Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tie-ins, Part XXIV: W.I.L.D.C.A.T.S. Aliens #1

Some random Alien stuff, Part 7

Now we are really cooking!

Story – Warren Ellis
Pencils – Chris Sprouse
Inks – Kevin Nowlan
Colors – Laura Depuy of WS FX
Letters – Bill Oakley
Editor – Scott Dunbier
Design – Ed Roeder
Editorial Assistant – Dennisse Chong
August 1998

I don't know much about the Wildstorm universe, but I believe when I finally do dive into the hundred or so titles that populate the Crapbox I will enjoy it.

Wildstorm came about with the great Image migration of 1992, with Jim Lee establishing the imprint. The primary titles were WildC.A.T.S (Covert Action Teams), Stormwatch, Gen13, Wetworks and The Authority. Beginning in 1993 sales for all comic books hit a slump and owner Lee went looking for a buyer a couple of years later. The property became a part of the DC comics imprint in 1999, the year after this title was released. In 2011 the characters from Wildstorm's primary shared universe mingled with those of the new parent company. Supposedly they will break off into separate titles once again starting under the writer of this very issue sometime in 2017.

The neat thing about Wildstorm was it adhered to a pretty well thought out continuity with their ongoing books. In this series, the people who die stay dead. Warren Ellis, who was the current writer of Stormwatch at the time, was enticed into doing this one-shot not because of the story. His goal was to clear the decks so he could setup his new team, The Authority afterwards. And clear those decks he did.

That takes balls. I mean that. It takes a lot of guts to allow a miniseries or single issue to alter the character list of who is in your universe, to not worry about someone's favorite superhero biting the dust.

And people die in this book. Outright get killed. It would be like that Alien in the Superman / Aliens book I just reviewed catching Lois and killing the shit out of her. And that event sticking when Superman showed up in his regular title next Wednesday.

Jimmy'd be all like "Sorry that Lois got totally murdered by Aliens, Clark." And Clark would be all "I'm Superman and I'm going to fly around the Earth and reverse time, you little snot." Or something.

Let's dive in, because (spoiler) I loved the heck out of this one. Even without knowing who it was that was getting killed.

We begin with a slow, four-page wordless intro as a space-station escape pod crash lands in New York City. Allowing it to unfold over that many pages gives the readers a chance to weigh the full measure of the disaster and the import of what is happening. Loved this opening.

The emblem you see on the side is that of Stormwatch. And it appears every agency in New York wants to get inside. The pod is from the Stormwatch's watch tower and contains…well, allow me to let Grifter tell you.

The Wildstorm universe is one primed to stave off an alien invasion, the very name is synonymous with that event because the terms "Wild" means aliens and "storm" means invasion. Stormwatch is the universe's JLA watchtower, if you will, although it is not focused on Earth as much as extraterrestrial threats.

Our characters here are Cole Cash, code named Grifter, who has the power of being a bad-ass loner who shoots guns and doesn't die. Seriously, someone should explain to me what actual POWER Cole has other than not being killed. Because if that's a power, so far I have it too.

The other character is Adrianna Tereshkova who is host for a powerful entity known as Void. She can teleport and is a limited precog. Also, due to Adrianna absorbing this sphere of power to become Void, she's pretty much not human anymore. And has the emotional range of a toaster oven.

And as Flint debriefs with a group of scientists and government types…

…we see that Grifter and Void are present to hear the news as well. And they appear really interested when Flint mention Daemonites.

Which leads Cole to call in his old associate, Jacob Marlowe, who is actually a Kherubim alien known as Lord Emp. The Kherubim have a centuries old conflict with the Daemonites. Jacob actually formed WildCATs for the express purpose of ridding the world of the Daemonites. The team was made up of mostly aliens and Cole seems a bit miffed that Jacob was not on the up-and-up with the group from the get-go.

With Jacob is Zealot, Cole's old flame and a Kherubim warrior of the highest order. She's a lot older than she looks, by the way. Both of them are shocked by his next pronouncement.

Jacob is about to blow this all off as no big deal…

…so Cole lays it all out for him in detail.

Shows him that lives are at stake even if the war is done. It's a persuasive argument. And Cole isn't a leader. He needs Jacob to assemble the Wildcats again.

And with that, the team is on their way. Into what, they just don't know yet.

After a brief verbal fencing between team leader Spartan, a robot built to kill Daemonites, and Cole, the Wildcats get down to business.

The big guy is Maul, who can increase his size and strength. The caveat being that he trades off intelligence for his super power. In normal human mode, he's the brain of the group. Between him and Spartan, they get a monitor working so they can find out what happened to the station. The security tapes show this…

…and suddenly the mission gets more complicated. How much so, none of these folk have a clue.

The section is narrated by Jackson King and shows that they determined the object to be a craft and detecting no hostiles on it, sent over a shuttle. They lost communication with the shuttle for a bit and then on the return…well, see for yourself:

Love the inset of Maul seeing the image on the viewscreen. It gives the impression that the image of the facehugger just flashed by so quickly that no one could stop the feedback soon enough to see it clearly.

The next frame on the tape they call for Fahrenheit, Stormwatch's pyrotechnic to burn the thing off. Void fills in the gaps through some sharp thinking and Maul finds life signs several decks below.

They use Void to teleport down…

Right into the nest. 

Things quickly get ugly.

And the Wildcats find themselves clearly outmatched. Void gets Alien teeth through the midsection. Maul breaks an Alien in half with his bare hands, with predictable results…

Even Zealot finds her blades are getting mussed. Uh, yeah. They are "slightly" skinned up. From slicing through Alien torsos. Yeah, that's some impressive metal there.

And on that note, would Wolverine's claws??…you know, I'm not gonna ask that because the answer is "Whatever the writer wants to have happen." Case closed.

But this is only a momentary respite for our Wildcats. Jacob informs them they are right beside one of the transporters, however they get there and it is already trashed. The other transporter is on the other wing of the station and in traversing the distance to get to it, they head through the officer's lounge.

What they find is the leftovers from two of Stormwatch's superhero team, both energy beings somehow destroyed. They also find another surprise…

Or two…

Or three?...

I love this, that an Alien gestating in a metahuman/mutant/etc. would absorb that person's powers too. The series does kind of mention that Aliens from various lifeforms tend to look and act more like those lifeforms than ones from other species. Look at the dog-Alien from Alien3. So this is entirely plausible to me.

Just wish that would have happened with Superman Aliens. That would have been something to see.

They make it past the flamethrower Alien, past a hallway full of humans spackled up and chestburst, and almost to the transporter when a new threat arises. The station goes dark for a moment, meaning the Aliens are messing with the reactor.

And with that, I wrote off Grifter and Zealot. Or at least one of them.

As Spartan's group hurries to the teleporter, they come across a locked door.

Another surprise: some of Stormwatch survived. A quick plan is drafted…

…and the group is off. Meanwhile Grifter and Zealot share a quiet moment…

That suddenly is far too loud…

With that we tip-toe over to the other group, where an Alien encounter on the way to transporter pad 2 has left everyone injured. However the pad isn't fully operational.

And with that, Void starts taking down evacuees while Winter and Christine transport to the control room. They find the reactors will fail in 12 hours and the self-destruct non-functional.

As Grifter and Zealot buy precious time, the transports out continue until…

LOVE Grifter's attitude here. He would have right at home with the space marines from Aliens. I have to admit that the more I see Grifter, the more I want to see of Grifter. May have to hit those Wildcats books sooner rather than later.

Jackson King transports to Zealot and Grifter's position and snags them back…

…just as Void reappears ready for her last trip. As Christine is transporting down, she remembers that Winters is still in the control room. Unfortunately it is too late and all she can do is say "no" as the transport engages. 

Grifter trashes the console and Void tries to teleport out. She's very weak though…

…and takes too long. They are discovered by an Alien hunting party…

…barely escaping at the last minute.

But what of Winter?

He powers up Skywatch's engines and flies the station into the sun, sacrificing himself to ensure humanities safety.

Well! That was pretty kick-ass. I mean LOTS of hero on Alien action, significant stakes, realistic deaths and an enjoyable ride. This book makes me WANT to read about all the WildStorm universe, which is exactly the right result. Hopefully some of the live up to what Ellis was able to throw down in this issue.

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