Friday, March 17, 2006

WILDCATS #1 Image Comics, 1999

Getting Travis Charest to draw Wildcats is like bringing a machine gun to a pillow fight – it’s overkill.

Don’t get me wrong, I have more than my fair share of Wildcats comics. I enjoyed Joe Casey’s series, Wildcats Version 3.0. I am also looking forward to Grant Morrison and Jim Lee’s upcoming Wildcats series (though not as much as I’m looking forward to Morrison’s Authority with Gene Ha). So you see? I have some love for Wildcats.

But this series, Wildcats vol 2, by writer Scott Lobdell, seemed sort of trite and shallow, the kind of comic book that ANYBODY could have drawn. Charest’s art really classes up the book, and if you’re not careful you can trick yourself into thinking that Wildcats vol 2 is a better comic than it actually is.

Jeez, is it that bad? No, but it’s not that good, either. It’s comparable to Lobdell’s Alpha Flight revamp in terms of quality, and in my mind, that makes pairing the script with Charest’s insanely detailed art a little like getting Martin Scorcese to direct Weekend at Bernie’s III.

The story? The scattered Wildcats heroes gather once again to track down The Kenyan, a madman who is collecting ultra-powerful Daemonite and Kherubim weaponry. In this first issue, the gunslinging masked man known as The Grifter disrupts an arms deal in Venice and hooks up with his old teammate Spartan, an unstoppable and boring android. It’s pretty lightweight stuff – all filler, no killer – but Charest’s artwork really elevates the book.

Here’s the second page, where Grifter sneaks through Venetian canals so that he can kill some people. Pretty, no?

Man, he is going to need a bath after that – in real life the Venetian canals are full of nasty-ass water. I wouldn’t let a cat drink that water, and I hate cats. *

Anyway, Grifter gets in position and finds that one of the players in the arms deal is actually Spartan. Grifter gets to kill a lot of people, and then a big robot-tank thing shows up and Spartan fights that.

That’s about it. Sure, there are some quips and some witty dialogue, but aside from the art, it’s fairly pedestrian stuff. Nothing against Lobdell, mind you - I just wasn't feeling it.

As this series demonstrates, Charest should be working on graphic novels or limited-series, not ongoing comic book series. With Wildcats he got behind on his deadlines and according to the man himself, “…the book suffered. You probably never got to see the stories as they should have been because as a by-product of my lateness, shortcuts were constantly being made, and compromises in the narrative and setting were the order of the day.”** Charest and Lobdell were off the book shortly after it began, to be replaced by Joe Casey and Sean Phillips, who did a swell job.

Ahh, but the art. For a brief while, Wildcats was graced with some fantastic art. Better than it deserved? You make the call.

*Kidding. I loves me the cats.


Tony said...

I thought this version of Wildcats was pretty entertaining.

Wildcats has always been a strange animal. It started out as a straight X-Men knockoff, but depending on who's writing it can be a really good book.
Tony Goins
Panel/Ferret Press

J'onn J'onzz, Martian Manhunter said...

You never really told us what the comic was about! Have mercy, mellow one (as Stan would say) and give the details to us poor souls who have never heard of (let alone read) Wildcats.

Greg said...

Yeah, those Charest issues were weird. He only drew, what, four of them? I think part of the problem was that Lobdell was trying to make the transition from the original premise with that big war thing (I haven't read most of the original run) into what Casey would do, with the nastier, quieter little stories. Lobdell, it seems to me, was trying to clean house, and that made the book suffer. Once Casey came on the book got really good.

Phil Looney said...

This was one of the only times I ever bought Wildcats, and it was only because of the art. None of the Wildcat stories I've ever read have made any sense.

Anonymous said...

I must confess that I ONLY bought these WildCats issues due to the art.

I loves me the over-detailed, realistically drawn funnybooks.

(That said, I also loves me the simple, yet elegantly subtle illustrated funnybooks. Hey. I'm complex.)

I also loves me the cats.


word verification:

the sound Grifter made whilst spitting out the cat-urine soaked Venetian water that now saturated his bandana-mask.
(as seen off-panel)

Anonymous said...

Allegedly, that robot tank wasn't even in the script; Charest just drew it in because apparently Lobdell writers Marvel style and has very loose plots, and Charest saw Saving Private Ryan and thought it was cool. I sort of liked the Lobdell run. Sort of. It was cute but seemed half-formed.

IIRC, since I (cough) own the Street Smart HC, Charest wound up drawing two full issues, then half of issues #3, 4, and #6.

Kevin Church said...

Yeah, but the second Lobdell was off WildCATS, it got great.

Mmm Joe Casey and Sean Phillips.

I may need a cold shower soon.

Chris Sims said...

I like Travis Charest a lot, but I seem to remember hearing somewhere that he drew the whole sequence of Spartan fighting a tank completely against what was in the actual script.

Spencer Carnage said...

This is going to get me hanged, but I liked the first volume of WildC.A.T.s Joe Casey's 3.0 seemed like a subplot that had grown legs and learn to walk. It was an interesting concept, but it could used a little more of the action from the earlier v1 issues.

BigSleep666 said...

Alan Moore's Wildcats was pretty fun. I was impressed with how he would prove to the readers that the smart characters were smart and how well he seemed to understand the superpowers.
Likewise, I was impressed with how inventive Warren Ellis was at killing people when he would write Wildcats.

Adam Reck said...

Has Charest done anything since this? I mean besides the off-hand pin-up. I remember seeing ads at one point for some kind of sci-fi thing, but it never came to fruition. It's really amazing to look at Charest's earliest work for Wildcats (the annual I think) and then see the caliber of his art when he picked up doing the regular first series for the issues that followed Lee and Claremont's reunion. It was like a totally new guy. Almost how Jae Lee managed to reinvent himself over the years.

Anonymous said...

Can we start an internet petition to get Scorcese to direct Weekend at Bernie's III?

Tell me you wouldn't all go see that opening weekend.

ShellyS said...

That was my first exposure to Wildcats and what got me hooked into reading it. I got some of the back issues later on, but I loved that run, especially Charest's art. Maybe I loved it so much because I had nothing to compare it to. But anything that gets me hooked on a comic and its characters is, to me, good.

Ian said...

For better Charest WildC.A.T.S. you should go for the issues James Robinson wrote (not spectacular but nothing really bad) and WildC.A.T.s Vol. 1 #50, which features a short story with Alan Moore writing. That story ties up some loose ends of Moore's run n the book. Charest drew some of that but that was pretty much an artisitc clusterfuck.

Jason Langlois said...

My love-hate relationship with WildCATS is perfectly encapsuled by volume 2. I started buying it for the insanely gorgeous Charest art. Then he left the book... perfect time for me to drop it, since the writing sucked. But no, on comes Joe Casey, who actually starts writing interesting stories with teh characters... and I'm stuck buying the book to find out what happens next.

Did the same thing with volume one ... Lee leaves, but hey, here's Alan Moore.

Now I'm kind of hoping the Morrison/Lee version will keep me interested in both art and story at the same time.

Tony said...

The Casey run was hit or miss to me. The whole Serial Boxes run didn't seem to come to any point. Like, it went too much into the post-superhero thing.

Anonymous said...

Charest inks with a rapidograph, for crying out loud. Sometimes he does pencil shading, and sometimes over that he'll do inkwash or watercolor. His skills are superior, but his techniques take time. To me, the product is worth it, although like everyone else, I admire his art so much it'd be nice if there were more of it to see.