The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #9 // Review
In The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #9, by Bryan Hill, N. Steven Harris, Dexter Vines, Andy Owens, Ross Campbell, and Simon Bowland, the 12-issue spinoff of Warren Ellis’ The Wild Storm finally reaches the beginning of the end. Where previous issues have felt formulaic—Christine Trelane sends Cray after a psychopathic reimagining of a mainstream DC Comics hero, Cray and his team take down their target, Cray struggles with control of whatever is in his head, rinse, repeat—these last two issues have finally broken the pattern and the series seems to be leading somewhere.
In this issue, Michael Cray’s encounter with his universe’s corrupted analogues to Diana Prince and John Constantine continues, but here they finally begin to provide details about their larger scheme. Many of those details are still maddeningly vague—something about Tesla coils and the Greek Gods and a potential bargain with Cray—but the change in pace is welcome.
Much like previous issues’ guest stars Oliver Queen, Barry Allen, and Arthur Curry, this version of Diana bears very little resemblance in personality to her mainstream counterpart, while remaining formidable and majestic. Weirdly, aside from his bald head and medical doctorate, this world’s Constantine hasn’t changed much; he’s still the untrustworthy cad playing both sides with a cigarette in his mouth. It’s only on the final page that this version of John Constantine does anything his DC/Vertigo incarnation might not do, and even then, it doesn’t feel too far off.
As in previous issues, writer Bryan Hill competently recreates Warren Ellis’ voice; unfortunately, most characters feel like a generic Warren Ellis pastiche, trading individual voice and distinct characterization for an on-brand imprint-wide style. Hill does tremendous work ratcheting the tension as Cray continues to struggle with the entity in his head and his team and superiors contend with their increasingly off-the-reservation charge.
N. Steven Harris’ art helps create that tension, eschewing flashy and convoluted layouts for a restrained and subtle rhythm. Harris’ acting is superb; one particular highlight is a rare moment of private release for Cray in his car, his normally-stoic face contorted and expressive. The inks, by Dexter Vines and Andy Owens, are crisp, clean, and consistent. Colorist Ross Campbell’s work is superb; his use of texture counteracts Harris’ tendency toward minimal background, and the shift from a cool palette early in the issue to a warm one toward the end helps ratchet up the tension.
As an individual issue, Michael Cray #9 is a perfectly serviceable story, using good meat-and-potatoes storytelling to put its characters in place for the final three issues of the series. As a part of the larger whole, it’s a refreshing change of pace from the established formula of the series, with a strong cliffhanger ending. It’s still unclear why this story needed to be told outside of the main (and markedly superior) The Wild Storm series, or how the two series fit together, but this issue’s shifts promise a satisfying ending to Michael Cray’s adventures in this new continuity.