Tag Archives: Michael Cray

“Deathblow” Vol. 1 issue 15

this entry covers “Deathblow” volume one issue number 15.

This issue opens with everyone’s second favorite bastard doing bastard like things. That’s right, LeGauche A.K.A. Old Frenchy is throwing John Donnely, the leader of Navy Seal Team 6off of a cliff. We’re lead to believe later that this is all under the direction of Craven. And knowing Craven, this is probably true. LeGauche is tasked with killing at least seven of the eight members of former Navy Seal Team, which includes the afore mention Donnely as well as a man named Tom Archer, and seemingly not on the list, Michael Cray.

After the events in Los Angeles, Cray heads down to San Diego, a place that has always felt like home to him. It’s where he ended up after completing his ROTC program back in Rhode Island and started his Seal training. Thinking back on these old days, he goes to pay his old Seal pal Tom a visit. Seems as if Tom is now one of the trainers for incoming wanna-be Seals. While Tom is happy to see his old buddy, his wife Anne is not. Turns out, she was an old flame of Cray’s that he passed on when he was being hired by I/O to be part of Team 7. She never forgave him and hates him to the core.

You wanna know who else is unhappy to see Cray? A bunch of the other Seals. Why? Because they were all friends with Conrad. Remember Conrad? He lead the team that was supposed to kill Cray after he took down Ortega in Costa Rica. If you’ll recall this was all supposed to be hush hush, but somehow this information was leaked. Knowing this, and being friends of Conrad, these boys mean to beat the hell out of Cray as revenge. Now, Cray tries twice to talk to these men, but they won’t hear it. Right before one goes to stab him, Archer pops up and saves the day.

The next morning Archer lets Cray in on all the murders of their former Seal Team 6 members. Apparently, there’s a reporter who knows about these supposed accidental deaths and wants to talk to Archer about it. Cray and Archer are curious how he even knows about their connection and they are anxious to meet him and find out. Before the reporter has a chance to

Before the reporter has a chance to show up, LeGauche calls Archer and lets him know that he’s got Archer’s wife and kids hostage, and will exchange their lives for his. Archer knows he has to go save them, and he’s been told to come alone. That’d be a bad deal if you old Team 7 buddy wasn’t visiting! Archer takes LeGauche head on by plowing into him in a pick-up through the side of his freakin’ house! All the while Cray is sneaking in the back and helping the family get loose from their restraints and disarming the bomb that LeGauche has planted. Cray then hands a shotgun to Anne and heads to help Tom. It’s too late, LeGauche as already killed Tom, and as he moves into to do the same to Cray, Anne blasts LeGauche through a window.

Cray is bummed. Another friend of his is dead. LeGauche got away. He’s no closer to finding out why the rest of this Seal Team is dead and he barely has an idea where to start. I’d like to say things start to get better for Cray, but I’m sad to report that they don’t.

Continuity Corner :

  • Once again we have someone mentioning a past event that went down in Gamorra. This time it’s Tom Archer, a friend of Cray’s back when he was on Seal Team 6. Apparently, Cray saved his life on that mission while they were there w/ the six other members of their eight-member team. The last person to mention this Gamorra mission was Wearing in “Deathblow” Vol. 1 issue 14.
  • We also get some hints to this Gamorra mission, we find that Cray was still with his Seals and it was a counterterrorism strike.
  • There’s also mention of the Gamorra mission being “nearly 20 years ago” but I’m not sure if that works. Here’s my best theory. We know from this very issue he was with his Seal Team on Gamorra and not on Team 7. But we know from “Brass” Vol. 1 issue 2, that he, Lynch and Chang were on Team 7 and working for I/O in 1967. That’s nearly 30 years ago that he was on Team 7 after leaving the Navy Seals. I was always sure that Cray was working for I/O after the rest of Team 7 got the mojo and he was kinda sidelined, but I guess he could’ve gone back to being a Seal for a bit.
  • This issue, much like “Gen13” Vol. 1 issue 1 seems to be laying out breadcrumbs for “Fire from Heaven.” In this case with LeGauche’s involvement and hunting down people for Craven.
  • From now on LeGauche will primarily be a reoccurring “Deathblow” villain, despite having him first mentioned in “WetWorks” Vol. 1 issue 2 as an agent sent by Craven to either spy on or take down the WetWorks team.

Where to find this story:

NEXT : “Union” Vol. 2 issues 1 & 2 by Mike Hiesler, Ryan Benjamin and Tom McWeeney and the “Crusade : Release” short story by Jim Lee, Sean Ruffner, H. K. Proger, Bill Kaplan and again, Ryan Benjamin

“Deathblow” Vol. 1 issues 13 & 14

this entry covers “Deathblow” volume 1 issues 13 and 14

Armand Waering has a problem. He wants to be featured in a comic book, but Whilce Portacio can’t draw “WetWorks” fast enough. He must take drastic measures and get into the pages of “Deathblow!” Also, something about a killer on the loose in Hollywood and the fact that he knows it’s a werewolf. Waering has to take care of this problem but he can’t be seen taking down a fellow werewolf and everyone knows he’s buddy buddy with WetWorks, so he calls Rayna Masters and she gets her best man on it.

Said man is Michael Cray, who is trying to spend some time at the grave of his former wife. This doesn’t last long before Miles Craven sends some goons to try to bring Cray back to I/O once again. He takes out a few, but the final goon is taken out by Rayna because nothing can ever be boring around Cray. She gets him on the next flight to LAX telling him that he’s got a bodyguard gig in the City of Angels.

He’s there to guard a frightened washed up starlet named Caroline Conroy. She’s afraid she’ll be the next victim of the Hollywood Hills Killer, and she thinks having just one bodyguard isn’t enough, so that’s where Cray fits in. He doesn’t really get along with the main guard Tony, but hey, a job is a job. Speaking of a job, as soon as Cray meets Caroline, it’s off to a party, not downtime in this line of work.

Big time Hollywood schmooze fest kinda party. The kind of party where you just might run into the head of a secret society that employs one of your old war buddies. Yup, here’s where Cray runs into Waering for the first time and gets handed the silver bullet. After he downs his Coors Light, Cray also sees that he’s been handed a silver .45 bullet by Waering. As Waering slips back into the shadows we find Caroline arguing with a man. This man turns out to be John Barry, deputy director of the CIA and former boyfriend of Caroline. As Cray talks down Barry, we see another man make some moves on Caroline, a guy who’s just too damn smooth to live.

Who is this smooth ass ladies man? Why it’s Johnny Savoy, the world’s most beloved vampire rockstar! Seriously, if you hadn’t been reading “WetWorks” and paying attention, Savoy being a vampire is a big “what the hell?” when Cray plugs him through the chest a few times later in the night, after the party, outside Caroline’s estate. So yeah, he’s a vampire and that was a hell of a run-on sentence.

Where was I, oh yeah, later that night Cray shoots Savoy a bunch, but it doesn’t kill him. Then they hear gunfire and Caroline screaming. They both rush to the scene to see a man cloaked all in black with night vision goggles and a syringe, along with 2 other similarly clad buddies. Cray takes down the guy with the syringe, and Savoy makes the other two redundant. Caroline lets on that these men are from the CIA, and were sent by Barry to kill her. Why? Because when she was dating Barry she found out he’s a werewolf, and he’ll kill her to keep his secret! Cray isn’t buying this werewolf stuff and Savoy counters with “Hey, come on dude, it’s possible! Check me out, Imma vampire!”

In order to better protect Caroline from Barry and his CIA lackeys, they move the party over to Savoy’s mansion. It’s a sound plan, as the man has two tigers. Again, John Barry’s CIA lackeys show up, this time in white cover-alls, and even Tony the missing bodyguard is there! Feels like we’re headed to the climax. Savoy and Cray still think Barry and the CIA are the bad guys, with Tony working for them. Unfortunately for them, this isn’t the case and a lot of CIA dudes get killed before we find out that Caroline is the werewolf killer. Yup, the werewolf was inside the house the whole time. Cray makes the killing shot and the job, due to the passing of the lady paying the bills, is over.

Barry, Savoy and Cray promise to never tell the world what really happened that night, figuring it’s better to let Hollywood have one more mysterious killer, for tourists to take bus tours about. At Caroline’s funeral Waering shows up to talk to Cray. They exchange a few words and Cray gives Waering back the bullet. It’s a bittersweet ending for this short chapter in Cray’s life, having to shoot someone he really liked due to their inner, unwanted, evil.

Continuity Corner:

  • What a “WetWorks” ancillary character heavy issue. The plot was set in motion by Armand Waering and featured Johnny Savoy!
  • Another moment of the WildStorm/Top Cow universe connection with Cray running into Stryker from “Cyber Force” in a club.
  • When talking to Cray at the club, Waering mentions not getting a chance to thank Cray back in Gamorra. Later on, there are a lot of mentions about some event in Gamorra that members of Team 7 were a part of, currently I’m either forgetting what that is, or they never revealed it. Because right now, I can’t remember a single book that has Cray, Fairchild and Waering all on Gamorra in a flashback.
  • The last page mentions Cray going back to New York and Rayna being pissed at Cray for letting Caroline die. More so, as she figures that Caroline was just some kind of pawn for John Barry. Eventually, Savoy sends Rayna some security camera footage of that night, and she never brings the subject up again. I like this ending, but it implies that Cray will be back in New York next issue and this all happened before the next issue begins. However, the next issue is just down the coast in San Diego, which kinda makes this ending feel a little hollow after you hit page one of issue 15.

Where to find these stories:

NEXT : “Gen13 : Unreal World” issue 1 by Mike Heisler, Humberto Ramos and Troy Hubbs.

“Blood and Faith”

this entry covers the short story “Blood and Faith” starring Team 7 from the “WildStorm Halloween : Trilogy of Terror”

wildstormhalloweentrilogyofterrorTo be honest, I’d completely forgotten about this story. The “Gen13” short in this collection stuck with me, but “Team 7” one didn’t, and more than likely I never read the “WetWorks” one back in the day. Perhaps it was because the “Gen13” story was set in the modern continuity of the time and both the “Team 7” and “WetWorks” stories both had to have notations as to when they occurred. You expect that with “Team 7” but “WetWorks” get your stuff together!

This is an odd little story, featuring just a small number of Team 7 members, and set before they got their any kind of special abilities. I know this for sure because in the table of contents it tells me so. And by smaller team, I basically just mean who the readers really care about: Lynch, Dane, Cray, Cash, Fairchild and Chang. That’s right, we don’t have to suffer through Slayton being a dick or Callahan standing around. Filling the “Oh damn, I keep forgetting about this guy” roll that Callahan usually steps into for the artist, is Chang. The dude is usually seen from the back, and the only frontal drawing of him is covered up by a word balloon!

Ok, onto the story, it’s the early ’70s and there’s trouble on the Yucatan Peninsula. Seems like there’s a group of revolutionaries that want to take the land of their heritage (the Mayans) back from the Mexican government. Big Mexico doesn’t like that, and calls their pals in the US government for Team 7 to make an “unofficial” visit. Running with the revolutionaries is a man by the name of Terence Crandall, he seems like he’s a reporter that wants to witness and document what is going on with the revolutionaries. That isn’t true, what he’s really doing is looking for is the temple of Mayan bat god named Camazotz. While Crandall finds his temple in a cave, Team 7 is making short work of the revolutionaries.

Team 7 is indeed taking out all the revolutionaries, Dane sees the cave, and he never leaves a job half done, even if I/O said it was fine to leave a few of the rebels alive. Once inside the cave, half of Team 7, Dane, Lynch and Fairchild see Crandall reviving Camazotz and having his form take over the mummified body of a long dead Mayan king. This crazy creature really takes it to Team 7, for a bag of bones it is really scrapping hard.

Fairchild doesn’t do much except get almost strangled to death, Dane brings the firepower and Lynch tries to stab the bat god in the chest. Also Dane butts Crandall in the head with gun to knock his crazy ass out. As Fairchild gets free all three of them leg it out of the cave with Camazotz screaming about a curse he’s placing on them and their blood. Once they are to safety, Chang blows the hell out of that cave, and Lynch swears nothing can survive, they’re finally in the clear… not so fast, Johnny boy!

Somehow Crandall survives the explosion, and vows revenge on all of Team 7, but he’ll becoming for Dane first. He’ll do it, too, in the third part of comic, but not for several more years. And indeed does Camazotz’s curse bear fruit later on, too! The bat god just didn’t count on Fairchild and Lynch’s kids having powers to thwart him. We’ll read and talk about those stories, all in good time.

Continuity Corner:

  • Because this story is set pre-powers it would’ve been a perfect time to include Johnson, Diaz, Rhodes, MacNamara or even Breckmann, but nah, let’s stick to what people really wanna see, and that’s the Gen13 dads kicking some ass!
  • It does kind of feel odd to read this story so far ahead of the other two, but we’re going by a timeline dammit, and it’s already messed up enough with me forgetting about short stories like these as it is!
  • Also, it’s great how all these stories tied together. At first I wasn’t really sure why it wasn’t just two stories, a Team 7 and a Gen13 one, just because of how tightly those two stories are tied together. But “Trilogy of Terror” is a better title, just wish they would’ve had the third story be about a crazy haunted time in Cray’s life instead. But that’s me, I just dig Cray!

Next: “Team 7” by Chuck Dixon, Aron Wisenfeld, Trevor Scott, Scott Williams, JD, Alex Garner and John Tighe

“Deathblow” Vol. 1 issues 5 through 12

this entry cover “Deathblow” Vol. 1 issues 5 through 12.

DeathblowVol1_05-12Ugh, where do I start with this one? Yeah, this is one of the longer “runs” of issues together from a single series for this project that usually ping-pongs back and forth between the titles to keep some kind of consistent chronological continuity. The reason for this is that this stretch, once you get to the end of it, never happened. Ugh. I know. Exactly. Maybe “never” is a strong word. Parts of this probably happened… maybe, and most of what came before in this series (issues 0 – 4) mostly happened… I think. See, this is what happens when you wipe some stuff away, but not everything… OK, where to start… I guess we just dive right into issue 5.

So, we are treated to finding out about a young man named Christopher. Kid is amazing, in a Jesus heal-the-sick kind of way, after bringing a drowned orphan back to life. Cray sees this on the news in his doctor’s waiting room, unimpressed. He gets an MRI and is told “Uh… your cancer is worse, sir”. What do you do with this kind of info? Why go out and find yourself a stripper that looks a lot like your ex-wife Gaby. That’s some good thinking!

While this is going on, there’s a serial killer on the loose, he’s named Herod by the media and cops and he’s taking out children. All signs point to him being military, secret military, like an I/O type guy. While everyone seems to think it is Cray for a variety of reasons, we know he’s innocent and that Trickle is the real Herod. Bad news for Cray that Trickle is Herod, because that also means that Trickle is working for the Black Angel.

There’s a lot of nonsense that goes on, backstabbing, double crossing, all that, and if I wanted this entry to be as long as the comics I’d get into it, who’s got time for all that. I don’t, you don’t, let’s cut to the chase. Sister Mary has the magical Christopher and they trust Cray. They get information that they need from Cray’s friends Henri and Ryana and are on the run. Trickle is after them and wants to capture Christopher for the Black Angel, and he manages to kill Gaby. Ok, on with the story!

The Black Angel gets a hold of the sigil headbands that will assist  the Black Angel in getting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse going. The Black Angel then tasks his minions with getting the corpses of the I/O men who died in “Deathblow” issue 0 to turn them into the Horsemen. Bad ass idea Mr. Angel! But before the Horsemen start raising hell, Trickle is still trying to take down Cray and get Christopher, all he has to do is wait for them to exit the abbey that they’re holed up in.

While in Montcairn Abbey, Cray is told he needs to confess his sins, as well as what is holding him back in life, and they’ll give to the Holy Grail. This is what Cray’s really been after this whole time, the Holy Grail, a sip will cure him of his cancer. He hits the confessional booth, sips from the cup and he’s getting ready to leave when he’s suddenly ambushed by Trickle, the Black Angel and a ton of demons. Lucky for him Lynch is near with a Black Razor squad. Why is Lynch around? After those bodies were taken from I/O cryogenic storage he and Craven started to think that Cray was involved in something, so they tracked him down. Lynch and his boys join in the fight, but it matters not, the Black Angel gets away with Christopher and Cray knows it is up to him to save the lad. The monks give Cray the Sword of Heaven and let him drink from the true Holy Grail, those wacky monks and their fake outs, before they take off to save the day.

While Sister Mary, Cray and a bunch of monks get ready to storm New York and get back Christopher before the Black Angel can summon Lucifer, we see Lynch put in a call to Jack Rhodes telling him Cray’s going to need some help, call some of our old Team 7 buds! This works, and just as Cray is seeing the destruction of the Horsemen on television, Cash, Slayton and Backlash show up to help. Holy shit, it’s Team 7 versus the Four Horsemen of the damn Apocalypse! It is pretty awesome. I mean, I dunno, this is as crazy and rad as it sounds. I can’t do it words, just go pick up that fancy trade and see this in its glory!

The Black Angel is atop one of the World Trade Center towers, which is a real sign of when this comic was produced. He’s up there to use Christopher’s life energy to open a portal to Hell. On Cray’s journey up, he encounters “Death” and figures out how to beat him. It’s as easy as breaking the sigil head bands. He puts the word out to the other Team 7 members, but they don’t all hear him clearly over their communication system. They all eventually figure it out though. Cray gets to the top of the WTC with Sister Mary and some others and they are having a hard time. Cash shows up to help, dies. Slayton shows up, half skeletonized, dies. Dane shows up and reminds Cray to use the Sword of Heaven, dies. Cray uses it, stabs the Black Angel through the heart and it’s over.

It being over is Christopher trying to undo ever bad thing that has happened before he leaves. He know he can’t make everything right, and one of those things is bringing Gaby back to life for Cray. We found out earlier that during Cray and Gaby’s honeymoon in London Cray got roped into an I/O operation by Trickle. Things went all pearshaped, and in the middle of it all, a young child wondered into the fray and Gaby protected the little bugger. At that moment is when Gaby actually died and she was used a vessel on Earth for the archangel Gabriel. So yeah, Christopher can’t undo her death in the last few days because her actual death happened 2 years ago. Talk about a bummer. Christopher then ascends to heaven and the archangel has some words of encouragement for Cray, which in turn leads to Cray quitting I/O for good.

Ok, so yeah, this is a long story, and it is worth reading. I couldn’t really do these eight issues justice because there’s a lot going on. I’ve criticized some early WildStorm comics as having too much going on that it becomes a mess, but this isn’t the case. There’s just a lot of stuff going on, it all tracks well, and isn’t complicated for the sake of being complicated. It’s the story of Micheal Cray finding his redemption in this world as well as a way to go forward in it.

Continuity Corner

  • Because this all didn’t happen, and we know that Dane was on his way to New York from “Backlash” issue 5, now that this didn’t go down I’m assuming his plans were to go and have some brews with Cray at the Drop Zone, or just be there for his pal who’s dealing with cancer. Wait… did the cancer get wiped away in story too? See, this is messy!
  • Also, due to this not happening in any way, I guess Lynch didn’t have much going on before throwing in with the Gen13 kids, as he seemed pretty hot to get back to Nevada after helping Cray and the Sister at the abbey.
  • I’m just going to assume for my own sake that the reason Slayton and Cole aren’t acing pissy towards each other right now is because it’s the end of the world, and who cares about past grievances when you have to face the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Not one cocky comment towards each other the whole time.
  • Hey, this mini Team 7 reunion never having happened fits in better with the reactions of Dane and Cash re: the first and second meetings of their new teams. (The WildC.A.T.s crashing the WetWorks team’s pad for a hot second in “WetWorks” Vol. 1 issues 4 & 5 and the follow up conversation in “WetWorks” Vol. 1 issue 8 during the WildStorm Rising cross over.)
  • There seems to be some confusion on Cray’s GenFactor. In these early issues of “Deathblow” it seems as if it is being described as his GenFactor is just now kicking in, in response to his cancer, and hadn’t been present earlier, according to Lynch and Craven. But we’ve seen in “Team 7 : Objective : Hell” issue 3 that he was “killed” but then came back. Maybe the GenFactor only kicks in once he’s so close to death and he reads and GenFactor-less until that happens.
  • The owner of the strip club “the Drop Zone” was also the owner of “the Hot Spot” which is where Voodoo used to dance. His old place got blown the hell up, his new place is the scene of an attempted murder, guy can’t catch a break.
  • We actually see two different men act as Herod in these issues. First a lumberjack type, then later Trickle. Both are tasked to either kill or capture Christopher, and it is a job given to them by the Black Angel. Oddly, this isn’t the only “Herod” that is tasked with killing a supposed Christ child in the WSU. We also see a Herod, who was appointed by Maragret Thatcher get his comeuppance in “Planetary” issue 7. Being a Herod, it’s a job in the WildStorm Universe.

Where to find these stories:

  • the “Deathblow” hard cover and trade paperback
  • the older “Deathblow : Saints and Sinners” trade paperback
  • Comixology: “Deathblow” vol. 1 issues 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 & 12

Next“Gen13” Vol. 1 issues 1 – 5 by J. Scott Campbell, Brandon Choi, Jim Lee, Jeff Mariotte, Alex Garner and Sandra Hope

“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.

Where to find this story:

  • the “Deathblow” hard cover and trade paperback contain all 5 issues’ Deathblow stories
  • the older “Deathblow : Saints and Sinners” trade paperback does not contain the 0 issue
  • Comixology: “Deathblow” vol. 1 issues 1, 2, 3 & 4

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

“Deathblow Gets Dusted”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Team 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