Saturday, June 21, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats Version 3.01

[Beginning my look at Joe Casey's Wildcats Version 3.0. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Since the covers of nearly every issue of Wildcats Version 3.0 is fantastic looking, I'll be including them with my analysis--really, Dustin Nguyen and Rian Hughes do some fantastic work on this series. Actually, I should have been doing that for every book I've discussed, but let's ignore that, shall we?

So, we're here at the big relaunch of Wildcats after half a dozen issues of build-up and lead-in. The future is now they say.

For the first twelve issues, I'm using the two trades, Brand Building and Full Disclosure, and in both, they begin with a page of text discussing the concept of consumerism since that's a big part of this book. In the first trade, Casey (it doesn't say who wrote the text pieces, but I'm assuming Casey since it has his style) talks about how the book was focus grouped. Now, I don't know how true that is (I remember him saying that in interviews, too), but it raises an interesting point about the comic: it lasted 24 issues plus a tie-in issue... not exactly a rousing success on the sales chart, eh? A commentary on the difference between the "real world" and the comic industry, or a commentary on focus groups?


A lot happens in this first issue as Casey puts his pieces in play. We have Grifter in Vietnam taking down a sweatshop for Halo. We have Jack Marlowe exploring Otherspace and taking meetings about media sturation and "growing the Halo brand." He buys out all of the media consulting companies as well as an accounting firm where Dolby and Garfield work. Marlowe is a lateral thinker and does not adhere to standard business practices: if he needs something, he simply buys it.

Grifter's role is slightly altered from when last we saw him, but it isn't far off. We first see him at a party and handing out a business card that says he's a manufacturing scout for Halo. When next we see him, he's naked and just killed a woman who was trying to kill him. All he says is "JEEZUS... / ...REAL MATURE," which is Casey's sense of humour cropping up: the requisite violence as a part of the immaturity of the genre, in a way. Also, this is the first "mature readers" issue of his run, so a naked Grifter killing a naked woman by shooting her through a window finally happens on panel with all of the naughty bits (well, almost, since guy nudity is still a no-no) on display.

Agent Wax rejoins the National Park Service, but not as a field agent yet. He gets in trouble for delivering documents in person that could have been sent via e-mail. This begins his little feud with Downs, his boss. Wax has a rebellious spirit.

There's a rogue FBI agent that brings CC Rendozzo (from Wildcats #2) back into the fold.

Wax and Grifter have a nice little moment in a bar, showing that they are Marlowe's trusted lieutenants--but also that they don't get along either. We have three men who are all working together (or, rather, two are employees while the other is the employer) and none get along. Lovely dynamic.

The issue ends with a commercial for Halo batteries that supposedly last forever. The commercial is interesting as it includes the first appearance of Babytron: a little flying baby that looks like Ladytron. A now-dead (or, "inert") psycho turned into a cute corporate logo... genius.

The most important part of this issue is Marlowe's speech about brand building and his attempt to saturate the market with Halo, because if he wants to change the world, he needs the trust of humanity. He needs them to not just buy Halo products, but to love Halo. He recognises that corporate power is the only true power of the 21st-century and is what is needed to make things better. Hell, he puts batteries that last forever on the market... can you think of any corporation in real life that would do such a thing? In a world where I'm still convinced they make products to last only so long purposely... something that lasts forever and will never need to be replaced is insane. Only a superhero would do such a thing.

The thing here is that a corporate superhero is nothing new. Batman, Iron Man, (Arch)Angel... all owners of huge corporations, but what do they do to make the world a better place, really? Jack Marlowe's costume is his silver suit and his biggest tool is Halo.

Next issue, we'll learn just how powerful corporations are and why having one determined to do good is worth more than a hundred superheroes.