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The Things I Do For Comics – WildC.A.T.S. (Vol. 1) #1-4

In the early 90’s during the Image Revolution I was that comic book company’s prime target audience. Translation: I was young and dumb with some extra money to spare and easily swayed by shiny holofoil covers. All I cared about were how cool the comic books looked. Any time I didn’t understand the story, I just chalked it up to being too young. While Mr. Liefeld made quite an impression on me, it was Jim Lee’s work that I couldn’t get enough of. Loving his art on X-Men, I was thrilled to pick up his new creator owned series WildC.A.T.S.

Full disclosure, I owned a lot of WildC.A.T.S. issues from the 90’s, but was always so disappointed that after about issue #13 or so Jim Lee stopped drawing it. I would pick up issues hoping these were just fill in artists until he came back, which of course never really happened. That didn’t stop me from buying action figures (that were way too tall to coexist with X-Men ones) and even loving the WildC.A.T.S. cartoon from the same era. Recently, I decided to take up the task of re-reading the first 4 issues just to see what the hell was going on back then.

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Issue #1 starts off in a clusterfuck. We are in the past, jump to the present and then move to the future. None of it makes sense and you just hope there is pay off later on (there is…barely). The plot is bewildering. We focus on Jacob Marlowe a homeless mess who Void, the woman dressed in a skintight silver jumpsuit has foreseen as being their savior. A few months later he has a haircut, a shave ad an expensive suit. He’s now some CEO of a company and has assembled a covert action team consisting of a android leader named Spartan (Cyclops), Maul a size changing bruiser (Colossus) and Warblade who can covert metal on his hands, I guess into anything (Wolverine) and the vaguely computerish teleporter woman, Void.

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As it turns out there’s been a war on our planet for thousands of years between two alien factions, the Daemonites (bad) and the Kherubim (good). Daemonites can possess host bodies and have decided on taking over the Earth by placing key hosts in influential positions. The Kheribums luckily look just like humans except they are stronger and sometimes have cool powers.

The key to this seems to be Voodoo (Jean Grey) who is a stripper that has the ability to identify the Daemonites when they are possessing humans as well as exorcise them.  The WildC.A.T.S. need her on their side as do the Daemonites. Grifter aka cool gun guy (Gambit) and Zealot the Coda trained warrior (Psylocke) go to apprehend her for their own reasons but get mixed up with the Daemonites. Cue the rest of the WildC.A.T.S. team showing up. A fight breaks out (this happens…A LOT) and Void teleports the team out of there along with Voodoo, Grifter and Zealot. Ladies and gentleman our team is born.

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The first issue jumped into the future for a page that made no sense, that panel is repeated at the start of issue #2 so it takes place in real time. It has zero dramatic effect.  We find out the Daemonites have possessed Dan Qualye (it’s why he’s SO stupid. How topical!) They are being led by Helspont who doesn’t have an X-Men analogue unfortunately, but looks pretty damn cool in a 90’s badass kind of way. He’s some kind of flaming antelope skull that looks something Arthur Harkness would pay worship too. You see, he’s been working on a gateway back to planet Daemon (ala the Decepticons in the first few season of G1Transformers). He’s also working with this mercenary Pike (who looks exactly like Deadpool) and a Coda traitor. They seem to need some kind of orb to get this thing going.

The ‘C.A.T.S. target Dan Quayle but get some opposition from Youngblood. You can see where there would be a misunderstanding there that of course erupts into a fight. Helspont gets his talon-esque hands on the orb, but somebody from one or two panels in issue #1 or 2 named The Gnome who we thought was good turns out to be a traitor  (I guess working under his own motives?). He materializes out of nowhere and steals the orb while Helspont sets the location to detonate. After a melee everyone but The Gnome escapes. Then there’s this real weird but touching moment between Void and Marlowe when Void thinks she’s going to die. Apparently, her name is Adrianna and is human. Who knew?

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So there it is. We have writers Jim Lee and Brandon Choi to blame for this. As far as I can tell, Choi is only famous for being Jim Lee’s friend.  All those Image guys thought they could sell the books on art alone and they were right…at first. It’s amazing to me that these people thought oh well, anybody can write a story. How hard can it be? I take that back because it is in fact easy to write a story, but more difficult to write one someone else wants to read. We can thank these two for some memorable dialogue in these issues like “Heads up Helspont! It’s sudden death overtime! Touchdown! Score one for the home team! Now to rip out your heart for the extra point!” That’s right, read that again. I’ll wait. Somebody actually wrote that and it was printed and not as a joke. Or how about this Grifter chestnut, “She’s one of the Coda. A sorority bitch from Hell”?  Or better yet, “My bio-blasts seem more than a match for these two.” Thanks Spartan.

The story itself has potential and they sowed some interesting seeds here, they just didn’t know how to properly execute it. It comes off as trying to be an edgier X-Men complete with Danger Room and Blackbird rip offs. As verbose as Claremont could be at least he explained peoples powers regularly in the event that you might be a first time reader. I had no idea what Warblade’s powers were until I had to reference them on Wikipedia. In a real weird twist, they make a passing reference to Cyberforce and do the exact same box Marvel always did to notate the issue and credited by “truth telling Ruth”. A subtle dig at Marvel?

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Jim Lee’s art work however does fare better. Be prepared though for muscular statuesque men and full bodied big boobed women. I was reading this in the cafeteria at my work and there are two instances of vertical 2 page spreads that I had to turn the trade 90s degrees. They were both of course of scantily clad women (Voodoo and Zealot) that made me feel uncomfortable. I felt like I was a Playboy centerfold. It’s all very 90’s but Lee’s work still holds up. Its leaps and bounds better than Liefeld, at least Lee is talented.

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This book is full of good art, bad dialogue, confusion and unneeded action scenes. That could some up the 90’s perfectly. Honestly, I’ve read much worse. At least this story gave us some groundwork with questions to ponder. It’s an interesting premise it just needed more capable writers to take the reins and flesh it out. I know there’s a lot of WildC.A.T.S. comics out there from after the Jim Lee era, is any of it worth checking out? Drop me a line in the comments section.

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About Biff Tannen

Film Noir, Pulp, Comic Books and Hitchcock.

Posted on December 12, 2014, in COMICS!, Reviews, The Things I Do For Comics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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