Thursday, May 29, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #19

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

In the conclusion of "Serial Boxes," Casey returns to one of his most consistent "tricks": the anti-climax. Throughout his career, he often sets up a grand confrontation in traditional superhero terms, but then undermines it through a resolution that involves no physical confrontation. Here, he doesn't go that far--he provides some action, but only in the most technical sense.

Jack Marlowe and Grifter have set a trap for Sam Smith--a public speaking engagement at UCLA. Except, Marlowe has used his considerable resources to close down the entire campus, so there's no chance of any innocent people getting hurt. This is important as it goes against two superhero tropes: normally, the villain sets the trap for the hero; and, normally, fights are public with innocent lives in danger. Marlowe is not limited by this sort of thinking as he is a post-superhero (I don't like the term that much either, but it's the best I've got).

Unfortunately, Agents Wax and Mohr hide on campus, hoping to arrest Smith. They confront him when he comes on campus. He kills Mohr and injures Wax.

In the auditorium, Smith and Marlowe face down one another with Smith starting things off by using his fire vision on Marlowe--which does nothing except burn away Marlowe's clothes, skin and hair, leaving the humanoid android body unharmed. The last time we saw Marlowe in this form was issue ten when the energy from Emp's death left him looking very much the same. Then, he told Grifter not to look at him--here, he simply says to Smith, "WELL MET. / PRAY YOU HAVE MORE TO GIVE."

Smith sees this as a confrontation between good and evil in a typical superhero manner: the final showdown between two families, one of heroes, one of villains--and he's loving it. But, Marlowe ends it with two words: "TAKE HIM." Then, Grifter shoots Smith in the back of the head. We--and Smith--get only the most basic of superhero/supervillain confrontations before it is over.

After, Marlowe and Grifter have the following exchange:





Grifter, still trapped within the older way of thinking, one of traditional heroes and villains, finds satisfaction in the confrontation as he performs his role per usual--but Marlowe finds no satisfaction, much like the reader. There is no feeling of triumph here, because this was not an epic fight between good and evil--it was just putting down a mad dog that had to be put down. You do not feel good about it, you do not celebrate. The two simply teleport away, leaving Smith's body to the National Park Service.

The issue ends with Void telling Marlowe that she's left Grifter in Miami and asking if he will want to return to Miami as well. Marlowe responds, "NO. / MY PLACE IS HERE AT HALO. / THE PAST IS A THING TO BE BURIED. AN IRRELEVANT CONCEPT. DESTINY IS WHAT PUSHES US FORWARD. / THE FUTURE AWAITS." Marlowe recognises that he has moved beyond his former comrades. He will always have a connection to them as they are his family, but he has also outgrown them in many ways. From this point forward, Marlowe will pursue his path and, at best, bring them with him, force them to grow to his level--he will do his best to avoid stooping to theirs again, as he was forced to here.

"Serial Boxes" is a story about burying the past, of moving beyond former limitations. It will spur growth in Pris and Maxine--even Grifter. In killing the grandson of his "uncle/father's" enemy, Marlowe concludes the superhero chapter of his life.

Of course, Casey follows this up with two issues of Grifter and Maul versus the CIA. Hoo-ha.