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Stormwatch: Final Orbit

Posted: Tuesday, September 4
By: Michael Deeley
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Writer: Warren Ellis
Artists: Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary, Michael Ryan & Luke Rizzo, Chris Sprouse & Kevin Nowlan

PLOT: Stormwatch's orbiting space station, Skywatch, is invaded by Xenomorphs, a.k.a., Aliens. The original WildC.A.T.S. team re-unites to rescue the survivors. Of course, it all ends badly as the UN shuts Stormwatch down, leaving no one left to save the world.

'Final Orbit' is the fifth and final book reprinting the 'Stormwatch' issues written by Warren Ellis. Since the only books to be reprinted were 'Stormwatch' #10 and #11, and the 'WildC.A.T.S./Aliens' special, this volume is thin and cheap. At $9.95, it's tough to resist. Hell, I bought it, and I don't even have the other volumes!

At the start of this book, Jackson King, the head of Stormwatch, is haunted by what he saw in a parallel universe. The Jackson King of that world was scarred, powerless, and insane, the result of a poor decision he made that got hundreds of people killed. That world was threatened by an invasion from an alien race. King got some information to that world that helped defeat the aliens, but that world's heroes and New York City were destroyed. King now wonders if he did the right thing; if he couldn't have done more.

That's when the Xenomorphs show up.

Long story short, hundreds die, including four members of the Stormwatch field team. Skywatch is destroyed. Stormwatch is shut down. Jenny Sparks, Jack Hawksmoor, and Shen Li-Min remain to assemble a new team to protect the world.

The first thing that jumps out at you is the art. Hitch and Neary's realistic style stands in sharp contrast to the work of Ryan and Rizzo. Hitch and Neary's work has a subtle, controlled feeling. It's similar to Tony Harris' with less ink and shading. Ryan and Rizzo's looks very similar to J. Scott Campbell's work, which is the most offensive thing I can say about another artist without getting personal. I can't imagine why the editors put them on the same issues. Having a book drawn by two art teams with such different styles breaks up the natural flow of the story. It just hurts the books. Either get a fill-in to do an entire issue, or one penciller with two inkers.

At least the entire WildC.A.T.S./Aliens special was drawn by the same art team. Problem is, it comes in the middle of the book, between 'Stormwatch' #10 and #11. So you start out reading with two art styles, switch to a third, completely different one, then back to the original two. At least that art looks half-way decent. The Aliens look great, just like you'd expect them. The people, however, look a little flat and stiff. It reminded me of Art Adams, without the anatomy, or Mike Mignola without the shadows. I still look down on anything that resembles JSC's work, but at least Ryan and Rizzo's art has some life.

Speaking of breaking up the flow, the cover of this volume doesn't match the covers of the previous four books. The solid border along the top and right side is not present. Also, I find the composition to be cluttered. The image doesn't seem to have a clear focus, nor does it accurately reflect the story. The Xenomorph is barely noticeable, and it's the reason for the whole story!

OK. Enough about the art. The story's great. 'Stormwatch' #10 serves as a prelude to the Aliens crossover, which leads to the series' end in issue #11. It has a nice, unified feeling that makes it seem more like a graphic novel than a trade collection. Dialogue is top-notch. In the brief time you see these characters, they feel like real people. Unfortunately, due to their shortened life spans, Fuji, Fahrenheit, and Hellstrike don't get any lines. None. No dialogue. So, unless you've read the earlier books, you don't really miss them.

What bugs me is how this seems more like a WildC.A.T.S. story than a Stormwatch story. Think about it: It's Stormwatch's people who get killed. It's Stormwatch that gets shut down. It's 'Stormwatch' that gets cancelled. Yet when the attack comes, who do we see the Aliens fighting? WildC.A.T.S.. The 'Stormwatch' characters become supporting players in the biggest event of their lives! Couldn't we have seen Stormwatch's fight with the Aliens? Maybe give those characters some decent death scene, instead of the C.A.T.S. just finding their remains?

In the final analysis, this book is best when read after the others. That should really apply to those of you who have the first four 'Stormwatch' books. For everyone else, it's a experience. However, the first four books are worth reading. So, buy those first, read them, and then come back for this one.

Otherwise, it's just another Aliens story


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