(Credit: Supernatural Wiki)
My review of the first season of the long-running CW drama Supernatural wound up being one of my longest entries on this blog. I reflected when I linked to it on Facebook that I must like this show more than I thought. Well, I’m almost halfway into the second season and I can tell you, that’s still true! So true, in fact, that I checked out an old tie-in prequel miniseries from Wildstorm a few days ago and read it in one night.
For the unfamiliar, WildStorm was a comic book company founded independently by superstar artist Jim Lee after his exodus from Marvel in the ’90s with the rest of the Image Comics founders. One of the core studios that initially made up Image’s group of creator-owned publishers, it looked set to die after the comics bubble of the ’90s burst, but it was saved by merging with DC in 1998.
The merger allowed WildStorm to survive and paved the way for Jim Lee to make himself a DC success story (he’s currently co-publisher and artist on Justice League), while also providing the way for bona fide comics geniuses like Alan Moore and Warren Ellis to make books like Promethea and The Authority, which resulted in dedicated followings and critical acclaim.
However, with DC itself publishing the superhero stuff and the Vertigo imprint publishing all the edgy horror stuff like Hellblazer and The Sandman, someone had to become the publisher of the waning-but-still-lucrative field of licensed tie-in comics. That fell to WildStorm which, until its closure in 2010, mostly cranked out stuff that tied in to things like Gears of War and World of Warcraft (which actually had two comics, one for the Horde, one for the Alliance). So when it came time to tie in to Supernatural, well, why go anywhere but in-house? (Like the rest of DC, WildStorm was owned by Warner Bros., which produces Supernatural.)
Produced in 2008-2009, during the last Writer’s Guild of America Strike, the miniseries is, as I said, a prequel. It follows a younger John Winchester (played in the show by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in 1990 when Sam is 7 and Dean 11. The boys are old enough to join John on his trips hunting demons. After one such hunt leads to John getting fired from his day job, the family heads to Elgin to track down the cousin of Mary, John’s late wife. They find him, but he’s under some heavy stress, warning them to leave immediately. The town, it turns out, is full of succubi. John manages to kill them all, but just barely, seeing as they all transform into visions of Mary.
Ditching Elgin, they head down to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where John enrolls the boys in school, and Sam becomes a star pupil for his teacher, Ms. Lyle. But why does she have such an interest in Sam? And what’s with the mysterious black car that keeps following the Winchesters…?
Scripting duties for this book fall to Peter Johnson, an executive producer on the show and Rebecca Dessertine, a staff writer (though I’m unclear as to whether they’re still around). They manage to capture John’s voice nicely and create versions of Sam and Dean that are just plausible enough to make one believe that these kids do grow up into the guys we see on TV.
The cover art is done by Dustin Nguyen–like the one above–and his work is, as always, amazing. The interior art is done by Diego Olmos; while I don’t think I’ve read anything else he’s illustrated, he acquits himself admirably here, rendering both character scenes and crazy monster showdowns with equal skill and energy. Unfortunately, it seems like the team wasn’t cleared to use Morgan’s official likeness for John, but Olmos’ design more than makes up for it.
Overall, this is a solid story in its own right and a great exploration of the life of the Winchesters before the series. If you check out the trade, there’s also a bonus story co-written by series creator Eric Kripke featuring the Ghostfacers (the jokey ‘Ghost Hunters” wannabes of the show) that’s pretty hilarious. Recommended.