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Welcome back superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we continue revisiting Jim Lee’s flagship title under the Image Comics label – WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams!
While the 3rd and 4th issues of the WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams mini-series had Lee’s superhero team crossing over with Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood, a bigger crossover was agreed upon with Image Comics co-founder Marc Silvestri – Killer Instict! This marked a creative collaboration between Lee and Silvestri resulting a multiple issue crossover between WildC.A.T.S and Cyber Force. For clarification, I already mentioned in my retro review of WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #6 (1993) that its story was the first chapter of the 4-part Killer Instinct crossover. For your reference, Killer Instinct’s 2nd and 4 chapters were published as Cyber Force issues #2 and #3 of its regular series under Marc Silverstri. This WildC.A.T.S retro review is about the 3rd chapter of Killer Instinct.
With those details laid down, here is a look back WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #7, published by Image Comics in 1994 with a story written by Brandon Choi and Jim Lee. Lee did the art.
The story begins somewhere in the skies above Gamorra, off the coast of the Philippines! Stryker, the Cyber Force member with three cybernetic right arms, communicates with his teammates and tells them that if half of what Misery said is true about the new Cyberdata S.H.O.C.S., they’re in for a nasty fight and they have to hit the ground.
Stryker, Impact, Heatwave, Velocity and Ripclaw jump off their high-tech jet (which has Cyblade and Misery inside) and land safely. Using his enhanced ability of smell, Ripclaw begins detecting tracks of what they are look for.
Meanwhile at the back of the Isle of the Dead, a high-tech craft arrives with three passengers who are prepared to do a drug deal. Slowly, someone bleeding and with blades on his hands climbs into the craft surprising the passengers. He takes control of the craft, throws the passengers off and leaves.
As Cyber Force starts its ground search with Misery advising them while carefully using her telepathy on them. As Stryker enters a ravaged high-tech place, his sensors detect nothing and yet his instincts tell him something is present nearby. Standing near him is Spartan of WildC.A.T.S…
I’ll start with the very obvious purpose of this comic book. After the build-up done in the first two chapters of the Killer Instinct storyline, this story serves as the start of what turned out to be the big pay-off as WildC.A.T.S and Cyber Force members finally got together with an action-packed battle to kick things off. From a storytelling view point, this one is mainly a WildC.A.T.S versus Cyber Force tale with really nice match-ups between their members such as Spartan-Stryker, Cyblade-Zealot and Maul-Impact to name a few. These match-ups and fights are excellently drawn by Jim Lee and I really enjoyed his own artistic visuals of Marc Silvestri’s Cyber Force.
More on the plot, it is pretty simple in concept and structure. The members of the two teams get to fight each other which gets the attention of Skywatch which itself has vested interest with the operations of Stormwatch (note: this is within the WildStorm lore) and the secret facility on that blew up (as seen in WildC.A.T.S #5). Misery remains the key factor in the story and in this tale, she gets to guide and manipulate Cyber Force to find something valuable while Warblade remains mostly absent. Apart from the battles, the absent Voodoo, Void and Jacob Marlowe have their respective spotlights mainly for the character developments as well as reminding readers about the continuing Kherubim-Daemonite conflict.
The quality of the writing is serviceable and the way I look at this comic book, it is mainly driven by spectacle and match-ups. The amount of crossover action is of top-notch quality (note: Jim Lee apparently missed out on key details while drawing Heatwave in a scene with Grifter) and clearly Jim Lee planned the visuals carefully. While there is little character development here, the ironic thing is that Misery (note: visually she is a wicked version of Jean Grey of the X-Men) is the one who gets a good chunk of the said development. Not only does she become a force in the minds of Cyber Force members, she also has her intimate moments with Ripclaw which is a reminder to readers that they have a shared past together (note: this will resonate more with those who read Cyber Force #2 of the regular series).
To make things clear, WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #7 (1994) will strongly appeal to the respective fans of WildC.A.T.S and Cyber Force, to the readers who love high-quality superhero action, and to those who simply enjoy superhero crossover stories. While it is not a surprise that this comic book has great visuals, the writing this time clearly lacks depth and I really felt that the dialogue and text descriptions were done mainly to fit the obvious spectacle-led concept. If you are the kind of reader who wants storytelling and characterization prioritized in an action-packed crossover comic book, this one might not satisfy you. Ultimately, this one is a fun read even though the quality of the writing does not even come close to the quality of the visuals.
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #7 (1994), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $30 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $90. The near-mint copy of the silver cover edition costs $300.
Overall, WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #7 (1994) is recommended.
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