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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!
For the newcomers reading this, I’ve been doing retro reviews of WildC.A.T.S that had Chris Claremont and Jim Lee collaborating together during the early Image Comics years following their previous works together on X-Men comic books while they were at Marvel. Issue #10 of WildC.A.T.S saw the debut of Claremont’s very own Huntsman while Zealot became the major character among her teammates (note: Voodoo had the 2nd most amount of page presence while the rest made very short appearances). In issue #11, the stakes were raised as most of the WildC.A.T.S got captured by the new super villainess Tapestry and Voodoo remained possessed, leaving Zealot as the only free team member who – out of fear – had to reach out for reinforcements (note: brand new characters who happened to have history with Zealot). In issue #12, Zealot and Huntsman really struggled clashing with the Troika while the reinforcements were on their way. What happened saw new revelations about Zealot and the plot expectedly built up the anticipation of the next big conflict.
The issue I am about to review is the conclusion of the current storyline Claremont wrote and Lee illustrated which, so far, expanded the lore of the WildC.A.T.S within the WildStorm universe of the time. So far, I’ve been enjoying re-reading WildC.A.T.S issues #10 to #12, seeing what kind of creative stuff Claremont and Lee could make while being free from the restrictions and limitations of Marvel Comics.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #13, published by Image Comics in 1994 with a story written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Jim Lee.
The story begins with the possessed Voodoo – now looking frail and ugly as a result of Raksha’s hunger for flesh – attacking Jacob Marlowe’s two trusted assistants who arrived to help her. Deep inside her body struggling with Raksha’s possession, Pris manages to stop her attack – Voodoo’s face restored to normal – and warns Jules and Stansfield that Jacob and her teammates have been turned into evil by Tapestry and that Zealot may still be free.
Meanwhile, Grifter, Hunstman, Zealot, Savant, Soldier and Mr. Majestic fight the mind-controlled WildC.A.T.S – Spartan, Maul, Jacob Marlowe and Warblade – and Alabaster Wu who are acting under Tapestry’s evil. As Grifter shoots Maul and kicks Jacob Marlowe’s head, Huntsman reveals to him that Tapestry and Zealot have a history together while Alabaster Wu was trying to save his people…
As expected, this storyline-concluding issue delivers the natural progression of what started in issue #10 laced with lots of solidly fun action, key character interactions and more notably the further development of Zealot supported by Huntsman. To put it short, if you enjoyed the previous works of the Claremont-Lee creative team and you enjoy the early, bombastic ways of WildC.A.T.S, then this comic book should delight you.
Without spoiling the entire plot, this comic book concludes the storyline that started in issue #10 and it also marked the end of Claremont-Lee’s collaboration on this particular volume of the WildC.A.T.S comic book series. What is very notable in my view is the way Claremont emphasized the evolution of Zealot not only as a WildC.A.T.S member but also her very own personality as well as her very own spot within the WildStorm universe.
It is in this storyline where you will see Zealot being much more than just a fearless, hard-fighting warrior who lives by the strict standards of the Coda. In this particular comic book, her greater purpose is realized (and you will realize that in a particular scene with Savant late in the story) and the interactions she has with the Huntsman, her sister Savant and others really brought out more of her personality. This is clearly Zealot redefined just as Claremont expanded the lore of the WildC.A.T.S.
Fans of Grifter should be happy to learn that their favorite character (who returned at the end of issue #11) joined the big battle and Claremont’s prepared dialogue of him made him more livelier than his usual portrayal in this comic book series. Huntsman, meanwhile, is his usual honorable self but gets to define his place among the WildC.A.T.S through action. His companion Miranda (now wearing armor thanks to Zealot) plays a short yet notable key role in the story.
The reinforcements composed of Mr. Majestic, Savant and Soldier each have a stronger presence in this story which is expected and they don’t just talk and do some action…they also contributed to the plot and what Savant knew emphasized the essence of the conflict between Zealot and Tapestry.
As for the super villainess herself, Tapestry is very convincingly evil and this comic book shows exactly why the fearless Zealot deeply fears her and why she is a danger to everyone. While she has a very sinister agenda, Tapestry’s confirmation of her origin (in the form of dialogue) and what her place is between the Daemonites and Kherubim will intrigue readers, most especially WildC.A.T.S fans. As for her conflict with Zealot, this comic book will show you how they are connected with each other and what elements connect them together. Their spectacle-filled duel here is a must-see and you will enjoy it a lot when you pay attention to the details (read Savant’s expository dialogue) as the action happens.
When it comes to artwork, fans of Jim Lee should know that this comic book has some of very best pieces of art the famed creator ever made during his time with Image Comics. Very clearly, Lee took his time designing the shots and when to really go out with great visual detail as the story went on.
I can say that WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #13 (1994) is still a great comic book as it solidly and satisfyingly concluded the 4-part storyline that Chris Claremont came up with in this collaboration with Jim Lee. More on the storyline itself, Claremont took a really daring approach on presenting the titular team by having Zealot in the lead (with his creation Huntsman as the 2nd major player) and then putting most of the other team members on the background which effectively emphasizes the presence of the very wicked Tapestry (truly the definitive parallel to Zealot) along with the Troika (note: this is their best and most action-packed portrayal).
While this WildStorm universe-building story concept could put off some Claremont-Lee team fans who expected to see a WildC.A.T.S story fashioned like what was seen in the creators’ past X-Men works, this particular storyline for me is still a great read and its concept is commendable.
I should also state that the themes of omnipotence, legacy and destiny are all well defined in this comic book which made the 4-part storyline make more sense to read and analyze. More on Zealot, the way Claremont developed her will make you think deeply about how you should perceive her, how you think her place within the WildC.A.T.S will affect her teammates, etc. This comic book and its three immediate predecessors all have very solid writing by Claremont!
Overall, WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #13 (1994) is highly recommended!
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