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What happens when you take Jim Lee’s high-gloss WildCATs and mash them up with storied X-Men author Chris Claremont?
That’s what we learn in WildCATs #10-13, where Claremont takes over scripting duties from Brandon Choi for Lee’s swan song on his own title.
Claremont seems to agree with my assessment of the title – that Zealot is the interesting part, and everyone else should be jettisoned. He spends barely a combined two pages writing Marlowe, Spartan, Maul, and Warblade and the book is better for it.
Instead, he recruits a new primary team composed of Zealot’s smarter little sister Savant, generic gun-guy Soldier who is redundant to Grifter (since he’s stuck in Kindred for the first half of this story), Superman analog Majestic, and his own Huntsman.
It makes sense that Lee would recruit Claremont for a story that opens the door to so much of the history of Kherubim without ever saying it out loud. Lee seems to be in a rush to get all of these elements out onto the table before he departs the book, and it shows in his art. It’s still Jim Lee, but there are few of the magnificent, splashy panels he’s most known for. It’s his most utilitarian work on the series to date.
Even Claremont can’t seem to make sense of Lee and Choi’s WildCATs, their allies, or their villains. Tapestry is a visual stunner, but her power to weave souls isn’t too different than Misery’s psychic push from Killer Instinct. Her motivations are even less clear – does she want Marlowe, the mysterious Alabastar Wu, or Zealot?
Who knows. What becomes rapidly apparent is just how much Lee and Choi’s stories really have adhered to the Claremontian model. Is this truly so different than WildCATs #1-4? Is Voodoo’s ruse any different that Misery’s in Killer Instinct? Is Voodoo’s distribution of power any different than the Void/Marlowe team-up from the last story? Is it partially resolved by women repeatedly wielding the totality of their psychic powers?
This confusing yarn is an enjoyable read because the real Chris Claremont knows how to leverage these wordy tools like no other. Also, his stoic Huntsman is more charismatic than the entire male cast of the book save for Grifter – who mercifully returns to the action for the final issue.
The real delight here are the back-up features, which hint at a world beyond the WildCATs team we’ve been reading so far. Solider’s story is generic, but opens a new window on Zealot’s immortal history. Majestic’s interlude makes him out to be a Superman who decided to abandon humanity. And, Zealot’s first encounter with Tapestry shows she hasn’t always had a will made of steel – and some of that might even be Tapestry’s doing!
Want the full details? Read on to watch me try to make sense of my first Claremontian recap – may the goddess save our souls.. Here’s the schedule for the rest of this month’s WildStorm re-read. Tomorrow we head back to Stormwatch for this month’s main inspiration, the fast-forward from Stormwatch #9 to #25 and then back to #10!
Need the issues? This is another rare WildStorm title with a TPB collection, called WildC.A.T.s: A Gathering of Eagles (ISBN 978-1887279451)! Here it is on Amazon and eBay. Note that I’m unsure if it includes the backup features. For single issues, try eBay (#10-13) or Amazon (#10, 11, 12, 13 or #10, 11, 12, 13 (try both sets)). Since future WildCATs series hit these same issue numbers, be sure to match your purchase to the cover images in this post.
WildCATs #10 opens on an unlikely pairing – Zealot giving Voodoo combat training. Zealot thinks Voodoo’s status as a chosen one means she’s capable of a lot more than simple fighting techniques.
They’re interrupted by a massive explosion in the sky as a thousand-ton ship bursts from mid-air and crashes to the ground ahead of them, the sounds of gunfire echoing out from its hull. A smoking body is ejected from the ship, followed by a super-freaky Daemonite, which Zealot handily beheads.
Zealot heads into the ship for more fighting, and when Voodoo looks back at the ground the smoking body is up and walking away. He says, “A Raksha’s life is not as ours. Neither is its death.” Voodoo quickly finds out what he means, as dozens of tendrils of blood creep outward from the beheaded Raksha to encircle her legs. They creep upward to cover he body and face, and the last we see or hear of her is a “NO!” shouted into the night sky.
Inside the ship, Zealot discovers an unconscious girl, but her attempts to move her draw the ire of several Raksha’s. A mysterious, dark-haired man gives the girl (who is our caption-box narrator) a pinch on the cheek, picks up one of Zealot’s discarded swords, and dives into the fray. They handily dispatch the Raksha’s. He is Huntsman, and he protects the girl, Miranda – and they both think it’s a good idea to get off the ship as quickly as possible.
They discover together that Voodoo is gone, and Zealot quickly tires of Huntsman’s oblique answers. She threatens him (as is her way), and he neatly sweeps her feet out from under her. It’s not that he got the better of her – her wounds from the Raksha’s are poisoned and are already sapping her strength.
Some distance away, the man – Alabastar Wu – has found a payphone and desperate dials Jacob Marlowe, only to be rebuffed by his operator. On the beach below, the Raksha-possessed Voodoo looks like an old hag. Her possessor requires her to feed constantly on other people, reducing them to piles of dust. After snacking on an unfortunate trio out for a nighttime walk, Voodoo spots Wu and gives chase. He manages to fend her off and ride away on a commuter train. The Raksha realizes it can use Voodoo’s allies to help her, and calls in for a teleport back to base to “warn” them that Wu is has a vendetta with Marlowe!
Lucky for Wu, he found another way to reach Marlowe, but Void ports the rest of the team in right on top of them. They’re not the only special guests – Attica and the Troika, plus Providence, have arrived as well!
Back-up story “Soldier’s Story” is a bloody tale of the trenches of the Korean War, where one solider is intent on taking a small pass before Chinese troops can file through. He leaves a sour lieutenant and a trail of bodies behind him, but picks up several bullets along the way. By the time he reaches the mountains above the path, he’s spent. He intends to cause an avalanche with a grenade and die in the process. He pulls the pin when he’s interrupted by Zealot, saying, “It would be a shame to let so valiant a warrior die needlessly.” Later, she visits the stockade infirmary to free him from the charges pressed by his commanding officer.
WildCATs #11 opens with the team under assault from ever side – Voodoo strikes Marlowe from behind while Troika assaults them head-on.
Providence has apparently grown in her powers, as she manages to jam Void’s ability to teleport or even communicate. The rest of the team is, of course, no match for anyone, ever, but especially not for three bad guys with significant energy projections – Maul and Warblade never even get close, and Spartan can’t take them all himself. Attica himself admits they were lucky that Zealot and Grifter weren’t around.
With the team defeated, the Raksha-possessed Voodoo claims her prize, Alabastar Wu. Except, he’s not for her to consume as we’ve been lead to believe – she’s captured both him and Marlowe for the extremely melanin deficient Lord Soma and Tapestry. We learn nothing about either of them. With their prey in-hand, the Troika are nearly summarily dismissed, but Tapestry thinks better of it and hangs on to them to deal with the inevitable arrival of Grifter.
All the while, the Raksha in Voodoo is getting hungry, but finds that devouring Voodoo’s energy only makes her will to break free stronger. Tapestry promises to deliver a hot meal soon.
Zealot has been observing all of this from afar with Huntsman. She’s optimistic that she can defeat Troika single-handedly – after all, she has in the past. However, one glimpse of Tapestry sends Zealot running to her bullet bike. She speed-dials someone named Savant.
In a warehouse nearby, Tapestry has strung up the men of WildCATs nude from the ceiling. Providence bargains to retain possession of Void, but Tapestry decides two clairvoyants are better than one and she weaves their souls together or something. She turns her weaving on Marlowe and his memories of the WildCATs’ formation.
We cut to a seemingly unrelated scene. A young, blonde, short-haired archeologist (because these are the only “normal” women in Jim Lee’s world) is studying a statue of Anteocles of Thrygia. She is Cordelia Matheson, granddaughter of the woman who bequeathed the entire wing of the Smithsonian she’s sitting in. Except, she’s also answering Zealot’s call for “Savant” and calling up a generic solider guy helpfully named Soldier on holo-phone. They both gloat a bit about Zealot needing their help, but Savant seems to understand the deadly threat of Tapestry. She says, “I need Majestic … if worst comes to worst, he’s the only one of us with strength enough to kill her.” She steps out of the Smithsonian in a pair of odd boots and a moment later is in Chicago, then Calgary, then Alaska.
Back at the warehouse of naked WildCATs, Tapestry re-weaves Marlowe’s memories so he believes Zealot and Grifter were out to kill him back at the strip club and he was saved by Tapestry. Magically, Jacob Marlowe is now wearing black S&M gear from head to toe!
Back-up story “Mr. Majestic” gives us a glimpse of a man making repairs to the roof small cabin in an oasis of green in the Arctic Circle. It’s the end destination of Savant’s speedy jaunt across the country. The man is disappointed by the interruption and that he could be found at all, but Savant’s “got a whole bag full of tricks.” The man is Majestic, and Savant calls him “[maybe] the most powerful being on the face of this planet, but he claims he has issues to resolve before he’s ready to return to civilization. Savant knows about his issues, and she’s knows what happened – she proves it by handing him something from her satchel that we can see. Majestic recoils as if he’s been shocked, full of apologies about the past. In a flash of energy from his fists, he transforms into the costumed Mr. Majestic and they fly away, leaving behind the item Savant handed over … the tattered doll of a child.
WildCATS #12 opens with Huntsman piloting Zealot’s bullet bike as she swoons in the sidecar with Miranda. They’re seemingly blown to smithereens by the Troika, who swoop down to check for evidence of Zealot’s body.
At the warehouse of WildCATs, no one shares that confidence – a twisted Marlowe and Spartan are planning contingencies for Zealot’s defeat. Tapestry runs her fingers through Warblade’s memories while the Raksha in Voodoo is barely holding it together without snacking on Voodoo’s flesh and soul.
Marlowe calls in his non-powered attendants Jules and Stansfield to act as the Raksha’s walking juiceboxes, but we were warned last issue that the more the Raksha’s snacked on Voodoo, the stronger her resolve became. While she writhes on the ground in the real world, psychically she’s in a major slap-fight with her possessor.
The Troika zero on on Zealot and Huntsman’s hideout.Zealot’s in no shape to defend herself, so Huntsman volunteers himself. Left behind with Miranda, Zealot finds herself slowly changing into a Raksha! A few rooms away, Huntsman manages to take down Troika’s robotic member, HARM, but still has to content with Slag and Attica. Suddenly, the latter finds himself with a gun in his mouth – it’s the generically-named Soldier. It seems to be too late, as Slag buries Huntsman in a pile of magma (though he pops up unscathed a page later), while Zealot isn’t fast enough to stop Slag from snatching Miranda.
Zealot suddenly glows with silvery light, and shoots a beam that hits Slag right between the eyes. Wait, so, she’s the most badass team member already and she has energy projection powers? The transformation also gives her a perm. Now she really looks like a gray-haired Wonder Woman. After making quick work of the Troika, she tells Hunstman “I am damned,” and, “I’m out of practice. My control isn’t what it needs to be.” It certainly seems like she’s wielding her very soul as a weapon.
At that moment, Savant and the erstwhile Majestic port in – but, Savant sees the transformed Zealot and shrieks, “We’re too late!” While Savant argues with her sister (?!) Zealot, HARM gets dropped from afar courtesy of Grifter, back from his misadventures in Kindred.
Now, this is a team I’d gladly read about every month.
(No back-up story this month. Instead, we get a preview of the upcoming WildCATs Animated Series!)
WildCATS #13 opens with a glimpse at what happened with Voodoo, Jules, and Stansfield. The two humans manage to corner the Raksha-possessed Voodoo, who breaks through the control to suggest they can free her by holding hands and singing Kumbaya (more or less).
The new, incredibly more-interesting WildCATs team of Zealot, Huntsman, Grifter, Savant, Soldier, and Majestic assault the Warehouse of WildCATs, decimating Tapestry’s spindly cannon-fodder troops and also Maul, who is useless. In the fray, Zealot takes psychic control of Miranda and has her snatch an orb shard from Savant’s bag.
Tapestry seems unconcerned by all of this in her cozy throne made of her Void/Providence mashup. All she cares about is drawing Zealot ever closer, totally at odds with her assertion that she required Marlowe and all of the CATs. She monologues, ‘This is MU world, Soma. Both Daemonites and Kherubim are strangers here.”
Zealot arrives in full on Dark Galadriel mode and the two enter into combat with their very souls, each trying to ensnare the other completely. Then there are a few pages of Claremontian gobbledygook about souls and goddesses and stuff, and Hunstman stabs the tangle of soul combat with a Coda sword and everything blows up.
Soma and Tapestry manage to escape, and Savant thinks she’ll need to kill her sister Zealot, now corrupted with absolute power. However, a newly rebalanced Voodoo thinks she can help – she channels the energy out of Zealot to all of her fallen teammates.
Back-up story “The Price” is handled by Mr. Claremont himself! We see a massive rock jutting out of the sea from afar and then close. A hand breaks into the frame, gripping the barest of handholds. We pull out to see Zealot climbing the cliff face unassisted with a girl strapped to her back. As she pulls them both over the edge of the cliff, a voice beckons from within a cave on inset on the clifftop. “Enter freely, Zealot… and of your own will.”
The crone inside knows Zealot well, which is a surprise to the renegade Majestrix of the Coda. “Are you Tapestry,” she asks, “the one folk call the Weaver of Souls?” She bargains with the crone for the girl’s life – it is Savant, and she has been stricken with a poison as bad as cancer. Tapestry acquiesces, in exchange for 100 years in complete control of Zealot’s life, “no codicils, no qualifications, absolute loyalty, absolute obdience in all ways, in all things.”
Zealot feigns resistance, but Tapestry can tell she is already resolute. We end on Zealot bowing to her new master.