This post is part of my month-long "Blog of Tomorrow" celebration of the launch of Crushing Krisis's Patreon. Learn more or become a Patron today!
This month of reading WildStorm from the beginning has frequently defied my expectations, with my enjoyment of the contents nearly reversed from what I expected.
Team 7: Objective hell tops that list of unexpected outcomes. It’s a riveting, gorgeous, well-written book that merges military themes with superhero powers. There are a few tiny nods to the future of these characters, particularly for Slayton/Backlash, but otherwise this series hardly acknowledges the wider WildStorm Universe and the future it holds in store.
Chuck Dixon shines here even more than on the original limited series. Past needing to introduce his massive cast and take them through multiple missions, this series has both more action and better character moments. No one gets the sort of monologue or grandstanding they did in the first series. It’s all tiny beats that tell us more about the team – particularly Slayton’s temper and the babyfaced Cash’s rise to leadership before an eventual fall from their graces.
Every page of this book looks damned great. The covers truly don’t do justice to the interior pages.
Chris Warner spares no detail in illustrating the jungle environs of Nicaragua and Cambodia. A gang of multiple inkers introduce some variation but fill every page with plenty of contrast for colorist Monica Bennett to make pop with rich greens, golden flesh tones, and Team 7’s red war paint.
The long-haired, well-muscled men of Team 7 have a certain mercurial hint of motion that’s reminiscent of issue #1’s cover artist, the legendary Barry Windsor Smith. The members who we don’t know in the present day stand out the most, with Caitlin Fairchild’s father clearly modeled on Iggy Pop and Grunge’s father Chang drawn more distinctly as an Asian than on the prior outing.
The inspiration for this story seems near to that of The Divine, an OGN I reviewed last year. The difference is that while The Divine was about child soldiers in an eternal war, Objective Hell is about a small bubble of peace that Team 7 is forced to disrupt for the greater good.
Was a greater good achieved? There’s no question that removing low-yield nukes from the grasping Khmer Rouge is a positive, but the open psychic warfare between US and Russian forces signaled a new front of the Cold War that Team 7 found themselves alone to defend. While they escape with only one serious casualty this time, it helps to frame their later choice to splinter and become mercenaries. As long as the specter of their reassembling as a team exists in the world, the US Government will find some threat that demands their intervention … but does their existence also escalate the seriousness of the threats?
Team 7: Objective Hell doesn’t hold those answers or very many keys to the big questions we’ve been asking about Backlash, Grifter, Dane, Lynch, and Cray, but it is a superior WildStorm offering that makes me wish we had an ongoing comic to add more past missions to Team 7’s published history.
Want a recap? Keep reading for a summary of how these soldiers became super. Here’s the schedule for the rest of this month’s WildStorm re-read. Tomorrow is the main event! WildStorm Rising! Let’s get ready to cross over, baby!
Need the issues? This series has not been collected, so you’ll need to grab the singles – try eBay or Amazon. Since further series hit these same issue numbers, be sure to match your purchase to the cover images in this post.
Team 7: Objective Hell #1 opens not on Team 7, but on Team 8.
They’re all dead.
With Team 7 transformed into Gen-12 and also AWOL save for Lynch and Cray, the military needed a new special force. Unfortunately, the new guys experienced a full-team wipe on a mission into Cambodia to destroy hundreds of low yield nukes left behind from the US’s 1970 Cambodian Campaign.
That’s what brings Lynch to Leavenworth Prison in Kansas. He needs Team 7 back for this one mission, and despite knowing where they are he could never convince them to return … but Michael Cray could. Lynch offers Cray full immunity on his mutiny charges in exchange for convincing the team to get back together for one last op.
They drop by night into Nicaragua and hike through the forest, where Cray pauses to pick up a curious artifact clasped within a hand-shaped tree root. Unfortunately, their local guides have attracted the attention of armed revolutionaries who don’t take too kindly to American interference. Under heavy fire, Lynch has no choice but to use his power to take down their helicopters.
After more of a hike, Lynch, Cray, and company encounter an uncanny gust of wind that picks them up off their feet, leaving them grasping for tree limbs lest they be swept away by the gale. It’s not weather – it’s Team 7 – Callahan, Slayton, Change, Dane, and Fairchild, seemingly lead by Cole Cash. Predictably, they’re ready to gut Lynch whether or not Craven sent him, but they all soften up for Cray. He makes his pitch.
Meanwhile, in Russia, they’ve detected a burst of psychic power similar to the one from two years ago in the Middle East.
Team 7: Objective Hell #2 begins not with our heroes, but with Russian General Rostov touching down in Cambodia. The local Khmer Rouge commander doesn’t take kindly to the insinuation of Russian troops and Rostov promptly compels him to shoot himself.
The next morning, Rostov has one of his psychics, the red-haired Silver, scan for signs of Team 7 – but something other than their down defenses psychically and physically repels her.
Team 7 are halfway to their objective without a hint of danger. They float down a heavily guarded river with impunity with Dane disguising them as a boat full of rebels. They disembark and stumble into the killing fields – thousands of skeletons of murdered Cambodians of every age. The scope of carnage is so immense that some of the team is feeling a psychic blowback from it.
Cash is immediately suspicious of Lynch. After all, isn’t this bad mojo vibe similar to the string of missions IO sent Team 7 on leading up to their near-death experience with the cruise missiles? Lynch’s only real defense is that Craven is no longer in the chain of command to corrupt their objectives – this is as straight-up Pentagon priority request.
Suddenly, the bad mojo transforms the fields into something more gruesome, with the remains of the dead bursting from the Earth to grapple with the team. They set up a fire line to hold the skeletons back, but the assault seems to worsen the more they work to repel it, and is accompanied by a major earthquake.
It’s Cash who realizes that something in the environment is pushing back against their aggression and their psychic defenses. They all need to put down their guns and empty their minds to survive – a tactic Michael Cray has a serious problem with adopting until the maelstrom around them nearly crushes him amongst the roots of upended trees.
All the sound and fury dies down to reveal a single child, blindfolded, who asks the men, “What is your business in my valley?” Her voiceover continues ominously above a splash of the Russian forces advancing. “Anyone who brings war to my valley is answered by war, and their armies swallowed by the killing fields.”
Team 7: Objective Hell #3 opens with enemies closing in from all sides – the Khmer Rouge and Rostov’s Russian troops and pair of psychics.
When they close in on Team 7, their young companion X’ing X’iang unleashes a flying red dragon on the enemies – and it’s not just an illusion! She falls back, spent, Callahan steps up and implode a helicopter in a callback to the opening pages of Gen13. The team leaves Dane and Cray behind to watch their tail while the girl leads the rest of them past her village (which she keeps psychically shielded from detection) to the “house of fire” they must destroy.
Dane and Cray cut down at least a dozen Russian troops before they are both felled by Rostov’s psychics. Cray stops breathing, and Dane uses his powers to jumpstart Cray’s body, as well as disintegrating the armed soldiers left to guard them.
The team sets their explosives around the reinforced bunker of nukes so that the limestone mountain will permanently seal them off undetonated. As they carefully carry out their work, they realize that only some of the forces pursuing them are interested in the nukes – for the Russians, Team 7 is the prize.
The combination of the psychics and the Khmer Rouge is laying waste to the people of the small village. Slayton has no patience for planning when people are dying, and wades into the fray to almost immediately be upended in a shower of dirt and rocks by the male psychic. Slayton lashes out in response, manifesting his trademark psychic whips for the first time to snap his opponents neck.
Rostov corners Dane and plans to brainwash him into service, but Cray has regained consciousness and his feet and gives Rostov an ultimatum – stand down from using his psychic powers on Dane or Cray will stop them with a bullet through his skull. Rostov is unworried. Cray is the “untalented” one of Team 7, and it will be nothing to force him turn the gun on himself.
Meanwhile, Silver the female psychic has gone full on Dark Phoenix against the team, who are unable to mount a defense against her psionic tornado. X’ing X’iang steps up to face her alone.
In a series of intercut panels, Cray turns the gun on himself and then muscles it back in line with Rostov’s forehead, executing him. And, in a clear homage to Uncanny X-Men #137, Silver is disintegrated by X’ing X’iang.
The team exfiltrates wordlessly along with the young girl, the sole survivor of her village after Silver’s rampage. The bunker of nukes explodes behind them just like in old times, but a catatonic, unresponsive Dane signals the arrival of a new kind of war.