Friday, 1 January 2016

Alan Moore Obscurities: Alan Moore's Complete WildC.A.T.s (WildC.A.T.s Volume One #21-34, #50)

"These years of conflict, all for nothing.  How could they forget to let us know?" - Void

Happy new year beloved reader!  Can it be only a year since I looked at an Alan Moore comic featuring the uninspiring bunch of knock-offs that made up the Image studio Wildstorm's "WildC.A.T.s", (the C.A.T. part standing for "Covert Action Teams")? How much younger and prettier we were all back then.  Well the WildC.A.T.s/Spawn crossover was pretty dreadful, but this year and a bit run on the main comic by Mr. Moore was actually not at all bad, at least for most of it, then it got mired in a big Wildstorm crossover event and as the rest of the crossover is not included in this collection I'll have to daintily gallop past them as they make very little sense at all out of context. The Pre-Moore background to the first twenty issues laid out a war between several immortal aliens called Kherubim with super powers who travelled to Earth centuries ago to fight their mortal enemies the monsterous Daemonites who also had a presence on Earth, they also bred human/Kherubim hybrids to help with that fight. Deciding against a soft reboot of the concept unlike his runs on series like Swamp Thing, Captain Britain and Supreme, Moore simply picks up events after much of the team is believed lost in a huge explosion. 

In fact this team, made up of Lord Emp/Jacob Marlowe and Lady Zannah/Zealot (both pure bred Kherubim royalty), Jeremy "Maul" Stone (a human/titanothrope hybrid), Priscilla "Voodoo" Kitaen (human with Daemonite ancestory but on the side of the Kherubim), Spartan (a cyborg with a soul designed to be uploaded into new bodies when the current model becomes obselete), Adrianne "Void" Tereshkova (a being who can turn into pure energy) and Reno "Warblade" Bryce (a human/shaper hybrid) have instead found a ship to take them to Khera and are travelling there as the book begins. 
Front to back - Maxine, Tao, Max, Savant and Majestic
Meanwhile of the rest of the WildC.A.T.s left behind, Mr. Majestic (a Kherubim warlord of exceptional power) and Savant (Zealot's sister at this point in time) decide to set up a new WildC.A.T.s team to deal with more Earthly problems now the Daemonites on Earth had been dealt with.  The final prior member was the entirely human Cole "Grifter" Cash who quit the team before Moore came aboard.  The narrative then switches regularly between the team on Khera and the team on Earth, and Moore actually manages to do some interesting things with some pretty unpromising material at least until the crossover reunites all the characters and it all becomes a bit difficult to follow so many characters at once. So let's get started.  [Just a note, when I refer to the WildC.A.T.s I am talking about the team based on earth, the others I shall be calling Team Khera.] Also we've been two Alan Moore stories without rape or sexual abuse playing a part or being someone's backstory, can we make it three in a row...?

The story begins with Savant trying to recruit some new members, she bags Grifter's brother Max "Condition Red" Cash, but everyone else she tries is not so keen.  The action jumps forwards to her, Max, Tao and Majestic dressed up as staff at a Presidential themed restaurant to lure another possible member Maxine Manchester, or "Ladytron" as she is also known.  A major heroin deal is due to go down and it is likely she'll try to crash it.  The dealers arrive at the restaurant.

We then get a flashback of Savant and Majestic browsing specimens at a place called "Optigen".  There is Tao, or "Tactically Augmented Organism" a relaxed and confident young genius.  He hands the scientist accompanying them a piece of paper with some numbers on it. This flusters the scientist and he runs off, Tao says he'll be able to join the WildC.A.T.s now.
Tao takes down Ladytron.
Back at the restaurant Maxine smashes into the place in a car and grabs the briefcase full of heroin.  Bullets don't seem to phase her thanks to her mainly cybernetic body, but Tao puts her down by shooting the heroin and the cloud knocks her out.  With Majestic, Savant, Tao, Max and Maxine they have "the nucleus around which we can build our new WildC.A.T.s" says Majestic and Savant agrees.  They will continue as a tribute to those they lost.

Savant: "The WildC.A.T.s are dead. Long live the WildC.A.T.s"

Team Khera are approaching the planet.  They all gather in the main part of the ship.  Zealot is at the helm.  Some singing comes over the comm link and she sings in return.  Turns out this was a test to allow them into Kheran space.  They dock and exit to a heroes welcome.  Lord Emp and Zealot speak Kheran, the others are given "language patches" to translate for them.
Arrival on Khera.
Lord Emp places the disc with Spartan's personality on it into the latest android model.  Zealot is told her sisters have a palace waiting for her, and Lord Emp is escorted away to his estates as well.  This leaves Void, Warblade, Maul and Voodoo behind.  They are scanned and rated by an ID machine.  Warblade, Maul and Void are rated and led off to some accomodation, "The Coincidental Mansion".  Maul is handed a leaflet by a female titanothrope but she is shooed away by a guard, much to Maul's distress as she is the first person like him he has ever seen.  Then Warblade wonders, "where the hell is Voodoo?"

Voodoo has been taken right down into the bowels of the planet and into the slums. There live the Daemonites, the race the Kherans are supposedly at war with.  She is shoved in a room with a group of them and gets into an altercation.  The others shrug and assume she's off somewhere else exploring and partying.
Daemonites "welcome" Voodoo.
Back on earth, Maxine is being held in a virtual reality machine, reliving a scenario where she breaks out, kills all the WildC.A.T.s and escapes.  Basically Tao is wearing her down until she stops trying to kill them and joins voluntarily.  Savant says she better be ready in two weeks as that's when they'll undertake their first mission.

On Khera, Void uses her ability to become intagible to visit each member of the team.  Maul has decided to go looking for the titanothrope woman who gave him a leaflet.  She finds Warblade at a place called "The Shapers Guild" where he is being taught new forms and attacks.

She visits Zealot who is holed up in a palace where her female cohorts "The Coda" live.  They are apparently suspicious of her relationship with Lord Emp because The Coda are big rivals of his "Pantheon" in the Senate.  Void then tracks down Spartan who is sparring with androids of the same model he is, he hasn't seen Voodoo and says maybe she wandered into "The lower-caste quarters".
Void has a little chat with Spartan.
Heading downwards Void discovers Voodoo amongst the Daemonites, one has been keeping her safe since her initial fight when she arrived.  She was seperated from them for being a half-breed.  Void is confused and wonders why there are Daemonites here:

Voodoo: "They're refugees who lost their homes when the Daemonite government collapsed...The war is over. The Daemonites lost... The Daemonite wars have been over for three-hundred years... Nobody bothered to tell us."

Then the action switches to the WildC.A.T.s who have decided to be proactive in their war on crime.  Maxine has decided to work with them and they are targeting the security of an organisation called "The Troika".  They battle a huge cyborg called H.A.R.M and between Maxine, Max and Majestic, manage to kill it.

Team Khera sees Voodoo and Void go and tell Warblade, who is experimenting with the new shapes he has been taught, that the war has been over for a long time.  Voodoo narrates what she was told by the Daemonite who sheltered her the previous night.  Trying to keep up with Khera technologically bankrupted the planet Daemon. There were violent uprisings and the government had to surrender after which Khera imposed a crippling war debt.  The Daemonite empire fell apart due to civil war and Khera took in many refugees although they keep them in the worst slums.

Voodoo: "Something's rotten here on Khera.  Even if Zealot and Emp are too important to be bothered with it."

Void says they should wait for Maul to come back before confronting them.  Maul is wandering through the parts of town his kind live in.  He's soaking in the sights when the purple woman appears and introduces herself as "Glingo".
Maul hooks up with Glingo
She tells him their people are the original Kherans, displaced millenia ago by the "Coldeyes" and now they live in "overcrowded reservations".  Her brother "Jaxa" who is a member of the "Titan Liberation Army" appears and challenges Maul over his interest in his sister.  Agreeing to the duel, Jaxa and Maul fight.  First Maul grows big but Jaxa does the same, so Maul shrinks right down and Jaxa manages to knock himself out trying to grab him.  Glingo says she is pleased he honours their customs and he can come can "claim" her later.  A cheerful Maul returns to the others to be told the news about the end of the war.

Back with the WildC.A.T.s, Savant is a bit annoyed they killed H.A.R.M but decide to take advantage of his funeral where other villains will be gathered and they crash the funeral and subdue the mourners, one of whom says, "you don't know what you're getting into." The WildC.A.T.s take away the criminals back to base where they place them in Tao's virtual reality prison cells.

In a bar called Clark's which caters to the superhero set, Grifter is meeting up for a drink with a man with a flaming green aura called Hellstrike, and what's this?  A man with a face and wearing shoes, it can only be Deathblow (Ow these 90's names, so painful).  They chat about the WildC.A.T.s crashing the funeral and when Hellstrike hears they arrested a villain called Deathtrap he gets mad because it was a Stormwatch (of which he is a member) target.  He flies off slightly drunkenly to confront the WildC.A.T.s about it.
Hellstrike picks a fight with Majestic, perhaps unwisely.
At the WildC.A.T.s HQ, Majestic has been moping about, questioning their war on crime to himself.  He sees Savant and Tao locked in a passionate clinch and departs before they see him, reflecting he has stayed chaste for three thousand years.  Then Hellstrike bursts in and attacks him and they fight.  Savant pages Maxine who comes hurtling over with Max hanging onto her back, she tells him to watch where he puts his hands.

Max: "Oh right!  Like I'm going to cop a feel from a permanently premenstral coke machine."

This makes Maxine laugh.  They arrive and together with Majestic, subdue Hellstrike.  He accuses them of treading on Stormwatch's toes and demands they hand Deathtrap over.  Tao says Deathtrap just escaped, but he had a tracer on him, and gives Hellstrike a device to track him with.

Mollified, Hellstrike leaves with Grifter and Deathblow who just turned up to see what's what, then Tao reveals he put a tracer in the tracking device so they can spy on Stormwatch whenever they like.  All of them bar Majestic think this is an awesome idea, Majestic just finds these underhand tactics undesirable and flies off to brood some more.

Back with Team Khera, Zealot is putting her life on earth behind her.  She is Zannah now, of the Coda sisterhood.  She is given a talking sword and partakes of a ritual dancelike fight with her sisters where they cut and mingle blood with each other.
Zealot readies herself for a ritual.
Meanwhile Voodoo has taken Maul, Void and Warblade down to the awful slums the Daemonites live in.  They aren't soldiers, they are civilians coping with starvation, disease and death.

Voodoo: "This isn't the Kherubim paradise Emp promised us.  The Kherans hate and discriminate and left us fighting a war they'd long since forgotten."

They go and find Lord Emp now settled in the Pantheon's main palace.  He's reviewing a film that's been made to promote his run at the Senate.  Realising they will get no help from him, Void transports them away and to Zealot's location.
Lord Emp having his ego massaged at The Pantheon.
Zealot gets angry that her ritual has been interrupted and says she is not friends with them now she has the Coda again.  Voodoo asks if she thinks she is better than them.  Zealot says she is certainly better than a "half-Daemonite mongrel".  Voodoo punches her in the face.

They have a very short fight and Zealot wins, but then Voodoo unleashes her Daemonite side and they fight again.  Zealot cuts Voodoo and Voodoo offers to mingle her blood with the Coda sisters there who all back away in horror.  Having had enough, Voodoo and the others teleport away again.  Voodoo says as far as the team is concerned "it's all over."

Spartan that night decides to go exploring having managed to overcome his "loyalty program" to Lord Emp.  He is curious as to why the ruling parties of the Kheran Senate are pushing Emp and Zealot so hard for their respective causes.  He thinks that "something is happening here that we don't understand."  He contemplates the sleeping Emp, "he dreams of Khera as it was and is asleep to how it is."  He flashes back to Emp telling him The Pantheon are pushing him as the "fulfilment of the prophecies."
A low point for the heroes.
He then visits Void and Warblade.  They are depressed at Voodoo quitting and tell Spartan he should go find Maul.  As he flies down there he fills the reader in on the titanothropes.  They are the original Kherans displaced by the more human looking colonists millennia ago.  They specialise in metalwork now and they have a small but important presence in the Senate as they hold the balance of power and are currently aligned with the Pantheon.

He finds Maul with Glingo who is not keen on Spartan as his types of android are used to put down demonstrations and the like, which surprises Spartan.  We're also told the Senate is opening tommorrow and Glingo says maybe her brother is right and "bombing them's the only way" to get fair treatment.

He then goes to find Voodoo whom he has a relationship with.  She is initially angry with him, but he kisses her and promises to get some answers from Zealot and flies off.  He lands in the room above the sleeping Zealot and overhears a plan by two of the Coda to do something at the Senate opening that will be blamed on the Titans and involves Emp and Zealot.  Which will then give the militaristic Coda the majority.

Before he can leave to tell the others, Spartan is speared by someone off screen.  It disrupts his functions and he shuts down.  The voices say they'll erase his most recent memory.  Later Voodoo is walking about and comes across him still wounded but concious, dumped in an alleyway.
Spartan left in a bit of a mess.
On earth, some baddies who include the escaped Deathtrap, are watching a tape of the WildC.A.T.s in action taking down a shape-shifter.  Deathtrap says it's obvious that the WildC.A.T.s have declared war on them and it would be in their interests to band together and resist them.  The assembled bad guys agree.

Back on Khera, Voodoo has managed to get Spartan back to the hotel Warblade and Void are staying at.  By lucky hap a person skilled in repairing his model of android passes by and offers to help restore his erased memories.  The Senate is opening and Maul and Glingo are watching in the crowd.

Lord Emp speaks first for the more liberal Pantheon, then Zealot stands up and makes a much more warlike speech on behalf of the Coda.  The two Coda sitting close by whisper she would have made a good Speaker, but will serve them better as a martyr.  At the back of the packed hall the repaired Spartan, Warblade and Void appear and tell Maul and Glingo that some kind of attack is planned that will kill Zealot and Emp and be blamed on the Titans.

Zealot and Lord Emp debate their various positions.
Maul can't understand why that would happen, then they realise, the Titans are craftspeople and made the special talking sword Zealot has been given.  The bomb must be the sword.  Some Coda try and stop them so a battle to the front occurs.  Zealot angrily accuses Voodoo of not being able to accept defeat, Voodoo just yells at her that her sword is rigged to explode.

When Zealot disbelievingly asks the sword if it is true, it says yes and that it will go off in about fifteen seconds.  Unable to get rid of it, Zealot panics, but Glingo, in a fit of supreme self-sacrifice grows to a huge size and takes the sword in her hand so it explodes high above the crowd but kills her, much to Mauls utter distress.
Glingo goes bang.  Maul is sad.
Zealot turns on her sisters and quits, saying she is leaving.  When the Pantheon members gleefully say to Lord Emp that this can be spun into a vote winner for them, the scales fall from his eyes as well and he decides to leave too.  The whole disunited team board a ship and start going home to earth with the whole journey being a little on the awkward side.  It's an abrupt decision, I am assuming it was an editorial mandate because as many of the WildC.A.T.s as possible would have been wanted back on Earth for the forthcoming fourteen-part Wildstorm crossover "Fire From Heaven" as it seems there could have been more stories mined while on Khera.

Back on Earth, Max Cash has been lured into a trap by some criminals as part of their fightback against the WildC.A.T.s war on crime, but he takes them on though before he can resolve the fight Maxine turns up with beer and pizza under the impression he asked her on a date and she deals with his attackers while he insists it wasn't a date, he thought she just wanted to talk.  After the battle is over, Max says they better warn Majestic the war has just escalated.
Romance, Maxine style.
The war gets more serious with the bad guys sending "zombots" against the WildC.A.T.s.  Majestic is not happy about this turn of events:

Majestic: "It is a disaster we ourselves have bought about.  We took the war to crime and now crime has returned it!"

Later Max and Maxine go to the superhero bar, Clarks.  He insists they aren't dating because they are biologically incompatible.  Maxine just replies "...It's 1996.  You can buy the equipment".  Majestic returns to WildC.A.T.s HQ to discuss strategy and finds Savant and Tao in bed together.  Meanwhile Max spots a villain leaving a suspicious briefcase in the bar's toilets.  It explodes and he gets injured and is rushed to hospital.
Despite all the surliness, she is quite a sweet character overall.
While Maxine waits anxiously at the hospital, the rest of the WildC.A.T.s, Hellstrike and a couple of other Stormwatch members are in a conference.  Tao says this attack affected Stormwatch as well and they should join forces.  Then the base alarms start going off and they think they are being invaded.  But it's just the return of the characters back from Khera.

The next two issues are numbers seven and thirteen in the fourteen issue Wildstorm crossover "Fire From Heaven".  There's persistent rumours online that Moore didn't actually write them although I haven't seen it confirmed one way or another.  The main things that happened were that Deathblow was killed (shame he was such a good character), Max Cash flees hospital off-panel and quits the team while his brother Cole "Grifter" Cash rejoins. Lord Emp and Voodoo also both walk, Voodoo getting a Moore penned mini that is one of the worst comics I have ever read.  And finally Spartan remembered his past as a Kherubim Warlord "Yohn Kohl" and reclaimed the name as "John Colt".  The shenanigans over, the reunited team throws itself into Tao's "gang war".

The gang war has spread out all over New York, and the WildC.A.T.s have split into several teams to battle it, Grifter visits each one in turn before arriving at Grand Central Station where the bad guys have taken a lot of hostages and have a secret weapon hidden in a large metal tube.
He's only calls "Overtkill" because there was already someone with the "Overkill" name, and I guess Alan was either being lazy or slyly sending up the Image era naming conventions.
Maxine goes in to fight them, bursting out of the metal tube Overtkill takes her on.  While they fight Maxine recognises one of the hostages as the villain who bombed Clark's bar.  But if he is not with the bad guys they are fighting who is he with?  And Tao who is overseeing the various battle cuts off her audio transmission saying "I'm afraid we've lost Maxine".

He then lies to Savant saying that Maxine had unearthed vital information and that there might be someone in the team who is betraying them.  Savant says anyone plotting to kill Tao will have to go through her first. She says she loves him, "I know darling. I know" says Tao.

Overtkill and Maxine keep fighting, while Grifter and Zealot take on the others. Grifter and one of the villains - Deathtrap - start shouting at each other, and the Deathtrap said he never would have blown up the bar without issuing a warning.  When Grifter realises he's telling the truth he offers a truce, but neither are willing to throw their guns down first.

The rest of the WildC.A.T.s arrive at Grand Central, Maxine has taken off chasing the man who bombed the bar.  Grifter is stood with Deathtrap, and have figured out "this war benefits nobody.  How did we get into it?"  They catch up with Maxine who has caught the bomber.  He says that a man who did something to his mind made him plant the bomb and he was one of the people present at the Presidents Restaurant during the heroin deal at the start.
Tao sets up Savant's possible death.
They realise he means Tao and also realise he was manuvering the WildC.A.T.s and Stormwatch into "one big army with himself runnin' it!".  The bombing was him deliberately escalating things to get Stormwatch involved too. They quickly teleport back to WildC.AT.s HQ building, Tao then appears saying  his empire building has come unstuck and he's going to escape now.  When Grifter fires at him, he vanishes because he was a hologram and Grifter hits Savant instead wounding her very badly. WildC.A.T.s goes into lockdown so Tao can't escape directly and Warblade says "who's going to take him down?"

Zealot takes Savant away to operate on her.  Warblade and Maul team up and start looking for Tao, but Tao releases all the supervillains they had captured in the psychic holding cells and they are not happy about how they have been treated.  Spartan comes to help and the two villains they are fighting cut their losses and create a hole in the side of the building and escape.  The others decide not to chase them because that's what Tao expects them to do.

Tao is down in the hanger fiddling around with one of their warplanes when Maxine arrives and confronts him.  He starts to try and mindscrew her with his hypnotism power but she just punches him so instead he says:

Tao: "So tell me Maxine... how old were you exactly, when your father started sleeping with you?"

......................

AAAAAAAAAA-


-RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!!!!!!

Why, Alan?! Why?!  Not only do you drop in this crap without any intention of it mattering further than as a "edgy" revelation, but it turns Maxine from a fun character into a tragic victim as well as suddenly problematising her aggressive and humorous sexual pursuit of Max. And especially as saying this causes her to stop fighting Tao and allows him to disconnect the cooling system inside her and then leave without her putting up a fight.  I mean it Alan, you're on notice. Mentioning or using rape or any other kind of sexual abuse again and I shall confine you to the blog's sin bin for as long as I deem neccessary.  You have been warned.
Majestic saves Maxine in another sweet moment.
So it turns out that Maxine is powered by a small nuclear reactor.  Disconnecting the coolant system means she is going to meltdown and explode.  When she tells Majestic she sees him as a decent father figure, he decides he's going to try and save her and flies away with her.

The rest of this issue flashes forwards to a funeral, though doesn't say whose it is until the very end.  Majestic takes Maxine outside the city and disconnects her lower body which has the reactor in it. He then flies it high above the earth and it explodes.

Warblade, Maul and Grifter finally catch up with Tao.  He tells them they can't kill him because he has a cure for cancer, and AIDS and a recipe for a genetic strain of wheat that will cure world hunger.  When they admit they can't kill him, Majestic appears his clothing in tatters and says "...but I think I can."

Tao tries to reason with him, but Majestic just fries him to a crisp.  We then rejoin the funeral which was a symbolic one for Tao. Maxine is off elsewhere being taken care of by the "Cyborg Nuns of the first church of Gort".  Savant has survived too and gets out of her wheelchair and asks to dance on Tao's grave with Majestic.

Savant: "It was we two who put the new WildC.A.T.s together.  Now let's dance it to its rest".

The collection ends with a short extract from issue #50, which was part of the final issue of WildC.A.T.s volume one.  As it's separated from the rest of the Moore run by twenty-five issues it's impossible to make sense of, but it is there as a completist bonus.
Tao gets his just deserts courtesy of Majestic's heat vison.
It's fair to say that Moore's time at the various Image studios was not and is not considered the high point of his career although once again I shall point out that it was this work that allowed him to keep working on the astonishing From Hell and the similarly acclaimed Lost Girls, so even if you hate every single thing he did for Image you have to thank it for giving us those stories. Me, I quite like this run on WildC.A.T.s, I certainly prefer it to his run on Supreme for Extreme/Awesome comics.  He brings some typical Moore ideas to the table, such as deconstructing the simplistic good/evil dichotomy by showing Khera as a class ridden and corrupt planet.  I also wonder if his writing of the Daemonites fall was inspired by the reasons the Soviet Union fell, which was for similar reasons - the West simply managed to outspend them in the end.  His two new characters, the calmly brilliant Tao and the brilliantly perverse Maxine (but why that backstory? Eesh) are also a lot of fun and the energy of the comic rises exponentionally whenever they are highlighted. The art?  Well, although a ludicrous number of co-pencilers and inkers are credited, Travis Charest should be considered the main artist and as he and all the others are doing their best Jim Lee aping style, it manages to look remarkably coherent overall.  It reeks of the 90's and sometimes the depiction of the women makes me sigh but as the era goes (damning with faint praise I know), this is pretty decent stuff.  I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend this to a fairweather fan of Moore, but if you are interested in this era of his career and don't mind doing a bit of online research to bring you up to speed on the WildC.A.T.s tortured history this is a pretty fun read.

4 comments:

  1. happy new year! haha, alan moore broke yo brain lol :D I bet he will end up in the sin bin soon, man cant seem to help it with the rapiness.

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  2. Happy New Year faithful commentator G! :)

    I have shaken my Magic Eight Ball and it says chances of Moore ending up in the Sin Bin this year are "Good". I'll let you into a secret, I am starting to run a little dry of Moore stuff I can afford, so "punishing" him is a way to eke out what I do have for another full year. ;)

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  3. You know, G, you do have an attractively idiosyncratic way of putting things. "Man cant seem to help it with the rapiness," indeed.

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  4. I might steal it and use it in a future post :D And all authors have their peristant tropes, I just wish Moore's wasn't rape and sexual assault.

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