There’s little more frustrating in comics than a promising, unfinished tale, especially when it comes from a creator that you wouldn’t expect…  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Wildsiderz #1 awaits!

Writer: J. Scott Campbell/Andy Hartnell
Penciler: J. Scott Campbell
Inker: Avalon Studios
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Comicraft
Editor: Scott Dunbier/Kristy Quinn
Publisher: Wildstorm Comics
Cover Price: $3.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4.00

Previously in Wildsiderz: After a few pinups and backups stories in Jim Lee’s Wildstorm comics, Scott Campball hit the big time with the creation of Gen13, a team of teenage not-exactly-mutants dealing with adolescence, super-powers and the occasional real-world issue while wearing as little as possible.  The group was an instant hit, which he followed up by creating Danger Girl, a cheesecake-heavy action-adventure spycraft story, which also made a splash with comics fans.  Seven years later, Campbell returned to Wildstorm to take on the adventures of another group of super-powered teens…

We open in mid-battle, as five holographically augmented teenagers battle against fully holographic monsters in the middle of a football field.  As much as I complain about the “start in the middle, then cut back” theory of storytelling, it’s a pretty rousing start, especially as it becomes clear that the titular Wildsiderz all look really cool in action.

The spectacle of a gorilla, a panther, an eagle, a dragonfly and a velociraptor in combat is pretty cool, but sadly their fighting prowess is not quite up the level of their visuals, and the team is overwhelmed by an army of monsters, leading our dragonfly, Styler to cue the flashback…

*doodle doodle oot doodle doodle oot doodle doodle oot*

Our story jumps back three weeks to find Styler late for school, only to reveal that he’s not at home but in a bunk at “The Institute,” where he’s been crashing in order not to miss time on his high-profile science internship.  We meet Mirra, his coworker/mentor, who has been working on a way to replicate solid matter in holographic form before Styler literally leaps out a window on his skateboard to Marty McDragonfly his way to school.  Arriving at school, Styler’s inner monologue goes all Marlon Perkins, explaining the fauna of teenage angst.

And then he sees Kat…

And yes, the J. Scott Campbell midriff is in full effect in these pages, even though by 2005 the style was on its way out in the real world.  It’s a stylistic choice that doesn’t work quite as well here as it did in 1996, though.  As for Styler, his wrecking of The Meathead’s sandwich doesn’t lead to a beating, thanks to the intervention of another of our dramatis personae, golden boy quarterback Zak…

With our cat, dinosaur and gorilla online, we are only short a bird-of-prey, a position filled when Styler makes it to Chemistry class, where his long-suffering platonic friend Jess hopes he’ll finally get the picture and ask her to the upcoming school dance.  Instead, he’s obsessed with the head cheerleader, leading her to go full-on Betty Cooper psycho…

Back at Cybertronix International (Ugh), Mirra is ready to reveal her technological wizardry to the world, but has to deal with her rival Dr. Spydre…

….Sorry, I just lost a couple of brain-cells there.  I’m back now.  Dr. Spydre reveals his robot drones, only to get immediately upstaged by Mirra’s holo-tech, which allows her to step out of her wheelchair and get hands-on with his dangerous machinery.

Cybertonix, apparently, is owned by Boss Hogg of Hazzard County.  Mirra’s big win sets the stage for our heroes, but Styler is still focused on how to win the affections of the head cheerleader, leading Jess to come up with a great/terrible idea…

Using his holographic Wildsider tech, Styler challenges golden boy Zak to a run through the football team’s grueling obstacle course.  Using his various insect powers and/or limbs, Styler not only makes Zak look the fool, he finally catches Kat’s impossible big brown eye…

It’s… not the best way to impress a girl, certainly.  But it does convince the cool kids that Styler might be worth their attention, if only to get super-powers of their own (and also gives Jess a chance to flirt with Zak, setting up a possible four-way love triangle among the non-idiot members of the team), leaving Styler as big man on campus for the first time in his life…

Sadly, this book fell prey to early Image Comics-style delays, and although it was pitched as a five issue limited, only the first two issues and a #0 were ever published.  Campbell signed a Marvel exclusive contract, and Wildsiderz disappeared into the mist, which is kind of a shame.  Aside from some very predictable plotting, Wildsiderz #1 has potential, with interesting concepts, weird super-powers and strong (if familiar) character archetypes in play, making it my favorite J. Scott joint of them all, and earning 3 out of 5 stars overall.  If nothing else, the visuals of the characters, with their animal accoutrements, is really strong and well-done…


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About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

1 Comment

  1. I read that entire series and boy did it take long. Yes, that was sarcasm. It looked good. I wished he had finished the series. I remember when the Cliffhanger line came out. I only bought about one issue of Danger Girl and One issue of Battlechasers. Great books. Especially Battlechasers. Think of a big movie that could of been made out of that. It was a good story. However, J. Scott was already known for being off schedule. By the time he gets to Wildsiderz, he couldn’t motivate himself to finish the five issues on a regular schedule. Five issues over the course of a year. I understand the sales didn’t match up to Dangergirl, but you don’t help yourself by delaying the second issue and then quitting.

    Oh yes. I almost forgot why he delayed it. It was that Spider-man series he was going to do. Probably just a mini-series. That’s great. He’s great at drawing Web-head. Wait, that never came out, either. I really see a potential of what could of been. Cliffhanger and Wildsiderz was something different and that’s what that industry needed and needs now.

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