this entry covers “Team 7” (aka Team 7 Series 1) issues 1 – 4
I’d like to start out saying that while “Team 7” isn’t the first book that Wildstorm ever put out, it is integral for the history of the Wildstorm Universe that we start here. The first several years of Wildstorm comics (up through the disastrous “Fire from Heaven” cross over) all, to some degree, revolve around the members of Team 7 and their former bosses at International Operations, an intelligence agency for the United States Government. Second, this book was never presented as a character telling a story to others, or even features a wraparound to set the book in the present timeline with flashbacks to Team 7’s exploits in the ‘70s. Finally, it must be said that when this series started the readers knew most of the key players already, and were excited to see their collective past together. In the end, knowing these characters going in is a bit of a hindrance, in fact, I remember hating this when it came out. I wanted answers to some of the built up mysteries in the Wildstorm U and I wasn’t getting them here at all. All I was getting was a sci-fi war story from the ‘70s and that wasn’t what I was getting hyped up to read.
When we meet Team 7 they are already in the middle of a mission that is already going wrong. The team is being led by John Lynch under the direction of Mile Craven at I.O. and consists of Stephen Callahan, Cole Cash, Phillip Chang, Michael Cray, Jackson Dane, Alex Fairchild, Andrew Johnson, Richard MacNamara, Mark Slayton and a member that we only ever get the last name of, Breckmann. The mission goes south, but we get to see how resourceful Team 7 is in saving their skin in a tough situation. The mission was screwed from the start with the team being tasked with saving some hostages that had already been killed, I’m guessing that the idea was to draw out Team 7 and pick them off. It didn’t go as well as the “bad guys” had planned, the team survives and I.O. gets revenge on the source of the bad intel.
If you were me at the time, you were thinking “Who the hell are Johnson, MacNamara and Breckmann? And where the hell are Diaz1 and Rhodes2? We’ve never heard of the first three and the last two have been mentioned as Team 7 members by both Backlash and Grifter!” Well, as an adult I see that the book needed some cannon fodder as Craven is sending Team 7 on their second doomed mission, the mission that imbued the boys with the Gen-Factor.
Let’s be honest, I’ve never been exactly clear on what the Gen-Factor means. I had always assumed that it had meant there was a structural change to one’s genes that gave the recipient super powers. It may have very well been this at one point, but as time goes on we find that you can freely give your Gen-Factor to another person, or it can be stripped from you by someone for their own use. My initial understanding always made more sense to me, as it tracked that the Gen13 kids would get their Gen-Factor powers due to the enhanced genes their fathers are passing down to them. That’s just me, I didn’t write this stuff, and I can be kind of an idiot.
Let’s talk about the Team 7 members we do know. We’ve seen Lynch in the pages of “WildC.A.T.s” before he became the mentor of Gen13, whose roster includes the children of Callahan, Chang and Fairchild. We’d gotten to know Cash as Grifter very well in “WildC.A.T.s” as well as Slayton in “Stormwatch” and also we saw him in an uneasy team up with Grifter in “The Kindred.” Cray had recently started his own solo title with “Deathblow” so we didn’t know him that well quite yet, but enough to be interested to see how he started to work for I.O. as well as why he didn’t seemingly have any powers at all. Finally we’d seen Dane in “Wetworks”, even if he looked and acted a bit different back in his Team 7 days. Oh, and Callahan had died in the open pages of “Gen13” Vol. 1 #1. During the time that “Team 7” was coming out, the only members that we didn’t know the final fate of were Breckman, Chang, Johnson, Fairchild and MacNamara. I should’ve known that if you weren’t alive in the current Wildstorm books, you were assumed dead or would be dying soon in “Team 7,” and to keep Chang and Fairchild live long enough to have kids, they’d need a few people to fall early on to keep the stakes high. The last we’d see of Breckman and MacNamara is in I.O. headquarters where they are both having trouble controlling their new powers. Breckman has torn his eyes out and sits bloody on the floor of a padded cell, while MacNamara commits suicide because he can’t control his body from sending blasts out from it, having already killed a few I.O. staff members.
Through this initial “Team 7” series we find that Craven had been trying to create super powered beings for a while under his own command, and Team 7 was the first to mostly be intact after receiving those powers. We also are introduced to Gabriel, a telepathic assistant to Craven. Where he came from, and how he gained his powers are unknown, but we do find that Craven has been keeping all his failed super-soldiers on I.O.’s 9th level, which technically doesn’t exist and Gabriel is frightened of it. We also meet Alicia Turner as a nurse where Team 7 is waking from their post Gen-Factor induced comas. Wildstorm readers had already known her from “WildC.A.T.s” and I have to say, she ages just as well as Cash & Dane do, to say, in 20 years, she really doesn’t age at all, unlike Craven, Lynch and Slayton.
Wait, I haven’t told you the final fate of Johnson yet! Johnson just goes on to be a real dick on the first Team 7 mission with Gen-Factor powers and Cash kills him for it. Johnson had pretty much become a monster, mind controlling the team’s enemies into commenting suicide with a smile as he laughed at them. Cash wanted to win, but not like this, so he takes out Johnson. This starts a real rift between him and Lynch and as a result we start to see the team fall apart. Some want to remain loyal to Craven and I.O., others want to get away from the craziness that their lives had become. Also Fairchild gets kinda rapey trying to mind control a girl at a bar and Cash kicks his ass for it. Cash really hates mind controlling. The team fraying all comes to ahead when Craven decides to send Team 7 on their final test.
Oh, the final test. I’m still not sure what Craven was hoping for. He takes all of Team 7, except for Cray, as he’s not showing any powers, and sends them on a mission to a temple in Middle East. While there the team finds that there’s no strategic reason for them being at the temple and Lynch and Cash start to have a mind battle. Then Craven launches a low yield nuclear missile at the Team to see if they’ll survive. Yup, that’s the final test; let’s see if this can destroy them. The team that without super powers was already surviving the near impossible by working together and being smart. I know that Craven is a jerk, but come on, from everything we’ve seen, even if we didn’t know they’d all survive, we’d still assume they’d all survive. Team 7 huddles and concentrates on their psionic powers to shield them in a bubble force field and protects themselves from being blown up. They don’t give a shit about any of the monks in the temple though, them monks is dead.
Predictably having a nuke lobbed at Team 7 is the final straw and the only members willing to work for I.O. are Lynch and Slayton. Cray is pretty much blackmailed/coerced in to staying with I.O. by Craven after he threatened to murder half the crew of the boat that launched the missile at the rest of Team 7. Callahan, Cash, Chang, Dane and Fairchild all retire to a small town in Nicaragua, hoping to hide from I.O. and anyone else who would try get them to use their powers for purposes they disagree with. Good call, as we’ve seen a very creepy Russian man on crutches who has been one step behind Team 7 this whole time, who seems very interested in what they’ve been up to.
That’s it, that’s the first series! As an adult I really enjoy it. I enjoy seeing what good friend Cray and Dane were back then. I enjoy seeing Cash as a brash young man, but I wish he would’ve developed his sense of humor a bit back then. It was also fun seeing Lynch as a being highly fallible, which we’ll go years in the Wildstorm U before we see a hint of this again. When I picked up this book as a kid I really wanted to know how Lynch lost his eye, why Dane acts so different in “Wetworks” as well as how I.O. was founded. None of this is really answered in this series. In the future we’ll get an answer to the first, clues to the second and some murky details on the third, but nothing all that definitive. Also most of the team winds up in a small South American town? What? Really? How do they get to be who they are? I thought this was a prequel to some of Wildstorm’s biggest names! I want more story, dammit! As an adult comic reader I’ve learned patience, but I really wish we would’ve gotten a bit more into the personalities of Callahan and Chang, who we never really see again for any true measure of time. They and Fairchild really come off as bit players in this book, and I feel the book is suffers a bit because of that.
1 We’ll see more with Robert Diaz in “The Kindred” mini-series
2 Jack Rhodes, also known as Cyberjack, is a supporting cast member in the “Backlash” comic.