I’ve read comics as long as I can remember and during that time have only ever written to one. And, to my older self’s chagrin, it was printed. Printed in the pages of WildC.A.T.S. #14. I grew up loving Spider-Man, the X-Men, Captain America, and Batman, but the only comic I ever wrote to as a youngster was WildC.A.T.S. Why? Because I loved Wildstorm comics. The early 90’s were an amazing time for comic artists. Rob Liefeld, Marc Sylvestri, and Jim Lee we’re all X-artists whose titles were shipping millions of issues a month and they were literally the kings of the comic world. And then, all at the same time, they left Marvel.
Two of the artists that had drawn the most amazing X-comics I had ever read, and, I admit it, I loved Liefeld’s New Mutants too, suddenly packed up and left Marvel for the newly formed artist collective, Image Comics. I call it an artist collective because there was a serious shortage of writers at the time. Revisit any of the first Image offerings, WildCATS, Youngblood, Cyberforce etc and you’ll see what I mean.
I was a fan of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn and Silvesri’s Cyberforce but it was Jim Lee’s WildCATS and later his Wildstorm imprint that really pulled me in. Keep in mind this was well before Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, or even Joe Casey was writing for Wildstorm. Nope, I fell in love with the Scott Williams, Jim Lee WildCATS. And when Stormwatch showed up, I was one of the first in line to pick it up. I loved Wildstorm. Alan Moore’s run on WildCATS was amazing, I hold Warren Ellis’ Change or Die storyline from his Stormwatch run in the same regard as Watchmen, and I might love Mr Majestic as much as I love Superman. That shit is real.
There was a time, shortly after Warren Ellis introduced the idea of the “Bleed” (the area between universes that separates the DCU from the Wildstorm U and the rest of the multiverse), that I begged for Wildstorm to merge with the DCU. Well, with the relaunch of the new DCU, I got my wish. And let me tell you, it kills me to see what the Wildstorm Universe has become now that it’s been hammered into the new DCU continuity.
Currently Grifter, Stormwatch, and Team 7 are the only Wildstorm titles that have their own series (Voodoo from WildCATS had a great series that was recently canceled), but there are several Wildstorm U characters running around the New DCU. Fairchild from Gen 13 stars in the completely forgettable and soon to be canceled Ravagers along side a new Warblade that looks like he was designed by a drunk Simon Bisley in less than 10 seconds. Zealot from WildCATS made a brief appearance in the new – and also completely forgettable – Deathstroke series, but outside of the aforementioned titles and a guest spot here-and-there, I can see no reason whatsoever why these characters are needed or what they add to this new DCU continuity.
Outside of taking the Martian Manhunter, one of my favorite members of the Justice League, out of the JLA and making him a member of Stormwatch, a move that still makes no sense to me at all, the Wildstorm characters in the new DCU seem to have no connection to this relaunched world whatsoever.
In fact, I defy you to point out one part of the Wildstorm U that has become integral to this new DCU continuity. Even the new Team 7 title, which is written by Justin Jordan (The Strange Talent of Luthor Strode), who I really like, and which is supposed to be the team behind the secret history of the DCU, has been largely gutted of it’s original Wildstorm members in favor of Deathstroke (which doesn’t even jibe with his brand new origin), young Black Canary (Dinah Lance), skinny Amanda Waller (don’t get me started), and Steve Trevor.
Team 7 was one of the most interesting and well developed titles of the old Wildstorm U. Writer Chuck Dixon came into an arguably poorly fleshed out Universe (remind you of any other newly relaunched universe?) and gave us a well-written and thought out story of seven characters integral to the WIldstorm U, connected to almost every title therein, and gave readers a sense of history where there once was none. Not to mention, he did it without a Gi-Joe-if-they-were-super-heroes vibe.
Which just happens to be my main complaint about the new Team 7. Not only does the comic feel like Blackhawks Take 2 (again, Super-GI-Joes), but now we’ve got yet another group of of snarky mercs, assembled by yet another government agency for unclear reasons, to carry out CARRRRAZY black-ops that will build the foundation of the new DCU…until that continuity is rendered moot by another writer or editor in another title (see Deathstroke for a perfect example). Isn’t this same story playing itself out in the pages of Suicide Squad now and was played out in the pages of Blackhawks before it’s cancellation? Do we need this? And just look at them. Now look at Aaron Wiesenfield’s cover for Team 7 #1 (wildstorm,1994). Is this an improvement? I say no. And what the hell are those guns the new team is carrying? And what’s with the generic grey body armor everyone that isn’t a super-hero seems to wear in the new DCU? And who thinks this is going to succeed? I’m calling my shot right now; TEAM 7 GETS CANCELLED IN LESS THAN 12 ISSUES! Boosh!
To be fair, I’m not blaming Justin Jordan. He’s a perfectly talented writer collecting a paycheck, and I’m guessing he’s under a very heavy editorial hand. Here’s my question: why Wildstorm and why now? And while I’m asking: why this way? Cramming these characters into a new and already confusing DCU for the sake of doing it, using this “they’ve always been here” technique that requires no extra effort or writing, is lazy. I would argue this laziness shows everywhere we’ve seen these characters.
There’s plenty of ways this could of been done. Maybe Checkmate and Star Labs built a bridge to the Wildstorm U (think Fringe) right before Flashpoint and a few of the Wildstorm characters slipped through trying to escape their own universe’s doom. Or maybe they are just here in the regular DCU and Mr Majestic is the Kherubim member of the Legion of Superheroes and Grifter, Backlash, and Deathblow are all humans working for Checkmate to fight for humanity in the face of the new super-powered threats emerging. Maybe characters from the Authority don’t work so well in the DCU because Apollo and the Midnighter are direct metaphors for Superman and Batman. If the DCU needs gay characters (like Apollo and the Midnighter), then make someone gay. Reintroducing a slightly meaner version of Supes and Bats who are dating and wear spikes on their chins isn’t working. There are so many better ways this could have been handled other than pushing the DCU under the covers and farting the Wildstorm U into it’s face.
This isn’t the way I wanted to see the Wildstorm U represented in the DCU, and the more I think about it, the more I think they just don’t work there. I’m asking DC to stop, please. You haven’t resurrected anything in bringing Wildstorm back. You’ve dug up a corpse and tried to make it dance Weekend-At-Bernie’s-style to see if anyone still cared. Well I do care and this passive-aggressive attempt at incorporation without any ramifications sucks. Shame on you, Jim Lee. You were the EiC of Wildstorm and the chief creative force there for years. How did you let this happen?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go re-read Joe Casey’s WildCATS 3.0 and pout.
Matt Baum is the co-host and producer of the Two-Headed Nerd Comicast. He is short and has a big mouth.