[Jason Powell writes his second to last Claremont X-Men epilogue. Though I was instant messaging him the night before last and he was reading the Claremont Willow novels, threatening to blog about them. The man is an addict, I tell you, an addict.]
Back when these comics were published – 1994, I believe – I was still not entirely recovered from the sad way that Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s collaboration on X-Men was cut so short. This four-issue “WildCATs” arc was a nice gift from Lee to Claremont fans, reuniting the team from the author’s final issue of X-Men – not just the writer and penciler, but inker Scott Williams and letterer Tom Orzechowski as well.
I hadn’t read any previous WildCATs stuff, so the characters were pretty unfamiliar. And there were a LOT of characters in these four issues. Generally speaking, the story is a bit over-stuffed. For someone coming in fresh, it was too much. Not that the story is hard to follow, really – just that the surfeit of characters made it hard to latch onto any one and find them sympathetic.
Still, it’s a great action movie. The Claremont/Lee chemistry had not atrophied in the three years between X-Men 3 and WildCATs 10. And Claremont certainly seems to be having fun with Lee’s creations (although who knows, maybe he was faking it just for the paycheck).
The point of this storyline was actually to introduce an original Claremont character, the Hunstman, who was theoretically going to be spun off into his own solo series. Had this happened, I believe Claremont would have been the first non-artist to bring an original character and series into the Image fold. For whatever reason, though, the Huntsman solo series never materialized. There WAS a later Huntsman appearance after WildCATs, in a Claremont-penned 3-issue “Cyberforce” arc. Cyberforce was Marc Silvestri’s series, so it was another reunion between the author and a former X-Men collaborator. As a huge devotee of Claremont/Silvestri, I was really looking forward to the Cyberforce arc, but it turned out just terribly.
This WildCATs arc, on the other hand, is a lot of fun. The Huntsman character is your basic “awesome at everything” action hero, very much cut from the Wolverine or Gambit cloth. He is a striking member of Claremont’s ouvre simply in that he is male – though he does have a female companion (“Tai”), and there are implications that she is actually the really significant half of the pair, in some oblique way.
The plot here is all over the place: There are something like six or seven different villains, an alternate timeline, and maybe an evil duplicate at some point too. Despite that, there is a spine to the story, and it leads to a turning point in the relationship of Zealot and Voodoo, two female members of the team (surprise). There is also, if I’m remembering right, an easter egg for X-Men fans at one point. When we’re in the office of Savant, one of the several WildCATs cast members that is much older than she looks, one of the photos on her desk is of her and Wolverine. The image is very reminiscent of the photo of Logan and Rose Wu in Uncanny X-Men 257 (Jim Lee’s third X-Men issue, and his first time drawing Claremont’s Wolverine).
If one is not a fan either of Claremont or of WildCATs, this little arc might read as just a lot of mindless action. But if one is willing to put in the concentration, it’s a fairly rewarding piece, and a fun addendum to the Claremont/Lee X-Men run.