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!
Stormwatch’s “Images of Tomorrow” wasn’t the only gimmick going around Image’s books in the summer of 1994. “Image X Month” saw all six image creators swapping flagship books with each other, with Jim Lee and Erik Larsen trading WildCATs #14 and Savage Dragon #13, respectively.
I couldn’t find another blogger who wanted to write you 100 posts this month, so I stuck with “Blog of Tomorrow” as the theme rather than “Blog X Month.” ;)
The trade offers a fascinating glimpse into the minds (and work ethics) of a third of Image’s founders.
Lee delivers a beautifully penciled issues at Image with Savage Dragon #13 even with an army of finishers, but it’s effectively a Grifter one-shot guest-starring Savage Dragon.
Larsen tries hard to single-handedly give the WildCATs a lumpy but fun one-off adventure that shows off their entire team but also promotes his hapless Freak Force book, and mostly succeeds.
(Larsen would also later release his own version of Savage Dragon #13, wanting to maintain his unbroken streak of penciled issues.)
Savage Dragon #13 comes first, and though it doesn’t say so you really have to have read Kindred to make heads or tails of it.
That’s because Grifter is suddenly hanging out in a Chicago restaurant with a romantic interest Alicia (who presumably has plenty of free time if this happens after Gen13, since Lynch is AWOL).
We learn that Grifter grew up in Chicago and that he worked for “The Syndicate” (a mob network) from the casual opening scene. Unfortunately, the pair of lovebirds happen to be in the same place as Savage Dragon’s sting operation. Everything quickly goes south as Grifter inserts himself into a massive shootout that leaves both him and Dragon’s partner wounded.
The rest of the issue unravels just how Grifter is connected with a mob that’s being investigated by Savage Dragon and infiltrated by I.O.. Plus, the mob has a super-powered baddie trying to usurp the business.
Altogether it’s a little bit too much coincidence piled on top of itself, especially when we discover a family connection for Grifter. All of the interweaving effectively makes Savage Dragon a guest star in his own story. He periodically shows up to threaten Grifter and then acts as his muscle in a final fight.I t could have easily been avoided without adding the I.O. element, which is meant to give Alicia some agency in the story but just renders her a damsel in distress.
I get the sense that Lee and Choi didn’t study up on Savage Dragon as much as Larsen did WildCATs, but I’ll be damned if Dragon doesn’t look utterly awesome in every panel he appears.
WildCATs #14 follows (maybe directly – I’m not sure that any other WildCATs adventure fits between them, though it’s a handy gap for anything that includes this full original team.)
Larsen gives the WildCATs one thing they haven’t yet encountered – some frivolous fun. His lightweight tale has no big life or death stakes, but it shows the team confidently cutting loose both in battle and (briefly) in relaxation.
Larsen’s WildCATs are a rough-looking bunch in battle, although he does them the credit of showing them defeating a Daemonite right on the first page of the book – Void is even conscious, and Spartan in one piece! However, Voodoo has had enough of the constant Daemonite-hunting, and demands a break.
Larsen’s casual team is a much better-looking bunch as they prepare to hit the beach (with Larsen mocking Choi’s tendency to use every possible adjective and explain them all with editorial boxes). Just before their departure, Maul hears a news report about an old friend injured in a super-human rampage (one side of which was Freak Force member Mighty Man) and puts a hole in the wall of his room in his eagerness to check on her.
The teams clash until Savage Dragon arrives to break things up, and Larsen playfully teases the tropes of the book, affirming some (Maul being big and dumb, Spartan getting ripped to shreds, Warblade basically being John Patrick’s character from Terminator 2) and mocking or reversing others (Void actually being effective, Zealot getting sucker punched while monologuing about her training).
The art on WildCATs #14 is beneath the typical Jim Lee par, but no one at the time compare with Lee’s slickness outside of his WildStorm protegés. Larsen’s rubbery action-figure fights and plain, expressive faces are effective, especially in the plain clothes scenes. It only goes to show how reliant WildCATs has been on the Lee factor to keep it moving, which should make the next arc a fascinating read.
Need the issues?
Savage Dragon #13 issue by Lee and Choi is collected in the 1998 trade paperback Savage Dragon: Team-Ups, ISBN 978-1582400471 (Amazon / eBay), but is not included in the later Savage Dragon Archives line, which includes’s Larsen’s #13 instead.
For single issues, Try eBay (WildCATs #14 / Savage Dragon #13) or Amazon (WildCATs #14 (alt link) / Savage Dragon #13). Since further WildCATs series reached #14, be on the lookout for this Larsen cover to make sure you get the right issue. And, remember, Larsen released his own, totally-different Savage Dragon #13 – and both versions are referred to as “#13a” in different places.
Here’s the schedule for the rest of this month’s WildStorm re-read – tomorrow we’re already back to Stormwatch with #14-16 as they edge inexorably closer to their grim end!