It’s back, girls and boys!
I had so much fun reading and writing about the WildStorm Universe in November that I’m not quite ready to go back to just reading it, so I’m going to file the occasional continuing readalong post on a much lesser intensity and frequency because I so do not have the time or stamina to write about 126 WildStorm comics every month.
While I’m very eager to pick up all of the books exiting WildStorm Rising to check out their new status quo, I’m going to use the next few installments to review later WildCATs solo outings that fit into pre-crossover continuity – Voodoo/Zealot: Skin Trade One-Shot, the Spartan: Warrior Spirit mini-series by Kurt Busiek, Zealot’s three-issue mini-series, and some WildCATs anthology stories.
This makes for a fantastic moment to pause and call out a really phenomenal blog: Weathering WildStorm. The author is undertaking this endeavor slightly more slowly than I have been, but he is doing it with the benefit of having read almost all of these books before. As a result, he’s got a fairly well-reasoned reading order that explains how these various side-stories fit. It’s by far the best one I’ve seen on the web in the four years I’ve been getting books together for this read!
Voodoo/Zealot: Skin Trade was published in August 1995, a hair later than WildStorm Rising, but per Weathering WildStorm’s guidance it directly follows either issue #13 or 14 (and maybe explains why the team was so ready for a break in #14-15). It follows up on Steve Gerber’s strong story in WildCATs Special #1.
The issue begins with an intriguing (and beautiful!) opening scene of all women, including Providence and Destine from Special #1 facing each other down in the remains of Yurgovia.
The next page is an ass-shot of Zealot followed by she and Voodoo fighting while dressed in their best Vampirella outfits. Those art choices are not just for the benefit of one splash page – this issue takes its “Skin Trade” name literally and gives a heavy dose of T&A whenever possible courtesy of artist Michael Lopez.
I’m tempted to write this one off as pure wish fulfillment, but there is considerable plot content tangled up with all the skin. Skin Trade turns Voodoo into a bit of a Mary Sue murder doll at points, but it gives context to her more active role in her own psyche in #18 and then on the battlefield in #19 and WildStorm Rising. It also greatly deepens Zealot’s history, if not her character, and creates a (largely unfulfilled) plot hook.
And, if you can tolerate a heaping of cheesecake, Lopez’s art is truly remarkable throughout the book save for a few pages with one bad inker on a solid team effort.
Final verdict? If you’re going all in on a sequential WildCATs read you ought to include this, but if you’re simply revisiting the high points of WildStorm you can skip it.
Skin Trade opens with a humanitarian worker, Cathy Gregory, trying to help children orphaned by the conflict in Yurgovia to a smuggler who can whisk them out of the country.
Ms. Gregory is interrupted by Providence, Void’s lacking-in-morals counterpart. She ensures the children can escape so that she may face Destine, the country’s ruler who was thought to be dead after WildCATs Special #1. Destine is alive by virtue of an orb shard, which she’s acquired through unrevealed means. Providence, a being created from the orb, wants it – and Destine will only let her have it if Zealot is lured back to the country to settle old scores.
At the WildCATs headquarters, a training sans Spartan gets out of hand when Zealot pounces on Voodoo during an unguarded moment. Tensions between the two women are high after the mission against Tapestry, which resulted from Voodoo’s failure to defend herself but also Zealot’s brief turn to the dark side. Not even Grifter can talk down Zealot, who wonders if it might be time for her to leave the team.
She retires to her quarters to find Providence, promising a curious reward to Zealot if she travels to Yurgovia – she will find her child.
Zealot begs off the team from Marlowe with a proposed Mediterranean vacation but he only agrees if Voodoo rides along. The next we see of them they are enjoying time in the sun in Greece, though Zealot is being especially cagey. She tries to give Voodoo the slip under cover of night to meet with a smuggler who can get her into Yurgovia, but Voodoo catches up and inserts herself for the ride.
It’s a good thing she does, as a boat of military men who intercept them prove immune to Zealot’s Jedi-like attempt to slip past but not to Voodoo’s curves and concealed handgun.
Once in the country, Zealot still won’t reveal her true mission to Voodoo, who continues to handle herself well in combat but lacks Zealot’s Coda-trained dispassion when it comes to finding a man crucified and begging for death. Zealot is disgusted by her mercy. All the while, Providence continues to lead Cathy Gregory to safely conduct children’s out of harm’s way.
Following a lead from their smuggler friend, Zealot and Voodoo nearly hit a dead end until they happen to catch the royal consort out in the alley threatening a woman in front of her son. They’re too late to save her, but make quick work of the overconfident consort – who tips them off that Destine is secretly still in power.
En route to Destine’s castle, Zealot and Voodoo run into Cathy on her way to getting children to the highest turret of the castle for a helicopter pickup. They help her through the crossfire and then engage Destine and her apprentice. Voodoo proves to be trained much better than the apprentice, and holds her off while Zealot battles Destine. Zealot eventually snatches the orb away from her, greatly weakening her, and then somehow blows her up (it’s unclear here – she tosses the orb for Destine to catch and then POOF).
Zealot reveals that none of the children present are her progeny, but she shares a peculiar moment of connection with Winter, who is part of the Stormwatch force sent in to rescue the refugee children.