Monday, January 31, 2005

A Trip Into Comic Otherspace - Wildcats: Battery Park

When Scott Lobdell and Travis Charest announced their revamp of Wildcats, Wildcats Volume 2, I don't think, besides the coolness of seeing Charest on an ongoing title, many people were not exactly looking forward to the title.

And Charest's last issue was #6.

So that didn't exactly fill many people with confidence about the direction of the book, when writer Joe Casey and artist Sean Phillips took over with #8. However, often, you might find that the most inventive directions are on the books where no one cares about...the most freedom, you might say. For if a book isn't doing much to begin with, how can you hurt it? That was pretty much the way Frank Miller's Daredevil got started, and Jack Kirby's Jimmy Olsen.

Along the same lines, so did Joe Casey's Wildcat run begin, a run that lasted through this volume, all the way into a new series, which was finally cancelled this past year. A total of 44 issues when I do not think many of us thought it would have made it past a year.

In any event, the book that is the focus of today's "You Decide," is "Battery Park," which contains the final stories in Volume 2 before Casey began Volume 3, sans Sean Phillips. While I read all the issues (and the issues leading up to it), this is the first time I've read them since they were released, so I will look at it from the perspective of someone who decided to start reading the title with this very trade.

The backstory is so intensely deep, that the trade gives us a full page worth of exposition. It fills in the basic details about how the WildC.A.Ts were a group formed by this alien, Lord Emp, along with some other aliens (and half-aliens), to continue fighting these OTHER aliens who they have been at war with for millenias (sort of like that Russell Crowe Navy movie, people fighting it out for their nativeland far far far removed from their nativeland). In the Alan Moore short run on the book, Moore had the Wildcats return home to learn that the war had been over for hundreds of years. Upon returning to Earth (as their homeland was way too different), the aliens and half-aliens had to find their own way in life.

This series takes off from the point where Lord Emp died, leaving one character (an android) to be his successor to his fortune and his corporation and do good in the world. Spartan (the android) redubbed himself Jack Marlowe, and went about trying to figure out how to do that. The team's gunslinger, Grifter (the only human of the group) was depressed over the death of his lover, who was one of the aliens. The team also included a half-alien woman named Priscilla, who just the storyline before had been brutally wounded by a super-powered serial killer. She was being cared for by another half-alien member of the team, Jeremy, who could grow to massive size and strength, but only at the loss of his great intelligence, so he had decided awhile back to NOT grow, and only use his smarts. He totally dug on Priscilla, but he was a nerd, and had no real shot at her.

There was also this weird French guy working for Jack, named Noir, who no one trusted. Meanwhile, an LAPD detective was investigating Halo, knowing that SOMEthing wrong, and a National Park Service Agent named Agent Wax (who had secret powers of himself) was also investigating the group, as his partner had been killed by the aforementioned serial killer (who was taken out via a bullet to the head from Grifter).

There....that's a lot of damn exposition, isn't it? So you'd think it would be hard to follow, but Casey does a very good job, I think, of not overwhelming us with the continuity.

This is aided highly by the opening story in the collection, a two-parter with guest art by Steve Dillon, that really does not dwell upon continuity much at all, it just lets you get insight into the character of Cole Cash (Grifter) and Jeremy. And if your regular artist is Sean Phillips, normally, a guest artist is going to be a problem...but when your guest artist is Steve Dillon! Niiiice.

And Casey uses Dillon well, as he gives him the same sort of action scenes that Dillon does all the time in book like Punisher and Preacher. But mostly, what is interesting is seeing Cole and Jeremy talk about their love lifes, as Cole is still so hung up on his former teammated Zealot, sleeping with women who look like her....while Jeremy is taking care of Priscilla, hoping for attention from her, but never really expressing his views openly, just being so obvious with his crush. Speaking of crush, a computer gets a crush on Jeremy in this issue. It is a funny bit, as a government computer falls for Jeremy, leading the government to try to hunt him down, along with their special agent, Agent Orange, who is an unstoppable killing machine. The agents, though, don't know that the two guys they are after are a Punisher-level killer in Cole and a dude like Jeremy who can grow to be a giant. Hilarity ensues.

We next have a one-shot story where Zealot returns. Very good one-off story. Sex and violence. It was a well-told tale.

The final arc on the series begins next, as all of the unresolved plotlines are resolved. The LAPD detective, Pachecho....Agent Wax....Zealot and Grifter....Priscilla's handicap.....Priscilla and all is resolved, and much of it in interesting detail. In fact, the resolution to Priscilla was the sort of ending you do not see often in comics today...and it was nice to see. If the ending of Wildcats was done by Mark Millar...well...the ending would be a lot less inspired, I can tell you that (slight tangent here, when's the last time a Mark Millar project had a good ending, not counting the one that Morrison came up with for Red Son?).

I won't go into much detail, as a lot of the surprises are enjoyable, but I will tell you that it involves exploring the "Otherspace," which is what I believe this series, Casey and Phillips did a lot of....exploring the "otherspace" of comics. While I enjoyed Wildcats 3.0, I think there was a bit LESS of that than there was in Volume 2...but it may just be the freshness of it all. What was new in Volume 2, was done already by the time we got to Volume 3. I did like 3.0, though (even though it lacked Sean Phillips' awesome artist, whose awesomeness was put on full display throughout the series).

So, what did the rest of you think? l understand Alex wasn't a big fan of Casey, but I'm not sure if it was THIS project, or the other stuff like 3.0 or Automatic Kafka or Uncanny X-Men or Adventures of Superman. Make sure to respond, Alex, I'd like to hear what problems you had (if any) with Volume 2, as I found it to be a very compelling story, and I think this last trip into comic otherspace was quite cool (I welcome responses from non-Alex readers as well, natch).


Blogger Greg said...

I'm not Alex (control your disappointment!) but I liked Wildcats 2.0 (and 3.0). It's an interesting take on superheroes trying new things in the world when they have lost their purpose. Neat.

2/01/2005 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger alex said...

Yeah, to be honest Brian, you type so much words about things I care about so little, that I can't even bring myself to finish reading this thing.

Nothing personal.

Maybe next time!


2/01/2005 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said... about general thoughts on Wildcats Volume 2 then?

2/01/2005 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

I liked Serial Boxes when I picked it up off E-Bay a couple of years ago, although other than the ending and what happened to Priscilla, I can't remember a whole lot about it. Casey's a weird case for me, because I've liked a lot of the stuff I've read of his (even bits and pieces of his Uncanny), just not enough to be that enthusiastic about him as a writer. I haven't read his Majestic, though, and that sounds like something I could be excited about.

2/02/2005 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Majestic was a pretty darn cool book when Ed McGuinness was doing the book.

When he left, it got a lot weirder...and was cancelled, like, instantly.

2/06/2005 11:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wildcats under Casey and Philips was pretty good. The whole corporate angle was a little too generic but it was a nice little look at superheroes who actually did something, other than the usual you know, fight impossible monsters and beat up gangsters and shit.

2/11/2005 11:21:00 AM  
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