By: Paul Cornell (writer), Miguel Sepulveda (artist), Allen Passalaqua (colorist)

The Story: You won’t believe what a liar he can be.

The Review: Sooner or later, Cornell had to address one of Stormwatch’s pet conceits: the premise that it’s been around since time immemorial, protecting Earth from all manner of threats from beyond the planet itself, resourced and funded by a mysterious, all-knowing group.  If Cornell really wants to sell this to us, he has to make the folks behind Stormwatch as impressive as he rumors them to be, otherwise Stormwatch as a whole loses credibility.

You see, the team itself is so chock-full of strong, take-no-nonsense personalities that whoever calls the shots on them has to be pretty powerful, both in ability and manner, to be taken seriously.  So it makes perfect sense when from out of nowhere, a supposed Cabinet man arrives, takes the team to task, and reorganizes them within the span of a few pages, with nary a care to their protests.

He doesn’t throw his weight around with just words, however.  Though we only get a glimpse of him in action, he seems capable of performing physics-bending feats almost negligently (“Let’s see, do I remember–?  Death pit, death pit…”), as when he sentences Adam One to death.  Don’t worry—as it turns out, death in the Stormwatch world is considered a kind of promotional stepping stone, a fact which tells you quite a lot about the exact nature of the Shadow Cabinet.

In assigning new leadership to the team, the Cabinet man spends some time musing over each member’s background.  While most of this is an annoying summation of everyone’s powers and abilities, which we’re pretty well-acquainted with by now, we do get some novel bits of info, some more useful (“[Jenny Quantum’s] father is a high-ranking military man, who still thinks she was murdered by terrorists.”) than others (“[Jack Hawksmoor] has sex with wells.”).

The most brilliant twist in the issue is the choice of who will ultimately be Stormwatch’s new leader: spoiler alert—Projectionist.  There’s poetry in this development for a lot of reasons.  Since #1, she’s bemoaned how no one appreciates her, and how all she wants is recognition, which may explain her rather dramatic past (“…there was the life of crime, the suicide attempts, the murders—”).  Now that she has all the attention she can hope for, it’s entertaining to see her overwhelmed in her new position (“…an emergency?! Already?!”).  Great choice.

Before anyone (well, Engineer, really) can get too outraged over the change-up, the ticking time bomb of betrayal that is Harry Tanner finally goes off.  And actually, the bomb metaphor works pretty well in this case since we end the issue on the best of endings: a massive explosion, throwing the lives of nearly all the characters in question.  To be honest, the cliffhanger would be horribly cliché if not for the great battle of wits and arms between Tanner and Midnighter.  The Prince of Lies versus the Cleverest Man—how can that not be a good show?

Sepulveda is still killing it with the art, delivering a supremely modern, sharp-looking comic.  You find new details to admire with every reading, like the thick cords of metallic wire, which make Engineer’s muscle fibers, revealed through her translucent skin.  This issue also shows the most threatening version of Martian Manhunter yet, in stark contrast to the friendly alien image he had going for a long time.  Passalaqua does equally stellar work on colors, offering in this issue a literally stellar range of neon hues and glows for the team’s hyperspace setting.

Conclusion: A very entertaining and smart read, one that keeps the pace, dialogue, and plot moving as quickly and intriguingly as possible.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – What a waste to see the Eye of the Storm so flippantly destroyed.  Just from the few things we get to see during Apollo and Midnighter’s run through the HQ, it was a pretty cool place to work from: “…a cathedral!  …to make this a city, so Jack can live here—”