This week, WildCats #30 will be released, representing the final issue of an ongoing series set in the WildStorm Universe.
"It's very bittersweet," said Adam Beechen, the writer on WildCats. "We had so many more ideas for the book, so many more places we want to take it, and to not have that chance is a bummer. But I am proud of what we accomplished."
As the WildStorm imprint now ends, the characters from that universe will go on a "break," disappearing from comics for a while. When they return is still uncertain, although DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee — who originally created the WildStorm Universe — promised they'll eventually be seen again under the DC banner.
Last week, readers of Gen 13 got a taste of how WildStorm writers are finishing their runs, as Phil Hester wrapped up his plotlines in Gen 13 #39. Earlier this month, The Authority #29 brought that team's stories to a conclusion under the pen of Tom Taylor.
It's all a little jarring to the creative teams and readers alike, because most of the WildStorm teams were just going through a revitalization after last year's "World's End" event."It feels odd, because what I was attempting was a revitalization of the book on some level, not a repudiation of what had come before, but an attempt to make the book function as a superhero title again," said Phil Hester, who wrote the final Gen 13 arc. "I feel like I got the remaining members of Gen 13 and 14 back to being the 'good guys,' and not simply wanderers in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the Wildstorm Universe. When I learned we'd actually be the last Gen 13 story — for a while anyway — it seemed fitting, in a What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow kind of way. Not to compare my chops with Alan Moore's for a millisecond."
But Hester's ending wasn't that tough to orchestrate, because the issue was already supposed to be the end of his five-issue arc. "I just made a few tweaks to Bobby's conversation with Caitlin on the last few pages to give it a satisfying conclusion," Hester said. "[It] provides some closure regarding their nascent relationship. I think that's something I would have explored had the book continued, but this last little exchange between them feels like it's enough, almost a Han Solo/Princess Leia 'I know' moment.
"Besides that, I think I found a way to convey a longer arc than we actually had," he said. "[Artist] Cruddie [Torian] and I introduced a lot of concepts and characters that we managed to bring back full circle by the last issue without rushing it. It feels like a real ending, not a plug-pulling."
But Beechen and Taylor were in the middle of what were anticipated to be long runs on their titles, so they had a tougher time trying to tie up all the loose ends.
"Honestly, it was impossible [in WildCats], and that's my fault," Beechen said. "We didn't get word the book would be ending at #30 until I'd finished the script for #28, and I simply had too many balls in the air for us to catch them all by the scheduled end of the book. I knew going in that WildStorm wanted me on the book for at least a year and there was the possibility I'd leave at that point one way or another, but as we went along and I heard nothing about the book's future, I kept piling on plot possibilities, really hoping to have the opportunity to weave together a big tapestry of a long-running story."
Instead, Beechen said, he wound up with 44 pages to wrap up everything he'd set into motion. "And it just wasn't possible to put the finishing stamp on all the stories," he admitted. "Tom Taylor and I both asked for some kind of giant-sized special where maybe we could co-write and put a more satisfying conclusion together, but it wasn't to be."But this week's issue of WildCats does wrap up the biggest ongoing stories, including the question of whether or not Earth will survive. However, many others will remain open-ended.
"Perhaps that's for the best: It leaves us with a sense of the universe not ending — no one wants that feeling — but rather that it's 'on pause,'" Beechen said. "The continuing stories will be there if anyone wants to go back and finish them down the line, but if someone wants to 're-launch' the Wildstorm Universe in another fashion...then that's cool, too."
While Hester and Beechen were both disappointed to see the WildStorm titles finish, they're trying to approach the abrupt ending positively.
"I think we told some entertaining wide-screen stories, created some indelible, memorable images and moments in what's been a long-running, well-loved series, and I hope we've given some of the characters' fans a lot of what they've loved the most about the book over the years," Beechen said. "In that, we've been helped immensely by Tom Taylor and Al Barrionuevo over on The Authority. And purely from a fan perspective, I'm sad to see the book go away, although I know enough about comics to know that the characters will be back, in some form or another, in some context or other, likely sooner than later."
Hester likes to think the experience of working in conjunction with the editors of the WildStorm titles gave him the training he needed to tackle his current assignment at DC Comics, the ongoing Wonder Woman title. "[The WildStorm editors] were very patient with someone who had written very little work-for-hire to date," he said. "What I learned from these guys really prepared me for the craziness of handling Wonder Woman on a big stage."
And what can readers expect from this week's final issue of WildCats?
"It has some absolutely extraordinary art by Mike Miller and coloring by Carlos Badilla, who's been with the book since I joined," Beechen said. "There are at least three images/moments that should provoke strong emotions among long-time Wildstorm fans.
"[There's not a sense of] finality, but the sense that things will continue," he said. "These characters and their universe don't end. They will live on, there's still business to be taken care of, and their heroic missions never really cease."