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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 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…
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.
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!
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