Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #18

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's Wildcats run. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

The penultimate chapter of "Serial Boxes" is a nice mixture of quiet and action. It begins with Agents Wax and Mohr, where he learn how Mohr came to work for the National Park Service: an ex-girlfriend had superpowers and went crazy, and he "neutralized" her. Casey sets up these guys are experts in taking down superpeople, causing us to wonder: who will get Sam Smith first, them or Marlowe and Grifter?

Speaking of which, those two plan a way to kill Smith when he arrives in LA to confront/kill Marlowe. A contained "public appearance" is Marlowe's plan. They want to keep the entire thing quiet, but Maxine Manchester eavesdrops...

We get another postcard page with Smith writing a letter to his dead grandpa. Noir and Jeremy are in Miami, and they learn of a lecture Marlowe is giving at UCLA, which Smith also sees on the news. These scenes actually do little beyond keep us in touch with the characters.

The most important scene of the book, really, is a two-page discussion between Marlowe and Grifter. Grifter confronts Marlowe on his motivation for wanting Smith dead--he wants Marlowe to admit he wants revenge, to put Smith down because of what he did to Pris and Jeremy. And Marlowe says this. Again, Casey gives us a small moment demonstrating that Marlowe is not a typical android. As well, that these two characters are not so different, really. They are the heads of the Wildcats "family," forever together and, when things get rough, they are united. They are foils for one another.

The rest of the issue focuses on Maxine's attempts to find Smith first and kill him herself. She eventually finds him--thankfully because he's arrogant enough to register under his actual name (but not before breaking in on several other Samuel Smiths). In the ensuing fight, Smith burns her alive with his eyes. We last see her being hit with his fire vision before Marlowe has Void teleport her back to the Halo building... where she's completely on fire. After she's put out, it's clear that she's dead.

Again, one of the women in the book is mutilated... and, this time, killed by Smith. This one has its own disturbing subtext: Maxine dies because she takes the initiative to kill Smith herself instead of leaving it to the alpha males of the group. Pris's mutilation was because she was sexually independent, Maxine's because she is active and... okay, psychotic in her desire to kill sometimes. Not sure Casey intended these readings of what happens, but it's also pretty blatant.

Next issue, Smith dies.