Monday, May 19, 2014

Bryant Has Issues #46

This week's post is probably not going to be describable as "the soul of wit," but I do intend for it to be brief.  I will almost certainly break that vow when we get to the Alan Moore section at the end, but we'll play it by ear and see how it goes.

So: comics!

Let's begin with a bit of news:




Marvel has decided to get back into the Dark Tower business, and their adaptation of The Drawing of the Three begins with the first arc, "The Prisoner."  Both Robin Furth and Peter David will be returning as plotter and scripter, respectively, which, given how The Gunslinger turned out under their shepherding, is perhaps not a great thing.  We'll see.  I'm skeptical, but will I be subscribing via my local comics retailer?  M-O-O-N, that spells "fucking of course I will."

I'm not at all familiar with artist Piotr Kowalski, but Entertainment Weekly posted several pages if pencils from the first issue, and I like what I see.  He's got my interest, and I have to admit that the final page of the EW gallery also makes me think Furth and David might have stepped their game(s) up a notch.

So, skeptical, yes; but also cautiously excited.  I'd love for Marvel to eventually adapt the entire series, provided they can do it well.

And now, let's move on to this week's month's comics, starting with:




Wraith #6 is the penultimate issue in the series, so it is difficult for me to be specific about what things I liked in this issue, and which things I loved in this issue; at least, if I want to avoid giving away plot details.  I am arguably being too sensitive about that.  But the fact is that I just don't want to delve into the intricacies of the plot.  Someday, sure.  We'll cover the whole series and dissect it like it's a frog.

Not today.

Today, I'm going to restrict myself to saying two things:
  1. There is a two-page splash that would probably rank up there with my all-time favorite double-splashes.  It involves several characters running through a maze in Christmasland, and that's all I will say about that.
  2. There is also a petting zoo.  A Christmasland petting zoo.  If you are expecting bunnies and kid goats and ponies, you are on the wrong track.

It is a terrific issue, and both Hill and Wilson are in peak form.

The next item on our list is not a comic book, per se, but it is certainly comic-book-related:




I didn't know this sucker even existed, but the day it came out, I got a Facebook message from my comics shop asking me if I wanted they should put aside a copy of the Locke & Key Artist's Edition Portfolio for me.  "The what now...?" I asked, but I think we all knew the answer to their question was a "yes."

Luckily, it turned out to be more or less within my price range ($44.99), so once I saw that it consisted of twelve frameable pieces of Gabriel Rodriguez pencil art -- (might be ink art, I'm not really sure) -- from the series, oversized and housed inside a custom slipcase dealie, I said, oh yeah, sign my ass up, here's my money, good day to you, sir.  (I also got them to order for me a copy of a similar portfolio that is coming out this summer commemorating Walt Simonson's art for the Bizarre Adventures comic-book adaptation of "The Lawnmower Man" from the early eighties.)

There are some great pieces in the collection, including one of my favorite double-splashes.  Here's what a few of them look like:




All of those images borrowed from IDW's Tumblr (http://tumblr.idwpublishing.com/post/84434455000/pages-from-the-locke-key-artists-edition).


The pieces are each roughly the same dimensions as a treasury-size comic page, which means they are pretty big.  I don't have any immediate plans to actually frame any of them; I don't have a line in my budget for framing art, sadly.  But I will likely do something with them one of these days, and until then, it'll be nice to know they are on my shelf.  When and if Locke & Key fans come over to my pad, I'll whip it down off that shelf and lord it over them.  That'll be fun.  They won't resent me at all, probably.




In this issue of America Vampire: Second Cycle, Pearl meets up with Clay for aid, and we find out a bit more -- quite a bit more, actually -- about who or what the Gray Trader is.

I'll give you a hint: it sounds like it is going to be very, very bad news.

Another strong issue from Snyder and Albuquerque.




In this issue: a man named Mary; somebody issues the command, "RELEASE THE UGLY!"; the future has a flying car; ice sculptures; somebody gets nekkid, and the somebody seeing her is presumably better off seeing this while under the influence of a hallucinogen than he might otherwise have been; and, of course, giant squid.

Good stuff.  Not entirely like any previous issue of the series, and that's a good thing.

My only concern is that I simply don't see how the series can come to a fitting close with only two issues remaining.  At this point, I am going to have to begin hoping that this will be merely the first volume of several in a larger story.

Either that, or that Snyder and Murphy have some tricks up their sleeves.

We'll see.




Did you ever have a desire to read a story set in a dystopic city ruled by The Riddler?

If not, this issue is decidedly not for you.

There is some good stuff in it, including the customarily fine Greg Capullo art, but it didn't have much of an impact on me overall.





Here's the 2014 X-Files annual from IDW.  It includes two stories, one of which was written by Frank Spotnitz, who, for those of you who know nothing about The X-Files, was one of THE most important writers for the series.  So you'd think this would be pretty good, right?

Well, it might be, but I don't actually know, because I got a few pages into it and gave up.  Not because the story was uninteresting, but because the art by Stuart Sayger is simply awful.  Let's have a look at the three pages that caused me to give up on this story:






That shit speaks for itself, so I'm not even going to bother complaining further.  All I'll say is that I got to this part, said (aloud) "nope," and proceeded to the next comic in my stack.  Which was:




I was tempted to forgo it, too, but I didn't.  I went ahead and read it.  It had something to do with Mulder and Scully getting (implausibly) sent to Saudi Arabia.  It ends with Krycek showing up.

It wasn't terrible, but it was certainly nothing to write home about.  Especially since my parents don't even know there IS such a thing as The X-Files: Season 10, nor would they care even if they did.

All of which decided me: I am dropping this book.  I wanted it to be great, and it was occasionally good, but that's four bucks per month I can use in some other way.




Jeff Lemire's miniseries Trillium concluded with issue #8, and I'd be lying if I didn't confess to feeling a bit ambivalent toward it.  Part of this is due to the fact that I simply did not understand certain elements of the finale.  And what I did understand did not entirely sit well with me.

However, Trillium is a very complex, nuanced piece of work, and all along, it felt like something that was only going to be appreciable on a start-to-finish reread.  And I'll say this: the final issue does nothing to make me want to own a collected version of the story any less.

So for now, let's assume that much -- if not all -- of my ambivalence toward the final issue might well be eliminated by a concentrated reread.

When that happens, I will probably blog about it at Where No Blog Has Gone Before, but at that time, I'll link to it here.

Seems only right.




This series continues to be a combination oddity/joy, and this particular issue is mercifully free of the of the abysmal lows in dialogue quality that we've seen lately.

Anyone who is particularly a fan of Return of the Jedi will receive numerous echoes (foreshadowings?) of that film.

Only one issue remaining, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it wraps up.




We now enter the Alan Moore portion of today's post, beginning with the most recent issue in Marvel's Miracleman reprint series.  This issue collected four stories from the fall of 1983, and there are certainly some big events brewing in the life of Miracleman.  Dr. Gargunza begins to get heavily involved in things, and among the issue's other pleasures, there is:
  • a very bad day for a jaguar
  • superhero-on-preggers sex
  • a kid asks Miracleman, "Are you a pouf?"

One of the four stories features a "flashback" to Young Miracleman, completely free of dialogue.  It's pretty great, so let's just have a look at the whole thing:


The art here is by John Ridgway, and the script by Alan Moore (or, as these Marvel reprints bill him, "The Original Writer").






I like Ridgway's art a lot, and overall I find this to be a damned charming story.

The issue also contains a couple of '50s stories, one of which is the first appearance of Dr. Gargunza.  These things are a bit too daffy for my tastes, but I'm glad that Marvel is including them.

*****

We now turn our attentions toward Alan Moore's work for Image during the nineties, which I threatened promised to look at in some relative depth.  Well, this is the continuation of that promise  being kept, and this time out, we're going to cover Moore's run on WildC.A.T.s, the Jim Lee-created comic from Image that later was a key component in the "Wildstorm Universe" of heroes.
  
Moore wrote fourteen issues of the series (#21-34), plus a sort of coda story that appeared in issue #50.  Most of Moore's Image-era work is given very short shrift by people examining the broader scope of his canon.  It's hard to argue with that in some ways; stacked against such genuinely awesome Moore works as From Hell or Watchmen or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, this run of WildC.A.T.s isn't such hot stuff.  Moore certainly doesn't seem to think much of it himself.

But I would ask two questions about that.  #1, is it mandatory that all of Moore's comics be judged in comparison to Watchmen and his other masterworks?  And, #2, is Moore's opinion of his own work the be-all/end-all of opinions on the matter?

From where I'm sitting, the answers are "no" and "no."  I do think there is room for Moore's work to merely entertain, and while I get that his particular inclinations tend toward wanting his work to also have deeper artistic significance, I'm not sure I feel that it is mandatory for his comics to possess such qualities in order to still be worth reading.  Is this Promethea?  Certainly not.  Is it fun?

I think it is.

Here are the circmustances -- which are like circumstances, but spelled incorrectly -- under which I read these issues: I torrented them.  (Let me clarify for the benefit of any government agents who might be looking in on this.  By "torrented" I (obviously) mean that I borrowed them from a friend and then promptly returned them.  That's all we're talking about here.  Nothing to see here, officer.)

When I did so, I knew nothing about the WildC.A.T.s.  I'd heard of them, but had never read a single issue and could not have named a single member of the team, nor even tell you the vaguest version of what the story setup was for the team.  I was as uninformed as if the comics had just come out yesterday.  Moore's run, however, begins with an obvious assumption that readers have been with the comic since its debut, meaning that not only was I missing some twenty issues of backstory, but it felt like I was missing them.

I am not necessarily put off by this.  When beginning a series -- be it comics or television or books or movies or whatever -- I generally prefer to do so from the beginning, but if I have a good reason to not worry about that and just plunge in, I'm not shy about doing so.  I like to think that have a fairly good nose for figuring out when I'm confused because of the fact that I've missed out on backstory, and being able to then make the leap of simply assuming that what I'm reading/viewing makes sense.  So when characters appeared in WildC.A.T.s #21 and I had no clue who they were, I figured that was okay, and that I'd pick it up from context as I went along.

Guess what?  I was right.  More or less.  I'm sure there would have been some added resonance to certain things if I'd read those first twenty issues, but by no means did I feel crippled by my lack of knowledge.

Anyways, like I said, I torrented these issues.  But I liked them sufficiently that I then decided to see if I could locate cheap copies of the actual issues, and in that, I was entirely successful: I got all fifteen for about a buck each, all in near-mint condition.  These issues, obviously are nearly worthless.  Makes sense; the series was coming out at around the height of the nineties speculator boom, so comics were selling quite well, and so the popular titles -- of which WildC.A.T.s seems to have been one -- were shipping a million copies or so per month.  This is good news for people like myself, who are buying back issues two decades later.

In any case, I think what I'll do for this retrospective is skim the issues in physical format, and just talk about whatever seems worth talking about.  My inclination is to be fairly in-depth and talk about whole chunks of issues, but since we're talking about fifteen comics here, that's probably not going to be doable.  But I'll try to avoid being mere surface-level.  I'm purposely not doing research to find out what sort of context I'm missing out on; I'm just going to proceed as though all of this was brand-new to me (which it was, at least the first time I read it).

Let's see how it goes, and we'll begin with a cover gallery.


Moore's first issue mostly centers on a character named Savant as she builds a new WildC.A.T.s team.  The issue is told in a time-fractured style, bouncing around all over the place in order to first present us with something incongruous and then give us the context we need to understand it.  Some of the characters (such as Savant and Max "Code Red" Cash) seem to be existing ones, whereas others (Tao and Maxine) appear to perhaps have been created for this issue.  The centerpiece of the issue is a drug bust the team attempts to make once it has been assembled.  It doesn't go all that smoothly.  As the issue ends, Savant makes reference to the former team of WildC.A.T.s, mentioning that they are dead, and that the new team must allow them their legend, their immortality.  The final page shows that team on a spaceship, looking out into the infinite void, looking very much alive.  Does this mean they ARE alive and that Savant does not know it?  Or does it mean that she was speaking metaphorically?  I guess we will learn a bit more about that as we go along.  This is a very good issue, and we will probably talk about it more in-depth later on in the post.

That cover weirds me out.  This issue picks up where the last one left off, with the characters on the spaceship.  These, presumably, are the former WildC.A.T.s, and they are a colorful lot: Emp (short for "Emperor"), who strikes me as basically being Hannibal from "The A-Team"; Zealot, a sort of Wonder Woman figure, but with white hair and a big red dot in the middle of her forehead; there's also a purple dude, a dude with green hair, a woman named Adrianna who looks a bit like a robot but probably isn't because her fleshy face would seem to prohibit that, and a woman named Priscilla, also known as Voodoo.  They all arrive at a planet named Khera, which seems to be the homeworld to at least a couple of them.  The group is split up more or less as soon as they arrive, with both Emp and Zealot being whisked away by various dignitaries; the others are left to their own devices, and there are signs that Voodoo and the purple guy are going to be getting into serious trouble.  Meanwhile, back on Earth, Tao has hooked Maxine -- who is a nineteen-year-old sociopathic killer made mostly out of cyborg parts she got after nearly being killed by way of mutilation -- into a sort of virtual reality training program, in which he is either training her or brainwashing her, or something.  The idea is that she is being developed into a WildC.A.T.  It isn't going well; in the simulations, she keeps murdering all the other team members!

That's Voodoo on the cover.  As it turns out -- and I'm assuming this would not be news to longtime readers of the series -- she is a half-breed, part human and part Daemonite.  The Daemonites are the race that the Kherubim people have been at war with for centuries, and it seems to be that conflict that is central to the plotline of the larger WildC.A.T.s universe.  In the previous issue, Voodoo was taken away by the Kherubim and tossed into a Daemonite ghetto, which initially led to much brawling between her and the Daemonites, but evidently she reconciled with them between issues.  It makes for a good surprise; she seems like she was facing overwhelming odds when last we saw her, and this resolution is both unexpected and interesting.  Even better is the revelation of what Priscilla/Voodoo has learned: the war between the Kherubim and the Daemonites has evidently been over for three centuries, with the Daemonites the losers.  Earth, due to its relative isolation, has simply not found out about it yet.  I would guess that this kind of blew the minds of anyone who'd been reading the entire series.  Meanwhile, back on Earth, the new WildC.A.T.s -- of which Maxine (with her new nickname, "Ladytron") is now seemingly a full member -- break into some sort of enemy facility and accidentally kill somebody.

We haven't talked much about Jeremy Stone, the guy on this cover.  Also known as Maul, he is evidently a Titanothrope.  I believe that means he is part giant or something.  As a character, he is a bit reminiscent of both The Hulk and The Thing, and his story here involves his finding out that on Khera, his people are a bit of an underclass.  That's putting it mildly.  On Kheru, Maul meets a female of his species (named, charmingly, Glingo), which seems to have never happened before.  So, as one would, he falls in love.  He also meets others of his kind, gets in brawls for Glingo's affections, and generally marvels at his newfound connections.  Meanwhile, back on Earth, the WildC.A.T.s crash the funeral -- held at the "Church of Gort" (a Moore creation, I assume) -- of the robot they killed last issue.

This is a double-length issue with a shiny, faux-metallic cover.  This time, we begin on Earth, with Mr. Majestic -- a Superman-esque Kherubim warrior of whom we last spoke in Bryant Has Issues #37 --thinking to himself that what happened at the Church of Gort has robbed the team of any hopes it may have had.  This whole thing has somehow -- in a way that I seem to have missed -- upset Stormwatch, which is another hero team.  One of their members decides to attack the WildC.A.T.s headquarters, and gets i a knock-down/drag-out fight with Majestic.  This mainly seems to occur because the guy from Stormwatch is Irish and drunk, which is an amusing reason for a fight to break out in a superhero comic.  Some of his pals show up and disarm the situation, but Majestic is still left with his uneasy feelings about where things seem to be headed for the group.  Meanwhile, on Khera, both Maul and Voodoo seem shaken and disgruntled by their experiences learning about what the society on this planet is really like.  They take their concerns to Emp and to Zealot individually, but both seem to have let the new (old?) political power they have on Khera go to their heads, and they show either disinterest in or disdain for the plights of their ostensible team members.  Voodoo proclaims that she is done with her fellow WildC.A.T.s.

One of the WildC.A.T.s -- the ones on Khera, not the ones on Earth -- we have not yet mentioned is Hadrian.  He appears to be some sort of computer consciousness that can be transferred from one body to another, provided the bodies are one of a select group of warrior robots.  All of which look alike, and all of which look a lot like a human man.  This, I must confess, feels like one of the areas where my lack of knowledge about the series is proving to be slightly detrimental to my understanding of Moore's issues.  Not to a massive degree, though; just a bit.  In any case, Hadrian has been out of commission for a bit, but returns in this issue, and determines that he needs to find out what's going on with his friends.  He finds the team in a volatile, fractured state, and in the course of his investigations into what has happened to them, he is stabbed from behind and left for dead.  He's a robot, though, so Voodoo finds him and things might be salvageable.  Back on Earth, a collection of what I assume to be supervillains decides to declare war against the WildC.A.T.s.

Emp -- who is better known to his former teammates as Jacob Marlowe -- has been elected to the Kheran Senate as the representative for The Pantheon, whatever that is.  It seems that Zealot -- who has returned to her native name, Zannah (confused yet?) -- has also been elected to the Senate as representative of The Coda.  Both Emp and Zealot address the Senate, blah blah blah.  Meanwhile, Voodoo brings Hadrian to Maul and Adrianna and they determine that a plot is underfoot.  The plot specifically is to use Zealot to unwittingly detonate a bomb, the aim of which is to discredit a Pantheon-led pro-Titanothrope vote.  This will somehow give The Coda control of the Senate.  Voodoo, Maul, and friends show up in the Senate to try and stop the plot, which turns out to involve a sentient sword Zealot had been given.  The sword detonates itself, but Glingo uses her own body to shield the rest of the Senate from the blast.  She is killed, but heroically.  Zealot says to hell with The Coda, and Emp says the hell with The Pantheon.  Everyone seems to be suddenly determined to return to Earth, where things are maybe a bit less screwed-up (believe it or not).  Back on Earth, Code Red is visited by some mob hitmen, but he's ready for them, and even if he wasn't, Ladytron shows up for what she thinks is a date.  Much to Code Red's chagrin.

You will have noticed from this cover that the two teams of WildC.A.T.s seem to be united.  Imagine your surprise to learn that that does not happen during this issue.  You'll be SHOCKED, I'm sure.  What does happen is that Max (Code Red) and Maxine (Ladytron) go on a rather cute not-date to a superhero bar named Clark's, which is soon thereafter -- and not due to the pair of them -- victim of a bombing.  Back at WildC.A.T.s headquarters, Tao calls a meeting of the C.A.T.s and Stormwatch to determine how to proceed.  At the very end of the issue, the original WildC.A.T.s show back up, and look ready to put their fightin' pants on.

Fire From Heaven, so far as I can tell, was one of the huge crossover events that comic companies love to do from time to time where they take a bunch of their superhero books, craft a loosely-thought-out story that can run across multiple titles, and boost sales.  Sadly, it usually works, at least in the sales sense of things.  Alan Moore seems to have more or less ignored whatever the larger events of the crossover were in this issue, which is primarily focused on touching base with the various team members to see how the are adjusting to the new status quo.  Then at the end some sort of stuff happens involving a place called Gamorra Island.  The character stuff is solid; the other stuff comes off as a mere afterthought, which is likely exactly what it was for Moore.

Unlike the previous issue, this one is heavily invested in the Fire From Heaven story.  All of which means almost nothing to me, so I have nothing to say about it apart from saying that it seemingly takes Hadrian's story in a major new direction.  Or, possibly, resolves something from his backstory big-time.  So, again, this might mean more if I knew much about Hadrian.  I don't.

The cover makes me chuckle, even though I am a bit confused as to why Jim Lee is giving shouts-out to Astro City and Captain America.  Why ask why, I guess.  Hadrian, fresh off the actions of the previous issue, restarts a seemingly long-abandoned love affair with Zealot.  This apparently messes up whatever Grifter had going with Zealot.  A great deal of the issue if Grifter-centric, and he's got a very silly mask.  I don't know much about him.  The mob's war on the superheroes continues, complete with a hostage crisis involving kidnapped civilians.  Maxine shows up to try to help with this, and ends up in a massive fight with a villain named Overtkill.  That's a dumb name, but Moore gets some good mileage out of the fact that Maxine is evidently a huge Overtkill fan and used to have his action figure.  Meanwhile, we get a significant clue as to who is orchestrating all of this chaos.

The fighting continues.  Moore is having a lot of fun writing for Ladytron, if nothing else.  The WildC.A.T.s figure out who is behind their current state of affairs, which may not be too big a surprise to anyone who has read Watchmen.  (No, there's no cross-over; the similarity is a thematic one.)

It's Tao.  In this issue, he wreaks a bit of havoc, freeing a bunch of very dangerous prisoners from WildC.A.T.s headquarters.  He also does something rather nasty to Ladytron in the last few pages.  Can she survive?

Moore's final full issue has a funeral as a framing device.  Does that answer my previous question?  Meanwhile, via flashbacks, we find out what happens to Tao, and we also find out what happens to Maxine.  Majestic is instrumental in both.  It's a pretty good final issue for Moore, although there is still...

...this issue, which includes an eight-page story from Moore that essentially serves as a coda to the Tao storyline.  It's pretty good.


Well, you will no doubt have noticed that as the series progressed, I seemed to have less and less to say about it.  The latter half of these 14/15 issues are fairly good, but I think it would be entirely correct for me to suggest that the first half is quite a lot better.  Moore seems more engaged by the material, and the issues read a bit closer to my idea of what an Alan Moore comic is than the later ones.

My guess is that this is in large part due to the imposition of the Fire From Heaven stuff.  Crossovers of that nature tend to get mandated at a corporate level, which likely means that Moore -- who was doing work for hire here, remember -- was handed at least a vague outline that he had to follow during the second half of his run.  That is sheer speculation on my part, though.

Regardless, it does seem to me as if Moore had much more interest in the plotlines involving the two different teams of C.A.T.s being separated, and by the political-intrigue stuff on Khera.  That is where many of the best moments of his run on this series happened.

But don't let that make you think I'm slagging off the rest.  I'm not.  Moore doesn't seem to think much of what he did, and yeah, as we've said, it pales in comparison to, say, Top Ten.  But so what?  It's a fun read, and it's fairly exciting, and all in all, it just plain works.  When and if some Hollywood studio decides to make a series of WildC.A.T.s movies, they'd be fools not to turn to this run of issues at some point.  Not for the first film, or the second, or even the third, probably; but you could easily get a fourth and a fifth film out of what Moore did here, and with the right set of people shepherding the project, those could be really good movies.

Forget that, though.  It's unlikely to ever happen.  The comics are fine in and of themselves.  The nineties era of comics -- specifically, the Image comics of the era -- are sort of known for being gritty and oversexed, but in a childishly adult way, if that makes any sense.  In some respects, they play as parodies of themselves; they are all about psychotic "heroes" who murder about seven people per issue and seem to know an awful lot of women with huge tits who wear as little clothing as possible.  Or at least, that's my perception of that era in comics, based on its covers.

Moore does not fall into those traps.  Yeah, there's a bit of cheesecake in the art, sure; and there's definitely a spot of murder from time to time.  But the whole thing has a lightness that I suspect most other writers were not able to invest titles such as this one with; and, in its finer moments, it also has a depth of feeling and meaning that I would also suspect is missing without Moore at the helm.  As he writes them, these characters are complex and peculiar enough that the persistent conflicts they have with each other seem earned, as opposed to forced.  And at the same time, they are colorful and engaging enough that Moore is able to wring humor out of their dialogue and also use them in occasionally cartoonish ways, as most of us seem to want from our superheroes on occasion.

Or, in other words: as written by Alan Moore, WildC.A.T.s is FUN.  Is it deep?  Not really, although it has its moments.

I just don't think that is a prerequisite to enjoyment.

I would also note that unlike most Moore comics, the art in these issues is courtesy of a large number of artists.  There are something like nine different pencilers who worked on these fifteen issues, and more inkers than I could even keep in my brain long enough to count.  You might expect this to create some serious aesthetic confusion, but it doesn't actually hurt much at all; the various artists do a fairly good job of staying close to one another in terms of how everything looks.
 
Now, before we wrap up, I wanted to touch on a few little flourishes that struck me as being particularly Moore-esque.

First, we have a hotel on Khera where several of the WildC.A.T.s stay.  It's called Coincidental Mansion, and it got a few laughs out of me.


WildC.A.T.s #22 page 11 panel 1


If that strikes you as an odd aside, well, you're not wrong.  If it never got mentioned again, that would be not too uncommon for Moore.  But no, when the next issue opens, we get a bit more: Adrianna (also known as "Void") hears music in an elevator that is identical to a Ukrainian folk tune from her childhood, and she also find out that the Kheran word for "lobby" is also their word for "void."  Meanwhile, Maul (whose human name is Jeremy Stone) gets no sleep due to being bothered by the fact that the guy in the room next door is name Jerem Ystone.  Void chalks it all up to a low probability field generator.

This is an amusing concept, and Moore only hits on it a few times.  Which is either good (in that he avoids overusing it) or bad (in that it kind of feels like the sort of concept Moore could exploit at great length).

Coincidental Mansion doesn't pop up again (I think) until #27, when Moore simply drops the following panel on us:




I do love a good callback.

I was also quite amused by some of the Church of Gort stuff:


Can't help but hear Reverend Lovejoy's voice in my head when I read that dialogue.

That "H.A.L.elujah" made me laugh out loud.  That's right: I LOLed.  I also got bummed out to think that Moore never wrote a Sister Transistor spinoff.

I can't swear that Moore actually created the Church of Gort for these issues; for all I know, he might merely be following up on an idea that somebody else in the Image universe already did.  But it seems like something Moor would do, doesn't it?

So does this superhero bar:




Again, this might be stuff somebody else at Image had already done.  But I don't think so.  This page feels like a dry-run for Top Ten to me (and in case you don't know what that is, Top Ten was a Moore-created comic set in a city entirely populated by superheroes and supervillains).  The name of the bar is a fairly obvious joke, but no less satisfying for that.  And the three Wolverine-lookin' dudes crack me up.

Clark's doesn't get a huge amount of space in the series, but Moore does return there during issue #28 for a "date" that Max and Maxine go on:






It feels a bit as if Ladytron -- unlike much of the rest of the series -- really did have Moore's full attention.  This makes sense, given that he created the character.  It feels to me as if what Moore would really have liked to do was spin Ladytron off into her own comic, where he could explore her existential plight (and, especially, her very specific style of randiness) to his heart's content.  I'd have been okay with that; she's an appealingly horrible character.

We're going to close off by way of me posting all of issue #21, Moore's first issue, which includes an interesting structure that seems worth talking about:


That bottom-left panel cracks me up.  Moore obviously has a lot of fun with this weird Presidential diner place (which might be a pre-existing place in the series, but strikes me as being more like an Alan Moore riff on the diner John Travolta and Uma Thurman visit in Pulp Fiction, which was about a year old when this issue came out).

It may be only a coincidence, but this page reminds me of the great Alfred Hitchcock film Frenzy, in which the camera backs out of an apartment and then down the stairs and out the building and into the street, all so we do not have to bear witness to a brutal murder.  Here, the "camera" is instead "tracking" into an apartment building toward the scene of some murders.  You will not, perhaps, have failed to notice that we have taken a trip back in time by several days.  Presumably, we are here to get some context for why Max (Code Red) is dressed as George Washington a few days later.

Ah, the WTC...  This splash page would have been entirely free of unintended melancholy in 1995, of course, but the towers would likely have been intended to convey that the setting is NYC, possibly so that readers who were new to the series would understand that it took place in the type of superhero universe where real, familiar cities are the norm, and not the DC-style Metropolis and Gotham type of fake cities.  I'm fine with either approach, but the first thing I thought when I got to this page was, "Ah, so this is more Marvel than DC, eh?"  I'm not sure how this works within the later events in comics history that involved the entire Wildstorm universe (as it later became known) being ported over into the DC universe when DC purchased Wildstorm.

This is somebody else's scan, and it comes from a paperback that collected the first seven issues.  In the bottom panel of my single-issue comic, the possessive apostrophe was left out, so that it appeared "Savants" rather than "Savant's."  This might have been a lettering error, but I've actually seen multiple Moore comics where he -- or somebody -- goofed the possessive spelling.  Which inclines me toward thinking it's an Alan Moore thing.  Dude is a genius, but even geniuses can have persistent errors, I suppose.  Spelling gaffes aside, you'll notice that this page returns us to the same timeline as the first page, but a bit later in the day.  Each time we leave that storyline -- the "present" -- and come back to it, it progresses forward.  Something about this worked really well on me.

Each of these panels seemingly happens on a different day.  I'm guessing that these are all inside jokes that would be amusing to people who were familiar with Image comics.  Savant's woes at finding new members for the team are amusingly rendered by Travis Charest via Savant's facial expressions.

Majestic's first couple of lines here feel like he has briefly turned into an executive at a comic-book company...

I like that the flashback scenes are sort of bouncing around a bit.  There is something about that, as juxtaposed with the relentless forward-motion of the present-day scenes, that creates an interesting pace.  (Sorry about continually saying things like "there is something..." and then not explaining farther, but for whatever reason, I'm not finding it easy to dig deep on this one.  Maybe that's because there's nothing there.  In my head, in the comic, or maybe in either.  More likely it's just my head that's the problem.)

Majestic dressed as Abraham Lincoln is ridiculous, and kind of hilarious.

It makes almost no actual sense for Savant to want a cyborg former spree-killer on a superhero team.  Clearly, she only wants Maxine on the team for one reason: Alan Moore wants Maxine on the team.  Sometimes the best course of action in attempting to defuse a blatant plot improbability like this one is to have one characterask "why?" and then have another character respond more or less with a "just 'cause, that's why."  Readers -- THIS reader, at least -- are surprisingly able to roll with things like that as long as they are done with a bit of a wink and a nod.

Something needs to be pointed out about Tao here.  For new readers like myself, ALL of these characters are new, so I initially assumed that Tao was just another of the team's established members.  But no; Moore created Tao, who made his first appearance in this issue.  So anyone who had been reading the series would be seeing Tao and saying, "Hey, who the hell is this guy?!?"  I think it's always worth considering how very differently things can read (or view, if it's a filmed medium) for people who have not been along for the ride and are jumping into the middle of a series.  It can lead to occasional points of interest like this thing with Tao.

Ah, yes, The $75 Million Woman -- I remember that never being a show.  But if it was, I might watch it.

"Zombots."  Some of the Buffy comics featured zombie vampires called "zompires," which I always thought was kind of lame.  "Zombots" is better.  Moore would, years later, use similar types of remote-controlled dead-men in Nemo: The Roses of Berlin (although this might be something that appeared in one of the many period books or films referenced in that comic).

If you were a longtime series reader, did you assume that Tao was eventually going to get a page or two of flashback, so that you could find out who he was and what his deal is?  Probably.  But for me, this was my cue to learn that Tao was a new character to the series.  I'm probably more fascinated by this semi-dichotomy of character impact than I ought to be.

We've already seen that Tao ends up as the main villain of Moore's run, but it's worth mentioning that he does evidently appear in several dozen other issues of various Wildstorm series.  Evidently, he was a successful creation for the series, as was Ladytron.  I doubt Moore has any pride in that, but maybe he ought to have at least a smidge.

Sure is a lot of white space on that top row.  What up wi' dat?

Love the two panels where the car is barreling toward the restaurant, initially unbeknownst to the people inside.  That specific effect works SO much better in a comic than it would in a film (although it works okay in a film).  And it would not be achievable at all in prose.

Gotta love a good splash page, and I especially like the fact that the car is "crashing" into the other panels.

Tao's complete lack of interest creates a very specific effect: it is being paid just the right amount of attention so that it seems almost like an afterthought, but just enough NOT like one to tip us off to the fact that he is surely going to end up doing something.  Since we know how comics work, and know therefore that the only reason Tao is sitting the fight out must be that he can end it in a matter of moments, this creates the expectation that Tao is extremely powerful.  We don't know the specifics of what that power is yet, but we know -- be it consciously or at a more subliminal level -- that he must have it.  That, in turn, bolsters him as a character quite well, and puts him in a place of psychological importance that will pay off well as the series progresses.

In that bottom panel, does it look like the artist forgot to draw the body of the guy Maxine is holding captive?

Yes, but Keith Richards would be utterly unfazed.

It's such a simple, frequently-used effect for the last line of dialogue on a page to end up having ironic meaning when you flip to the next page . . . but it works like a charm here.

I assume that people who'd been reading the series knew the characters depicted on this page were still alive.  Maybe not, though, in which case this would have been a fairly effective revelation.  It works either way, I guess.


Overall, I'd say this first issue is perhaps the best of Moore's run, at least in terms of structure.

And with that, I think we've probably said enough about WildC.A.T.s a la Moore.  I think it's maybe a bit short of being up to his typical quality level, but that it is nevertheless a fairly entertaining read for superhero fans.

Next time we look at Moore's Image years, it'll be via another WildC.A.T.s series, a mini that crossed the team over with Spawn.  I'm guessing that won't happen for a few weeks, though.  See ya then!

3 comments:

  1. Those Young Miracleman are dynamite.

    I agree that the WildC.A.T.s stretch is fun. Very inventive in spots. The art bothers me, but I'm able to suspend my disdain long enough to take it all in. It's entertaining. A friend gave me one trade, possibly two, I can't recall, and I was wholly and happily absorbed in it one morning as I made my way through a pot of coffee. But while several of these descriptions and covers ring bells, I don't remember too, too much of it, unfortunately.

    That Rodriguez phrenology illustration is fantastic. I'd buy a framed print in a heartbeat.

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    1. * Damn it - "those Young Miracleman PAGES are dynamite."

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    2. Yeah, the art in the WildC.A.T.s issues is a weak link. But it never got so bad that it took me out of the story, which -- witness that "X-Files" annual -- can and does happen with me.

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