I picked up four volumes of WildCats, 2.0 I guess, a few months ago, mostly because I was curious to see how it lead into version 3.0, the two trades of which I purchased when DC released them over the last couple years. Mostly, it's made me want to go back and reread version 3.0, now that I better understand how things got to that point, but I did have some other thoughts.
- The first volume does lay out the basic idea very well. All these various people were brought together to help fight this war against the Daemonites that's been raging across the universe for ages. Except they'd recently found out the war's been over for some time, and the powers that be simply took their sweet time tracking down all the remaining pockets of fighting to let them know. So the team members are trying to decide what to do next. And the answers are pretty varied. Grifter reverts back to old habits, Zealot decides it's a good time to clear up some loose ends, Voodoo doesn't really have anything to do, which makes her a bit more obviously adrift than some of the others, but she also seems more comfortable with her life than the rest.
- Spartan gets the most interesting task, being left an entire corporation to run as he sees fit, with only the basic idea to use it to help humanity. It's interesting to see him saddled with this, since I feel like he's the only member of the team that never really had a choice about fighting. The others were drafted, but he was literally built to fight Daemonite. So what does the android do when his purpose is no longer necessary? And while he clearly believes in the idea of using Halo to improve the world, I'm not sure he has any clue how to do so. It's something entirely outside his realm of experience, so we don't see him do anything with Halo. Most of what he does involves trying to help old teammates, or in one case, helping a cop try and get some new drugs off the streets. But he does that with superpowers, not business acumen. Joe Casey did something similar in his last storyline for Uncanny X-Men, except Archangel did use his money, rather than superpowers. I don't know if that's a case of Casey refining his approach by the time he got to Uncanny, or if he was just trying to underscore the limitations Spartan's dealing with.
- Which is where Noir, a weapons merchant, comes in. Lobdell introduces him in the first volume, as part of a fake weapons buy Spartan's holding. He winds up being hired to be the computer guy, but it's his ambition that sets things in motion for what happens in version 3.0. Because his goals are more mundane (money, power), he can see paths to exploit Spartan (as Jack Marlowe), with his loftier, more ambiguous goals, can't. Those plans are still limited in scope in Noir's hands, because his goals are limited, but he still provides a starting point no one else could.
- It's a nice touch that as Noir berates Spartan and Grifter for being so lacking in vision, he doesn't see that he's fallen into some old super-villain cliche. The double-cross, the big speech about his scheme, it's old-school Bond villainy. I mean, death traps, idiot minions, not just killing the hero at the first opportunity? He prattles on, never realizing Spartan's letting him reveal his whole scheme, or suspecting that Grifter might be more resilient than he thinks. For all that Noir thinks they're locked in their ways, he ends up like most villains, his ego being his downfall.
- The conspicuous absence of Warblade. He shows up in a flashback story, and one character even comments on his absence, but other than that, he never shows up. He even gets cut out of a picture Dr. Stone has of the old team (well, you can see part of his arm, but otherwise he's out of the picture). I don't know if that's because someone else was planning to use him, or neither writer, first Lobdell and then Casey, had any plans for him. Maybe he adjusted better than the others, walked away with no regrets. Who knows.
- The team as a whole is highly unconcerned with civilian casualties. When Jacob Marlowe (team founder) is trying to draw out an old mistake of his named Kenyan, he basically lets the guy slaughter a casino full of people. Prior to that, he didn't do much to rein in Grifter when he was firing into a crowd of people at Kenyan or beating up cops who tried to arrest him. When Slaughterhouse Smith the 2nd goes on a rampage, there doesn't seem to be much concern for the dozens of women he killed just for having the last name "Marlowe". Heck, even when Maxine Manchester gets torched trying to take Smith down (he shoots fire out of his eyes), neither Spartan nor Grifter seem terribly concerned. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Grifter's a merc, and kind of an asshole. Spartan's an android who says he can't feel, and they both tried to keep her out of it, but still.
- I'm not sure whether I buy that bit about Spartan not being able to feel. At times, I can buy it. When he says he isn't sure whether he'll have Maxine repaired (she's a cyborg, heavily machine), well, it seems callous, but from a non-emotional standpoint, Maxine is kind of nuts. She was an anarchist in that looney tunes, burn everything sense, and giving her a robot body with machine guns and stuff is asking for trouble. At the same time, he said he wanted to exterminate Smith for what he did to Voodoo, which suggests he's feeling something (they used to be an item, apparently). And he's capable of surprise, because he was definitely stunned when Grifter told him Zealot was alive. He seemed angry when he saw that car chase on TV, angry enough to teleport out and stop it in broad daylight. Maybe that was a concession to fans wanting more action, and so Casey went with it so he could make Spartan deal with the fallout? I don't know.
- Travis Charest drew the first few issues, before it switched largely over to Sean Phillips (with a couple of issues drawn by Steve Dillon and Bryan Hitch in there). I prefer Charest's design sense to Phillips'. Charest's Kenyan seems more creepy and other worldly (the wide-brimmed hat with pupiless eyes peeking out from underneath helps), while Phillips' just looks like a guy in a suit with a gun. At the same time, some of Charest's page layouts were a bit confusing. He maybe ditches the panel borders a bit too much. Phillips doesn't go that route, so it's at least easy to tell what order things are happening in. Phillips does do some good, moody work. There's a bit in Spartan's confrontation with Slaughterhouse that evoked a real Darkseid vibe, which was very effective. Very spooky too. 'Pray that you have more to give.' Yikes.