Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats Annual 2000

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Wildcats, which you just know made my top ten runs of all time... but what spot? Hmm? New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Okay, this issue actually takes place... well, I don't know when it takes place exactly. It doesn't take place before Serial Boxes, but it also doesn't really take place during that storyline. I'm sticking it here, because it makes a bit of sense to happen between storylines.

This annual was part of a month of Wildstorm annuals called "Devil's Night" where some big bad guy raised the dead or some such shit. Four annuals were involved--the first and the last were written by Ben Raab and actually dealt with that plot directly. The middle two were written by Joe Casey and really just use the "raising the dead" shit to tell a couple of solid stories. In the other annual, for The Authority, the team fights against the black ops Stormwatch squad that Midnighter and Apollo were created for. Here, Casey continues to explore his pet themes of family, what to do when the war ends, and post-superhero comics. Also, it has fantastic art by Lee Bermejo, who doesn't seem to draw the insides of comics anymore--which is a damn shame.

In this issue, Max Cash returns from the grave and haunts his brother's life. We open with Cole waking up and there's Max... and then he's gone. The rest of the issue meanders around this resurrection as Cole is disturbed by it--as is Ladytron, who we'll remember had a thing for Max back during Alan Moore's run on WildC.A.T.S. Last we saw her, she was in LA, but, in this issue, Jack Marlowe has Void transport her back to New York.

Cole is the true focus of this issue as he has his dead brother on one hand and Reno Bryce, the superhero formerly known as Warblade on the other. These are the two possibilities for Cole: death or retirement. He knows this and retirement would be so easy, because the war he fought is long over, but he can't give up on it. As he says at the very end of the issue: "SOME OF US CAN'T ESCAPE WHAT WE ARE... / ...AND ALL THE THINGS WE HAVE TO LIVE WITH BECAUSE OF IT. / BIG DEAL." Just prior to this, he tells Reno to stay retired, because he's managed to escape this life, while Cole never will--by choice.

Reno Bryce is an interesting character in this issue as he represents the post-superhero, post-war element of the book best as he lives a normal life. In one scene, he actually uses his powers to end a barfight, but we don't see it happen. The entire fight happens off-screen, because it's not important... it's really just an old memory invading the present, a reminder of what he once was, and seeing that would undermine the progress he's made. Casey needs to tease the reader with the possibility of action to remind the reader that that's no longer the life led by this character... or, for the most part, any of these characters.

Marlowe and Void play a small role in this issue, but act as the reminder of the family unit these characters have created. This idea of family will be big in Serial Boxes. As well, the real family in this book, the Cash brothers, is one of dysfunction where Cole ends up having to utterly destroy his brother's body at the end by firing two guns at it at point blank range. Casey's work is often filled with a distrust of biological families and a favouring of created families, of groups of people who choose to be with one another rather than thrown together through the random chance of biology.

On Thursday, I will look at Ladytron.