A Look Back at WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #11 (1994)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Welcome back superhero fans, 1990s arts and 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!

Last time around, I reviewed the 10th issue of the WildC.A.T.S series which saw the reunited work of Chris Claremont and Jim Lee who previously worked together on making many memorable X-Men comic books during their time with Marvel Comics (note: check out three retro reviews of Claremont-Lee X-Men comics by clicking here, here and here).

Being free from the constraints and hurdles of Marvel, WildC.A.T.S #10 showed what Claremont added to Lee’s superhero team while also unveiling the Huntsman (Claremont’s own creation). Even as the story – which had Zealot as the lead character followed by Voodoo and Huntsman – had lots of build-up and the rest of the WildC.A.T.S only had a minor share of the spotlight, Lee still managed to make the story filled with a good amount of spectacle for readers to enjoy. I really liked WildC.A.T.S #10 a lot and in my view, it has aged well.

With those details laid down, here is a look back WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #11, published by Image Comics in 1994 with a story written by Chris Claremont and Drawn by Jim Lee. Scott Williams is in-charge with the ink work. This comic book has a variant cover edition with the cover art done by While Portacio.

The cover.
The variant cover edition with art by While Portacio.

Early story

The story begins moments after Jacob Marlowe secretly met with Alabaster Wu. The WildC.A.T.S – composed of Spartan, Warblade, Void, Maul and the possessed Voodoo – find themselves facing with the Troika – composed of Attica, Slag, H.A.R.M. and Providence – who came in by surprise with the intention to overwhelm them. Providence states that Jacob Marlowe’s destiny is sealed with doom.  

Just after Marlowe expressed defiance, the Raksha-controlled Voodoo knocks him out with a hard kick from behind. This surprises Spartan who immediately jumps into action and orders his teammates to form on void for an immediate dust-off. The battle between the Troika and the WildC.A.T.S starts, Attica hits Warblade. Void then discovers that some force is preventing her from teleporting. It turns out, Providence manipulated the quantum field. Using tremendous power, Providence overwhelms Void which puts the WildC.A.T.S into serious trouble.

Meanwhile on the streets of Brooklyn, Zealot, Huntsman and the teenager Miranda are riding fast together. Zealot says that the communication with her team has gone off-line and she only has their current position…

Quality

Even the fearless and disciplined Zealot is scared of the new super villain Tapestry.

I’ll start first with the presentation of characters and related developments. While the WildC.A.T.S themselves appeared a lot more here than in the previous issue, they did not end up as the dominating characters in the narrative. Even Zealot and Huntsman had reduced shares of the spotlight. This is because Claremont’s script introduced a few yet clearly significant characters while remaining focused on building up tension in relation to the growing presence of a new force of evil (note: the ugly and scary looking monsters called Raksha are connected with them) on Earth with two distinct figures as evil leaders – Soma and Tapestry. As the WildC.A.T.S fell short of achieving any heroics, their new statuses as targets and tools of Tapestry ultimately made sense in the plot. This is a rather daring way Claremont used to tell a WildC.A.T.S tale that has the titular team in their most vulnerable state yet.

While Soma does have an intimidating presence, it is obvious that Tapestry (who has an eroticized design and is the self-declared weaver of souls and shaper of fate) is the most visceral supervillain here and I had the impression that she was planned to be a major enemy towards the WildC.A.T.S comparable with Helspont. Even the fearless warrior Zealot fears Tapestry.

In a clear move to expand the lore of the WildC.A.T.S series within the WildStorm universe, this comic book saw the entry of Savant (an important associate of Zealot’s) and Soldier (the WildStorm’s own parallel to DC Comics’ Sgt. Rock) plus the mention of Mr. Majestic. Savant and Soldier are not just mere additional characters thrown into the mix but they each have established places within the WildStorm universe that just have not been seen by readers at the time of publishing. Claremont wrote Savant and Soldier as individuals who both knew Zealot from some time before and, more importantly, he made them believable to read even though this comic book only showed little of them.

When it comes to character portrayals, Claremont’s creativity showed Attica clearly having much more personality just as the Troika returned (late in issue #10). The head of the Troika in this comic book was presented as a business-dealing killer who does not hesitate to tell his client to beware of Zealot and Grifter (note: he was last seen in issue #8) as those two are the most dangerous WildC.A.T.S members. Attica’s companion Slag is more expressive here and while H.A.R.M.’s mechanical perspective is emphasized more which reminds me somewhat of the cinematic Terminator reading commands internally. Indeed, there was inspiration behind Claremont’s writing.

With regards to the plot, this comic book has a simple story structure that just so happens to have lots of exposition, explanations and the introduction of new characters destined to become more important later. Combined with the art of Jim Lee, the story still works on engaging and entertaining me. Re-reading this story is still a lot fun after all these decades.

Conclusion

WildC.A.T.S in bombastic action with the Troika.

Given the way it was crafted and structured by Claremont, WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #11 (1994) is easily the most unconventional tale of the series at the time of its publication. Unsurprisingly, Jim Lee’s art here is of top-notch quality and he continued to excel in providing readers the adulterated superhero spectacle while also making the more character-focused scenes look interesting (note: there are flashbacks to WildC.A.T.S #1 during Tapestry’s examination of Jacob Marlowe’s memories). As the WildC.A.T.S – without Grifter and Zealot specifically – were at their most vulnerable, this could alienate the die-hard fans who are expecting the usual stuff they love (note: bombastic action against bad guys with character moments in between) to pour in. What I want readers and the die-hard fans to understand is that they should pay close attention to the growing force of evil under Tapestry (who even scares the very brave Zealot) and think about it as a suitable addition into the WildC.A.T.S lore within the WildStorm universe of the time. This comic book also shows that there is more to be explored beyond the conflict of the Kherubim and the Daemonites. That being said, Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s combined works here are still very solid, a lot of fun and even intriguing to read.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #11 (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 copies of newsstand edition and the signed edition cost $90 and $60 respectively. The near mint-copies of variant cover edition (Whilce Portacio art) and the signed variant covered edition cost $30 and $90 respectively.

Overall, WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #11 (1994) is highly recommended!

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/authorcarlocarrasco/

A Look Back at Uncanny X-Men #304 (1993)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Welcome back, X-Men fans, superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we go back to the 30th anniversary celebration of the X-Men which took place in 1993. Back then, Marvel Comics went full blast with the anniversary celebration of their mutants by releasing related merchandise, posters and comic books with gimmick covers (note: read my retro review of 1993’s X-Men #25) that came with high prices.

To put things in perspective regarding 1993, Marvel’s X-Men line of comics had monthly series of Uncanny X-Men, X-Men (Volume 2), X-Force, X-Factor, Excalibur, Wolverine and Cable. X-Factor #92 marked the start of the Fatal Attractions storyline which was the basis for the X-Men 30th anniversary celebration. X-Force #25 was released and it not only brought Cable back but also Magneto.  

Then came the 3rd chapter of the Fatal Attractions storyline which was published in Uncanny X-Men #304. Not only did that particular comic book bring together many mutants and moved the storyline forward to a crucial stage (note: tension leading to it was built up in Uncanny X-Men #300, Uncanny X-Men #303 and also in X-Men Unlimited #1), it also served as the very celebration of the 30th anniversary of the X-Men (although it was not the storyline’s conclusion as the plot continued in X-Men #25, Wolverine #75 and Excalibur #71).

So did this particular, anniversary celebrating issue of the Uncanny X-Men succeed with its objectives? Has it aged well through the decades? We can all find out in this look back at Uncanny X-Men #304, published in 1993 by Marvel Comics with a story written by Scott Lobdell and drawn by John Romita, Jr., Jae Lee, Chris Sprouse, Brandon Peterson and Paul Smith.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with division among the Acolytes who learned that their lord Magneto actually survived (note: refer to 1991’s X-Men #3). They ganged up against their leader Fabian Cortez for betraying Magneto. After pushing his now rebellious team members away, Cortez reminds them that for several months already, they have been continuing Magneto’s work on behalf of mutantkind. Suddenly Exodus appears to them and describes himself as the voice of Magneto and will guide mutants to rise and mentions paradise for the faithful mutants. After subduing Cortez and tempering the tension among the Acolytes, Exodus tells them to prepare themselves for ascension. This frustrates Cortez who realizes that he no longer holds leadership.

Over at the X-Men’s headquarters, Charlez Xavier is personally disturbed over the death of Illyana Rasputin, the sister of Colossus. He starts questioning himself as Illyana’s death under his watch makes his years-long mission (of convincing his fellow mutants to leave their old lives to take risks to fight for a world that fears and hates them) doubtful and tries to figure out how he could present himself in front of them. A holographic image of Lilandra appears to him.

In outer space, inside the space station called Avalon, Magneto stares at planet Earth. With nobody around him, he speaks apologizing to his followers for he cannot save them all. He also mentions that he was wrong in previously believing that he could rescue each and every one of them from humanity as he recently realized that Earth, for the moment, is doomed.

After walking an unspecified distance inside Avalon, Magneto picks up his old helmet and wears it…

Quality

This 2-page art by Brandon Peterson is easily the best looking part of the comic book.

I will start with the visual aspect of this comic book. The artistic quality ranges from fine to weird which should not be surprising since this one involved five artists. The 4 pages drawn by Brandon Peterson (who was once a regular artist on Uncanny X-Men) made the X-Men, Magneto and the Acolytes look not only good but also intense. The Peterson art here is artistically similar to the respective styles of Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee of that particular time. Jae Lee’s art on the flashback of Magneto’s life (during the time of the Nazi occupation in Europe) is undoubtedly very stylized. While his art brings out the intensity of Magneto’s painful past, certain images can be a little challenging to understand especially to readers who focus strongly only following the plot and details. John Romita, Jr.’s art, for me personally, often looks rough and there were times I hardly recognized the characters. The other artworks by Paul Smith and Chris Sprouse have cartoonish aesthetics.

This is Jae Lee’s artistic contribution to the comic book. I found it weird that Magneto’s hair was shown as white during his past with the Nazis.

As for the plot, I can clearly see that a hard effort was made to compose a story that would push the Fatal Attractions storyline forward, establish a turning point and still become worthy of celebrating the 30th anniversary of the X-Men franchise. I can say that the storytelling is somewhat bloated. Early in the story, it was made clear that the respective sections showing Exodus with the Acolytes, Charles Xavier and Magneto pointed to an eventual confrontation that happened during the funeral of Illyana Rasputin.

As the build-up continued with the flashback of Magneto’s life, the fan service short scene of Kitty Pryde and the unfeeling Colossus (note: their romance was highlighted in Uncanny X-Men many years prior), and the talk scene between Bishop and Banshee, the pace of the story slowed down dramatically. By the time the attempt to move the narrative back to the core plot was made with the funeral scene (composed of the X-Men, X-Force and X-Factor), the pace was still really way down. By the time the conflict with Magneto, Exodus and the Acolytes stated, the pace recovery was incomplete and as such, seeing the scene unfold was very jarring (and not even the pages of Colossus’ frustration towards Professor X could solve the narrative pacing problem).

Unsurprisingly, the conflict was written to be overly dramatic complete with lengthy pieces of dialogue here and there. That being said, references to past comic books were established as Magneto once again emphasizes his beliefs about the human-mutant conflict using violence (while also side-stepping Jean Grey’s psionic powers to allow the Acolytes to come in undetected).

Human-mutant conflict aside, themes about faith, religion, idolatry salvation are clearly used. Magneto, who has a tremendous record of villainy and his previous leadership of the X-Men proved useless, was portrayed to be a walking wicked idol whose followers cannot do anything except idolize him and cause violence out of dedication to him. They really could not realize that idolatry is foolish and unholy which further adds to chaos on the world. As Magneto deceived himself to be the savior and lord of mutants, he further causes more pain and destruction to others around him. In short, Magneto will always be stuck with his wicked nature and clearly does not deserve heavenly authority no matter how hard he believes himself to be a savior.

The classic rivalry between Xavier and Magneto here was portrayed dramatically and yet I cannot help but think that their conflict was nothing more than a repeat of past encounters with the state and future of mutants at stake. To be fair, what happened here served as a logical build-up for the shocking encounter between Professor X and Magneto in X-Men #25.

Conclusion

Nobody among the X-Men (except Charles Xavier), X-Force, Excalibur and X-Factor cared to dress properly for the funeral.

To be clear, even though I am an avid X-Men fan, I find Uncanny X-Men #304 (1993) hard to be engaged with and hard to enjoy. Efforts to make it a worthy celebration of the X-Men are very clear but it’s just not entertaining nor compelling to read. As for the X-Men traitor scene, the revelation was not that shocking as the foreshadowing made it too obvious. At best, this comic book served as a warm-up for X-Men #25 which itself paid-off nicely. Being more than sixty pages long (including the advertisement and bulletins), this comic book has too much creative baggage which ultimately hampered its storytelling. It’s not terrible. It’s really not that great to read. What I experienced way back in 1993 with this comic book is just the same as I re-read it. It has not aged well.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Uncanny X-Men #304 (1993), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $20, while the near-mint copies of the signed-and-numbered edition and the newsstand edition cost $120 and $60 respectively.

Overall, Uncanny X-Men #304 (1993) is satisfactory.

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Spider-Man #26 (1992)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

In 1992, Marvel Comics organized a big celebration of what was back then the 30th anniversary celebration of Spider-Man. Behind the scenes, the Spider-Man editorial team organized their creators to make something special worthy of the anniversary. Back then there were four monthly series of Spider-Man – Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man and Spider-Man – and in keeping with the 30th anniversary bonanza, each of the monthly series would see one special issue with a hologram on the cover.

What I read recently was one of those 30th anniversary celebration special comic books – Spider-Man #26. This comic book had a green cover and a hologram of Spider-Man upside-down. Its cover price is $3.50.

Was this old comic book’s content really worth the high cover price and the hologram? Did the creative team at Marvel do their job on making something special in line with the 30th anniversary celebration? We can find out in this look back at Spider-Man #26, published in 1992 by Marvel Comics with the main story written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by Mark Bagley and Ron Frenz.

The cover with a hologram.

Early story

The story begins on the street of New York when a man wearing a device runs down the sidewalk distracting and unintentionally pushing a few people out of the way. He is glowing as he moves. Someone from behind him calls him Stewart.

Soon enough, Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Mary Jane cross paths with him. Peter immediately leaves Mary Jane behind and starts pursuing the glowing Stewart. In the middle of the street, Stewart sees a speeding motorcycle heading towards him. He dives for cover which incidentally shapes his glowing field into a makeshift ramp causing the motorcyclist go over him. Spider-Man sees the flying motorcycle and its driver, and struggles to decide which one to save…

Quality

From the 2nd story.

Let me start with the main story. It sure is heavily worded almost all throughout but that is understandable because Tom DeFalco really pushed hard to emphasize the theme of responsibility as Spider-Man struggles to tackle criminals while trying to find quality time for his wife. There was even a scene in which Peter Parker recalls key events from his past (his becoming Spider-Man, letting a certain criminal get away, the death of his Uncle Ben, etc.) which, in terms of presentation, was a clear attempt by the creative team to bring readers back to the recorded history of Marvel’s icon. The main story is a genuine, heart-filled attempt to go beyond showing Spider-Man beating the bad guys to do local society good. There was also effort exerted to show that there are a few guys who do bad things not because they are inherently evil but rather they are desperate and/or misguided. The problem with the main story is that the other characters – Stewart, Bill, the gang leader Maxwell and others – are not so interesting at all. Of course, we cannot expect to see Spider-Man go head-to-head with another one of his major villains but this story was part of the 30th anniversary celebration.

The 2nd story, if you can all it that, is pretty much an exposition-filled exercise designed to give readers – both new and old – a review of Spider-Man’s powers and capabilities. To prevent it from becoming a total bore, some characters from the Marvel Comics universe were visually added.

When it comes to the quality of the artwork, Ron Frenz’s work here is serviceable at best. Mark Bagley’s art here improves the quality but that’s not saying much.

Conclusion

From the main story.

As a 30th anniversary celebration issue, Spider-Man #26 does not have much when it comes to being truly special. You love spectacle? You won’t find much in it. You wanted to see something groundbreaking in terms of character development? There’s none. Gripping storytelling? None! There was also no conflict with any prominent villain from the Marvel universe here. What you will get here is nostalgic stuff plus exposition about key elements that define Spider-Man. Truly the only thing special here is the hologram on the gimmick cover.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Spider-Man #26 (1992), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $27 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $90.

Overall, Spider-Man #26 (1992) is serviceable. If you really want to buy this old comic book, I recommend waiting for its price to fall below $5 and I’m referring to the near-mint copy.

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com