A Look Back at WildC.A.T.s: Covert Action Teams #1 (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.

Before he became the co-publisher of DC Comics, the great Jim Lee made his debut in the comic book industry as an illustrator for Marvel Comics. Just a few short years after that, he became a fan-favorite of X-Men fans and was a major factor in the massive sales success of 1991’s X-Men #1 (Volume 2). Not only did that particular comic book established a long-lasting sales record for all comic books, Lee’s designs and visual concepts for the X-Men were adapted by the producers and creators of the fan-favorite X-Men: The Animated Series (1992-1997).

For the newcomers reading this, Jim Lee’s tenure with Marvel Comics ended in December 1991 when he, Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane met with the publisher and expressed that Marvel’s policies toward them were unfair and they were not rewarded well for their work. To put things in perspective, Jim Lee’s X-Men #1, Rob Liefeld’s X-Force #1 and Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1 were respectively million-sellers. As such, Lee, Liefeld, McFarlane plus some more creators left Marvel and went on to establish Image Comics (which involved a production and distribution deal with Malibu Comics).

In 1992, Jim Lee’s dream project – with concepts first created in 1986 – came through free from the constraints he endured from Marvel’s editorial team and strict policies. That’s dream project was WildC.A.T.s: Covert Action Teams #1, which is the feature of this retro comic book review.

But before we start the review, here’s a quick look back at the conceptual history of WildC.A.T.s as written by Jim Lee himself.

“I created my first ‘professional’ comic book submission in the summer of 1986 entitled The Wild Boys involving an espionage agency called International Operations. The co-writer of that sublime piece of work was coincidentally enough – Brandon Choi – who at the time was still in college getting a double major in history and politics,” Lee wrote in the comic book’s intro.

Now that we’re done with the history, here is a look back at WildC.A.T.s: Covert Action Teams #1, published in 1992 through Image Comics with a story co-written by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi. Lee illustrated the comic book with ink work done by Scott Williams.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins in Antarctica in 1986. There, two men braved the cold weather searching for something with information they learned from IO (International Operations). Suddenly an orb rises from the snow and then an image of a lady wearing silver tights and wielding energy appears in front of them. After demanding them to let her have the orb, she and the energy field fade away.

In 1992, at the crisis control facility of IO in Virginia, IO’s executives carefully view video footage of Georgetown which was hit by an explosion. They suspect rogue C.A.T.s (covert action teams) could have been involved. Suddenly, the same energy field from six years earlier forms in their presence with the same lady appearing for a few moments. The energy field fades away.

In the present day, a dwarf named Jacob Marlowe wakes up in the middle of garbage in an alley. After getting hurt by two troublemakers, the same silver lady from the past appears and uses her energetic power to save Jacob. She introduces her to him as Void, claiming he came for him and she knows he was once a lord named Emp. She tells him the Cabal is a threat to humans on Earth…

Quality

Clearly Jim Lee took inspiration from John Woo’s action movies.

When it comes to the presentation of the story, the comic book starts in a deliberately cryptic way. It’s like having very short prologues back to back and, fortunately, it works well to capture attention while building up slowly its concept. The story really begins when Jacob Marlowe arrives at his headquarters with Void as his enduring advisor and executor. The introductions of each of the team’s members – Spartan, Warblade, Maul, Grifter, Zealot and Voodoo – were decently done and never felt rushed as Jim Lee and Brandon Choi carefully paced the storytelling and really tried to balance exposition and spectacle. That being said, similar results happened with regards to the comic book’s spotlight on the Cabal and its evil leader.

With regards to the presentation of the classic conflict between good and evil, Lee and Choi came up with the concept of planet Earth being slowly infiltrated by Daemonites (who originated in outer space) with the Cabal serving like an anchor with an organized set-up for domination. Over at the WildC.A.T.s, Marlowe formed a team to fight and stop the Cabal since the lives of the people of Earth are at stake. This is a really nice concept serving as the foundation, and the irony is that, in this comic book specifically, IO was on the sideline.

When it comes to the visuals, Jim Lee must have enjoyed the liberty he had in illustrating this comic book…free from the editorial interference from Marvel and free too from the restrictions of the Comics Code Authority (CCA). The result here is a visual presentation showing more Lee’s creativity and a style different somewhat from his final works on X-Men. He clearly took more inspiration from action movies and the violence is somewhat more mature to look at. It should be noted that Scott Williams helped Lee’s art shine.

Conclusion

These two pages remind me somewhat of the X-Men, their jet and the Danger Room.

By today’s standards, WildC.A.T.s: Covert Action Teams #1 is surprisingly still a good superhero team comic book to read. It’s not a literary classic but it proved to be compelling and fun enough to read from start to finish. It has a decent amount of action here and there which is understandable since Choi and Lee had to build up the concepts and the plot. If there were any weak spots, this comic book is almost devoid of character development and the clear lack of a lead character (which is still needed even for a superhero team comic book).

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of WildC.A.T.s: Covert Action Teams #1 (1992), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $5 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition is priced at $16. The near-mint copy of the 3D edition costs $9 while the near-mint copy of the gold cover edition is priced at $42.

Overall, WildC.A.T.s: Covert Action Teams #1 (1992) is 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 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 WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #5 (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.

Hey fellow comic book geeks! Remember before that I reviewed X-Men #1 of 1991 drawn by the great Jim Lee? That was over a year ago and so far, that is my only retro review of a dominant Jim Lee-drawn comic book.

Instead of reviewing another X-Men comic book drawn by Lee or any of the illustrator’s other works, I’ve decided to focus on the 1990s particularly on Image Comics. Back in those days, Lee was one of the main figures of Image and through that company he turned his dream projects into published comic books. When Image Comics launched in 1992, Jim Lee launched his superhero team project titled WildC.A.T.S: Cover Action Teams and issue #1 of that sold a lot. Eventually WildC.A.T.S. finished as a 4-issue mini-series.

Along with WildC.A.T.S were other projects launched under Lee and his company WildStorm (previously referred to as Aegis Entertainment) such as Stormwatch and Gen13.

Then in 1993, Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Brandon Choi worked again to produce even more WildC.A.T.S comic books for fans to enjoy and keep business at WildStorm moving. The result was the release of WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #5 which symbolically marked the start of a new regular series without starting with a new issue #1. Here’s an excerpt of Jim Lee’s explanation printed inside the said comic book:

I’m baaack!!! But rather than starting over with a new first issue, I decided to just “extend” the WildCATs miniseries into a regular series. Why? Well, I did it mostly for psychological reasons as first issues are always the most difficult ones to tell and draw. You have to get the readers to accept and understand a whole legion of new concepts and characters—characters which you’re illustrating often for the very first time. And as ant professional in the business can tell you, it takes a while for an artist to get the hang of certain characters-the way they movie, the way they talk, the way they reaction to different situations. And U’ve found that I haven’t really “connected” with any new characters until I’ve had four or five issues worth under my belt. ~ Jim Lee

That being said, here is a look back at WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #5 published in 1993 by Image Comics with a story written by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi, and with art drawn by Lee and inked by Scott Williams.

Cover
The cover.

Early story

The story begins with WildC.A.T.S members Grifter and Zealot gliding quietly approaching a secret base. Following Grifter’s lead to go into action, Zealot joins him to crash through the glass window and take out the perceived enemy troops called the hunter killers shooting and assaulting them. It turns the two are in search for something and they have their other teammates ready to come in to provide back-up.

Even though they tried to sneak around the place quietly, mechanical enemy reinforcements spotted them and chased them. As a metallic door shuts and separates the two, Grifter successfully got through the armed defense system and finds himself at the vault. After informing his other teammates of his new location, Grifter opens the vault revealing something very captivating with regards to the Daemonites’ secret operations…

Quality

Action3
The team and the villain.

Visually, this is one great looking comic book filled with lots of dynamism and flare provided by Jim Lee and Scott Williams. Each and every character looks great and come with a good amount of visual details on them. Also I love the futuristic technology look that dominated most of the scenes. When it comes to spectacle, this one is loaded and Jim Lee’s presentation of adulterated action and stunts is undeniably fantastic. I should also state that the colors are very vibrant thanks to Joe Chiodo.

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Great action drawn by Jim Lee.

When it comes to storytelling, however, this one lacks depth. In terms of plotting, it’s pretty basic and goes like this: two heroes infiltrate the base of an enemy, they get discovered and more enemy troops come in, the top villains come in followed by the rest of the heroes’ teammates. As the focus here was more on spectacle and suspense, there was definitely no room left for character development. There is a subplot here worth mentioning and it serves as a link leading to the eventual Killer Instinct crossover with Marc Silvestri’s Cyberforce.

Conclusion

Action1
Great visuals and action here but not much in terms of storytelling.

I should say that WildC.A.T.S: Cover Action Teams #5 is pretty tricky to recommend to all comic book geeks and superhero enthusiasts. I can easily recommend it to die-hard fans of Jim Lee, the die-hard fans of WildC.A.T.S, as well as those who love Image Comic books from the 1990s. If you are looking for a short bout of fun with action in mind, this comic book will serve you. If you are the kind of reader who wants deep storytelling and solid character development, this one will fall short.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of WildC.A.T.S: Cover Action Teams #5 (1993), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $4.

Overall, WildC.A.T.S: Cover Action Teams #5 (1993) is satisfactory. It’s a great looking comic book (with gate-fold pages) that does not have much to fulfill readers looking for the solid combination of art, storytelling, characterization and entertainment.


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 Youngblood #2 (1992)

During my high school days, I heard some buzz about the launch of Image Comics. The year was 1992 and public Internet access in the Philippines was still years away. The buzz of Image in the Philippines was produced through comic book industry magazines read by local geeks who mostly expressed their excitement.

Image Comics was the result of seven high-profile comic book illustrators who left Marvel Comics over issues such as low compensation, low royalties and the company’s immediate ownership of characters they created. Image officially launched with Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood #1.

I should say that I never had the opportunity to buy a copy of Youngblood #1 nor was I able to read a copy of it from a fellow comic reader. However I was fortunate enough to buy an existing old copy of Youngblood #2 which is the subject of this retro comic book review.

The story begins with a prologue introducing readers to a group called the Berzerkers fighting a group of metallic beings. The Berzerkers meet Kirby, a short muscular guy who seems to be inspired somewhat by the late comic book legend Jack Kirby (died in 1994). In fact, written on the lower part of page 1 was a message: Respectfully dedicated to Jack “The King” Kirby.

Then the spotlight finally moves to Youngblood who are discussing the newly discovered body of Prophet, a muscular man sleeping in suspended animation. Prophet was described as “the product of a groundbreaking bio-genetic experiment conducted under the supervision of Dr. Garnet Wells sometime around the Second World War.”

Soon enough, Prophet wakes up and then things really get moving. You just have to read the comic book to find out what happened.

When it comes to quality, I should say this comic book does not have much of a story. What I described above was pretty much it. The comic book had a descent build-up however mainly for Prophet and all the expository dialogue and visuals made clear that the character was designed to be important.

When it comes to art, Youngblood #2 clearly shows Rob Liefeld with a lot of heart and passion. The elements that defined not only his style but also 1990s superhero comic book culture are here – big futuristic guns, muscular bodies, pupil-less eyes, weird looking feet, disproportionate body parts, armor, shoulder pads and the like.

Superhero action? This comic book is heavily loaded and the action scenes drawn by Liefeld packed a lot of punch. Seeing Prophet getting punched by the giant guy looked exaggerated but it still had a lot of visual impact.

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Hard hitting action, visceral looks, muscles, shoulder pads, pupil-less eyes and Prophet.

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Really passionate work by Liefeld.

Adding more value to the comic book was a 5-page preview of Shadowhawk done by Image Comics co-founder Jim Valentino. Without spoiling the details, I should say that the preview does a good job selling ShadowHawk. Lastly, Youngblood #2 has two covers and one end has to be flipped to read the opening content properly.

Overall, Youngblood #2 is worth reading even though its story is very light. To say this comic book is terrible is just wrong. To say the least, it is a nice showcase of the talent and creativity of Rob Liefeld who not only illustrated and inked it, he also wrote the story! Youngblood 2 sure has a light story and heavy action content but ultimately it succeeded on introducing Prophet as well as setting up the excitement for the next issue.

I want to point out that it was recently revealed that Liefeld stayed clear off Youngblood in relation to a custody battle with a co-owner related to past deals made. This explains why he has not done Youngblood stuff for a long time. It’s too bad that we won’t see any more new Youngblood involving Liefeld’s passionate work.

Read Liefeld’s words from a long post he made in Facebook on August 2.

Youngblood represented some of my finest work, I’m proud of all the work that was produced. Sadly, film companies will be reluctant to invest the time and money in a venture without the support and blessing of its creator.

Youngblood #2 is 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. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. 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 The Solution #1

Back in the 1990s, there was a flood of superhero comic books that introduced brand new heroes, teams and even anti-heroes. A strong contributor to this was the market presence of Image Comics, Valiant Comics, Malibu Comics and other smaller publishers that tried their best to gain shares in what was back then the highly lucrative superhero comic book market which was long dominated by Marvel Comics and DC Comics.

With Malibu Comics, their Ultraverse franchise of superhero comics was a blast and I had a lot of fun reading comic books of The Strangers, Prime, Hardcase, UltraForce, Mantra, etc.

For this review, here is my look back at the Ultraverse team comic book The Solution #1 (September 1993).

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The front cover.

Written by the late James Hudnall and drawn by Darick Robertson (inked by John Lowe), the story begins when Russian personnel get killed by a team of deadly people whose purpose is to raid the nuclear storage buildings.

As a result, several nuclear warheads were taken away without a trace. A KGB agent discusses the tragedy with an Aladdin agent and seeks help. In response, the Aladdin agent recommends to him The Solution.

“We’d like to (help) but our agency can’t give you any direct assistance. You know how it is. However these people might be what you need. Just remember…I never told you about them,” the Aladdin agent said.

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Meet The Solution.

In Hong Kong, a member of the triad instructs his hired assassins to distribute a shipment of illegal substances without getting any interference from The Solution. Predictably, the said team happens to be with them in their secret venue which starts a wave of martial arts, shooting and use of magic.

Enough with the plot. The Solution is a team of super-human mercenaries composed of Lela Cho/Tech (the leader), Eara/Shadowmage, Vurk/Outrage and Dropkick. Quite literally, whenever a major problem happens someone will call The Solution (the answer) to solve it for a fee.

In terms of character design, The Solution has a rather visceral look which was clearly emphasized on the cover art. Outrage, for example, looks very monstrous and one could easily mistake him for an evil figure.

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Obvious antagonists.

Illustrator Darick Robertson’s art is nice to look at and when the action happens, he sure delivers the goods making the hard action moves look intense. Even showing characters firing their guns look intense. The violence in this comic book is quite bloody and the opening scenes really show that.

Even with the non-action, talking scenes, Robertson’s art makes the members of The Solution look believably human. Facial expressions are good and they quite match the dialogue written. The team shot on page 21, which shows Lela Cho in the foreground talking to her teammates in the background, really looks nice.

In terms of writing, I found this comic book to be a bit bloated in terms of details and plot. Most notably, the pace of the story moves very fast and while it does its job establishing The Solution (and part of its purpose as a team-for-hire), the circumstances and the team’s place within the Ultraverse, the story felt really crammed even though there were 28 pages of story and art. I noticed that while the comic book is about The Solution, it ended up showing a total of three different teams (including the hired assassins).

In terms of character development, there was clear focus on Lela Cho which is not a surprise since she is the team leader. It turns out Lela has lots of vested interests in the corporate world and instead of being in a fancy office, she goes out in the field to get things done. She has a very direct, personal access to information online by means of wetware embedded in her skull. She also has a touch of business in her approach with leading The Solution.

“Our potential client has a problem with some Ultras. They want us to take care of it,” Lela Cho said on page 23.

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You got a problem? Call The Solution!

While it may not look as prominent as The Strangers or UltraForce as far as Ultraverse superhero teams go, The Solution stands out nicely for it is unique and its team-for-hire concept is very interesting. When I first read this comic book long ago, I was convinced to pursue the succeeding issues. Even by today’s standards, this old comic book remains fun and engaging.

The Solution #1 is 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. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. 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 Prime #1

As a comic book collector, 1993 was a notable year. That year Marvel organized the 30th anniversary celebration of the Avengers and the X-Men (which I’m a fan of). Image Comics meanwhile released a lot more comics showcasing the works of many creators apart from the publisher’s Seven Founding Fathers. Over at DC Comics, Superman was brought back to life but after they started the Reign of the Superman storyline. Oh yes, there was Valiant which scored hits with Turok #1 and even partnered with some Image Comics creators to produce the Deathmate crossover comic books.

At one corner was Malibu Comics which made a brave entry into the highly competitive superhero genre of comic book publishing in America by launching the Ultraverse, a line of superhero comic books which was the result of brainstorming by several comic book creators (many who previously worked with Marvel and DC Comics).

They launched a lot of comics (all those with #1 on their covers) which made it on the walls and shelves of local comic book stores I visited. Among the many Ultraverse launch comic books displayed was Prime #1 which had a great cover drawn by the late Norm Breyfogle.

CoverPrime
The cover with nice art.

Co-written by Len Strazewski and Gerard Jones with art by Breyfogle, the comic book introduces readers to Prime, an overly muscular, caped man who tries to do something good but is quite flawed with his approach.

The story begins when Prime confronts a junior high school coach named Meyer accusing him of being a pervert. Meyer reacts surprised since he personally does not know Prime (“Who are you? What are you?”). He claims that he does not know what exactly the big guy knows. At the side were two high school girls witnessing the encounter.

And then Prime said his words, “I saw you, coach Meyer! I saw you on the basketball court in fifth period..touching those girls!”

Prime2

Prime3

The coach fought back causing Prime to react. Because the hero was not aware of his strength, he miscalculated with his grip on Meyer breaking his arm unintentionally. Prime’s reaction clearly showed his realizing his mistake.

The incident scared the one of the girls away and carelessly Prime tries to explain himself to the other girl standing by. He even called himself as the girl’s “protector and avenger”, telling her not to be afraid of him.

As it turned out, the incident was a recently past event within the narrative of the comic book which is a nice touch. The coach, already injured, gave his testimony expecting cash from a shadowy organization collecting information not only about Prime but the Ultras (the in-universe term referring to beings with super powers).

That’s as far as I will go with telling the plot details. Prime #1 should be read from start to finish and the good news is that old copies of it can be found online at affordable rates and there are lots of copies in overall good condition.

Other notable elements of Prime #1 worth discussing, without spoiling the plot, is the way the story was structured by Strazewski and Jones. At least for 1993, it somewhat defies the tradition of following the views of the protagonist. Instead, Prime is emphasized through the views of others from the injured coach to the soldiers and the media. This approach does not necessarily make Prime a supporting player in his own comic book but rather it was an efficient way of showing how he thinks and acts, what he is capable of doing and how he reacts to others. By the time the comic book ends (with a very intriguing ending no less), you will get to know Prime a lot.

I also liked the way the writers used corporate media as a key element on exploring the connecting elements of the Ultraverse. Hardcase is shown briefly while a reference was made on Prototype. Check out the page posted below on how corporate media looks at Prime.

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Corporate media exposure and conspiracy efficiently told in one page.

When it comes to the art, the late Norm Breyfogle (1960-2018) delivered visuals that had that cartoony look and yet the visual expressions are quite mature, even dark and gritty. It is a very nice approach and it is no surprise, looking back, that Breyfogle went on to draw a lot more issues of Prime for Malibu Comics. Breyfogle died on September 24, 2018 due to heart failure in Michigan. Before making his mark on the Ultraverse, the late artist drew a lot of comic books for DC Comics and is known for his contributions on Batman.

More on hero himself, Prime is a flagship character of the Ultraverse and the combined talents of the writers and artist were major factors behind it. On face value, Prime looks like the Ultraverse answer to DC Comics Superman but in reality he has a lot more common with Shazam/Captain Marvel. I can explain why but that means spoiling the plot more here.

Overall, Prime #1 is still a very good old superhero comic book to read. It is fun and intriguing from start to finish. Considering its very good quality and being a nice showcase of the talents of the creators, Prime #1 is one of the best Ultraverse launch comic books. It is too bad, however, that there are no signs from Marvel Entertainment (note: Marvel Comics acquired Malibu Comics in the mid-1990s) whatsoever on the possible revival of the Ultraverse which remains in limbo under them.

Even so, I still say that Prime #1 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. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. 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

Also if you are interested to join an Ultraverse-related community online, I recommend the Facebook group here.