Thursday, June 05, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #22

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

There are two plots running through this issue: one focusing on Grifter, the other on Jack Marlowe. Casey returns to showcasing these two characters as the protagonists of the book, and as foils for one another. Each one's focus in this issue is the opposite of the other's.

In Grifter's plot, we see him continuing his path of self-destruction and wallowing in the past as he gets drunk and picks up platinum blonde women. On the third page, his advances cause a woman to call him disgusting and storm away, and his response is, "AHHH... FERGIT IT... / ...YER HAIR AIN'T WHITE ENOUGH ANYWAY..." It's been pretty explicit so far that he's obsessed with Zealot, who he thinks is dead and is dealing with that pain by having sex with as many who kind of resemble her as possible while embibing as much alcohol as possible.

After that woman leaves, Zealot shows up and Grifter is so gone he doesn't recognise her. He just says things like "...YOU'RE ALL THE SAME... AND NONE OF YOU EVEN COME CLOSE... / YOU DON'T... FEEL THE SAME... TASTE THE SAME... / AIN'T NOTHIN'... LIKE THE REAL THING..." and "NICE HAIR. COLOR... ALMOST PERFECT... COULD BE LONGER, THOUGH..." Really, he's a mess, but Zealot still goes back to a motel with him and they have sex. She endulges in his obsession for unknown reasons. Later that night/morning, the room is stormed by Coda and Grifter finds himself fighting side-by-side with a woman he thought dead. After they've killed all of the Coda, Zealot kisses him and takes off. In future issues, she will insist that Grifter stay away from her--so why did she come to him? Just to let him know she's alive? Because she still cares? Because she wanted some help taking out this Coda cell? We don't get any resolution here.

In Marlowe's story, not much happens. He is continuing his "Otherspace" project and Noir wants in. Void is scheduled to pilot the probe, which Noir does not like--but Marlowe recognises that he cannot be trusted. Marlowe has another job for Noir: use his skills to "REPAIR AND REACTIVATE" Ladytron "ONCE [MARLOWE] DECIDE[S] WHETHER OR NOT [THEY] SHOULD REACTIVATE HER." While Grifter wallows in the past, Marlowe reconsiders elements of it, but only in looking forward. Ladytron, of course, reflects Marlowe as they are both pieces of technology that are also very human (or Kherubim in Marlowe's case).

There's also a brief, one-page scene involving Pris in the hospital that acts to advance her subplot (she sees a Daemonite among the doctors) and to remind us that while Grifter obsesses over his lost love, Marlowe has moved past his. Grifter seeks to recapture what he has loss and Marlowe purposefully ignores it.

At the end of the issue, Captain Pacheco returns and fires a gun at Marlowe. Now, we only see the gun go off and, next issue, we see that Marlowe has a hole in his suit. His action scene has little explicit action, while much of the issue has Grifter and Zealot killing Coda on-panel and very explicitly.

As I've said before, Grifter and Marlowe are foils, each representing two reactions to the end of the WildC.A.T.S. and the war: Grifter lingers in the past, trying to recreate it, comfortable with that life; Marlowe puts it behind him, trying to transcend it, uncomfortable with that life.

What's particularly interesting is that Grifter's plot gets the bulk of the issue, an equal amount of progress is made in his and Marlowe's stories. Page after page of fighting doesn't actually accomplish much in the comic and seems almost out of place. Has Casey included those scenes as a compromise to the genre? I don't think so--at least, not completely. Since Grifter still inhabits that world, the comic must inhabit it as well. Last issue had Grifter fighting Agent Orange and this one has him "teaming up" with Zealot to fight some Coda.

You'll also note that I continue to refer to the character as Grifter rather than Cole Cash most of the time. That's because that is the identity he chooses to adopt most of the time and the one that he's obviously more comfortable with. When he's Cole, he gets drunk, acts like a jackass, and fucks anything with light enough hair; when he's Grifter, he's confident, able, and... well, he seems almost happy. He needs a purpose and killing people is the only purpose he's known for a long time, so it makes perfect sense that that's what he clings to.

And I've prattled on long enough. Next issue: things go wrong for both of our heroes. At the same time. Gee, what a coincidence.