This entry covers “Backlash” issues 12 – 14 by Sean Ruffner, Brett Booth, Chuck Gibson, Al Vey and Mark Pennington.
Get this everybody, Amanda Reed is pissed off! Say what? Is she acting sassy, too? See, she is on the hunt for Gilbert Branum. Gilbert is the guy that can set her clear her name so she can officially be a free woman again. Of course, Slayton is going to show up and help her, it’s what friends do. Especially friends who are newly single and happened to have hooked up with other said friend in the past.
Slayton already has the inside scoop on Branum’s whereabouts, because Slayton called his old friend Giavonni at the government agency Paranormal Search & Investigations (P.S.I.) and got the skinny. After getting reacquainted, Reed and Slayton make a stop at CyberJack’s latest safehouse to get ready to capture Branum. Amanda also gets to meet Slayton’s daughter, Jodi, which was new to her (and still pretty new to us all.) The duo then jet off to the Florida Keys on their self-serving mission.
So, how can Branum help Slayton and Reed? Well, it turns out that he was a mole for the government in the Cabal. In fact, he helped stage the murder of Professor Hoagland, which Reed was wrongly accused of just so he could rise up the Cabal’s ranks and get further embedded for his spy work. He is the only guy that can say on the record that Reed is innocent, not only that but if Reed is innocent then Slayton breaking her out of Purgatory Max can’t be illegal because she was never supposed to be imprisoned in the first place. Getting close to Branum is the hard part, this is due to the government getting him round the clock protection, you know, due to him being a spy while being in the Cabal. Sure, the Cabal really isn’t a thing anymore (I mean the WildStorm Universe seems to still think it is, but it doesn’t really write to it being truly active anymore) but there’s Pike and the Cabal’s pet Coda still running around, so an order of protection is sensical. Heck, those two fantastical futuristic mercenaries Serge and Mahkinot are helping protect Barnam.
You know what happens. Reed and Slayton come up against Serge and Mahkinot and they all start to fight. It takes some crazy event for them to all see that they are on the same side. In this case, it is space monsters. Specifically a space vampire and a space mummy. I kind of wish this was a joke because of how silly it sounds, but with the drawing talents of Brett Booth, it works. In an instant Mahkinot takes Barnum away to safety, Reed and Serge get stunned by the space vampire Lilitu and Slayton… well… he dead.
The action relocates to Arizona where Lilitu has a pyramid built. Slayton’s “dead” body is be monitored by Lilitu’s people, Serge is in her thrall and Reed is some sort of transfixed. This is all due to Reed’s body armor. There was some deal between Lilitu’s space vampire big daddy Calobis and Helspont. Helspont was supposed to cure the space vampires of their space vampirism. Helspont failed, but they apparently built Reed’s suit with DNA that the Cabal had taken from Calobis. Complicated, sure, but this is comics, and this is why we LOVE comics. Well, at least it is why I love comics. Oh, ready to get more complicated? Turns out Calobis is still kinda sorta alive in this suit, but he’s too bonded with Amanda for anyone to remove it and not kill him. Turns out there’s another suit like this out there, and if Lilitu can find it, she can smoosh them together and Calobis will be free of Reed. Neat.
Through Calobis puppeting Reed, a small beat down is happening against Lilitu and her space mummy sidekick. Even Serge is coming in and out of his thrall to through a few punches in the correct direction. CyberJack and Jodi are on their way to save Marc and Amanda when they encounter Mahkinot and decide to team up. Meanwhile, newly re-alive Slayton is playing out an old memory of him being in ancient Japan. It works wonders and he ends up where all the action is going down until he snaps back into the real world. Before he can do anything heroic to save the day, Mahkinot Kool-Aide Man’s it and bursts through the wall. This throws sunlight everywhere and even though she’s a space vampire, Lilitu can’t be in sunlight. Thusly, our heroes manage an escape on Mahkinot’s jet.
Arriving back at CyberJack’s safehouse Jodi notes that a proximity alarm has been tripped. Slayton commands everyone to stay back as he goes to investigate. Who’s waiting for him? Turns out it’s his old pal Cray, fixing himself a bowl full of Cheerios. Hell of a time for a drop in Cray.
- The end of this story picks right up in “Deathblow” volume one issue 23. We’re presented with only Cray in the kitchen in “Backlash” 14, but both he and Dane will be present in the “Deathblow” issue. It doesn’t seem like more than a few seconds have even passed, that’s why I’m not a fan of the reading order in the back of an issue of “Deathblow” that has Dane return to Wetworks to do a training exercise between the two issues. It just doesn’t work as well as my somewhat wonky way to read issues 14 and 15 of “Wetworks” volume one.
- Next time we’ll meet Lilitu is in “WildCore” issues 5 and 6, so keep her in the back of your mind.
- While it is never specified in the comic which government agency Branum was working for, he eventually goes on to work for P.S.I. as does the entire cast of “Backlash” after “Fire from Heaven.”
- We’re getting our first vision of Slayton’s long life with his memories of old Japan. It is 1642 and he’s in the Edo area of Japan as a ninja, fighting other ninja and samurai because he was betrayed by the current warlord in charge, Lord Tokugawa. Edo is now known as Tokyo, and the year lines up with when Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate. Score one for historical accuracy (for once).
- Serge and Mahkinot have that cool jet, I figure that’s how they got from one paying job in LA in “Grifter” volume one issues 7 through 10, to the Florida Keys in “Backlash” issue 12 so quickly.
- Something’s been bugging me… how did Serge & Mahkinot get to the mid ’90s? I’ll admit, I may’ve missed it, but they’re from Mars and from the year 2017, right? So how did they get to Earth and in their past? Is it ever explained?