“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

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“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

“Team 7 : Dead Reckoning” 1 – 4

this entry covers “Team 7 : Dead Reckoning” (aka Team 7 series 3) issues 1 – 4

Team7series3Here it is the final series of Team 7… kinda. More on that later, but first up; Lynch finally loses that pesky eye! So, there we go, one Wildstorm Universe mystery totally solved! Unfortunately this series is a bit of a letdown because it moves so fast and so herky jerky in time that it seriously could’ve been at least 2 if not 3 different mini-series. The biggest problem is that we have no sense of time outside of flashbacks to Team 7’s final mission.

The team’s final mission is a trip to Leningrad to rescue a young scientist who is at work for a superhuman program in Russia. This is the program that was set up by the Old Russian dude on crutches that bought it in the last “Team 7” series. When Cray, Slayton & Zig Zag took care of Old Dude, Fatty & Girl in Cambodia it more or less wiped out the fruits of the Russian superhuman program. Now the Russians are trying to get back in the game and it is up to our old buddies in Team 7 (minus Dane who was banished to Level 9 at the end of series 2) to stop those Evil Ruskies and gain a brilliant scientific mind in the process. Of course the mission goes pear-shaped almost immediately.

First things first, Team 7 finds Russia’s one new super-powered being and Lynch takes it on to give the rest of the team time to find the young scientist. Lynch is using all the psi-power he can muster to fight this being. The being is kicking Lynch’s ass, and Lynch tries to pour it on as much as he can to fight back. The drawback is that Lynch’s psionic powers are creating such a pressure on his skull that Lynch knows that he has to tear out his own eye to release a torrent of a psi-blast to take on his enemy. Time being of the essence, and with Lynch literally being the Clint Eastwood of the WildStorm Universe, he goes for it, explodes the other dude’s head and then passes out while the rest of the team meets their objective. While the team his having better luck, they certainly aren’t all that happy.

The team easily finds the man they’re after, a man by the name of Dbovchek, who wants to defect to America with all his scientific knowledge. They grab him, wrap him in the flag of the Soviet Union, grab Lynch and get the hell out of there. One twist, now that Lynch is down for the count Slayton is in charge and this pretty much pisses off the rest of the team, primarily Cash, who thinks he should be in charge. They rest of them don’t like Slayton either, but Slayton doesn’t care. He has secret orders and those orders are to get rid of Dbovchek when he has a chance. He sees his chance when Team 7, after a harrowing chase through the sewers of Leningrad, is being airlifted to safety. This is when Slayton shoves Dbovchek out the door of the helicopter to his death. Cash tries to save him, but has no luck. Why would Slayton do what he did? Because the powers that be want to keep the Cold War running, and a man like Dbovchek on either side threatens that balance. Who would give Slayton that kind of side mission? You guessed it, Miles Craven!

Ok, go back and re-read those last two paragraphs up there, go ahead, I’ve got time. Ok, you back, realize that those paragraphs, that single mission in the USSR, take place via flashbacks throughout the four issue run. You might think to yourself “What? But the actions of that mission inform the whole rest of the series, how can we get a feeling of what is going on when we don’t know how that mission resolved?” And I’d say to you “You’re damn right!” Reading this is kind of like a fever dream, a lot of things happening at once and you’re not sure how it folds altogether in a single satisfying story. Well, it doesn’t, but the structure is only half of the problem, the rest is a lack of year sign posting on the story in progress as well as trying to squeeze in a bunch of references to the WildStorm Universe at large.

Alright, back to that evil bastard Craven. Apparently when the most recent Presidential Administration took charge they reinstated Craven back into his former job as head of I.O. The members of Team 7 are very upset that Craven is their boss once again and most of them quit Team 7 and I.O. in protest, just like at the end of the first series. Much like that time when most of them quit Lynch, Slayton and Cray stay with I.O.. Cash and Callahan both quit I.O. and end up going to work for other military agencies. While Chang and Fairchild also quit I.O. they both go back to work for I.O. at some point. I’m not sure when, as we see them quit, but then we see them working for I.O. again, so without any more information (like when things are happening) it gets a bit confusing. Dane remains locked up down on Level 9 of I.O. and is starting to get along with his C.H.U.D.-like roommates down there.

Now, as we’re moving quickly through the late ‘70s we’re also starting to get more connections to the WildStorm Universe that is occurring, more or less, in the real-time of the ‘90s. We find out about Callahan’s first wife who he knocked up. When she had her baby the doctor, under orders from Craven, told Callahan both his wife and his baby died. Craven wanted to raise this Gen-Factored baby for his own (evil) ends. Callahan’s wasn’t nearly as passed out as the doctor things, and she gets wise to things, knocks out the doctor, takes her baby and high tails it to an Indian reservation in Arizona where her family lives and convinces her uncle to raise it. Thus we see the secret history of Sarah Rainmaker of Gen13. We see Lynch pissing off either his wife or Christy Blaze, not quite sure which, with his suicidal actions. Cray, under Craven’s direction finds and kills the man supposedly responsible for the death of his parents, which we’ll find out more about later in the “Fire from Heaven” crossover story. Slayton almost biffs a mission in Germany and we see that Craven wants him to infiltrate the U.N.s emerging super-group as a spy for him and I.O.. While Slayton initially balks at the idea, he eventually decides to sign up for Stormwatch anyway. We also see baby Grunge as well as baby Threshold and Bliss when we check in on Callahan and his new wife. Heck, there’s even passing mention of former Team 7 members Diaz, Johnson, MacNamara and Rhodes, but oddly nothing on Breckmann. But what of Dane?

Dane, mind-wiped and all from the Old Russian in series 2 is locked on Level 9, and has been getting brainwashed by his buddies there. He knows he can break free with their help. He also knows that when he breaks free he should warn his friends; because somehow Dane knows that Craven is after all of their kids. How does he gather his best buds back to I.O. to tell them this? He makes them glow. They all come running, and Cray brings along Zig Zag who was just getting settled in at college. Dane busts loose with his Level 9 buds, Team 7 takes care of them, the armed forces of I.O. show up, Zig Zag scares the hell out of them, most of the team then make their escape with a Team 7 members left standing around with Craven. The Team 7 members that ran off are all the parents (Callahan, Chang, Fairchild and Lynch) along with Cash, because he just plain ole hates Craven. Dane is passed out on the ground and Slayton knocks out both Zig Zag and Cray to join Dane.

This is pretty much how it ends, Zig Zag is now in service of Craven and I.O. along with Cray. Slayton is working for the U.N. and Stormwatch, but is spying for I.O.. Callahan, Chang, Fairchild and Lynch want to protect their children and Cash says he has an idea, but first, get all the kids into hiding. Where do we go from here? Well, it’s going to take even more time for that story to be told. We have to wait until the first issue of “Gen13” to start to put it together, and that isn’t too long, but for all the real answers we have to wait until the “Gen12” series which is so much farther down the line. Why not review it next? Well, because unlike the “Team 7” series, the “Gen12” series is told in flashback to an investigative government agent while he is dealing with the after effects of “Fire from Heaven.” So I can’t get ahead without spoiling too damn much, besides, it really is worth the wait! Oh, and no, we never really find out how Dane gets better enough to kick ass leading Wetworks, so don’t expect to ever really solve that mystery.

Next Week : “WildStorm Winter Special : Deathblow Gets Dusted” Preview by Allen Warner, Carlos D’Anada and Carrie Strachan

“Team 7 : Objective : Hell” 1 – 3

this entry covers “Team 7 : Objective : Hell” (aka Team 7 Series 2) issues 1 – 3

Team7series2Welcome back to the Wildstorm Universe. Yes, we’re still in the ‘70s. Yes, we see Team 7 come out of retirement for the first of many times. Yes, Dane still has that awesome beard. No, we still don’t know how John Lynch loses his damn eye! But we find out that Lynch has risen through the ranks in the military to be the main government liaison and blah blah blah, I’m boring myself. Basically, Lynch is in charge, Craven isn’t and Lynch needs to get Team 7 back together again to go on awesome missions!

First mission? Make sure that the Russians or the Khmer Rouge don’t get ahold of the nukes that the U.S. military left in Cambodia during ‘Nam! Also, to find out exactly how hard Team 8 got the shit kicked out of themselves. Answer: They dead. Wait, there was a Team 8? Yup! There was even a second proposed Team 8 (hell, there was even another Team 7, but we’ll get to that later in the pages of “Wetworks.”) So Lynch tracks down the prison that Cray had been incarcerated in and convinces him to help find the rest of the old crew. They head down to South America, where Cray finds a bone that’ll be important 20 years down the line and then he and Lynch team up with a few guerillas and find the rest of the living Team 7, minus Slayton. I guess minus Beckman, too, but we don’t know if he’s alive and blind somewhere or dead.

Fast forward to the actual mission and the team is parachuting into Cambodia and Slayton is with them, so it’s like the old gang is kicking it again, just in a different war torn area. Good news, this isn’t some crazy set up by Craven and his goons; bad news, that Russian on crutches that was after them in the last series is still after them, and he has some psionic agents of his own. I’m unclear why he wants to destroy Team 7; it’s either out of military strategy or just jealousy that the U.S. has weaponized agents similar to his own. Also, that old Russian dude also has psionic powers.

I don’t know why it bothers me so much that we have no idea where these Russians got their powers, but it really does. In the next “Team 7” series we will see the Russians trying to create more super powered beings, but I want to know how they’ve pulled it off successfully before that point. I typed a bit last week about trying to understand exactly how the Gen-Factor worked, and I still don’t have a concrete idea about it. It does seem like there are a bunch of folks that at some time were exposed to something that gave them the Gen-Factor, hence all the kids in “Gen13” and “DV8,” but we only really focus on Team 7 in that regard. In fact there aren’t many different ways to manifest some kind of superpowers in the Wildstorm Universe. Here they are in order of most common.

  • 1. You have been exposed to the Gen-Factor, or are a child of someone who was exposed to the Gen-Factor.
  • 2. You are an alien, have an alien parent or 2, get an alien suit or aliens messed with you.
  • 3. You were exposed to a magic superpower giving comet or the child of someone who was exposed to that crazy comet (seriously, no one believes me when I tell them this.)
  • 4. You were born on January first at the turn of a century, and are thus dubbed a Century Baby, or are the child of a Century Baby.
  • 5. You are a robot, have had robot parts put on you, hence a cyborg or own robo-armor.
  • 6. You come from an alternate dimension, or were altered by alternate dimension technology.
  • 7. You were created by a mad scientist.

I know, 7 different ways (with a handful of subsets, mostly due to heredity) to attain “super” status in the Wildstorm U seems like a lot, but look at the DCU or the Marvel U and start counting all the different ways you can gain superpowers and 7 will seem like a very short list. This limiting way to get superpowers kind of gets lost along the way, but holds up for so long in the Wildstorm U that even the outliers remain unique (the Doctor, Rose Tattoo and the Drummer).

Truth be told, the 7 numbered limit of Wildstorm U superpowers really stops holding up after the soft reboot in 2006 when we’re suddenly introduced to a bunch of superheroes we’ve never heard of before from Wildstorm’s supposed past. Up until then the only pre-1992 action we’d seen Team 7’s action in the ‘70s, got a look at Team 1 in the ‘50s, Elijah Snow and Jenny Sparks’ lives throughout the 1900s and heard a bit about the $tranger$ in the ‘80s. Only after the soft reboot is the universe filled with all kinds of crazy characters that must’ve had their superpowers come from something other than the main 7. When the Wildstorm Universe was coming together in the early ‘90s it really seemed that this was near the ground zero for superhero activity in their universe. Now it is cool to get a bit of backstory, like the “Team 7” books, but I felt they eventually over did it.

Speaking of Team 7 and the ‘70s, the team has found themselves in the jungles of Cambodia and an earthquake is erupting! But wait… is it a real earthquake? Nope! It is either a psychic projection or it is another psionic attack that is churning the ground and trees around the team. Cash twigs on pretty quickly that whatever is happening to them isn’t trying to hurt them, only scare them so he tells the rest of Team 7 to chill out and put out good vibes. Once this happens things calm down and they meet young blind girl who asks them what they hell they are doing in her jungle. This kid doesn’t take shit from anyone, and gives war back to anyone who brings war to her village. By literally peace-ing out Team 7 is saved her wraith and makes a new friend, name X’ing X’iang, and I kid you not, they end up calling her Zig Zag.

One of the many good things about Zig Zag is that she is much more powerful than Team 7, which comes in handy when the more experienced Russian psionics catch up with them. Also, she knows where the missiles are that Team 7 came to destroy, so Lynch and Cash go to investigate. Lucky break that Zig Zag knows where the missiles are! Well, maybe not so lucky because suddenly there are 3 powerful Russians attacking Team 7. The old man in crutches apparently kills Cray and then starts to work on brainwashing Dane. Callahan, Chang and Fairchild take on the Russian woman while Slayton takes of the fat Russian dude. How will Team 7 get out of this one? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you in the next paragraph!

How does Team 7 takes down the bad guys? Luck and good timing! Cray wakes up from his supposed death and shoots the old crotchety Russian. This is the first hint of Cray having any kind of powers, well before they just come out right and say exactly what those powers are at least. While fighting the fat Russian Slayton develops his trademark psionic fist whips and snaps chubby’s neck. Then the Russian chick begins to wail on them and Zig Zag has had enough and tears her apart. That’s it. Lynch sets the missiles to self-destruct and Team 7 collectively adopts Zig Zag and fly back home to the states to start working for the government. The only causality seems to be Dane’s mind, as it is a blank.

In the end this is my favorite of the Team 7 books, mainly because I didn’t have such high hopes as I did with the first series, and because of how the third series is plotted. Multiple flashbacks, things going a little too fast to keep up with, it’s an all around mess, as if they had 3 more books they wanted to do and decided to smash them all into one last series, so get ready for that. “Team 7 : Operation : Hell” is fun because it is so linier, the boys are getting or getting used to their powers, and they’re going on missions! In my youth as well as my adult hood, I could read another dozen Team 7 books like this!

Next WeekTeam 7 : Dead Reckoning” (aka Team 7 Series 3) issues 1 – 4 by Chuck Dixon and Jason Johnson

“Team 7” 1 – 4

this entry covers “Team 7” (aka Team 7 Series 1) issues 1 – 4

Team7series1I’d like to start out saying that while “Team 7” isn’t the first book that Wildstorm ever put out, it is integral for the history of the Wildstorm Universe that we start here. The first several years of Wildstorm comics (up through the disastrous “Fire from Heaven” cross over) all, to some degree, revolve around the members of Team 7 and their former bosses at International Operations, an intelligence agency for the United States Government. Second, this book was never presented as a character telling a story to others, or even features a wraparound to set the book in the present timeline with flashbacks to Team 7’s exploits in the ‘70s. Finally, it must be said that when this series started the readers knew most of the key players already, and were excited to see their collective past together. In the end, knowing these characters going in is a bit of a hindrance, in fact, I remember hating this when it came out. I wanted answers to some of the built up mysteries in the Wildstorm U and I wasn’t getting them here at all. All I was getting was a sci-fi war story from the ‘70s and that wasn’t what I was getting hyped up to read.

When we meet Team 7 they are already in the middle of a mission that is already going wrong. The team is being led by John Lynch under the direction of Mile Craven at I.O. and consists of Stephen Callahan, Cole Cash, Phillip Chang, Michael Cray, Jackson Dane, Alex Fairchild, Andrew Johnson, Richard MacNamara, Mark Slayton and a member that we only ever get the last name of, Breckmann. The mission goes south, but we get to see how resourceful Team 7 is in saving their skin in a tough situation. The mission was screwed from the start with the team being tasked with saving some hostages that had already been killed, I’m guessing that the idea was to draw out Team 7 and pick them off. It didn’t go as well as the “bad guys” had planned, the team survives and I.O. gets revenge on the source of the bad intel.

If you were me at the time, you were thinking “Who the hell are Johnson, MacNamara and Breckmann? And where the hell are Diaz1 and Rhodes2? We’ve never heard of the first three and the last two have been mentioned as Team 7 members by both Backlash and Grifter!” Well, as an adult I see that the book needed some cannon fodder as Craven is sending Team 7 on their second doomed mission, the mission that imbued the boys with the Gen-Factor.

Let’s be honest, I’ve never been exactly clear on what the Gen-Factor means. I had always assumed that it had meant there was a structural change to one’s genes that gave the recipient super powers. It may have very well been this at one point, but as time goes on we find that you can freely give your Gen-Factor to another person, or it can be stripped from you by someone for their own use. My initial understanding always made more sense to me, as it tracked that the Gen13 kids would get their Gen-Factor powers due to the enhanced genes their fathers are passing down to them. That’s just me, I didn’t write this stuff, and I can be kind of an idiot.

Let’s talk about the Team 7 members we do know. We’ve seen Lynch in the pages of “WildC.A.T.s” before he became the mentor of Gen13, whose roster includes the children of Callahan, Chang and Fairchild. We’d gotten to know Cash as Grifter very well in “WildC.A.T.s” as well as Slayton in “Stormwatch” and also we saw him in an uneasy team up with Grifter in “The Kindred.” Cray had recently started his own solo title with “Deathblow” so we didn’t know him that well quite yet, but enough to be interested to see how he started to work for I.O. as well as why he didn’t seemingly have any powers at all. Finally we’d seen Dane in “Wetworks”, even if he looked and acted a bit different back in his Team 7 days. Oh, and Callahan had died in the open pages of “Gen13” Vol. 1 #1. During the time that “Team 7” was coming out, the only members that we didn’t know the final fate of were Breckman, Chang, Johnson, Fairchild and MacNamara. I should’ve known that if you weren’t alive in the current Wildstorm books, you were assumed dead or would be dying soon in “Team 7,” and to keep Chang and Fairchild live long enough to have kids, they’d need a few people to fall early on to keep the stakes high. The last we’d see of Breckman and MacNamara is in I.O. headquarters where they are both having trouble controlling their new powers. Breckman has torn his eyes out and sits bloody on the floor of a padded cell, while MacNamara commits suicide because he can’t control his body from sending blasts out from it, having already killed a few I.O. staff members.

Through this initial “Team 7” series we find that Craven had been trying to create super powered beings for a while under his own command, and Team 7 was the first to mostly be intact after receiving those powers. We also are introduced to Gabriel, a telepathic assistant to Craven. Where he came from, and how he gained his powers are unknown, but we do find that Craven has been keeping all his failed super-soldiers on I.O.’s 9th level, which technically doesn’t exist and Gabriel is frightened of it. We also meet Alicia Turner as a nurse where Team 7 is waking from their post Gen-Factor induced comas. Wildstorm readers had already known her from “WildC.A.T.s” and I have to say, she ages just as well as Cash & Dane do, to say, in 20 years, she really doesn’t age at all, unlike Craven, Lynch and Slayton.

Wait, I haven’t told you the final fate of Johnson yet! Johnson just goes on to be a real dick on the first Team 7 mission with Gen-Factor powers and Cash kills him for it. Johnson had pretty much become a monster, mind controlling the team’s enemies into commenting suicide with a smile as he laughed at them. Cash wanted to win, but not like this, so he takes out Johnson. This starts a real rift between him and Lynch and as a result we start to see the team fall apart. Some want to remain loyal to Craven and I.O., others want to get away from the craziness that their lives had become. Also Fairchild gets kinda rapey trying to mind control a girl at a bar and Cash kicks his ass for it. Cash really hates mind controlling. The team fraying all comes to ahead when Craven decides to send Team 7 on their final test.

Oh, the final test. I’m still not sure what Craven was hoping for. He takes all of Team 7, except for Cray, as he’s not showing any powers, and sends them on a mission to a temple in Middle East. While there the team finds that there’s no strategic reason for them being at the temple and Lynch and Cash start to have a mind battle. Then Craven launches a low yield nuclear missile at the Team to see if they’ll survive. Yup, that’s the final test; let’s see if this can destroy them. The team that without super powers was already surviving the near impossible by working together and being smart. I know that Craven is a jerk, but come on, from everything we’ve seen, even if we didn’t know they’d all survive, we’d still assume they’d all survive. Team 7 huddles and concentrates on their psionic powers to shield them in a bubble force field and protects themselves from being blown up. They don’t give a shit about any of the monks in the temple though, them monks is dead.

Predictably having a nuke lobbed at Team 7 is the final straw and the only members willing to work for I.O. are Lynch and Slayton. Cray is pretty much blackmailed/coerced in to staying with I.O. by Craven after he threatened to murder half the crew of the boat that launched the missile at the rest of Team 7. Callahan, Cash, Chang, Dane and Fairchild all retire to a small town in Nicaragua, hoping to hide from I.O. and anyone else who would try get them to use their powers for purposes they disagree with. Good call, as we’ve seen a very creepy Russian man on crutches who has been one step behind Team 7 this whole time, who seems very interested in what they’ve been up to.

That’s it, that’s the first series! As an adult I really enjoy it. I enjoy seeing what good friend Cray and Dane were back then. I enjoy seeing Cash as a brash young man, but I wish he would’ve developed his sense of humor a bit back then. It was also fun seeing Lynch as a being highly fallible, which we’ll go years in the Wildstorm U before we see a hint of this again. When I picked up this book as a kid I really wanted to know how Lynch lost his eye, why Dane acts so different in “Wetworks” as well as how I.O. was founded. None of this is really answered in this series. In the future we’ll get an answer to the first, clues to the second and some murky details on the third, but nothing all that definitive. Also most of the team winds up in a small South American town? What? Really? How do they get to be who they are? I thought this was a prequel to some of Wildstorm’s biggest names! I want more story, dammit!  As an adult comic reader I’ve learned patience, but I really wish we would’ve gotten a bit more into the personalities of Callahan and Chang, who we never really see again for any true measure of time. They and Fairchild really come off as bit players in this book, and I feel the book is suffers a bit because of that.

Next Week : Team 7 : Objective : Hell (aka Team 7 Series 2) issues 1 – 3 by Chuck Dixon & Chris Warner

1 We’ll see more with Robert Diaz in “The Kindred” mini-series
2 Jack Rhodes, also known as Cyberjack, is a supporting cast member in the “Backlash” comic.

Issue 0 : Introduction

As I’m getting packed up and ready to head south to go to SDCC I thought I’d take the time to introduce myself and what I hope to accomplish with this ongoing column. I first got into comics when I was in high school in the early ‘90s. I had a few buddies who were more of the collector type at the time, and that didn’t interest me so much. Comics and comic talk were all around me, but it was still a year before I started picking them up for myself. When I started off, I was mostly picking up some Marvel and DC stuff just to see what clicked with me, this being the early ‘90s also meant that I eventually picked up some Image and Valiant comics as well. Not a lot of that did anything for me either, except for the books coming out of the then named Homage studio from Image.

When I look back, I’m pretty sure that “WildC.A.T.s Special #1” was my first official Wildstorm comic, something worked for me in that book. The art and coloring were nothing like what I was seeing in “The Infinity Crusade” or the “Death of Superman” stories that I was also reading. Sure, the writing wasn’t as good, but there was a certain appeal that stuck with me. I’m sure initial appeal was that these characters were as new to comics as I was. The secondary appeal of the Wildstorm comics over other Image books was that I didn’t actively dislike any of the characters. I could never get into “Spawn,” “Youngblood” or “Pitt” despite how much I tried as a kid (looking back I think I would’ve enjoyed “Savage Dragon” had I given it a shot.) I voraciously consumed the Wildstorm books for several years before getting into more independent comics, quitting comics, getting back into comics, getting a job at a comic shop, leaving said job and quitting comics again, getting back into comics again, moving across the country, quitting comics once more, then getting married to a woman who had a small interest in comics and has slowly dragged me back into the habit.

The Wildstorm universe has always had a big place in my heart and mind when I think about comic books and I really wanted to revisit that, as well as find out what happened during all those vacations away from comics that I took. So, armed with my well-traveled long box, a bunch of trades, Comixology, a dozen trips to various comic shops around the Los Angeles area and the Valley (and I’ll admit, a few unsavory websites) I’ve just about gathered all the titles that took place in the Wildstorm U. My first goal was the read them in the order of release. While reading I thought it would be interesting to arrange them in order of continuity. I got really excited about this idea because the writers at Wildstorm (mostly Brandon Choi) seemed to make sure that these books were all very closely related to each other. For the first several years of Wildstorm there was a very solid backbone running through the books that I didn’t notice as a kid that I’m seeing and appreciating now!

I started talking about how excited I was to “put Widlstorm in order” and Tim at Comic Nerds Unite suggested that I write about it. Now I love doing things purely for fun (like reading comics), but more so I love doing things for fun and then doing something with the information that I’ve taken in (like putting said stories in continuity order then telling people about it). Writing about revisiting my youth and re-reading the comics that made me love comics was too good of an offer to pass up. I knew I needed to be prepared so I went ahead and re-read them. I read them all. I’ve put them in order of events (for the most part) and now I’m reading them again and commenting on them, seeing how well they hold up, teasing out all the in-universe connections and reflecting on an 18 year shared universe that took a lot of odd turns before folding.

I’ll tackle the history of the Wildstorm universe several issues at a time, usually by story arc or mini-series, not so often by oversized one-shot or cross-overs. It may be harder to keep up at some times than at other, but I hope you’ll find it interesting, none the less.

Next: “WildC.A.T.s” Vol. 1 issue 10 backup story : “Soldier’s Story” by H.K. Proger, Ryan Benjamin and Tom McWeeney

One fanboy's chronological journey through the Wildstorm Universe