There’s a reason why presidents and prime ministers are often seen and photographed interacting with the public. If you want to lead the public, you need to understand it. You have to have your finger on their pulse and realize what’s important to them and what will and won’t go over well. Power can be insular, and staying within your own private bubble for so long can leave you out of touch and completely uninformed as to how to lead. And even worse, it can leave you open to threats from the most unexpected of places.
I was reminded of this when reading issue #4 of Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt’s The Wild Storm, which came out last week. While Angela Spica’s suit is formidable, it’s not so powerful that it should be able to thwart and evade the three powerful organizations at the heart of the series. Angie’s succeeded at that because she managed to take the three of them entirely by surprise. She seemingly came out of nowhere, despite the fact that she literally walked right up to Miles Craven and said she was onto something that would “change the game” minutes before she first launched her suit.
Admittedly, she did come off a bit crazy in that moment. But it’s clear if you pay attention to how Miles dismisses her that Miles is aware of who Angie is. He just never paid all that much attention to her. If he had, he likely would have discovered what she was up to much sooner.
All this suggests that IO’s leadership isn’t all that in touch with its employees, which also suggests that it probably doesn’t have its pulse on the everyday people outside its doors. (Considering they were also caught off-guard by HALO’s wild CAT, one has to wonder exactly WHAT they’re paying attention to.) Of course, IO’s hardly the only group that’s guilty of this. While we haven’t seen much of the inner workings of HALO, what we have seen suggests that Jacob Marlowe doesn’t get out into the world much either. Even his employees refer to him as eccentric, and while he’s acted benevolent towards Angie, you can’t help but think there’s something darker hidden beneath that wizened beard of his.
Give HALO credit for one thing at least—they understand humanity’s desire for innovative and stylish new tech. It’s by exploiting this desire that they’ve become a world-shaping organization, but their understanding of people may stop there. While Marlowe seems to want to help Angie, his way of doing it was to send in a highly armed Covert Action Team to intercept her. True, part of the reason he did that was to protect her, and the CAT’s skills did prove to be needed. Still, I can’t help but wonder if a better strategy might have been to send someone unarmed and sympathetic to go in and have a conversation with her. Maybe then she wouldn’t currently be in the wind. Adri, who can seemingly survive shrapnel to the head, seems to think a different approach would have been better, at any rate.
In four issues of The Wild Storm, we’ve only seen a handful of pages set in the outside world, and many of them concern characters who aren’t yet part of the core narrative. Marlowe, Craven, Trelane…they seem pretty locked away behind desks, monitors and money. There’s far too much space between them and the people they seek to rule.
Of course, they seem downright cozy with humanity compared to Henry Bendix, the Director of Skywatch. We got our first glimpse of Bendix in issue #2, but Ellis pulls back the veil on this formidable figure and the mysterious organization he runs considerably more in the latest chapter. It’s clear that Bendix doesn’t much care for the people Skywatch looks to rule. He obviously doesn’t see them as his equals, something that’s made clear in the way he berates most of the people who work under him and makes jokes about enslaving the people of Earth. But that kind of attitude is extremely dangerous. While HALO and IO may be out of touch, Skywatch and Bendix are entirely removed, as we see in a spectacular sequence where Davis-Hunt draws us back to reveal that Bendix lives on a gigantic space station hovering threateningly above Earth. While it may seem a position of superiority, and likely is viewed as that by Bendix, what it also does is keep you blind from things happening beneath your feet. Combine that with Bendix’s attitude towards people and you can practically hear the cracks forming around his high-tech empire.
What does all of this mean? Time will tell as the story continues, but IO, HALO and Skywatch would all do well to stop spending all of their time monitoring each other and start paying attention to what’s happening outside their doors—and maybe even lower down within their organizations. After all, it’s not organizations that bring down leaders. It’s people.