Writer: Christos Gage
Artists: Doug Mahnke, David Baron (colors)
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm
Three issues in and already Stormwatch: PHD has shown more characterization and story development than quite a few other recent "team title" launches. In issue #1, the team formed. In issue #2 they had an honest to gawd mission in which they took down a formidable Post Human bad guy and his whole drug-smuggling-etc. winnable Mafioso operation. With the team up and running, this issue sees the group out on a road trip to, where else, "casino city," Las Vegas, Nevada.
Along with the mission objective of helping to setup and train Las Vegasí own Stormwatch PHD division, this issue has more development on the big bad (i.e. Defile) plotline and more importantly the expected drama ingredient to this PH-Dish.
Having no background knowledge of previous Stormwatch series (along with many other Wildstorm characters, events) I have to take a few things for granted. For example, the Daemonites nest found outside Vegas and Fahrenheit saying that other such nests have been found in the past. However, while some may leave it just as that, I appreciate writer Christos Gage giving a quick recap of what exactly goes on in these nets. It helps that the team has a member who has been a "subject" in one such establishment: Dr. Mordecai Shaw, the character previously codenamed Monstrosity.
Speaking of Shaw, it seems that even though rehabilitated, the (now) good doctor still has to fight his inner demon, his inner monstrosity. Shown on more than one occasion, this inner battle finally comes to the forefront when, towards the end of the issue, Shaw has not one but six of his "kind" show up around him, led by Lady Decadence (Defileís main squeeze). Unless this is an elaborate ruse against any future suspicion on him, it is highly unlikely that Shaw is going to be the mole that Defile mentioned in the first issue.
Having gotten major parts in the previous issue, both Machinist and Gorgeous take a back seat here, as does Black Betty, who I take will get a major part in an upcoming story, leaving Paris and Fahrenheit to fill in the remaining pages with some expected horizontal mambo and a (to me) hokey and abrupt ending to it. Relaxing post coitus, Lauren (Fahrenheit) asks Paris to tell the back-story about a special skill that he makes use of earlier on, and once he makes his recount, she skedaddles post haste. Granted, I donít have any prior knowledge about her character, but unless she is this easy to scare, Fahrenheitís reaction didnít quite sit well with him. For cryiní out loud lady, the man was a child then, and he was trying to save his life. It wasnít like he got his rocks off by doing it. I would have given this issue a rating, had it not been for this.
As good as Gage is, this title should be thankful for getting artist Doug Mahnke on it to not only complement Gage but to do it in a way that takes the overall experience to a whole new level. Whether it's the monsters or the humans or even Parisís childhood, the dynamic, the life that Mahnke brings with his work makes me want to revisit his run on JLA and even that forgettable Justice League Elite.
Conclusion: As if Gageís writing and storytelling wasnít enough, even the art reminds of when the Justice League was actually a "Super-hero" series (with a capital-S) and not just a glorified soap opera. It might not have the big star name creative teams or the big name characters of DCís team titles (or even Wildstormís own WildCATs and The Authority), but as a team comic, Stormwatch: PHD is easily inches if not head and shoulders above quite a few of them.
You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net
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