Retro Comics: Wildstorm Rising

Mr. Streeter takes a look back at Wildstorm Rising. 

Prepare for a big beatdown
because comics lore
requires it!
Wildstorm Rising is a mid-‘90s crossover from Image Comics that featured the biggest books from the Wildstorm imprint run by Jim Lee and company.  Since it was the 90s, it was done in classic crossover style: all the books tied in with each other, meaning that if you wanted the whole story you would be forced to buy books you weren't collecting to get it.  Since the art was so good across the board, I'm of the opinion that you would end up appreciating it in the long run, but at the same time if you were only reading Wetworks with its big conflict starring vampires and werewolves, you would doubtlessly be confused by the daemonite aliens popping up in a completely unrelated plotline.

So how was it?  Decent.  Like I said, it ran through the entire Wildstorm lineup at the time, so the art was top-notch.  We got Brett Booth, Whilce Portacio, J. Scott Campbell, and a veritable legion of others putting stunning pencils to page, with Barry Windsor-Smith offering up covers.  An old bad guy with an incredibly cool design reappears (yay!), and a lot of cool characters get to chew scenery and showboat for page after page after page.  

Of course, in a project like this, a number of things left me feeling unfulfilled by the ending.  There was a long, drawn-out buildup leading up to the event, with the main antagonist (some daemonite dude named Lord Defile) pulling strings in the background of all of Wildstorm's books.  Despite the buildup, there was no real payoff.  There's a big fight, and everybody's there, but then it's over and you're sitting there (or standing there or laying there, I'm not going to judge how you want to read your comics) wondering to yourself just what the hell happened.  Because the answer is just a set-up for what was going to happen in the individual books which could have been accomplished in a more efficient manner.

So this was all just a big setup.  Not like Wildstorm was trying to trick us, no, I don't think that's the case at all.  Once you get past the fact that these things are just big marketing stunts there's nothing really underhanded about it.  But it didn't leave that large of an impact as an epic story because the epics all happened afterwards.  Go see what happens in Stormwatch as a direct result of Wildstorm Rising.  The entire WildC.A.T.s roster is changed and Alan Moore is brought on board to tell us these new characters' stories.  But then you go back to Wetworks, Gen13, Backlash, Grifter, Deathblow, etc, and they just kind of continue on.

The coolest skull face on
fire this side of
Ghost Rider. 
This shows another issue I see with this style of crossover.  There was no singular vision directing the books forward.  The main buildup took place primarily through the Stormwatch and WildC.A.T.s books, and the problem started by Defile was pretty much only an issue facing the members of those two teams.  It took some stretching to bring in Gen13, and they had to bend over backwards to put the Wetworks characters in there, but since the lasting implications of Wildstorm Rising #2 only really affected Stormwatch and WildC.A.T.s, why not just cross over those two books and leave the others out of it?

Which brings us closer to present day.  Publishers have discovered that they can sell more books if they run the main crossover as a separate event, so now we have an “Event” miniseries, and you can just keep reading your favorite books as they run alongside the main story.  You could even just ignore the main story altogether if it pleased you, although this would lead to an incomplete collection with terribly disappointing gaps when you go back to re-read those books 10 years later.  I actually don't have a problem with this style, and I wonder if Wildstorm Rising wouldn't have been better served by doing something like this.

Even so, I did not come away from it feeling as though it had wasted my time, so it does have that going for it.  Mostly great art, and some good one-liners from Grifter in his single issue tie-in make it at least mildly entertaining.  Sure, Defile himself kind of comes across as a chump and it is a bit of a scattered mess, but you could do a lot worse than this for your big annual comics event.

-Matt Streeter

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