“Deathblow Gets Dusted”

this entry covers  the short story “Deathblow Gets Dusted” starring Deathblow from the “WildStorm Winter Special”

WildStormWinterSpecial_01Here’s a short story set in Columbia in 1985 concerning Michael Cray, aka Deathblow, on an assassination assignment. I assume he was sent here by I/O, but who the hell knows because a few things don’t add up. First, who is there with Cray? At first I assumed it was Slayton, but by stories end that dude is dead, so it can’t’ve been Slayton. Second, this dude is giving Cray orders, and we’d already seen in “Team 7 : Dead Reckoning” that Cray gets his orders directly from Craven. Did Craven let another government agency “borrow” Cray to pull off this assassination? Doesn’t seem like Craven’s style at all, but is possible. Also, there’s a super powered being lurking in those Columbian jungles, as Cray is soon to find out. Don’t tell me Craven didn’t know about this dude, that evil jerk knows everything! Hell, Craven would’ve told Cray to bring that dude in if he could! Not seeing Craven involved just brings up so many questions as to why Cray is even involved in this mission.

Cray is supposed to be killing a drug kingpin, while setting up the shot he notices a man that goes by the name of “the Butcher” is hanging out with the drug lord. Cray knows all about the Butcher, the man had a bus full of kids rigged to explode and ran it into a police headquarters. Cray wants to take this guy out too, his mission commander says this mission is one shot, one kill, leave the Butcher out of this. Right then a guy dressed up like a fancy pants mummy stabs both the commanding officer and then Cray. Poor dude didn’t know that nothing can kill the Deathblow! As Cray punches his body into dust, that dust begins to surround him, and as he inhales it, he goes on the trip of his life!

Seriously, Cray finds himself inside a real crazy hallucination. He sees the foppish mummy stand up and leave.  He’s running around some kind of old temple. Cray is smart; he gets what has happened and knows this is all in his head. That is until he finds himself on a bus flying over the bodies of everyone he’s ever killed. Also, it is full of zombie kids that are clawing at him. He asks the children what they want and they cry out for vengeance.

Cray wakes to find himself right where he was earlier, the fancy assassin on one side, his commanding officer on the other. The commanding officer, while dying, tell Cray that he still needs to complete the mission. Then he reveals that the Butcher is an informant to the government and is reminded that he is under orders to only take out the drug lord, before passing out. Cray understands this, but the phrase “one shot” from his commanding officer, and the phrase “vengeance” from the zombie bus dream kids keep going through his mind as he’s lining up his shot. Cray waits. He waits until he can take out both the kingpin and the Butcher with a single shot.

Man, this is a great short story. Allen Warner and Carlos D’Anada added something great to Cray’s life without taking anything away from the established character. And damn, if Carrie Strachan as colorist, especially during the hallucination didn’t absolutely nail it, well I don’t know what you want. The story seems substantial and looks beyond fantastic. This might be the most perfect comic short in WildStorm history.

Next Week : “Gen13” Preview by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi & Mike Deodato Jr.

“Team One”

this entry covers “Team One : StormWatch” issues 1 & 2 and “Team One : WildC.A.T.s” issues 1 & 2.

TeamOneAlright, let’s kick this off with an explanation to a question that’s been posed, “Why does this come in your reading order after “WildC.A.T.s” and “StormWatch” have started? All the events take place before.” It’s a fair question, so I always refer to first page of “Team One : WildC.A.T.s” which is captioned “the Present” and features a contemporary Jacob Marlowe and Void speaking, as he says he’s thinking of his past. Then we get a caption that reads “the Past” and we flashback to a young Marlowe going by the name Saul Baxter. The use of the “the Past” captions continue through all four books showing that this is a story being told about the past from the present. Why not put it closer to when it was published? Well that is right around the lead up to “WildStorm Rising” and interrupting that storytelling inertia just seems sadistic. So basically I put it after a few issues of “WildC.A.T.s” and “StormWatch” each, so you’d know some of the main players and where their paths will take them.

If I ever got another question about the “Team One” books it might be “What order should I read these in?” The answer is, that’s up to you. I’m fond of reading “Team One : WildC.A.T.s” issue 1 first, followed by both “Team One : StormWatch” books and then concluding with “Team One : WildC.A.T.s” issue 2. There might be a better way to do this, but that’s going to include tearing the pages out of the books, mixing together and arranging them from there. It is more work than necessary (but I’d be willing to give it a go on a rainy Sunday.)

So yeah, this is the past. How far past? I’m never exactly sure, but I always think it’s 1962. Why? In “WildC.A.T.s” it’s been mentioned that there was an event that occurred that gave the Daemonites an upper hand 30 years prior to that series. I figure that since it’s set in 1992, you subtract 30 from that, and you get 1962. Also the letter pages say it’s the ’60s, I guess it could be any year in that decade, but 1962 feels good narratively.

So who is on Team One? We have a few folks we know, Henry Bendix as Think Tank, Mark Slayton as Slay, Miles Craven from I/O and Jacob Marlowe as Saul Baxter, a different side of the man that even he possibly doesn’t remember. We also meet Mr. Majestic one of the few “out” as well as traditional superheroes in the WildStorm Universe, having been a powerhouse of the Allies in WWII. Somewhat familiar to us is Lucy Blaize, because as it turns out, she’s Zealot, there is telepath Isaiah King, father to Jackson and Malcolm King, and John Colt who is [Redacted due to “Fire from Heaven” spoilers]. We do get two all new “good guys” with Regiment (musclebound guy-with-a-gun and an attitude to kick all the asses) and Mason (beat generation rebel who has a few tricks up his sleeve). There’s also Khasm, who we see for a single panel before Craven arbitrarily says she’s no good for the team. The enemies we meet are also a mix of known, new and kind of familiar. Helspont is back, looking suave in a trench coat over his armor. Slaughterhouse Smith is a mobster that can fly and shoot lasers from his eyes. Then there’s Pike, who may or may not be related to the half-breed traitor of the same name that we all love to hate!

Team 1 is put together because there’s been 2 different alien sightings right close together, but the aliens are being called U.L.F.s, unidentified life forms. One involved Baxter/Marlowe and a Daemonite attacking a submarine a military base. The second involved Slayton and a Daemonite trying to sabotage the Icarus 5 launch at Cape Canaveral. (Another tip that this story is at least likely early ‘60s, as Cape Canaveral is named Cape Kennedy in 1963, and remains so for the next 10 years.) So Baxter/Marlowe and Lucy/Zealot, both working for the American government decide that since the government is getting all hung up on U.L.F.s that they should get a task force together, not so much to stop the Daemonites but to also help cover up the fact that their are any aliens on Earth and especially the Kheribum involvement in its history.They know that I/O and Craven are going to be involved and that’s just a problem they’re going to have to deal with. Even down to his unimaginative name of “Team One.”

Throughout the short series we learn a few things about the participants. Zealot has some sort of romantic past with John Colt, and another kind of past with Slayton of the non-romantic type. We meet both a young eager Henry Bendix, but also his ex-wife for some reason, and she’s supposedly a weak telepath. Regiment is supposed to be a bit secret to everyone but Craven so he is shocked to see Regiment tapped for Team 1. Regiment needs regular shots of an experimental drug to stay as strong as he is. In fact, of the other “test subjects” that have taken the drug, all but Regiment have succumbed to psychosis. Regiment just might have be the first successful stab that Craven had at created a super soldier. Not sure what is exactly up with Mason, he seems to have a very dark side to him, and is delighted to find out he’s fighting aliens and that he gets to kill them. And I’m pretty sure that he erects a force field for himself at one point. I used to suspect that he’s the half Kheribum/half Daemonite that is Voodoo’s father, but I don’t think that history bears that out.Isaiah King goes from being distrustful participant to pants-wetting newbie once the mission starts. Hell, he just wants to get back to his wife and unborn first son, I get that, but they went overboard on how far he went from badass to baby on that mission.

To get to the mission we first need to see the bad dudes hook up. We have Slaughterhouse Smith zipping around, blasting folks and we find that he rose to the top of the mob using these powers. Helspont approaches him after this attack and offers Smith whatever he wants if they can work together to meet Helspont’s goals. Those goals, take over the Earth. After a few short words with Pike, Smith agrees and a plan is hatched. The plan, take over a missile silo, point the missiles at Washington DC and hold all of America at ransom. After breaking into the missile silo, taking it over and getting Team 1 called on them, the plan changes. The new plan is the take out NYC with the missiles and show America they’re not fucking around, so meet our demands faster to save other cities this same fate. Smith hates this new plan, but too late, all of his mob underlings have turned on him and now only serve Helspont. Do’h!

Team One shows up and starts kicking ass, but things don’t go their way. They barely manage to stop the missile aimed at NYC, and that’s the only real victory they get. John Colt sacrifices himself to give Isaiah the time he needs to redirect the missiles. In fact he has Mr. Majestic blast him and all the Daemonites and mobsters that surround him. So the missile’s navigation system is destroyed, with Regiment riding on top of the missile to redirect it, I guess. And… and… and… that’s all we really know, because the lights go out in the missile silo and the story ends there.

Knowing the WSU future, we know a few things about the fate of Team 1’s members, but what we know also gives us more questions:

  • In the last few pages we find that Lucy/Zealot is pregnant. Is she pregnant with John Colt’s baby, or some different baby? Did that baby end up becoming a member of StormWatch?
  • Is this when Isaiah King started to go crazy? How long before he is full blown nuts? We know he had to stay at least normal enough to have Malcolm and then raise both King boys enough that they know and have some respect for the man he was.
  • How did Baxter/Marlowe fall so far down from where he was, to living on the streets in 1990?
  • John Colt got a super eye blast from Mr. Majestic that was enough to kill the Daemonites, so he’s a assumed dead, but why does he look so damn much like Spartan?
  • Is this the incident that made Mr. Majestic go into hiding, or at least start working very secretly, out of the public eye?
  • Regiment survives his missile ride, but how did he get the experimental drugs that he needs to stay normal and kick-ass before we see him in the ‘90s in the pages of “Grifter?”
  • Who really was Mason, and what is his backstory?

As far as the characters we have full knowledge of, Bendix goes on to create his own superpowered team between Team 1 and his appointment to StormWatch, while Slayton stays on with I/O and joins Team 7. Craven continues to run I/O and gets much more into trying to create superhumans to fight under his command as he grows him super spy empire. Things we find out about the WSU in general is that the Russians are several years ahead of America in telepathic research in 1962, which is a possible explanation for the three powerful telepaths that battled Team 7 during the ‘70s in “Team 7 : Objective : Hell.” So here we are, a bit more of the tapestry that is the WildStorm Universe. I’m glad that this was produced later down the line when it was, I’m afraid that there’d be some Extreme Studios or more likely some Top Cow characters in here if it had been produced any earlier. In my opinion the WSU has enough compelling characters and ideas that it can fill any need and stand on its own without any help.

NEXT : “the Kindred” Vol. 1 issues 1 – 4 by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi, Brett Booth and Sean Ruffner

“StormWatch : Urban Storm”

this entry covers the short story “Urban Storm” starring StormWatch. Originally printed in “the Art of Homage Studios” and reprinted in “WildStorm Rarities.”

ArtofHomageStudiosThis short story isn’t too much of anything, other than seeing StormWatch deal with a real life situation that they’d be called to, namely the LA Riots of 1992. It is only a few pages but it tries to deal with both violence and racism in a way that doesn’t come off as corny, preachy or pandering. I remember myself finding this story more powerful as a kid in the MidWest seeing some of his favorite comic characters deal with something that he’d only seen on television news. Now that I live in Los Angeles I can’t even begin to think of what it was like in this city during that time. This story reminds me of the harsh reality the city I now call home faced, as it has more or less been used as the setting for a joke in the last few years. It’s also nice seeing Jim Lee’s art in these pages depicting Battalion, Diva, Fuji and Hellstrike. Is this the only time Jim drew these characters? I can’t recall any others, but I really wish he would have, they look fantastic!

Because this story takes place in April 1992, that means it takes place before “WildC.A.T.s” starts, as it is all happening in August of 1992.

Next : “StormWatch” Vol. 1 issues 1 through 3 by Brandon Choi and Trevor Scott.

“StormWatch” Vol. 1 issues 1 – 3

this entry cover “StormWatch” Vol. 1 issues 1 through 3

StormWatchVol1_01-03I have a long and troubled history with “StormWatch.” In a lot of ways I always wanted to like it more than “WildC.A.T.s,” I’m not sure why. Point of the matter is, “WildC.A.T.s” can get fun when it the storytelling gets messy, and boy, does it gets messy, but “StormWatch” just gets boring later in its run. Until Warren Ellis start writing for it, “StormWatch” is the underdog of the WildStorm Universe, at least of the Lee/Choi books I Guess that “Wetworks” is the true underdog of the WSU. See, I usually root for the underdog, so maybe that’s why I was attracted to it, and kept reading it far longer than I should have, because after a bit, I really wasn’t enjoying it. However, the start was pretty strong and that carried me through quite a bit!

First page is a splash page and we meet Jackson King, AKA Battalion, shooting some big ass guns even though he has super crazy mind powers. Kick ass! Turn the page and we get another splash page featuring the rest of the team! The team is a product of the United Nations, so the idea is that there is several heroes, representing several different UN member countries will work together as a team to help with global issues, as they arise. We meet Fuji (the Big Guy from Japan), Winter (energy blaster from Russia), Diva (sonic screamer from Italy) and Hellstrike (another energy blaster, this time from Scotland). The team is on a mission to stop a group of mercenaries from finding a seedling to give to Helspont’s group. Oh, and just a reminder, a seedling is someone who was granted powers by a magical comet that passed close to earth, or is the child of someone who received powers from said magicomet. This is what the merc’s were after, a potential super powered being that Helspont had paid them to track down. I’m starting to get the idea that this story takes place before the events of “WildC.A.T.s” issues 0 – 4, as we all saw Helspont bite it at the end of that story arc, and the second part of this issue takes place at a funeral. No way are they gonna keep that guy on ice for more than a few days. Okay, maybe this could take dream/memory/flashback takes place before the start of “WildC.A.T.s” as that plays out over a day or two, and then since the funeral is in America it took a few days for the body to get there from Sarajevo… I’m stretching here. I guess it should be either before “WildC.A.T.s” 0 -4 or RIGHT after it but before getting to the “WildC.A.T.s” Special.

The Mercenaries are introduced to us too, but there’s only one that is really worth remembering, and that is Deathtrap. I mean, maybe Razor is worth remembering, but I don’t think they ever expound on her former connection with StormWatch, so she’s mostly just there. I think that Slayer may be a Coda or former Coda, but she doesn’t have a clef blade, just crazy face paint, and she pops up from time to time in the background of various WildStorm titles. When it comes to Kilgore and Brutus, there’s nothing much to be said. In fact when we meet the mercs, not only is Brutus not pictured as part of their group until a few pages later, he isn’t even named until the next issue. Poor Brutus. No love for the poor evil mercenary.

On the ground helping with saving the seedling is Windsor, a simple human on the ground who is an old pal of Jackson’s. I’ve already mentioned the funeral earlier, well it’s Windsor’s. He gets blown up but good by Deathtrap, but his sacrifice isn’t in vain as the seedling is saved! Before we move on to the funeral we meet a few more of the players in StormWatch, Jackson’s little Malcolm and Synergy, or more commonly known as Christine Trelane. Malcolm got mixed up with some hooligans and Synergy got the Chicago PD to bring him Jackson’s and drop the charges. Working for the United Nations comes with quite a few perks, in this case, diplomatic immunity! This does upset Jackson a bit, that Sarajevo mission was supposed to be his last one for StormWatch, and now, with the loss of his friend, he goes out with the deep sadness of another loss in his life.

We finally get a look at SkyWatch, the base of operations for StormWatch. It’s a goddamn USS Enterprise crossed with a satellite that orbits the Earth ready to find trouble and send help. The Star Trek comparison is more than apt, as the crew wear Trek-like unitards, the beam up and down from orbit to the Earth and they’re even lead by a bald guy. This particular baldy is Henry Bendix who is on the role of Weather Man One, the general manager of StormWatch, if you will. The UN are the bosses, but Bendix calls the shots on a daily basis. He’s also hard wired in to Skywatch to better monitor the whole shebang.

Ok, Windsor’s funeral. Jackson, Malcolm and Synergy attend, but they’re not alone, the mercs are there too! Oh, sheesh y’all, no way! Also, we find out Synergy’s comet power, she can activate seedlings (this is before her power of… I dunno, world’s greatest project manager?) She activates Malcolm to keep the mercs from taking him. Suddenly Fuji is there to help punch the bad dudes, so that’s cool. Synergy calls Bendix and he agrees to send Diva and Hellstrike ASAP, but that’ll take 5 minutes. He has another StormWatch group he can send, but he elects send them to Chernobyl, where something odd is happening. This grouping consists of Winter, Fahrenheit (fire based energy blaster), Cannon (energy blaster with a ponytail) and our cannon fodder characters: Ion & Lancer. They beam down into the craziness, to see what’s going on down there. Cut back to the funeral and we see Hellstrike and Diva help drive off the mercs and then everyone goes back to SkyWatch to help out Malcolm and take stock of what just happened. While there, a very beaten up Cannon beams aboard with out the rest of his team, uh oh, this doesn’t look good!

Cannon tells everyone that his team encountered a real bad ass named Regent, who wormed his way into their demention via the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. He also says that Winter activated Cannon’s teleport to beam back to SkyWatch to grab others to help in the battle against Regent. We find that Regent has kept both Winter and Fahrenheit alive, but has inhibited them from using their powers. He is impressed with their strength; however, they won’t stop his conquest of Earth. StormWatch catches up with Regent and tries to defeat him, but the task is proving a bit too difficult. In fact this fight is going so poorly that the UN council wants to send in the Wargaurd, even though SkyWatch crew member Major Dianne LaSalle strongly disagrees with that idea. Bendix knows she’s right, but says the Wargaurd will be sent in, if needed. Luckily StormWatch beats up enough on Regent that he runs away. Don’t worry, we’ll find out more about him in the pages of “Union.” But what of Malcolm? While in hospital he has the pleasure of meeting StormWatch’s favorite grandpop, Backlash! Ok, sure we all know him as Marc Slayton of Team 7, he seems like a big deal here, and not quite the asshole we knew back in the ’70s.

I remember reading these books in my parent’s basement and my cousin Matt looking at it and saying “that book looks awesome!” He was mainly remarking on the look of Jackson King, but it was pretty true none the less. I immediately liked Winter and Fuji the best. I dunno, Winter seemed like the underdog on the underdog team and Fuji, he just seemed like a really down to Earth cool guy with a gigantic body! I’m not going to lie and say that “eventually I learned to really enjoy all of these characters” because that didn’t happen. Seriously, I never became a fan of Cannon or Diva. Hellstrike grew on me a few redesigns and a personality upgrade later (I may be a loner in digging his ’70s cop look). You can’t tell me that Hellstrike’s initial look was anything special. Hell, even Ion was only just a recolor of his very generic uniform. Admittedly, it takes years for Fahrenheit to become worthwhile in the pages of “StormWatch : PHD” but when she does, wow, and it is crazy thinking about her evolution based on this first appearance. It is also nice to see how Jackson went from a pretty bland character to a fully fleshed out one over the course of the WildStorm tenure. Hell, the evolution of Synergy is a crazy one, resulting in an entirely different look for the character, going from ’80s pin up girl to a ’00s Annie Hall.

The WildStorm Universe is really starting to gel with “StormWatch.” In it we have references to Helspont, as well as setting up the backstory for the forthcoming “Union” book. Really the only thing missing is a more overt mention of I/O, besides having Slayton appear. Still, I wanted to know more about how the UN created StormWatch, how Bendix became Weather Man One, and if Malcolm King would ever get his shit together. Also, who in the hell is the Warguard and why people pissing themselves over it, but their bosses still think using them is a sensible last ditch effort?

NEXT : “WildC.A.T.s” Vol. 1 issues 0 through 4 by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi, Alex Garner and Brett Booth.

“WildC.A.T.s : Covert Action Teams” Special issue 1

this entry covers “WildC.A.T.s Special” issue 1

WildCATsVol1_Special_01This is the first WildStorm book I ever picked up. I’m not sure why. I’ve never been an action movie guy, so Grifter on the cover holding guns wouldn’t have piqued my interest. I was a haughty young man who often rejected anything that I found that was pandering to the general interests of a teenage boy, so I wouldn’t’ve picked up on the grounds of “hot scantily clad lady” on the cover either. I dunno, I guess the cover just looked cool to me. How it was all put together looked a lot more like a work of art. It’s commercial art sure, but a damn site better than what I had been used to seeing as cover art on comics up to that point. This cover had no speech bubbles, no crowding of text, just a well-done image, colored beautifully with the title at the top and the artists names at the bottom (why the writer didn’t get a credit on the cover bothered me though). Either way, it doesn’t really matter why I picked it up, just the point that I did pick it up, and as I read it I found a comic universe that I found entertaining engaging and interesting enough to keep exploring.

The story opens up with a Daemonite losing its host body, a Hollywood actor who is dying of a drug overdose. The Daemonite quickly moves to the body of a doctor who was trying to save the actor and from there he calls Gnome asking where he can get a better human host to take on. Ok, so I was wrong last week when I listed future appearances of Gnome, because he’s represented here pretty well. He still has information on “gifted ones” to sell to anyone who wants it. At the same time Providence, formally of Helspont’s Cabal, is visiting her former home and trying to find comfort in her new life as a mostly seeing, mostly knowing being of great power. Meanwhile Void is having a dream about a very special baby in a war torn land. Obviously, this is all going to come together somehow.

The war torn country is Yurgovia. Yurgovia is currently at war with Kasmia and is being run by a former Coda warrior known as Destine. Destine is in contact with Gnone, because that little goof wants to get back at Jacob for what went on in “WildC.A.T.s” Vol. #4. So he sends the Daemonite to Providence and then has Providence teleport them both to Yurgovia to meet up with Destine. At this same time the WildC.A.T.s have interpreted Void’s dream and are on their way to Yurgovia to find the “gifted one” as well as take down the Daemonite. The best way to do this is to send in Grifter, because he’s been in Yurgovia before, and Voodoo, because she’ll be able to spot the Daemonite easily, and if they need help, they can always call in the rest of the team.

Things can never go as planned, and because both Void and Providence teleported at the same time, Void’s coordinates are slightly off, so Grifter and Voodoo landing outside of town. After a short fight with a couple crazy tanks in a cemetery, they’re both off to investigate the town for a new born baby of a very pregnant woman. They end up at a place called the “Laughing Wolf” where the bartender is an old buddy of Grifters. The bartender has the information they want and gives them the address of a girl that’s being called “Eliska the Witch” who just recently gave birth. So the duo set out in the direction of where Eliska’s family calls home and find a sight that leaves Grifter awe struck.

No one ever expects to find a Coda warrior standing over the body of a dead woman, holding back a girl from her baby, which a Daemonite is standing over, while a creepy girl in a robe is floating over them all. It is a shocking scene to be sure, but it is time to go and as Grifter and Destine begin to fight as the Daemonite takes over the “gifted one” baby. So things are looking down, obviously, that’s when the rest of the C.A.T.s ‘port in and help save the day. I know I don’t get down into details about the fights, I’m not a huge fan of that kind of stuff in comics, and it is never the parts of the story that stick with me. When there are pages of fight scenes I kind of check out. I love so many characters in the WSU, but without a doubt, nothing could ever be done to make Warblade more interesting to me, because his main shtick was fighting in a cool and badass way, and that does nothing for me. Also, for my money, Maul isn’t all the interesting as the big brute, when he’s smaller and smarter he’s awesome, as soon as he gets big, eh, what’s the rest of the team up to?

With Destine and the Daemonite dead, the WildC.A.T.s take in Eliska and her baby and resolve to teach them a thing or two about their heritage. This leaves a couple of plot holes I’d love to have seen followed up on. We learn from the bartender that Eliska has some sort of psychic powers, so that must mean that is another Kheribum out there that is loving and leaving ladies with super powered kids. Who is this Kheribum? Also, with Destine out of power, does that mean Yurgovia is going to fall to Kasmia any day now? We know that the war was near its end, but what happens now when Kasmia takes over completely? Whatever becomes of Eliska and her kid? Seems like the type of characters that could make a pretty rad come back in a future story to me.

Despite the story’s many loose ends, there’s so much that I loved about this story, as much now as when I read it in my high school pal’s living room after I first picked it up. First off, Travis Charest’s art, damn, that is good art! To know how much better he’s going to get and see what he’s going to do for future “Wildcats” books is awesome. I’m not going to lie, I had the Charest pin-up from this issue taped up on my bedroom wall, right next to a “Back to the Future” poster. The characters over time had slight personality shifts and after reading the opening “WildC.A.T.s” series I was stuck with how much I liked Grifter right away. His hitting on Voodoo to no avail, as well as goofing on Jacob by calling him “Little Buddy” made me laugh. Yeah, Grifter was an early favorite of mine, what kind of odd ball, comic reading 13-year-old wouldn’t find that character at least a little bit cool and fun? If you don’t get it, you’re not the first, I tried telling my pal Mike as I read it how great Grifter was, but he was way more interested in watching a “Gummi Bears” rerun at the time. Ok, neither of us was cooler than the other, but I still think I was getting the better entertainment.

Next Week“Wetworks” Vol. 1 issues 1 through 3 by Brandon Choi, While Portacio and Scott Williams

“WildC.A.T.s : Covert Action Teams” Vol. 1 issues 0 – 4

this entry covers issues 0 through 4 of “WildC.A.T.s”

WildCATsVol1_00-04Here we are at the true beginning of the WildStorm Universe, ground zero if you will! Set in 1992 and released in 1992, we are finally in “real time” with the books as they are released. Not that this will always continue, but more or less the rest of the WSU titles will occur in the years they are released, of course there’s odd compression, sure a year or two will pass and only be reflected as a month or two and will be referred to as either in text, depending on the situation, but that is just standard comics nonsense. It is nonsense that we all accept due to suspension of disbelief, because if we’re already onboard with super strong meta-humans and aliens running around, why can’t we accept chronological oddities as well?

Let’s get issue zero out of the way first. It adds up to very little. It mostly tskrd place in the time between pages 6 and 7 of the first issue of “WildC.A.T.s.” In fact, all that ends up being something more than filler is the few pages depicting Void’s origin and the one page that establishes second string villains Gnome (as well as Alberto Cassini’s relationship with him) and the Triad. It also tries to top how each of the individual WildC.A.T.s members are introduced, but it cannot top the first issue of “WildC.A.T.s” as Jim Lee was on top of his game when he drew that and Brett Booth just can’t match up with that kind of awesome.

So, the first four issues of “WildC.A.T.s” are… uh, kind of a mess. I really hate saying that too. I hate that I will say it again as well in regards to WildStorm stories, especially WildC.A.T.s stories. There is so much going on here, yet, at the same time it seems like such a small story. Oddly compacted in a way. All the main players in this story are after either the Orb, “the gifted one” or both.

The main players you ask? Well, there’s Jacob Marlowe a wealthy man who’s past is a mystery to himself, but is told he’ll do great things (turns out, he’s an alien lord), leading a team consisting of Void (silver coated teleporter), Spartan (super tough android), Warblade (shapes limbs into sharp objects) and Maul (obligatory big strong guy). This team is looking for “the gifted one” as well as being interested in finding out more about the Orb. Our next team is a small one consisting of Zealot (alien Coda warrior) and Grifter (our old buddy Cash from Team 7) who are looking for “the gifted one” as well, but don’t give a fuck about the Orb. Next up is our main bad guy, an alien named Hellspont and his crew of evil doers which consists of Pike (mercenary), a nameless Coda assassin, Alberto Cassini (done in by Pike in half a page), M’Koi (alien scientist), B’Lial (alien posing as Dan Quayle), Providence (think a younger Void in a flowing robe), two suits, and a dude that sports both a monocle and an eye patch! We don’t see much of those last three unfortunately (which sucks, I want to know a lot more about monocle/eye patch dude!) but we also know that Hellspont has multiple Coda and various other aliens working for him too, these guys are after both the Orb and “the gifted one.” Finally we have Gnome, who we don’t know too much about and his band of a Coda warrior and the Triad, consisting of Slag (lava monster), Attica (cyborg) and H.A.R.M. (robot). Gnome knows all about “the gifted one” but he doesn’t care, in fact he’s selling that information so that he can get closer to his true desire, the Orb. Not only do we have these 4 groups running around, but we also have the I/O Psi-Ops department getting involved, so we get to see Lynch (yay!) in his current role in international espionage but also we meet Youngblood for a bout of inter-company crossover synergy for Image! Yeah, that’s a lot to keep track of, it’s easier reading the issues of the comic than hearing the explanation, then again knowing that it all makes some kind of sense in the end does make it a little easier to read.

Ok, above I used the generic term “alien” more than a few times, and for the WSU “alien” really is a generic term as there are so many different kinds of races of alien here, I’m going to help sort this out a bit. The main aliens in the WSU are the Kherubim and the Daemonites. Lucky for the artists Kherubim look mostly like humans! Jacob and Zealot are full-fledged Kherubium. On the other hand Daemonites look monstrous, with huge heads and an extra set of tiny little T-Rex arms. Daemonites usually possess other creatures such as humans, or in the case of Hellspont who has possessed an alien from the Acuran race. Mostly Daemonites can’t survive outside of their hosts while on Earth, but this rule goes back and forth so it isn’t always true. Daemonites sometimes kill their host when they are separated, sometimes not, depends on what is more dramatic in the situation it seems. Daemonites can also shape shift when needed, this remains pretty consistent through-out the run of the WSU. Our Daemonites with hosts are Hellspont, M’Koi and B’Lial. We also have Maul who is half-alien and half human with his alien half being Titanthrope, which is a Kherubim race in name but not genetics. Warblade is usually referred to a half-breed as well, with half being Kherubim and being part of the Shapers Guild, but at least once his parents are both referred to being of Kherubim heritage. Pike is called a “half-breed traitor” by one of the Coda, so one can suspect that he is half Kherubim as well, but this is never expanded on beyond that off the cuff remark in “WildC.A.T.s #3.” All these half human half aliens are also referred to as “gifted ones” so who is the main “gifted one” that so many folks are after? That would be an exotic dancer known as Voodoo.

Voodoo is more than just half Kherubim and half human. In fact, halves would be a misnomer, thirds would be more accurate. She’s part Kherubim, human and Daemonite. It’s true! This is elaborated more in a future “WildC.A.T.s” annual that I can’t seem to find a good place for in continuity! Seriously, the 1998 annual just can’t have happened in any time line I construct! None the less, it deals with Voodoo’s heritage, and that heritage bears out in the rest of the comics, so it’s cannon whether or not the book itself is at odds with the reality of the WSU timeline. So what is so special about Voodoo being a tri-breed? What powers does that imbue her with? Why the power of “sight” for starters. That is to say, she can tell Daemonites are Daemonites while they are in possession of other hosts or are shape shifting. Also this power can affect people looking at her in some way that makes her seem super amazing. She can also develop Daemonite clawed hands while in hand to hand combat too.

As you can tell, a lot of cool comicy sci-fi fun is getting all set up with these first few issues, but so much so that it feels overstuffed, as this is a story of Jacob Marlowe’s team meeting up with Zealot and Grifter and adding Voodoo to their crew. All while keeping Hellspont and his minions from activating a space bridge that would link Earth to the Daemonite home world so they could invade. Oh yeah, the Kherubim and Daemonites have been in a war since forever and a handful of each race have spent the last several thousand years duking out on Earth. Sometime in the ‘60s the Daemonite’s gained the upper hand in the war and getting their hands on the Orb would give them the power to finally end the conflict by overwhelming the limited Kherubim forces on Earth with limitless Daemonites. Sounds like a good plan, except for, duh, the good guys are going to win and also (future spoiler), no one on Earth knows that the war has been over for a long long time and nobody bothered to tell the forces on Earth, as Earth is in the backwoods of the universe. All the other aliens laugh at it and call it Earthtucky. But yeah, this is a “how the team got together and defeated their first bad guy” story which is good, but with everything else going on, it is a bit overly complicated.

Everything with I/O seems a bit tacked on. Don’t get me wrong, I love that Lee and Choi started world building this early on! I mean, we’re seeing Lynch and Turner (and even Santini, kinda) as well as establishing I/O a central interest in the WildStorm Universe titles. And while it feels a bit tacked on, it doesn’t feel as out of place as the involvement of Youngblood. I get that Youngblood works for the U.S. government and I’m pretty sure that both Stormwatch and I/O were created to deal with the rest of the world, and not the U.S. specifically because the WSU didn’t want to create conflict with in the greater Image Universe, but man, the look of those characters sticks out like a sore thumb. Yes, the WildC.A.T.s team looks oh so ‘90s, but in that “classic cool ‘90s” way, while Youngblood comes across as ‘90s in the “good lord, that is so ‘90s!” You get what I’m saying? Also, Youngblood just doesn’t seem to jive as well with what the WSU is setting up for me; oddly the “Cyberforce” and “Savage Dragon” crossovers that are to come have always worked fairly well in my eyes and feel much more organic than any of the others. Maybe I’m on my high horse and being an elitist about it, but Lee and Silvestri’s early Image work equals good, while Liefeld’s equals laughable. The Image Universe will fracture more and more as time goes on, and it is kind of cool to see what they were wanting to do before tossing in the towel on that front. After this we don’t get more than a few name checks toward the Extreme Studios side of Image comics in WSU books.

Another thing I might as well mention here is the use of super hero aliases in the WildStorm Universe. Sure, everyone has them, but in most cases they are hardly used. Many of the meta-humans go by their given name in most cases. There are always a few exceptions, but first names are pretty much the status quo here. Some of their code names stick longer than others, but it feels odd for me to type Maul when most characters start to just call him Jeremy on a regular basis as time goes on. I think Void and Warblade are the only two that are regularly called by their code names after a while. Even Zealot starts to be called Zannah more and more in the later issues, granted it never becomes as common as calling Grifter by either Cole or Cash, or Voodoo going by Priss, but it is none the less done fairly often. Then there’s Spartan, the robot with too many damn names! Spartan, Hadrian, Jon Colt, Yohn Cohl, Jack Marlowe, Metavac, and I’m sure there’s more I’m not remembering right now! These ended up being comics produced in the “post-ironic” age, so super hero names seemed both necessary, but also silly and needless. Not to mention that a team like the WildC.A.T.s are, by name, covert. Code names would only really be needed on missions and not so much the rest of the time that team is together, you know, hanging out or whatever.

The newly formed WildC.A.T.s saved the day with Youngblood by… well, let’s see… the day was saved… hrmmm, how do I put this… they all did heroic things, they saved Voodoo from being killed &/or drafted to Hellspont’s side, and… they exposed B’Lail as a mole in the U.S. government… and they kept the Orb away from Hellspont and Gnome. Now, they didn’t exactly stop Hellspont, Gnome blasted him with the Orb. Also, Gnome only “lost” the Orb after Jacob shot off his arm off his body causing him to drop it, then Gnome dives down a deep shaft after it. Not knowing anything about Gnome we don’t know if that would hurt him or not. For all we know and Jacob know, Gnome could survive that fall, and still have the Orb and a new hook hand. What is sad is that neither Hellspont nor Gnome come back in a real meaningful way after this. They were both seemingly set up as major villians here and then next to nothing. We do see Gnome later as part of a DV8/Gen13 cross over where he and the Orb play a small roll. With Hellspont we get a few glimpses of his rise to power in the pages of “Team One” as well as later “WildC.A.T.s” stories before we finally see his return in “Gen13.” Ugh, the less said about that return the better (really Lobdell, Hellspont channeling Deadpool?) The best use of Hellspont was in “Majestic” Vol. 2, but unfortunately that story came with a big reset button. Finally, Hellspont on an asteroid w/ Kaizen Gamorra in “Wildcats” Vol. 4 could’ve been rad as hell, but nothing really became of that as far as we ever saw. That might’ve been the problem, Hellspont should’ve been the big bad of the entire WSU but they always wanted to bring him back in a truly badass way and never quite got to where they wanted to be to prove that badass-ness! In a lot of ways I think that Tao overtook the roll of ultimate villain, because evil scheming smarts is more fun to write and read than badass alien overlord. But such is serialized media with a host of different creators working to build it bit by bit over the years, a few characters get left on the sidelines.

At the end of the day this was a very over-reaching story that was trying not only establish a team of very different characters, but also it’s own sub-universe and tone. It succeeds in the end due to it’s fresh feeling and refusal to stop. Sure, the books always shipped late from early Image, but we kept picking them up anyway. Well for me, I picked these up out of back issue bins, all story, no waiting, as next week I’ll cover the first WildStorm book I ever got my hands on, that started my love for the whole crazy mess!

Next Week : “WildC.A.T.s” Special issue 1 (by Steve Gerber, Travis Charest and Scott Williams)

“Gen13” Preview

this entry covers “Gen13” Vol. 2 Preview

Gen13Vol2_PreviewOk, yeah, I know that last week I stated that this would be the point where I finally got to WildStorm’s “proper start” or rather, start in real time with “WildC.A.T.s.” See, I forgot that this short Gen13 Preview (which was released during Vol. 2 near issue #25 for some reason) wasn’t actually presented as a flashback or a story told of the past from the present, but as a story fully contained as being in 1989. There aren’t many stories like this from WildStorm comics, they almost always have some part of them set in the present while presenting to the reader a story that took place in the past. Books like “Team 7,” “Team Zero,” and “Wildcats : Ladytron” are few and far between, so I always just assume that the book is a flashback and at this point I was wrong, good thing I went back and double checked!

What is odd about this book is that it stars the character Christine Blaze with John Lynch in a supporting roll and none of the other regular Gen13 characters. While there is some back up material about the new “Gen13” writer and artist taking over after issue #25 of that title, this feels more like it should be labeled with a “Team 7” title, or even, considering the main character, a “Divine Right” title. However, as the story plays out we do see the deep ties to “Gen13” so I guess it fits. Sometimes this feels like a story that they wanted to tell and stick somewhere else, and when everything else failed Jim Lee shrugged his shoulders and told his team to toss “Gen13” on the cover and polybag it with that month’s “Stormwatch” then ship it out to shops.

It is a fun little story, concerning Christine Blaze in Berlin shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. She’s been in deep cover for I/O for quite a while and the Coda have been dispatched to take her out. This is the first we’ve seen of the Coda, which are a bunch of badass sci-fi warrior chicks, which while they have strict codes of conduct and honor, can also be hired as mercenaries to the highest bidder. We find out that part of Christine’s deep cover was infiltrate the Coda and learn what they are up to. As the book reads, it just seems like the Coda had finally caught up to Christine after she deserts them, and are going to make her pay with her life for turning traitor on them. If only a story this short could be so simple!

Before the Coda can lop off Christine’s head she gets rescued by I/O, specifically a small team lead by Lynch (and hey Santini gets a name check!) We know that Lynch stayed with I/O after the events of “Team 7 : Dead Reckoning” because he’s a company man, but he did have misgivings about Miles Craven. This book starts to cement those doubts that Lynch is having towards Craven when we find out that the Coda had been hired by Ivana Baiul, Craven’s latest appointee to head the Sci-Tech department at I/O.

What is Ivana up to with the Coda? Why she’s hired them to go on a worldwide scavenger hunt looking for the children of Team 7. Yup, just as Dane said in the last “Team 7” book, Craven wants their children, but now he has Ivana to do his dirty work for him. Christine reminds Lynch that his son is still out there, somewhere, and while Lynch thought his boy was safe, now he can’t be too sure. Boom, there, it finally ties into “Gen13” a bit more.

This is a fun little book, it introduces us to the character of Christine Blaze, gives us a bit more of the backstory of I/O and what Lynch was up to post-Team 7 and pre-Gen13. If anything it is a little too short and it would’ve been nice to see a bit more of Christine’s past with the Coda, as they were really talking up how great she was, and how she would’ve made a great warrior. Well, she already is, and will be in her future as well, so don’t worry Coda, Christine will get hers.

Next “WildStorm Rarities : StormWatch : Urban Storm” by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi

One fanboy's chronological journey through the Wildstorm Universe