Writer: Keith Giffen
Artists: Lee Garbett and Trevor Scott
Colorist: Randy Mayor
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm
As DC/Wildstorm: Dreamwar #1 opens, Keith Giffen hits the ground running, beginning the book with the tidal wave destruction of the town of Happy Harbor, Rhode Island (DC loyalists will recall this as the site of the Justice League of America’s original cave headquarters). If the immediate appearance afterwards of the original League – including a clean-shaven Green Arrow and what appears to be the Barry Allen Flash – wasn’t exciting enough, the revelation that this seems to be occurring in the present in the Wildstorm Universe is a nicely shocking moment. The book cuts to a scene with the Authority monitoring the situation, with terse, darkly humorous dialogue that’s well-written enough to establish the personalities of the characters even for a reader with limited background in them. Then, as is preordained in superhero crossovers, the fighting begins, with Titans Tower materializing on Rikers Island, which leads to a battle in which Marv Wolfman’s New Teen Titans lineup of the 1980s take on Majestic and Jack Marlowe/Spartan (or is he called Hadrian now?) – there’s a nice joke by Majestic that “it’s never meet-and-greet” when these things happen, but does awareness of the cliché absolve a writer when he uses it?
The battle is the centerpiece of the issue, and as crossover fights go it’s a pretty standard back-and-forth brawl, although there’s a nice Kid Flash/Majestic chase scene, with Wally’s speed powers well drawn by Lee Garbett and Trevor Scott (Majestic has a compelling sense of motion too, and there’s some nice work with his cape). The interesting thing about the fight is that the Titans immediately go on the offensive, and although this may just be due to Majestic entering the out-of-thin-air Titans Tower, it has an odd way of portraying the DC heroes as invaders and aggressors. A Legion of Super-Heroes ship manifests in Russia, and the subsequent appearance by Invisible Kid and Chameleon Boy further suggests that the DC heroes are there for a reason, but the shadowy nature of it all isn’t quite as intriguing as it should be – the big hook for me is not why the DC characters are there, but that it’s heroes from various classic eras of DC, which is nicely surreal for anyone with a knowledge of their history. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Randy Mayor’s coloring work, which contrasts bright, traditionally superheroic tones for the DC characters with the darker, somewhat muted shades of the Wildstorm Universe. It’s a nice touch, and a subtle reminder of the difference between the worlds.
Comic book crossovers are among the most subjective of events in the medium, because the excitement a reader brings to them is often based on his foreknowledge of the characters. Dreamwar #1 has a compelling sense of scale to it, but the book is predicated on a familiarity with Wildstorm’s present and various classic moments of DC’s past; a nice addition would’ve been a character sheet with run-downs of at least the Wildstorm personae, as the book is centered in their world, and thus, their perspective on the events at hand. For that matter, there’s a lot asked of Garbett and Scott in their artistic duties, because of the challenge of portraying the DC heroes within the Wildstorm Universe, a company with a fairly different aesthetic and background; they manage to do this with a minimum of dissonance, rendering the classic forms of the DC characters in a reverential and traditional way that feels surprising within the Wildstorm confines but not jarring. There’s some nice fan-service, of course, particularly a moment in which the holy trinity of the JSA – Wildcat and the Golden Age Flash and Green Lantern – show up in Tranquility, but ultimately this set-up issue is a series of random occurrences and arrivals with no real, unifying plotline yet. It trades on the mystery and novelty inherent in the DC characters appearing in Wildstorm, but now that Wildstorm’s part of the DC multiverse anyway, it doesn’t provoke the same sense of impossibility and awe created by something like JLA/Avengers (the standard for this kind of crossover). It’s a decent setup to what promises to be a fun battle royale, but it’s not as world-shattering as its opening tsunami would suggest.
Tags: DCU, JLA, JSA, Teen Titans, Wildstorm