has teamed up with Christine Trelane and is hunting down Oliver Queen. (If that one has you scratching your head, you clearly haven’t read the first issue of his new series.) Henry Bendix and Skywatch have discovered that Angela’s drysuit was engineered from technology stolen from them and are none too happy about it. That last one is a biggie, and yet, Skywatch has been out of the spotlight these last two issues as we’ve learned more about Jacob Marlowe and his allies.
Turns out, they’re not from around here. Most of them, at any rate.
At the start of this week’s issue #8, we get what Angela Spica refers to as “the easy-reader version” of Jacob’s story. He’s part of an alien collective who journeyed to Earth early in our history and have remained here hidden among us ever since. Both Kenesha and John Colt are also extraterrestrial members of the expedition.
We hear Jacob’s story as Angela hears it, but the diminutive leader of HALO isn’t exactly a trustworthy narrator. A later conversation with Kenesha reveals that he left a lot out, and the real devils in this case seem to be in those details. However, we are treated to several key images of his trip through space, giving Davis-Hunt a chance to wow us with some larger panels (which are used sparingly, but always effectively in The Wild Storm).
The Wild Storm #8 is filled with journeys of one sort or another—in fact, it seems to be a pretty big theme of the issue. It opens with Jacob’s tale, but eventually shifts to a journey of a different sort when another classic WildStorm character is introduced. Shen Li-Min looks to be operating as some sort of metaphysical guru in Amsterdam, offering what seem like chemical-fueled journeys through deeper realms of consciousness.
But is that all they are? We’re introduced to Shen through the recollection of a woman in one of her workshops, and through her eyes we’re taken on one of these journeys. After a clever nod to the wings Shen possesses in the earlier WildStorm comics, we’re taken to a place that looks awfully familiar: the massive, pink space introduced earlier in the series as the Bleed. It’s the same dimension that granted Adri her abilities and that she passes through whenever she used them. Shen’s journey gives us our biggest look yet at this space in a stunning, three-page sequence presented entirely without words. It’s bizarre, surreal and full of mystery, not the least of which is what looks to be a floating cruise ship full of aliens.
Look, I’m not going to claim I understand what the Bleed is or the significance of everything we’re shown in this sequence. But it seems that ultimately Shen Li-Min is using it in much the same way that Adri does. It’s a way of getting to somewhere else. In Shen’s case, her destination is some sort of sacred space where she can “heal” the people who are there with her. We don’t see the journey back, or whether it requires another trip through the Bleed. However, we discover that one member of the class doesn’t wake up when they return—Jenny Sparks.
If the idea of sacred spaces and drug-fueled travels through alien dimensions is hard for you to wrap your head around, I wonder what you made of Shen’s next trip, in which she apparently enters Jenny’s mind through a hole in her head. (That the hole is on her forehead, precisely where the mind’s eye is located in Hinduism, you can make of what you will.)
As Shen travels deeper, she witnesses scenes that seem to be incomplete, peopled with faceless, glowing figures that could almost be ghosts. Are they memory fragments? If they are, Jenny’s far older than we realized. Or is Shen somehow travelling back in time? It’s never fully explained, but if the baby we see at the end of the sequence is Jenny, then one has to wonder what her connection is to the Daemons who seem to be gestating her.
Within one single issue, we witness an expedition through the cosmos, a drug-induced trip through an alternate dimension that we know physically exists, and a literal journey through someone’s mind. Three distinct voyages that seem to bridge the gap from the technical to the metaphysical. In The Wild Storm, IO runs Earth and Skywatch runs space. But if this chapter is any indication, there’s a lot more to our existence than just those two realms. Heck, we didn’t even mention the final sequence, in which Shen Li-Min meets with a trio of seemingly omnipotent beings who refer to themselves as “Doctors.”
It’s clear that even now, there’s still much to be explained. But as a reader being led by Ellis’ masterful pacing and world-building and Davis-Hunt’s intriguing, mind-bending imagery, I’m more than fine with that. It’s clear that, for now at least, strange, unexplained sequences are one of the hallmarks of The Wild Storm, but it’s also clear that the important stuff will be explained when it needs to be. Until then, it looks like we’re all on a journey. May as well enjoy the ride.