Strictly speaking, it’s a drama 1480 years in the making. The Nika riots that ended with citizens burning down the old church didn’t hit until 532AD. But in this case, the riots and the destruction of the old church really was simply prologue. Rebuilding began just a few weeks later in February and the rioting populace was put to work. This was ancient Constantinople, and the building of Ayasofya. But the war of psychologies that emerges as a consequence of the destruction of old Ayasofya, is the same thread that runs through Stormwatch #15.
The story began with the newly installed Byzantine emperor, Justinian. And with his vision of expanding the Empire westwards by building Byzantine style cathedrals all along the North African coast as modern-day Morocco and the Southern European coast as far as Spain. These imperial ambitions seemed dashed almost in a single day, January 13th, 532AD. By the start of the 22nd chariot race at the Hippodrome that day, the crowd’s mood shifted. The ceased chanting “blue!” or “green!” in support of their team, and began chanting “victory!” instead. Thus emboldened, and impelled by a slew of reasons which seemed to include increased taxation, the Hippodrome attendees stormed the Imperial box and ignited a week of rioting.
While it’s true to say that chariot racing was the Nascar of the ancient world, it’s also wildly inaccurate. Such a characterization doesn’t properly communicate the full economic complexity of the endeavor. It would be more accurate to call the Byzantine Hippodrome and its allied industries the Hollywood of the ancient world. And on that day, it would have looked very much like going to a movie, only to be caught in the mob-psychology of believing a grand social revolution was underway.
What was going through the mind of the mob? What was the endgame? The old Roman mentality of “bread and circuses” failed, but from the ashes of that mode of social control, Justinian was able to reassert an even older, Egyptian model—indentured service to the Imperial throne, in the way of grand public works.
Breaking free from one psychology of social control and trading it for another lies at the core of Peter Milligan’s wrestlings in Stormwatch #15. Harry Tanner, the Swordsman, the Prince of Lies, and traitor to Stormwatch as reappeared. But this time in the guise of a Shadow Lord—the mysterious beings who formed Stormwatch to guard against fantastical threats.
In a single moment Stormwatch face off against the more apparent social control psychology of answering to shadowy overlords and paranoia-fueled hidden agendas, and face off against the effects of Harry’s ostensible death and their drive for revenge. And caught in the middle of this drama, cast as the Nietzschean ubermensch, is the Midnighter who seems to be on the cusp of uncovering the “Shadow Lord’s” true identity as Harry Tanner. It’s a magnificent drama…
Please enjoy your exclusive preview of Stormwatch #15.
// Notes from the Road
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