Saturday, July 12, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats Version 3.10

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

Two things: 1) Yes, I know, referring to this issue as "Wildcats Version 3.10" is not entirely correct as, really, it should be "Wildcats Version 3.1" since that zero after the one is implied mathematically. But, you know, screw it, it's issue ten. 2) Notice how this issue's cover alludes to issue eight's cover, which featured a beaten, bruised and bandaged Dolby. Here, he's the new Grifter, complete with his blue mask.

Before I get into it, I want to discuss the blue mask briefly. Why blue? My first thought is to Lou Reed's album The Blue Mask, which is a fantastic album and the title song is a violent, dark song. I know Casey is a Lou Reed fan from the various references that pepper his comics... and that Casey is very music savvy and anyone who's music savvy is bound to like Lou Reed (yeah, I said it). I don't think that's actually connected with the colour choice much, if at all, but it's what occurred to me right off the bat. As I can see it, there are two reasons: 1) Blue is closer to black than red and since Dolby is on a covert mission, a mask that blends into darkness well is a must. Part of the reason why Cole Cash used red is because it's cool looking, it tells people that this is Grifter and you do not fuck with Grifter. Just like how, in last issue, Cash taught Dolby how to hold a gun in a cool way and banter well, the mask was a means of intimidation and avoiding violence, in its own way. It's Cole Cash's brand, his colours, his calling card. Dolby is not there to intimidate or impress, he's raiding a secret FBI base and what matters is secrecy since these guys won't scare easily. Also, red is Cash's colour, it's his brand, and Dolby may be the new Grifter, but he's not Cole Cash. 2) Blue is a colder colour, less violent, less harsh, less related to blood. Dolby is a less violent Grifter, one more passive, unwilling to kill (as we'll see). Blue is his colour, because he's not as good as Cash or as willing to hurt.

Now that I've talked around the issue, let's jump in to "New Grifter's Night Out"...

Unlike other action-filled issues, this one actually contains a lot of character moments. First, we have Cash running the show via infrared monitors and microphones. This is something he'll get used to--being sidelined and stuck running the show from the Halo Building. He obviously finds this frustrating, particularly when Dolby uses a tranq gun on the FBI agents he encounters instead of killing them. He freaks out so much that he considers aborting the entire mission, but Wax talks him down: "I WOULDN'T. / AND I DON'T THINK YOU SHOULD GET SO WORKED UP THAT HE'S CHOSEN NOT TO SPILL BLOOD. SAYS MORE ABOUT YOU THAN IT DOES HIM. ACTUALLY, IT'S PRETTY SENSIBLE, IF YOU ASK ME. / YOU KILL A FED ON THEIR OWN TURF, YOU'RE ASKING FOR ALL KINDS OF HELL." Cash is pissed off, partly because he's not in true control of the situation and that his protege is exercising independent thought, but also because he knows that Dolby and Wax are right. It never occurred to him that not killing was an option.

Dolby's decision to get a tranq gun is an obvious display of independence--he's the new Grifter in the same way that these are the new Wildcats: mindless violence is a thing of the past, intelligence is the real weapon here. He seems to get the idea from Jack Marlowe who reminds him that his real job is advising him, not being the new Grifter. Dolby shows reluctance to do Cash's job and Marlowe sympathises (as best he can), "UNLIKE GRIFTER, I DO NOT CONDONE THE INDISCRIMINATE TAKING OF HUMAN LIFE. MY NATURE IS TO PROTECT. / I HOPE YOU CAN FIND A WAY TO RECONCILE THE DEMANDS BEING PLACED UPON YOU. / I'M QUITE CERTAIN YOU'LL FIND A CREATIVE SOLUTION TO YOUR MORAL DILEMMA." After which, Dolby buys the tranq gun, because he is not the new Cole Cash, he is Jack Marlowe's Grifter and falls into that line. Where Cash was Grifter for Emp and followed that lead, Dolby follows Marlowe's lead.

The climax of the issue comes when Dolby is confronted by Special Agent Tyro after they've taken the child, Donovan. The Beef Boys leave with the kid and Dolby is left alone. Tyro, understandably upset, attacks him and Dolby finds his tranq gun empty--and he uses a real gun, shooting Tyro in the face, injuring him gravely. Dolby is so shook up that he just stands there and takes off his mask and is saved by Marlowe teleporting him out just before being shot by agents.

The removal of the mask is important as Dolby rejects his role as the new Grifter. He shoots a man in the face and realises that he can't do it. He's not cut out for a life of violence--Cash was wrong. He has to deal with what happened as Dolby, not Grifter. More interesting is, earlier in the issue, he mistakenly uses a regular grenade instead of a flash one and it doesn't phase him. The impersonal taking of lives using an explosive doesn't affect him like shooting a man right in front of him does. A subtle statement by Casey on the nature of violence and war--subtle because attention isn't drawn there.

At the end of the issue, in Marlowe's office, Marlowe tries to apologise for what happened and Dolby simply says, "I QUIT."

Next issue: Garfield kills a guy in a case of road rage.