“StormWatch” Vol. 1 issue 8 and “the Kindred : Prologue”

this entry covers issue 8 of “StormWatch” Vol.1 and the 2 part prologue for “the Kindred,” originally printed in two issues of “Previews” and later reprinted in “WildStorm Rarities.”
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OK, here we go, diving deeper into the interconnectivity of the WildStorm Universe. Also, bonus Ripclaw! Shorty after Ripclaw got back from Gamorra he got a call from the Apache Nation that one of their own had gone missing. Ripclaw takes on the mission to hunt down this child, a girl by the name of Sarah Rainmaker, a character we haven’t seen since she was a baby in “Team 7 : Dead Reckoning.” As Sarah is telling Ripclaw why she left (government goons) they are set upon by the Keepers (more government goons.)

Meanwhile back on SkyWatch we see Jackson and Slayton talking about the mission in Gamorra and how WeatherMan One pulled Jackson’s fat out of the fryer. They both know that repercussions are on their way for that. Also Slayton let’s Jackson know that he’s quitting StormWatch. He needs to learn more about the Daemonites and the UN will only hold him back.

Then comes the call, StormWatch is called by the Apache Nation to come help with all the craziness going on there. WeatherMan One sends in the team, minus Hellstrike due to being messed up, and with Malcolm instead. Jackson is told to suck it up, this could help them out due to Sarah and Malcolm being similar in age.

The mission mostly works! The StormWatch team fends off I/O’s Keepers with the help of Ripclaw and Sarah is staying on the reservation with her family. Here’s the catch, those repercussions that were due from WeatherMan One’s actions on Gamorra strike. One of the conditions turns out to be that Sarah be turned over to I/O’s Project Genesis. So in tears Sarah enters a limo with Ivana Baiul.

OK, some questions are raised. At this time StormWatch the team and “StormWatch” the book are made up of seedlings, meaning they got their powers from that magic comet. (Except Backlash, but he’s supposed to be a mole for Craven, so he most likely lied to the UN about where his powers came from.) So if StormWatch is headed to the Apache Nation under the idea that there is a seedling, and it turns out the seedling is not a seedling but a human with the Gen-Factor what do they do? Take her in anyway? Tell her to wait for enough other Gen-Factored types to show up and start a team book with them? While seedlings still play a part as “StormWatch” continues, it stops being the common factor for why and how the team members received their respective powers.

Now, on to the prologue for “the Kindred!” You may ask yourself, why isn’t this right before “the Kindred?” Why is there two issues of “WildC.A.T.s” between the prologue and series proper? Well, we need to get Grifter into place, and we need it to make a little sense with what’s going on in both “WildC.A.T.s” and “the Kindred.”

After the events of “StormWatch” Vol. 1 issue 8, Backlash is looking to find out all about aliens. First he calls I/O and gets a bunch of static from Lynch. Craven must’ve never told Lynch about Backlash being a plant in the StormWatch organization. Classic Craven. After that, for some odd reason, Backlash tracks down Grifter for help. Not sure why, they kinda sorta hate each other! In fact Backlash ruined Grifter getting ready for a night out on the town, that jerk! So they fight and it’s dumb and they part ways. Backlash off to Cyberjack’s and Grifter to meet Zealot at a bar for some pool.

Next : “WildC.A.T.s” Vol. 1 issues 8 & 9 by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi with Jeff Mariotte and Travis Charest

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Killer Instinct

this entry covers “Cyberforce” Vol. 2 issues 1 – 3 and “WildC.A.T.s” Vol. 1 issues 5 – 7 in this order:
“WildC.A.T.s” Vol. 1 issue 5, “Cyberforce” Vol. 2 issue 1, “WildC.A.T.s” Vol. 1 issue 6, “Cyberforce” Vol. 2 issue 2, “WildC.A.T.s” Vol. 1 issue 7 and “Cyberforce” Vol. 1 issue 3.

WildCATsVol1_05-09I’m not a huge fan of this crossover. Not at all. It’s too long by half. I’ll admit the art is fantastic; Silvestri and Lee are at the top of their game with these issues! But, the story is only “meh”. We find that WildC.A.T. member, Warblade has a shared history with Cyberforce member, Ripclaw. They have a “Three’s Company” like misunderstanding over a girl, and that girl is alternating good and evil. It comes off as more than a little sexist. Also we get a bonus Warblade origin that is almost immediately retconned out of existence.

There is some good here! First, goddamn, I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve realized it, but Richtoffen is the eye-patched be-monocled man from the Cabal! The bald dude that I thought we’d never see again! I had always had them filed separately in my head, but I was wrong, they are one in the same, awesome! Also awesome is the fact that this is the second story in a row that takes place on Gamorra! It, in fact, is taking place at the same time as “StormWatch” issue 6, that’s just rad comics synergy. Who thought a single exploding research center atop a mountain would be so exhilarating?

Speaking of “StormWatch” we see WeatherMan-One taking notice of the fight that erupts between the WildC.A.T.s and Cyberforce and recommends that StormWatch make scans of these combatants so that facsimiles can be made for StormWatch’s Danger Room, you know, in case they ever need to fight each other. This is the first instance of StormWatch becoming aware of the WildC.A.T.s team. StormWatch has only recently become aware of Daemonites, so it is only fitting that StormWatch at least sees the WildC.A.T.s in action so quickly, y’know, to get all the super humans in the WSU on more or less the same page. StormWatch learning about the WildC.A.T.s has much bigger ramifications in the WSU than WildC.A.T.s and Cyberforce getting in a little spat against each other.

All that seems kinda great, so where do all the problems set in? Firstly with Warblade himself. So, Cyberforce are escapees from a company called Cyberdata. Cyberdata collected mutants and gave them cybernetic enhancements to boost their mutant powers, keep them as slaves, and command them to run jobs to help them take over the world. Warblade was a Cyberdata slave before Cyberforce escaped. Is Warblade a mutant or has he been cybernetically enhanced? I thought he was half (or full blooded) Kherubim alien whose family line is part of the Shapers Guild. How does any of this fit together? Can it even fit together at all? I mean, he have thought he was a mutant, due to his shape shifting arm powers, right? But then what are his cybernetic enhancements? I’m not saying that this isn’t a cool or interesting backstory for Warblade. Being found by Jacob on the shores of Gamorra all beat up from a throwdown with Ripclaw is not too bad. Him being a cyborg-mutant with the power to make his arms and fingers into sharp blades is rad as hell. But Warblade not being Kherubim is odd once they go to Khera (16 issues later) and we are introduced to the Shaper’s Guild. I guess his mutant powers might be that he is rarely consistent. I mean his race is half Kherubim, or full Kherubim, depends on who’s writing, same as his hair color. It is either brown and he dyes it green, or it grows in green. Warblade is a mess, and I guess that’s why he’s my least favorite WildC.A.T.s character, especially at this time. I always liked that in his real life he was an artist, and I liked his friendship with Jeremy too, but Reno Bryce sometimes seems like a totally different character than Warblade. He’s badass for being a badass’ sake, and ‘90s comic’s teams always needed a badass!

There’s another inconsistency, but it is pretty minor. At one point, during the break in of afore mentioned mountaintop scientific research center, Grifter mentions how Zealot got him to quit Team 7. We know for a fact that Team 7 was over before Grifter laid eyes on Zealot. Not to say she didn’t convince him to quit working for the American government, but that it is impossible for her to get him to stop working for Team 7. That’s all, minor, but me being picky on continuity is kinda the point of this blog.

The main story, as it is, is back when Warblade was with Cyberdata he used to date this one woman, who was another Cyberdata “employee.” Her code name is Misery. They’d broken up, and she’s constantly coming onto new recruit Ripclaw. The story builds us up to think that Warblade’s warnings to Ripclaw about Misery are just jealousy, but that’s not it, this chick is bad news. This mission takes place at the mountaintop scientific research center in Gamorra that we’ve all come to know and love. She uses her telepathic powers to get Ripclaw and Warblade to fight while she is doing some shady shenanigans. There is where Ripclaw thrashes him and tosses him off a cliff. There is where Jacob Marlowe finds him.

Back in the present, the WildC.A.T.s are investigating strange goings on at this same research center, and who pops up alongside Dr. Richtoffen? None other than Misery herself! Richtoffen is taken down by Warblade, and then Misery starts messing with him as the rest of the WildC.A.T.s skedaddle due to a self-destruct sequence starting. Warblade stays behind, vowing to take out Misery once and for all, and then suddenly: Ripclaw. Wait… how did Ripclaw get there? Misery lured him there with her mutant dream suggestions. So now Ripclaw and Warblade are at it again, and once again Ripclaw won’t listen when Warblade tries to tell him how even Misery is being, again. The research center explodes and again Warblade gets stabbed by Ripclaw and tossed off a cliff.

Eventually Warblade gets to the WildC.A.T.s and Cyberforce tracks down Ripclaw and they all start fighting each other on the mountain top in the wreckage of the research center. They’re all in under the mind control of Misery, so that’s keeping the fight going longer than needed. Misery keeps going between normal girl and evil girl and this is represented by her eyes going all white and a blood tear drop coming down from one of her eyes. I thought this was cool as hell as a teenager, but as an adult, it’s kinda dumb to me. Bloody tear drop, wooooo LAME! Anyhoo, Warblade puts it together that this is a full on robot programed to be like Misery, so to spare us all further pages, he takes her out. With the two teams no longer at each other’s throats, they start to bond.

So what was at this scientific research center that Richtoffen wanted so badly? Spartan’s arm from his old body that got blown up in “WildC.A.T.s” Vol. 1 issue 4. I guess Marlowe has a lockdown on the tech that Spartan is made from, good for him! We don’t want that kind of knowledge in the hands of the Gamorrans or any other evil people. While I never read “Cyberforce” so I don’t know if are any more call backs to Misery in that book, but she is never mentioned again in “WildC.A.T.s” On the other hand now that seal has been broken, we’ll see Ripclaw in an upcoming issue of “StormWatch” and he’ll team back up with Warblade in “Warblade: Endangered Species” before disappearing forever after the events of “Shattered Image.”

There’s not much here to like, or really to hate story wise. It is just kind of a lame “superpowered beings meet up and fight” kind of story. It’d been done to death at that point, but we were still a ways away from making meta comments about these tropes in text itself. Seeing Silvesti and Lee draw each other’s characters is the real highlight here, more so than the characters even meeting each other. And Jim, really? Four page fold out splash? That was genius! Who came up with that? I wish the story could’ve been a bit better, but this was the Image Age and the art was king, all else was secondary.

Next : “StormWatch” Vol. 1 issue 8 and “the Kindred : Prologue” by Brandon Choi, Jim Lee, H. K. Proger, Sean Ruffner, Brett Booth, Scott Clark and Trevor Scott

“StormWatch” Vol. 1 issues 6 & 7 and “StormWatch : Deadly Tidings”

this entry covers “StormWatch : Deadly Tidings” originally from “Image 0” and reprinted in “WildStorm Rarities” as well as “StormWatch” Vol. 1 issues 6 & 7.

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Here we go, we’re finally getting to things I really want to discuss that happen with in the WildStorm Universe! I’m excited! Ok, these 2 issues and short story call back to “StormWatch” Vol. 1 issue 0. We finally see the true fate of the StormWatch Prime team. Basically they were thought dead by the hands of Deathtrap, but in reality they were captured by him and held hostage in secret after a battle in Kuwait. Also, Sunburst is added to the roster of StormWatch Prime, along side Flashpoint, Nautika, Battalion and their leader Backlash. I’m not going to lie, it is a very basic story, but a few rad as hell in universe things are happening.

First we’re getting to know a bit more about the island nation of Gamorra, it’s leader Kaizen Gamorra, and the why it rose to power. Basically there are no concerns for human safety, black market arms deals are made there, and there is a national embrace of bleeding edge technology. The latter two are the reason for the former and it means all kinds of crazy cybernetic experiments are going on in the WSU as a result. We’ll see more direct results of of this in “Cybernary,” “Allegra” and “Hazard.”

Second we see a mountaintop research facility explode. I know, not some huge deal… right? Mountaintop research facilities are always exploding around Gamorra! Actually, this explosion is the result of what is currently going on in “WildC.A.T.s” at that very moment, and I have to say, it is an event that sticks out very clearly in the minds of comic readers from the time. It was a first moment of seeing the two books come so close together that the characters could’ve met. At the point we had not idea if the heroes of the WSU had met before (other than Union and StormWatch) and we really don’t know how many other characters know of the WildC.A.T.s, I mean staying covert is in their very name. We know that the Mercs knew Helspont and the Cabal, but that’s about all we know as far as current relationships among the teams. Even the members of Team 7 don’t know the whereabouts of each other and have no idea how much their lives will start to intertwine again.

The last few issues of “StormWatch” set up the Daemonite menace as something affecting the WSU on the whole, and not just the WildC.A.T.s battle. This issue is showing us an island where more and more action in the WSU will be centered as well as introducing us to a major player in the WSU.

StormWatch battles the Mercs, saves the captured members of StormWatch Prime, WeatherMan-One blackmails Kaizen Gamorra to keep things quiet, as well as royally piss him off. Like I said, the story isn’t too much, but the action was decent and the strands are starting to come together on this universe. I’m a continuity nut, so seeing these things gets me pretty damn excited! I need to mention that Deathtrap did something to seriously mess up Hellstrike, but we’ll see more of that later. Also, we see Diva and Jackson King flirt a little bit before getting cock-blocked by Fuji. Christine Trelane thanks you Fuji.

OK, sure, we’ll still have to see a bit of the WSU’s cousin universe, Top Cow, but Lee and Choi are serious about the connectivity of their side. Speaking of Top Cow, they figure pretty big in our next entry, for better or for worse (I still say worse).

Next : “Killer Instinct” by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi, Marc Silvestri and Eric Silvestri

“StormWatch” Vol. 1 issues 0, 4 & 5

this entry covers “StormWatch” Vol. 1 issue 0 as well as issues 4 & 5.
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“StormWatch” is a book that never seemed to give a damn about any marketing gimmick that it was supposed to participate in. Take the concept of a 0 issue. Image comics came up with this strategy, their first comics published would be a number 1 issue, but it wouldn’t burden you with backstory, instead it would get right to the action. The backstory would come at a later date via the 0 issue, and they would also be set before the events of the number 1 issue. But no, not “StormWatch,” “StormWatch” is too good for all of that! While the 0 issue of “StormWatch” would have a boat load of backstory in it, it also couldn’t be read prior to the events of the first two issues (and due to the writing, issue 3 as well) lest you spoil the death of Mr. Windsor.

This book opens with Jackson and Fuji fighting in a Danger Room-Holodeck kinda thing. “StormWatch” at its worst is just a mash-up of “X-Men” and “Star Trek : the Next Generation.” Which is another reason I probably liked it so much as a kid, because both those things are super rad! I say “worst” because it is taking a lot of those elements and not doing anything really interesting with them. Also, Danger Room’s for anyone but the X-Men are super lame. Hell, I even think the one the X-Men have is lame, and makes for lame story openers. I can only suspend my disbelief so far before I feel insulted, and the Danger Room/Holodeck in “StormWatch” is one of them. Just let the X-Men be the X-Men and have their Danger Room, and even though you’re super sci-fi “StormWatch” leave the Holodeck to ST:TNG. Smack each other around in a gym or something, I dunno, just always comes off as super lame.

While this lameness is going on there’s a group of terrorists on a small space ship approaching SkyWatch. They have a cloaking device; they attach their ship to the side of SkyWatch and then literally break in. The main dude, Tony, of this group, has a grudge against Jackson for messing up his brother during a StormWatch mission years ago. We cut back to the ’70s where we see StormWatch in its younger days, presumably not long after John Stone left when the organization was known simply as S.T.O.R.M.

We meet Jackson on a treadmill talking smack with another early StormWatch member known as Flashpoint. This is all being egged on by Windsor. Jackson mentioned how great Windsor was, and we know he died a hero, but he comes off very douchey here. We also learn that Flashpoint has the same bad attitude as Canon, there’s always one on every team. We go to a wider shot and see another member of StormWatch Prime, Nautika, not just the team girl, but also the team member without a nose.

We see the mission in which Jackson, Flashpoint and Nautika are being lead by Backlash against a group known as the Third World Liberation Front. Of course this is the group that Tony was in at the time with his brother Pedro. They were breaking into a government facility to steal information for Ivana Baiul, who is trying to get her “Project Genesis” started at I/O, for now looking at “seedlings” before switching to “gen-actives.” Jackson freaks out at Pedro and pretty much mind wipes him. This was the reason why Tony was out for revenge. This issue was the first that let us meet other older StormWatch members other than Jackson and Backlash. One more will get squeezed in soon, so be prepared to add one more member to the family tree.

When we get back to the present in issue 4 we see a StormWatch scout ship checking the perimeter of SkyWatch as we wouldn’t want any more space jock terrorists breaking in! The scout ship finds a piece of a Daemonite ship that got partially through to Earth’s atmosphere due to the events of “Reunification Day” AKA “WildC.A.T.s” Vol. 1 issues 0 – 4. It should be noted, these Daemonites are tough, they’ve been floating in space from April ’92 – Sept. ’93. Of course the Daemonites take over the SkyWatch workers and infiltrate SkyWatch.

Meanwhile we see Backlash trying to work up the nerve to propose to his girlfriend Diane LaSalle. He wusses out, way to go Slayton! Wouldn’t you know it, the Daemonites run into LaSalle and one of them takes her over but not before she sounds the shipping alarms. While “riding” LaSalle the Daemonites find out about the WarGuard. The WarGuard was a group of scientists that were on a satellite when the magic comet passed by the Earth. Being so close to the comet they got stronger powers and went crazier than seedlings on Earth. The WarGuard were locked up on SkyWatch for the safety of humanity. With the Warguard now on the loose, hosting Daemonites, we know StormWatch is in some serious trouble.

While StormWatch goes up against the WarGuard, Backlash is trying to figure out what had gotten into LaSalle. Hint: it’s an alien (I mean besides… wait… I’m too mature to make this joke.) He electrifies her with one of his little whippy things which separates LaSalle and the Daemonite. The blunt separation sends LaSalle into a coma. The WarGuard tumbles out of a SkyWatch window and for some reason everyone just assumes they’re going to burn up on re-entry. Not sure why, but we have to get to seeing a super sad Backlash with LaSalle in the medical lab of SkyWatch, so no time for worrying about possible future plot lines.

It’s important to note that the public at large has no knowledge of the Kheribum and Daemonite war, or even their existence. This is all a shock to StormWatch, who usually deal with human and super-human problems on Earth, not aliens in their space home. We know a bit more about what’s going on with LaSalle than the team, and that’s cool. Tight continuity and world building is front and center as well as seamlessly integrated for both of WildStorm’s lead titles.

Next : “StormWatch” Vol. 1 Special issue 1 by Ron Marz, Dwayne Turner, Richard Johnson and Kevin Nowlan.

“Deathblow” Vol. 1 issues 0 – 4

this entry covers “Deathblow” Vol. 1 issue 0 and “Deathblow/Cybernary” issues 1 through 3 and “Deathblow” Vol. 1 issue 4, but only the “Deathblow” stories from 1 – 4, the Cybernary stories don’t happen until later, despite what the letters column states. Note: the first 9 pages of “Deathblow” Vol. 1 issue 0 originally appeared as a short story in “Darker Image” Vol. 1 issue 1.

DeathblowVol1_00-04The “Deathblow” book mainly follows the “adventures” of Michael Cray, whom we already know from the “Team 7” books as having been on, well, Team 7. We also know that he agreed to stay and work for Craven at I/O after Team 7 broke up. We’ve seen 2 of these I/O missions before. One in “Team 7 : Dead Reckoning” and one in the “WildStorm Winter Special” story “Deathblow Gets Dusted.” The mission he is taking on in the 0 issue doesn’t go much better.

Cray is found on a mission in Costa Mesa seemingly attempting to avenge a fallen comrade form a prior mission. Cray feels he is responsible for this this man’s torture and death, and Cray means to take out General Manuel Ortega by way of assassination. We learn most of this due to a mission briefing our old friends Miles Craven and John Lynch are giving to Lieutenant Conrad, as they are asking him to take out Cray before he can kill Ortega as a matter of national security. When Conrad asks why Cray has gone rouge, as well as over of the edge, the response is that Cray had been recently diagnosed with cancer, and that he’d like to right a few wrongs before his ticket gets punched. Conrad is instructed to put together a small group, get into Costa Mesa, take out Cray and hightail it back home. It’s a Craven mission, so of course it can’t be that simple!

We, the reader, find out that the mission to stop Cray is just a false flag to establish plausible deniability. The government wants Ortega dead, but politically they’re still aligned with him. Cray was actually sent on that mission to take out Ortega, but officially he’s a rogue agent. Craven does not care what happens to anyone involved, just as long as Ortega is dead by the end of it. Lynch, really isn’t on board with this plan at all, and we’re starting to see some serious doubts on his behalf. Cray takes down Ortega, most of Ortega’s men take out Conrad’s team, Cray himself has to take out Conrad so that he can take out Ortega too. Also, there’s a bit of human sacrifice and a minotaur-like demon that was summoned, because comics. We also see a man going by the name of Mr. Trickle who’s making sure everything goes according to plan down in Costa Mesa as well, not too much is known about him at the time, but he seems to be working for I/O as well.

Once Cray gets back to America he meets up with Lynch and he’s totally pissed off that 4 good men had to die on that mission. Meaningless deaths. Cray socks Lynch and reprimands him for what he’s become under Craven at I/O and states that he’s quitting. The next mission I/O has is for Mr. Trickle’s team. We find out that Mr. Trickle has a first name, it’s Travis and he is apparently Cray’s best friend and one time I/O partner. Lynch is insistent that Cray accompanies Trickle’s team on the mission. I mean, I thought we just saw Cray quit I/O, what’s he doing back? And why is he buddy buddy with Lynch again? Maybe there was an off panel conversation that took place at a bar, and over beers it comes out that Lynch is unsure of everything Craven is up to, and I/O has gone too far. Cray is all “told ya, and so did all the other guys too. Except for Slayton, that jerk” so Cray came back to I/O to be an inside man for Lynch. At least, that’s how it goes down in my mind. A little bit of head-cannon can go a long way, but if anyone else has a good idea why Cray came back, explicitly at Lynch’s direction, lay it on me!

The mission, Kussein (get it) has been causing trouble in Iraq again, so I/O is tasked with getting in there, gathering info on their weapons supply and blowing stuff up if they have to. Exactly how much Lynch knows about what is going to go on here is debatable. He’s been seeming wary of Craven early in this book, as well as with what went down in “Wetworks,” but we have Craven commending him on “quite the little show” he set up for this mission. Then again, Lynch seems to be just talking about the straightforward aspects of the mission, it’s Craven who gets all Mr. Burns about what is being said.

The mission is more than just kicking some Iraqi butts, well it isn’t for the I/O team at least. Someone working with the Iraqis is having them dig up what they were told is a stash of Scud missiles. It infact is a seal of the long buried temple of the Black Angel. The Iraqi troops in charge are then shot so that their blood will open the seal and then reawaken the Black Angel and its minions. Oddly, there is a monk that was working with the Iraqis too, who is trying to make sure this all this doesn’t happen. About the time the monk is realizing that it is all too late he happens to be the bunker that the I/O team is breaking into. All the Iraqis end up dead, they think they got Kussien, but it turns out to be a body double, and Cray is a bit spooked about how that monk was fighting. Cray ends up taking out the monk and gets really upset once he finds out it wasn’t just a disguise and he really is a man of God, to be clear he’s a member of the Order of the Cross. As the monk is dieing he’s begging Cray to go after the Black Angel and stop him at all costs. Then, while the I/O team is leaving the scene (and bombing it to hell) we see the Black Angel calling out to Cray stating that Cray’s nightmare is just beginning. Cray can’t catch a break, first cancer, now evil angels are after him.

And that’s where we drop off for a bit. I know, it’s a bit cliff-hangery, but issues 5 – 12 of “Deathblow” offer no break in the story, and there is a passage of time between issues 4 and 5 that becomes clear when you start in on issue 5. I have to commend the art of this book, I know it is basically the “Image style” as heavily influenced by Frank Miller’s “Sin City” but that’s what sets it apart from all the other WildStorm books at the time. Some WSU books take on a true style at this time, but none more so than “Deathblow” being so moody and “Gen 13” being so bubblegum. Not only is it fantastic that both these books are coming out from the same company at this time, but also that they books that are quite closely related! I must commend Tim Sale for picking up where Jim Lee left off so flawlessly. Sale really make this book his own.

Now it’s time for me to admit that I never read “Deathblow” growing up. I was never interested in military themed comics, nor violent ones. This is also why I never got too into “Wetworks.” “Gen13” was goofy comics fun, “WildC.A.T.s” was a sci-fi comics saga, “Union” was a post modern take on “Superman,” “StormWatch” was, well, it was something different, but “Deathblow” was dark and violent, and I just couldn’t hang with that as a teenager. Now? Now I dig it. Sure, I blow past the military stuff, and the violence doesn’t bother me so much, but a lot of this rests on the character of Michael Cray. This guy just gets more lovable as his series goes on. Maybe “lovable” is the wrong word, but “relatable” doesn’t work either, who can relate to the life that he’s been through? He’s a tough bastard that develops a real sense of humor. Well, he had one in the “Team 7” book, but lost it by the time we met him in “Darker Image” and “Deathblow/Cybernary,” I guess that cancer will do that to a guy. Michael Cray just might be one of my favorite characters of this time in the WildStorm Universe when I look back on it, he’s the WSU’s drunken cranky uncle who cracks you up at Christmas. He’s awesome and salty, and you can’t believe he’s at the party, but you never want him to leave.

Next : “StormWatch” Vol. 1 issues 0, 4 – 5 by Brandon Choi, Jim Lee, Brett Booth, Sean Ruffner, J. Scott Campbell and Scott Clark

“WildCats Trilogy” issues 1 – 3 & “Voodoo : Passed Lives”

this entry covers the first issue of “WildCats Trilogy” then the back-up story from “WildC.A.T.s” Vol. 1 issue 8 entitled “Voodoo : Passed Lives” before wrapping up with “WildCats Trilogy” issues 2 and 3.

wildcatstrilogyRight away looking at this book, we’re seeing the fantastic artwork of Jae Lee. Jae is one of my absolute favorite artists working in comics, and seeing him work on any WildStorm title is just magic for the eyes. Also, if you’ve ever seen the cover in person, man, it is a foil-y ‘90s comic masterpiece. Sorry kids, scans don’t do this thing justice! Shiny badass Jae Lee art to catch your eye and make you buy. I know that the ‘90s has a bad reputation for all the cover gimmicks that went on during the decade, but when a little bit of artistry is added, it really makes a decent case for them having been produced.

We kick off the story in this first issue of “WildCats Trilogy” by seeing Grifter hunting down his old friend Lonely. Lonely is an information broker, and Lonely has heard some info on “the Cabal.” Yes, this is early WildStorm, and they’re still trying to make “the Cabal” a thing. Listen up WildStorm, “the Cabal” is never going to happen! At the time the references to the Cabal rebuilding and making some kind of comeback, with or without Helspont seemed like a real and fearful possibility, but knowing that literally nothing comes of it, it just reads as clunky. Lonely, unfortunately, wasn’t really out to help his old friend Cash, but to help himself to his better friend, cash, and is selling out Grifter to a Coda and the Daemonite Hightower. And yes, Hightower is supposed to be representing the Cabal, even though we never saw him working with Helspont’s group in the original “WildC.A.T.s” book, and he is a new character here.

Hightower is an odd character. He never comes across as evil or as Machiavellian as Helspont, any other run-of-the-mill Daemonite, or even random WildC.A.T.s villain that we’ll see later on. Hightower is also the kind of Daemonite that spends his time shapeshifted into a human form on a regular basis, rather than his more alien form. The dude seems downright bored to have to get mixed up with the WildC.A.T.s at all. Not to say he doesn’t take delight in trying to finish off the team, he gives it his all, but Hightower just never seems into it. He just wants to kill them because he knows they’ll stop him if they find out whatever he’s trying to accomplish. Luckily for him, he finds a Coda named Artemis who’s got a beef with Zealot

Artemis has a long standing grudge against Zealot for betraying her at the fall of Troy during the Trojan War. You think there was a major war in the world where the Coda weren’t somehow involved? While we don’t see any hint of activity from other Kheribum or Daemonite, we’ve been told over and over again that they were near the center of almost every major war on Earth. I guess most of them just skipped this one, leaving Zealot and 2 of her Coda, Artemis and Andromache to lead the charge for this one. The whole reason Artemis captured Grifter, and chained him up, was to draw Zealot out to fight her, again, to the death. Hell, she has even less of an interest of the other WildC.A.T.s meeting their end than Hightower does. The plan of course works like a charm, Zealot comes running, and Artemis is ready to throw down. All the while Hightower and Grifter trade lame comic book tough-guy barbs with each other. Hightower even calls Grifter a half-breed, he must’ve not gotten the memo on Grifter being just a human with a Gen-Factor. That, or due to the blood-bond that he shares with Zealot, Hightop smells Kheribum on him.

We then are directed to, well by way of a months later retcon, to a short story of Voodoo changing her outfit. Voodoo gets a call from her old buddy Tina, who she used to work with at the Hot Spot. That strip joint that blew up in DC where the WildC.A.T.s first met Voodoo. While dancing there she gets in an altercation with the scarred Coda warrior she thought died in the explosion. The Coda is there to get revenge on Voodoo for ruining her life and standing in the Coda. During the fight the Coda uses the long streamers on the back of Voodoo’s outfit to catch and almost choke her. After Voodoo manages to beat the Coda she meets back up with the WildC.A.T.s in a new outfit, that looks more like a streamlined wetsuit. That’s a pretty nice little fill in the gaps kind of story. I always liked this as a kid when I read it, but I wasn’t being all that critical, now when I go back and read “WildCats Trilogy” I have a lot of questions. All during “WildCats Trilogy” Voodoo still has the streamers coming off the back of her outfit! Even after what was flesh colored in the first issue is now colored yellow in issues 2 and 3, and yet the streamers still remain. Was the suit change a way to explain a coloring mistake? Was it a mistake that WildStorm liked better, so when “WildC.A.T.s” issue 5 came out they made Voodoo a new suit that conformed with this color scheme? Was Jae Lee not fully updated that the new outfit wouldn’t have the streamers on it? Bah, on with the rest of “WildCats Trilogy.”

Void intuits through the aether that something is wrong with Grifter, or I should say the Grifter, as he’s called the Grifter all through “WildCats Trilogy.” So eventually they’ll show up, as inferred from the title of the book. We also see that Coda have been searching for a member of their ranks they call “the Heretic” and Delphae has finally found her. Now, the Majestrix of the Coda, Andromache, is ready to gather the troops and is gearing up to find and punish the heretic. Who is the heretic? Is this going to intercede with our current story? Is the set up for “WildCats Trilogy” way more exciting that the actual follow thought and action? The answers are, Artemis (but we were lead to believe it was Zealot) no duh and you bet.

The least interesting part of this book is actually seeing the WildC.A.T.s battle Hightower and his army of hybridroids. It is kind of interesting that Hightower took over Voodoo’s body for a short time to get in close to the rest of the team to attack them, but past that, the Coda vs. Artemis vs. Zealot (with her sidekick Grifter) are the main event. Getting a little bit of Coda history (the afore mentioned Trojan War) as well as learning where they live and a bit of their hierarchy adds a lot to the WildStorm universe in terms of world building. Looking at the WSU on the whole, it seems like Zealot is the only full blooded Kheribum that is Coda. We know she was Coda on Khera, so when she lands on Earth, she starts her own splinter faction of the Coda. She is the Majestrix at that time and she finds women to join her, she trains them, and they engage in the blood ritual, and that exchange helps humans gain the long life spans, and youthful looks that the Kheribum enjoy. I mean, that’s what I’ve taken from the years of reading WSU titles. It explains by Grifter looks so young as well. It seems like only a few women joined up with Zealot right away to form the Coda on Earth, two of the major ones being Artemis and Andromache. As payment for kicking ass in Troy, the Greeks have agreed to give the Coda pretty much all the baby girls they have as well as a ton of gold. In Troy things got a little heavy when Zealot wouldn’t let Artemis kills the royal family, feeling that the fall of Troy was enough to fulfill the contract with the Greeks. Artemis called Zealot out for going against the Coda rules by letting them go, as Majestrix and the only OG Coda Zealot’s all STFU and then Artemis is all “well then kill me for betraying you! Do it! I learned it by watching you!” Zealot is still all STFU and leaves Artemis to live

Back to the present for the currently occurring Coda throw down. Artemis hates Zealot, because Zealot left her alive in Troy. Andromanche hates Zealot and Artemis for leaving the Coda, but hates Zealot less for some reason. Zealot hates Andromanche for ruining the good name of the Coda, turning them in to high priced mercenaries with no principles. Artemis isn’t cool with Andromanche because Andormanche is after her. Zealot isn’t cool with Artemis because she got the WildC.A.T.s mixed up in what should be personal business, as well and involved a Daemonite. All three are pissed off at Grifter for trying to get in the middle of this fight, it’s women’s work dammit, stay the hell away! During the fight Artemis and Zealot find a little bit of resolve as they battle Andromanche and the rest of the Coda together. In fact, Artemis takes a clef blade in the chest meant for Zealot. Zealot sad for Artemis, cradles her, and while doing so almost loses her own life, but Grifter steps in with his gun and the day is saved. Kinda. Grifter has Andromanche at gunpoint and is ready to take her out. She reminds him that if anything happens to her, the whole Coda will be after him and nothing will be able to keep them all back. Just as he is saying he doesn’t care the rest of the WildC.A.T.s show up and Void teleports them all out of there. It’s all a little anti-climactic.

We have a short epilogue with Grifter attending Lonely’s funeral. There’s only one other person there besides the priest, and the grave is simply marked “John Doe.” The other dude reminds Grifter that Lonely once gave up his entire life to save Grifter’s because of their friendship. While Grifter knows that Lonely betrayed him to the Cabal, he ultimately understands that Lonely was a good guy, and he mourns the passing of his friend.

Next : “Deathblow “ Vol. 1 issues 0 – 4 by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi and Tim Sale (with Trevor Scott)

“Union” Vol. 1 issues 0 – 4

this entry covers “Union” issues 0 through 4

UnionVol1_00-04Where to start with a book like “Union.” Well, I guess issue 0 falls in continuity first, even though it is just a fast paced explanation of the world that Union and Regent (last seen in “StormWatch” Vol. 1 issue 3) come from, and their particular histories examined. It can kind of be a dry read when you place it in continuity, as you only really know Regent and here’s this book about his past, and for some reason another character named Ohmen. Perhaps reading it after immediately after “Union” Vol. 1 issues 1 through 4 might work better, as you’d have more of a vested interest in both characters. Either way, the book moves fairly swift and straightforward, all the while cramming in a lot of information. This is at a contrast with the rest of the series, which is never as straight forward as this, but to it’s credit, the rest of Vol. 1 certainly has much cooler artwork.

The art for “Union” Vol. 1 (issues 1 through 4) was done by Mark Texeira and it is fantastic! I’m not saying that anyone else that ever drew Union didn’t do a good job, they mostly did, but Texeira killed it so hard, that every other artist was just playing catch up. When I was younger I wondered how WildStorm convinced Texeira to do this comic, because all I knew of his work was the cover of “the Outsiders” by S. E. Hinton that the upperclassmen were carrying around (which, sad to say, I can find no image of now, but I know that it existed, it was ubiquitous!) I always figured him for a big time commercial artist, so to see him on a comic blew my mind. I learned later that he was mostly known for comics, but that still doesn’t stop me from being in awe of the art on this book to this day.

Back to issue 0 we see two young men growing up on opposite sides of a war. One is Rigian, price of the ruling class known as the Directorate, who is practically disowned by his father when his little brother Darnel is born. The other is a baby born the same day, known as Ohmen of the underclass known as the Protectorate. We see both boys grow up and find their places in their home planet of Aegena, though Rigian finds most of his place in his culture while spending time on Earth away from his family. Earth you say? Oh yeah, the Directorate have a way to get back and forth from Aegena to Earth, and the Protectorate has no knowledge of this, and it allows the Directorate to plan their battles in secret, as well as have a hidden place to retreat to. The two boy’s stories start to come together when some Directorate soldiers attack the school where Ohmen’s father teaches, and Ohmen’s father dies. Schools were supposed to be in a safe zone and not to be attacked, so the Directorate kind of feel bad about war going too far, so Rigain, his mother and brother are sent to address the Protectorate and apologize for the actions of the Directorate. Before he can say too much, a few Protectorate at the gathering go crazy and attack the Directorate. Rigain’s mother and brother parish in this attack and Rigain swears off his stance of peace and takes the name Regent and vows revenge against the Protectorate. Ohmen on the other hand is upset by what the Protectorate did at that rally, and is talked back into doing his duty by his kinda girlfriend Eliya. This leads Ohmen into a battle where two Directorate soldiers trick him into flying through the portal to Earth, where he crash lands in Maine and issue 1 begins.

That’s the basics of the plot, but there’s one more thing you should know about, and that’s the justice stones. The justice stones are Aegenan technology that gets implanted on Aegenans when they reach a certain age, and it becomes one with their physiology. It ends up looking like a small done on their chest, and from it they can pull an electric rod to beat people with. It also gives them the power of flight while holding it. The color of the rod, at least for the Protectorate, reflects their rank in their military hierarchy. Pretty fancy ass tech! While we only see the weapon in rod form here, we later see a justice stone user shape his into a sword. The justice stones are also tied into the electromagnetic field of the planet they are on, so it must be recalibrated before moving to a different planet, lest it malfunction and either kill or inhibit the user. So that’s most of the backstory, all that you need really. There’s a bit more of the relationship between Ohmen and Eliya, as well as Rigain and his father, but, meh, whatever, on with the actual content!

We meet Ohmen as he is being rescued from atop a frozen lake after he crash lands on Earth in a remote area of Maine. That rescuer is Jill Monroe, an artist who moved up north from New York to escape the big city and give herself more time to create and take in nature. She doesn’t know she’s rescuing an alien, just a guy she saw try to fly away after crashing. After being saved Ohmen takes up residence on Jill’s couch and proceeds to sleep for a few days to literally recharge his batteries. Ohmen and Jill spend 6 months in seclusion while Ohmen learns everything he can about Earth as well as start to utilize his justice stone. It is during this time that Ohmen takes up the name Union, as the word “union” is basically a simple way to express “cold fusion” which is what is going on in his justice stone. Uh… yeah, sure Ohmen, you’re Union now, whether or not that makes a lick of sence. While at a bar Jill and Union see a report about a few aliens flying around upstate New York and Union immediately recognizes them as Directorate soldiers. Before Jill can ask Union anything about it he’s off and flying to the town of Chichester, NY, secret headquarters of the Directorate on Earth.

Union arrives in Chichester and instantly gets his booty kicked by the Directorate. Union mistakenly believes that the Directorate has sent a few soldiers after him and had no idea of this town belonging to them. The Directorate have no idea the Union accidently found his way to Earth so they are thinking he is some kind of spy for the Protectorate. Oh these Aegenan scamps and their comical misunderstandings! Eventually King Darian (Regents father) shows up during Union’s torture and as he’s smacking the hell out of Union with his justice stone rod, Union goes full nuclear and somehow destroys all of Chicester, NY. Union, feeling mighty horrible about this, you know, accidently taking out an entire city, Directorate soldiers and families or not, decides to commit suicide by jamming Darian’s justice stone rod into his justice stone. Union passes out and somehow survives and as far as justice stones go, he levels up.

When Union awakes he is finds that StormWatch has surrounded Chichester and is trying to save any survivors and find the cause of the disaster. They also notice traces of a familiar energy that they’d like to find out more about. The energy is that of Regent, who just kicked their asses earlier, and this town was full of Directorate tech, so that makes a certain amount of logic. Too bad they’ll never discover anything about the Directorate or Regent here, as Union is going to cover everything up out of further guilt. At the same time he is doing everything he can to buy the trust of Jackson King, even giving his fingerprints so he’s in the police system and has a record on file as a super powered being. In any other story, blowing up a town and tricking the authorities wouldn’t be seen as a positive one, but Union pulls it off due to his down right Duddly Do-Right sense of honor. In fact, “Union” the book pulls it off by dividing the story up so we see Union helping out StormWatch as much as possible before finding out 3 issues later that he was the cause of the destruction in the first place. Very clever writing Mr. Heisler.

Before we are bookended with the full story of what happening Chichester we do get a few issues of Union going to New York City for a little vacation with Jill. He takes down a super powered villain known as the Quickness. In the course of this action he pisses off Jill by stranding her, but also finds the being behind the Quicknesses super-speed, a being known as Mnemo. Mnemo is a crazy looking, highly intelligent, alien or mutant something-or-other. He captures Union and means to figure out what makes him tick. Why is he so interested? Because he’s found a Protectorate soldier before, but this one didn’t survives his trip through the gate, and Mnemo wants to find a way to revive this man, or at least his justice stone. What does Mnemo get out of this? Turns out Mnemo is a weapons contractor for the feared Kaizen Gamorra. What? That name doesn’t strike any fear into your heart yet? Well, it will soon enough! In fact, you’ll get down right sick of that name after a while, but it all evens out in 10 years once “the Authority” starts being published.

Due to Union running off to go fight the Quickness, Jill gets stranded in NYC by herself. When he catches back up to her they get into a fight and she storms off back home to Maine. What a great guy that Union is, save the world, lose the girl! Of course this is when Union is captured by Mnemo. After Union gets free he goes back to Jill’s place to find she isn’t alone. In fact, she’s chilling with Union’s sorta ex-girlfriend Elyia! Elyia means to bring Union back to Aegena, but Union makes a compelling case to stay on Earth. First, he feels guilty about what he did to Chichester. Second, his justice stone is not only calibrated to Earth, but due to its upgrade who knows what’ll happen with it back home. Third, he doesn’t say this, but he digs on Jill and besides it looks like Elyia has herself a new man anyway. Before Elyia leaves, she lets Union know that Regent could not be found back home or in the rubble of Chichester, so odds are he is on Earth someplace and to look out for him. I still call this a bold move for “Union,” to have a big bad set up, and our hero is not even confronting him in its own limited series!

These books are still very entrenched in the then Image Universe. There are several references to Supreme and Youngblood throughout the book. We even get a cameo from Velocity from “Cyber Force.” The StormWatch appearance was great, but this was a WildStorm book, so that carries pretty well. Also, to have had Regent make his debut in “StormWatch” was a pretty bold move. If you only ever read “StormWatch” you see them almost get wiped out by a guy you never see again in that series. Then to find out he’s related to the goings-on in “Union” and to hardly see him in that book kind of infuriated me as a kid! I really wanted to see Regent and Union through down in “Union,” but the powers that be had other plans.

Next : “WildCats Trilogy” issues 1 through 3 by Brandon Choi, Dafydd Wyn and Jae Lee (with a short story from Steve Seagle and Travis Charest)

One fanboy's chronological journey through the Wildstorm Universe