When the world ends, the real heroes stand up
After the shattering conclusion of NUMBER OF THE BEAST, a jaw-dropping new status quo will be established in the WildStorm Universe - and it begins now! Christos Gage (WILDSTORM: ARMAGEDDON, THE AUTHORITY: PRIME) and Neil Googe (WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY, MAJESTIC) bring a unique new vision to the classic Wildcats team, reuniting the classic team with some surprising new members. Also, a new monthly backup story begins, kicked off with the return of John Lynch by Gage and X-Men: Deadly Genesis artist Trevor Hairsine!
When the original Wildcats book launched back in 1992, like most comic book fans I checked it out to see what Jim Lee was going to bring to the table after leaving Marvel and the X-Men to create his own works. I managed to get through a couple of issues before I dropped it, and most Image books at the time, and moved on to other things. It was all pretty familiar and felt like they weren't taking any serious risks. With my recent iPad purchase, I started to check out what free books were available and I saw that Wildstorm had a number of previews out there and some cheap single issues. In reading the Wildstorm Universe #0, I found myself intrigued by the mention of the World's End storyline in that everything was broken down and in ruins in that universe after some events changed everything. That's a phrase that's tossed around a lot, but a lot of my favorite movies, novels and anime take place after global destruction. That idea has seen its use in various stories over the years across numerous publishers, but invariably they reset things at some point so that everything is nice and fine again. But I wanted to take a chance and with the affordable price of a buck a book for the first couple through the service, it certainly made it a good choice to try out.
The book does a good job of giving the reader a clue about what happened before, which I haven't read, while not giving away too many details so that it makes you want to go and read it for the full story. The world is in tough shape at this stage with cities in ruins, the countryside laid to waste and mankind struggling to survive. Humanity does adapt to its conditions the best that it can so we see them eking out an existence in some pretty stark locations and in the middle of ruins, such as Los Angeles which is covered in snow as the builidings fall apart. And in that area, those who have power use it to survive. With the post-humans there, many are using that to hunt down your regular humans and treat them as little better than cattle, food to be harvested and had where there's little else to eat. We see one such hunt going on by a few post-humans before it's interrupted by the arrival of Grifter, Zealot and Maxine.
It's a fairly decent battle, though not without the banter that's been part and parcel of superheroing for decades and even has a role after the world ends, and it doesn't take too long for the "good guys" to take down the hunters. Humanity is definitely wary though and it's hard to believe that there are good post-humans out there, but any chance for real food and help is worth checking out when you're on the edge of death. Grifter and his group run some sort of operation out of their Halo headquarters where they have some form of energy available there that's not anywhere else, making them a bastion of civilization in a ruined world. There are hints of trouble to be found in this place, and distrust of the post-humans in general even if they are helping, but it's an oasis of calm and help even if temporary for the people that they've rescued.
There's a good bit of back story that's drawn out once they're there and we get a clue as to who has survived (not that I recognize many if any of them after being away for eighteen years) and we get to see some of the tensions that exist within the group. The layout and structure of it all feels pretty loose but it's enjoyable enough to see how they're keeping alive and trying to do some good. Where it goes slightly off the rails is that it still feels like it's playing by the old rules of superheroes rather than dealing with a real end of the world as Majestic has returned and he's seemingly playing the role of a villain now. It devolves into straight action instead of something not involving fisticuffs and that left me wondering if they're going to be able to do a story in this kind of setting without feeling like it's more of the same but with different background artwork.
The backup story in the book did prove to be pretty good though as the first chapter of "Lynch: One Last Thing" begins. As the world ends, the Black Towers are going down all over the world as chaos ensues and we see how it plays out in Virgina as Lynch and agent Gregson try to stave it off, at least until Gregson's ulterior orders override his and she sends him out through a teleporter so he can get to a safe house rather than fall with the Towers. Not realizing how bad off the world is, he's pretty shocked when he does see it and goes into the mindset that the rules no longer apply, so he's off to do something that he's likely wanted to do for some time by killing someone named Tao. With this being a story arc revolving around the normals, it's a good way to see how a military style man will cope with the end of the world where he has no abilities.
The first installment of the fifth volume of Wildcats has a pretty good look about it though Googe's art doesn't stand out strongly to me, whileI found Hairsine's work in the backup story to be really good and appropriate for it. Gage's writing on both arcs works well enough and he starts off with a good setup for new readers, but it doesn't take long for it to devolve into being relevant for ongoing readers of the property. While you don't want it to be completely designed for the new reader, since you don't want to alienate the readers who have stuck with you for many years, they definitely needed to do a few more pieces to acquaint the reader with the characters (names are useful!) and to smooth out that kind of transition. It's not done any differently than how many books are launched with pre-existing characters, but I had hoped for a bit more bits of accessbility for the new readers coming on board. Right now, I'm curious enough to try out another couple and a good part of that is to follow the backup story with Lynch.