this entry covers issues 0 through 4 of “WildC.A.T.s”
Here 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 takes 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 while being awesome in his own right, 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!
Where to find this story:
- The “WildC.A.T.s: Cover Action Teams Compendium” collection (the trade paperback was originally packaged with the 0 issue, the hardback version includes issue 0 as part of the book)
- The “Absolute WildC.A.T.s by Jim Lee” hard back
- “WildStorm: A Celebration of 25 Years” contains a black and white version of first issue
- Comixology: “WildC.A.T.s” vol. 1 issues 0, 1, 2, 3 & 4
Next Week : “WildC.A.T.s” Special issue 1 (by Steve Gerber, Travis Charest and Scott Williams)