Anyone who’s ever played Risk knows that ruling the world is almost like a game. There’s a strategy to it, there are moves and counter-moves, and there’s the crucial importance of being one step ahead of your opponent.
The world of Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt’s The Wild Storm, which continued this week with issue #2, seems to nod to this while also acknowledging something that many of us tabletop gamers don’t always like to admit—there can be a real tedium to strategy games.
This is not to say that The Wild Storm #2 is boring. Far from it. In fact, it’s showing this tedium in its grey-walled glory that has made this reimagining of the WildStorm universe so much fun. For a series populated with super-powered individuals and high-tech mercenaries, there hasn’t been a lot of action so far in The Wild Storm, allowing the interpersonal tension and Machiavellian strategizing taking place within the three rival groups struggling for control of the world to take center stage, and man, is it fascinating.
To recap, in the last issue, Angela Spica, a low-level engineer working for one of the three groups—International Operations, or IO, as they’re usually called—used a cutting edge transdermal power suit that no one knew she had in order to thwart an assassination attempt made by IO on the president of one of the other groups, HALO’s Jacob Marlowe. In the process, she was seen by a bunch of onlookers and caught on film, both seriously disrupting the covert struggle between the three groups and risking dragging the whole thing into the public’s eye. So now everyone’s looking for Angela, either to rescue her, kill her or just ask her what the hell is going on.
In other comics, this issue would have been heavy on the action as IO, Halo and the third organization, Skywatch, all closed in Angela. However, Ellis understands that when you’re dealing with groups this size, even top secret ones, making sure the appropriate people sign off on each move and other elements of bureaucracy can take a lot of time. We don’t see the groups close in on the Engineer—we see them discuss the risks and rewards of doing so, and then make a decision on whether it’s something they should be doing. In the process, we learn far more about who these characters are and what kind of world they operate in than we would otherwise. And it’s such a familiar world that the whole thing feels absolutely believable.
I loved the empty, monotonous layout of Division’s office and Trelane’s calm, casual style of management. I got a kick out of details like Miles Craven sitting with his feet up on the IO conference table or Lucy Blaze pretending not to look as the director of Skywatch leaves her boss’s office. I particularly liked the banter between Cole Cash—better known to most WildStorm and DC fans as Grifter—and his teammates Kenesha and Adrianna. It’s details like these that set the characters in this buttoned down world of technology, espionage and control apart from each other, despite the introduction of so many characters in just two issues.
Ellis and Davis-Hunt are also slowly ratcheting up the tension. We now know that IO, HALO and Skywatch are on a collision course, and it’s going to be brutal. Cash compares it to planning stunts for film and TV: “If you don’t plan a stunt properly, someone gets their neck broken.” Considering how little anyone’s had time to plan, someone’s almost certainly going to get their neck broken. Probably a few dozen people.
In other words, in two issues, we’ve yet to see any of these players make their big move. Instead, what we’ve witnessed is them getting all their pieces in place. After what’s probably round after round of defensive moves in this game of world domination, each of them is set to go on the attack, and it’s entirely unclear who’s going to come out on top. Heck, we’re not even sure if there are only three players—there are still a bunch of mysteries that could lead to other forces within this world. (I mean, if any of you can explain what was going on in those Voodoo panels in this issue, please go right ahead.) If you play or even watch enough strategy games, it becomes easy to get a sense when something big is about to happen. In the game that is The Wild Storm, we’re one or two moves away from something major. And in this game, the stakes couldn’t be higher.