WildC.A.T.s Special (#1) – Steve Gerber

2 out of 5

This is not a good comic book, as in it fails at being an effective combination of words and art. Here, I’d normally separate the two aspects, perhaps praising them individually, but I’m not sure I can do that either: I’m bias toward writer Steve Gerber, so factor that into my consideration that I think the script holds up, but Travis Charest’s artwork, as inked by a team of five across 40 pages, has the big, brawly 90s Image sheen, but is rather incoherent beyond pinup status, with conversations – since Steve actually scripted those – rendered beatless, areas of focus constantly off-panel, and even the splash of action Charest should’ve / could’ve dug into mostly falling flat. Perhaps since I’m not a WildC.A.T.s reader, or a particular fan of this era / type of art affects my judgments further, since some scattered internet reviews I could find liked this issue well enough, but I found it to be a very poor showing.

Apparently taking place in a lull between when WC was a limited series and it became an ongoing, “Special” tells a tale in which C.A.T.s’ mystic-type, Void, pre-senses a calamity: she informs her teammates that a Daemonite is going to be taking a new host body with particular powers, something that all the WC’s agree is not a good thing. I have no context on Daemonites, but they’re built up effectively enough in the narrative to understand the task: stop such a possession from occurring. Preceding this scene, we do see the Daemonite slashing its way from host to host in search of something more durable – presumably this powered type – and is then being guided to that goal by some other mystic being called Providence. While the first few pages covering this stuff still has some art / script disconnects, it’s a compelling setup, told with Steve’s effective voiceover style, very flourished, and paced cinematically by Charest. Once we pass out of this prelude, though, it’s a mess.

My bias intact, I think Steve does a good job of actually giving the team personality, or at least the few (Grifter, Voodoo, Lord Emp, Void) who have major speaking roles; in the scattered 90s Image books I’ve read, this is not the case – most characters are interchangeable one-liners or dramaturgy. And the script’s pacing makes sense: send Grifter and Voodoo in as undercovers to a war-torn country in which they suspect the Daemonite to appear, engage in some banter therein, and build-up to a showdown; lay this text on top of some of Steve’s more straightforward Marvel hero stuff from back in the day and it could line-up – it’s not phoned in.

But dat art… sheesh. My impression here, understanding that this was Travis’ first Image book, and only the second year of his professional career, is that the artist went with the presumption that Image was a visuals-first company – I’d note that Gerber’s name does not appear on the cover, only that of Charest and main inker Scott Williams – and after getting bored with the pacing of the initial few pages, decided to ignore any script guidance thereafter (allowing that it existed, of course), and just position his characters in cool poses, and let the letterer figure it out. This result in what was mentioned above: people are often talking in ways that don’t feel like they line up with how they’re emoting / lain out on the page, and / or they’ll be referring to things that aren’t even in view, and aren’t established in panels before or after. Perhaps inexperience further limited Travis’ work on the action, which is also oddly left mostly off-panel, and must’ve attributed to the near 100% lack of backgrounds: Voodoo’s / Grifter’s undercover operation is pretty unconvincing when the area into which they’re sneaked contains exactly one building.

To me, a non-Image fan, non-WC reader, this was a churn, made almost worse because it felt like the script held promise that the art then couldn’t deliver.