Monday, April 5, 2010

Longbox Digging: Wildcats Version 3.0 #13-24

Written by Joe Casey
Art by Dustin Nguyen, Richard Friend, Sean Casey, Francisco Ruiz Velasco, Pascal Ferry, Sandra Hope, Duncan Rouleau, John Dell, Trevor Scott, and Eric Nguyen

A while ago, I read through the rest of Joe Casey's various WildC.A.T.S. trades, spread over two titles, and resolved to dig out my back issues, fill in any remaining gaps there might have been, and read the series through in its proper order, which was not how I first experienced it. I hit a bit of a snag, in that it took me a few months to track down an issue of number 16, but that was accomplished the other week.

The last twelve issues of Casey's run on the title were quite varied in their approach. The first six, which saw regular artist Dustin Nguyen get replaced by Francisco Ruiz Velasco (with a very cool semi-fill-in issue by Phillips) continued to focus on the daily operations of the Halo Corporation, and Jack Marlowe's (aka Spartan) plans to change the business model of the free world. These issues saw the introduction of the Halo car, Jack moving to take over the internet, and him catching the attention of Washington fat cats whose interests would be better served by continued reliance on fossil fuels.

Also during this half of the run, we saw Agent Wax deal with, and eventually replace, his long-time rival in the Parks Department, Agent Downs. Wax got more 'screen time' throughout these issues, and was shown to be a more morally complex man than before. Also, it is during these issues that Grifter figures out how to wirelessly control Maxine Manchester's (aka Ladytron) body.

Following these issues (which I imagine would have been volume three, had they ever been printed in trade), the series takes a definite turn back towards slightly more conventional superheroics.

This arc addresses Zealot's on-going war with the Coda, the female assassin army she created, which has gone rogue. She gets captured, and Grifter/Ladytron has to call in all sorts of chips to assemble a rag-tag team to go to her rescue. This arc also has Marlowe and Wax confront a government assassin. That's about it though, which is odd for a book that had previously been very compressed in its storytelling.

Of course, you can't discuss the end of this title without bringing up the summary cancellations of both this title and its sister book Stormwatch: Team Achilles. At the time, both titles were selling poorly (by the standards of the day) and the decision was made to terminate them, despite the regular high critical praise they were receiving. It makes me wonder if the book didn't become all action and adventure as an attempt to 'give the readers what they want' a little more, even if all that action did end up involving a transexual robot and a couple of large men in S&M gear...

Rouleau was a good choice as artist for these issues (with one issue by Pascal - shouldn't that be Pascual? - Ferry), as he has a large and open style that worked very well with these action sequences.

Casey's approach to the Wildcats was a very refreshing thing, as comics emerged from the darkness of the 90's. It is too bad that he didn't get to stick with the title, as I'm sure he had more plans for Marlowe and the crew. Also, whatever he wanted to do couldn't have been worse than where things ended up for these characters, and the Wildstorm titles in general...

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