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Today I’ll tackle the three WildCAT spinoffs published to date – Warblade’s mini-series, a Grifter One-Shot, and a Maul solo story in Image Rarities.
While Grifter eventually getting his own title was fait accompli, at this point it feels like Warblade is the least deserving of all the WildCATs who merited their own sideline series. At least Maul has the dichotomy of being a modern art loving nerd by day and a massive purple hulk on the battlefield. Maybe that’s why Warblade needed his own series so badly – because his narrative arc had been treading water ever since Killer Instinct.
Hearing Warblade’s internal monologue across four issues helps to solidify his character. He isn’t ruled by rage at all times as we’ve seen in the heat of so many battles. He can be cool and analytical, but he’s also not the best tactician, which leads him into unfortunate situations when his rage takes over and he prepares to strike.
Steven Seagle delivers solid workmanship and well-structured issues, which is exactly what WildStorm needs in growing out its cast of characters. Scott Clark’s name is welcome sight on pencils, having disappeared for several months after his stellar work launching Stormwatch. His output isn’t quite up to that par, with his figures getting increasingly gawky starting in issue #3.
By contrast, Grifter has been the breakout star of WildCATs from their first issue, which makes his flaccid one-shot a puzzler. Steven Seagle spends as much time having Grifter think about women as objects as he does having him show any kind of charm or expertise. The story adds a useless layer of backstory in addition to Zealot’s training and Team 7. It feels like the worst sort of Marvel book, that adds in layers of complicated history just because it can and then is quickly ignored (usually because, like this one, it kills all of its interesting new characters).
Finally, we come to Maul, the art-loving romantic who is also the WildCATs’ biggest bruiser. He was highlighted in an original story by Mark Waid called “Thinking Big” in Wildstorm Rarities. It’s a quick tossaway tale about Maul catching a runaway jet in his hands, but it makes clear that even in his smaller iterations as Maul the intelligence he has as Jeremy is inaccessible. It’s these little human moments that WildCATs had been missing – but, it also didn’t have a master like Mark Waid writing it.
Want the full details? Keep reading for a deeper breakdown of the plot. Here’s the schedule for the rest of this month’s WildStorm re-read. Tomorrow, finally, it’s back to Stormwatch with#17-21 & Special 02! Plus, while I’ve got a copy of WildStorm Rarities handy, I’ll cover the other stories from that issue – which occurred quite some time ago in continuity.
Need the issues? None of these issues have been collected, so you’ll need to hunt them down as singles (though Grifter and Rarities are actually both perfect-bound books): Warblade: Endangered Species (Amazon / eBay), Grifter: One Shot (Amazon / eBay), and WildStorm Rarities (Amazon / eBay), which is a perfect-bound book with a spine.
In Warblade #1, the first big revelation about Warblade is that he is Japanese. Who knew?! We see him in a very Wolverine knock-off scene, dominating in a Kendo tournament for the seventh year running. He’s not there to win – he’s an orphan who lost his parents to Daemonites seeking out any further hints of his family. He finds something else – an old Cyberdata compatriot named Pillar who was possessed by the first Daemonite that Warblade and Ripclaw met in battle. Warblade can’t bring himself to gut his old teammate, so he plays along with his possessed former teammate with the promise of bringing down a splinter faction of Daemonites helpfully called the Faction.
Intercut with this story is a story of Ripclaw visiting his home reservation and discovering that young men are being promised work in the outside world only to be brainwashed and abducted. Unsurprisingly, the two plots collide, when Ripclaw gets himself abducted only to find Warblade undercover with Pillar and tasked with killing Ripclaw to prove his loyalty.
Warblade #2 picks up with their showdown. Warblade realizes that Ripclaw has been rendered an amnesiac beast and manages to extend the fight long enough to pry away the dart fueling his fugue state. Together, the two of them dupe the Daemonites from the Faction. They join with Pillar to kill them all. There’s just one problem: now they need to trust Pillar to find the secret weapon The Faction was dealing for and hope that he truly wants to destroy it. The trust immediately turns out to be misplaced. Pillar tricks them into leaving him at a final meet with The Faction while the two of them fly off to face some of The Faction’s only credible threats (all while thinking they are splinter cells).
We open Warblade #3 with Pillar equipped with this secret weapon – a metallic plasma exoskeleton (which seems redundant given his abilities) and a chest-mounted canon that can disintegrate anything in its path. Meanwhile, Ripclaw faces down a Daemonite hunter in Tanzania and Warblade is in the French countryside to face the trio of Daemonites who burned his orphanage to the ground. He makes quick work of them and reverses course back to Pillar, picking up Ripclaw after he befriends his foe. They both arrive in Brazil just as Pillar is about to destroy the remaining members of The Faction.
Warblade #4 is pretty much all fight – Ripclaw and Warblade vs. Pillar vs. the Daemonites. It’s boring, hard to follow, and adds little to the narrative. Pillar eventually goes free, using the argument that more of their friend’s psyche is still intact than they’ve assumed. Hey, at least we have an interested thread left dangling from this one! It ends with Ripclaw returning the surviving young men from his tribe back to the reservation and Warblade returning to his Kendo training academy to apologize for fighting with rage in his heart. Aww.
Grifter: One-Shot finds Grifter in Washington, DC, trying to track down an assassin of spies before his own number is up. He’s a skilled soldier and mercenary, but he gets too distracted by flirting to keep an eye on the spy whose life he’s trying to save when he leaves with what Grifter assumes is a prostitute. By the time Grifter makes it back to the man’s apartment, he’s dead, and his supposed prostitute turns out to be the assassin – and she has similar training to Grifter (and it’s not coda).
Grifter is poisoned in the fight and he wakes up in the mysterious lab of a former Russian agent he assumed was dead, Gallows. They form an uneasy alliance once they realize the only one capable of providing the training like theirs is a former leader who they also assumed dead. They track him down to the place where he is training a team of “Widows,” presumably to be both prostitutes and assassins. Grifter and Gallows (while Grifter narrates about hating to hit women).
Grifter’s Russian accomplish dies trying to protect him, and their old trainer falls of the building to his death after misjudging a jump at Grifter. (Of course, we don’t check for the body). Grifter’s mission ends in failure – he didn’t protect his spy, and the best Widow assassin on the team escaped.
In the WildStorm Rarities story “Thinking Big” finds Maul as plainclothes Jeremy, on a weekend getaway to Bermuda with his girlfriend, Brooke. She’s pressing him to try to figure out what his top secret, super important job might be (scientist? computer programmer?) when they’re interrupted by a plane headed straight for the terminal! Maul gets massive and saves the day, and it turns out Brooke doesn’t even dump him for being giant and purple.