Saturday, June 14, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #26

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

In a supermarket, Pris runs into an old man who knows all about her. Thus, that subplot gets a little bit more advanced in preparation for the final two issues of this series.

The rest of the issue has Noir's power play to take control of Halo by killing Jack Marlowe and Grifter. What's remarkable is how utterly conventional most of this issue is. Noir is the classic Bond villain: he sics a rebuilt Ladytron on Marlowe, one made giant and programmed to kill without question, while his flunkies take on Grifter... all the while, Noir gloats over his genius. As Ladytron beats on Marlowe, Noir could easily move forward with his plan, but he stops and says, "...I THINK I'LL TELL YOU WHAT I'M GOING TO DO. / I LOVE YOU THAT MUCH..." He is a relic of the past. His insistence on playing his part allows Marlowe to triumph. Noir, despite all of his bluster, is just a stock villain.

His plan is to use Otherspace to fuel Halo batteries that will never run out of power. His goal is the acquisition of money, like most good villains. He also wants power, which is why instead of simply telling his idea to Marlowe and being content with a high-paying job, he needs to eliminate Marlowe. Of course, upon revealing his plan, Marlowe uses his new Void powers to neuter Ladytron by teleporting away her various limbs. Noir, for all his bragging over his "genius," is caught unaware.

Meanwhile, Grifter killed the three French brothers. Because that's what Grifter does. Noir was doomed to fail because he attacked two men who are perfectly suited to repel such an attack: a man of violence who knows nothing but killing, and a man beyond violence who thinks on an entirely different plane.

When all of this fails, Noir tries to defeat the two through psychological violence, playing to Grifter's masculinity and homophobia, and Marlowe's "daddy issues." However, this fails, too, because the two simply ignore what he says. It's just talk, after all. In the end, Marlowe gives Noir what he wants: a trip to Otherspace... but without any protection.

The issue ends with Marlowe holding up a battery much like Noir did at the end of issue 24, but instead of a look of smug confidence, his eye (the other covered by shadow) filled with wonder and hope. Noir's plan may have been misguided, motivated by greed, but that doesn't mean that he was wrong. Marlowe is enough of a progressive thinker to not simply discount what Noir said because he was a villain. His has moved beyond the empty binaries of "good" and "evil," preferring a nuanced world where such abstracts are meaningless.

The synthesis of Noir's innovation and Marlowe's altruism lays the foundation for Version 3.0.

There's also a key line that ties this into Casey's theme of family. At the end, Grifter says, ">SIGH< / ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. CAN'T SAY I'LL SHED A TEAR OVER THIS ONE," telling the audience that Noir was a member of the family, but not a true one. Unlike the other former WildC.A.T.S., Noir came aboard in volume two, making him a newbie, not a full member of the family--as his actions here prove, too. However, he was one of them. He was a Wildcat and, even then, he deserves some messure of respect and compassion... hence Marlowe's punishment: Noir gets what he wants, just not how he wants it. Maybe that's the cruel way to do things, but it's also fitting.

Two more issues of volume two left.