If you’re a parent, your sole job is to ensure your child has the knowledge, skill and mindset to succeed in the world. It sounds easy enough, but anyone who’s been through it knows it’s not. Even the parents who are the most successful at raising their kids have regrets and things they wished they could go back and do differently. Unfortunately, you can’t, and sometimes those mistakes can have dire consequences.
For the past five months, John, the former director of the highly classified IO program known as Thunderbook, has been traveling across the nation to warn the men and women who were a part of the program that the current leadership of IO may be on to them.
John’s motives seem sincere, if not 100% altruistic. If IO were to track down everyone involved in Thunderbook, that would include him along with the subjects. However, that doesn’t mean John hasn’t seemed genuinely concerned about the men and women he implanted alien genetic material into all those years ago. Take last week’s THE WILD STORM #17 as an example. In it, Lynch tracks down the final Thunderbook subject, Stephen Rainmaker, a Native American man living on his tribe’s reservation. Stephen has the power to control the weather, and we first see him floating hundreds of feet above the ground as he effortlessly quells a growing rainstorm. Yet, while John’s reunions with the other subjects have set a new standard in unpredictability—running the gamut from cordial and remorseful to angry and violent—his reunion with Stephen is easily the warmest, with the two sharing a tailgate conversation over a bottle of whisky.
The conversation is a long one for comics, even for a series like The Wild Storm, which seems to pride itself in taking the scenic route when it comes to its storytelling. However, it allows writer Warren Ellis to put a point on John’s five-issue reunion tour. While he’s been trying to warn the subjects that their lives could potentially be in danger, what this looks like it’s ultimately going to be about is their kids.
With the possible exception of Marc Slayton, every Thunderbook subject has had kids, pretty much whether they wanted to or not. (Gloria Spaulding went so far as to describe having a child as a strange compulsion that she immediately questioned as soon as he had done it.) If you’re looking for a reason for this, you’ll find a pretty solid one in issue #15. As John confronts a homicidal Andy Kwok, he asks him why all the Thunderbook subjects seem to do is reproduce and kill. Andy responds with…well, this.
What’s fascinating to me about that page is that not only does it explain what’s happening with Thunderbook, but it immediately follows it with what’s clearly become John’s new mission. He’s going to find the kids and see that they’re looked after.
Now, as you know by now, I don’t know much about the world of WildStorm as it existed before Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt took over, but this sure sounds like it could be the beginning of an all-new Gen13 to me. It became clear after the first couple of confrontations that the Thunderbook subjects weren’t what’s important here. All but Stephen and Alexandra Fairchild seemed to be at least somewhat off their rockers and a couple of them didn’t even survive their encounters with John. Plus, even this WildStorm newb knows how to google “Sarah Rainmaker,” “Percival Chang,” “Caitlin Fairchild” and “Roxane Spaulding.”
No, John’s story is only tangentially about him and what he did in the past. It’s really about what he’s going to do in the future. He’s getting something most of us don’t get—a second chance at life.
While what we know about Thunderbook and how it all came to an end is pretty limited, it’s clear it ended abruptly. John set up new backgrounds for all the Thunderbook subjects and backup identities in case of emergencies. Then he set them lose in the world…after he’d given each of the subjects superhuman capabilities and used them for classified wetworks for years.
The problem is that he was asking them to lay low after giving them the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive and even dominate in the world, but he never gave the subjects the right mindset to ensure they’d succeed as part of society. He made it halfway to making sure his kids would have successful lives, but didn’t get to finish the job.
As a result, Marc’s almost completely psychotic, using his abilities to murder people to “feed” his alien implant. Gloria has become a weird thief. Andy was so paranoid he tried killing John. Even Alex admits to having killed people and feeling happy whenever she did. The only one who seems pretty level-headed and content is Stephen, who ironically was the angriest of the Thunderbook subjects back when the program was open. He found his modest success in life by finding the proper mindset on his own.
While John may have done his job as head of IO, he failed at his job as a parent to five uncertain test subjects. Now, though, he’s been given a chance to make up for his past shortcomings and be a guiding force for their children. Having kids is all about the future, and as The Wild Storm creeps into its fourth and supposedly final act, I’ve been wondering about the future of the imprint and where the story may go after this series ends. It seems like John and the Thunderbook kids may be an important part of it.
Let’s hope that John’s second go at being a father works out better than the first. We have a lot riding on it!
THE WILD STORM #17 by Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt and Brian Buccellato is now available in print and as a digital download.
Tim Beedle writes about comics, movies and TV for DCComics.com. Look for him on Twitter at @Tim_Beedle.