So, didja hear the one about the nanotech cyborg mercenaries dedicated to wiping out the scourge of vampires?  No, it’s not ‘Mad Libs’, it’s Image Comics in the mid-1990s!  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Wetworks #1 awaits!


Writer: Whilce Portacio, Brandon Choi
Penciler: Whilce Portacio
Inker: Scott Williams, Richard Johnson, John Tighe
Colorist: Joe Chiodo, Martin Jiminez, Monica Bennett
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Editor: Bill Kaplan, Sarah Becker
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $1.95
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $5.00

Previously in Wetworks: Starting out as an inker (on Art Adams legendary ‘Longshot’ mini, no less), Whilce Portacio quickly made his mark as a penciler at Marvel Comics in the late 80s.  Working on ‘The Punisher,’ ‘X-Factor’ and other books, perhaps his biggest contribution was the co-creation of bemulleted mutant and walking face/heel revolving door, Bishop, in 1991.  When the Image 7 left Marvel, Whilce was among their number, but did not found his own studio like his associates, and did not become a full partner in the new venture due to a family loss.  As such, his title was not part of the 1992 launch of Image, instead debuting a couple of years later.  As we open, a secret VTOL is whooshing into the Balkans, which the caption boxes remind us was destabilized by the fall of the Soviet Union, full of special ops types on a “rescue mission.”The whole mission looks pretty hinky, though, as their ship has been loaded with explosives and high-velocity weaponry that doesn’t seem appropriate to a search-and-rescue op, and our face-painted mercs (who remind me a lot of the contemporary G.I. Joe team, to be honest) are a little bit unnerved by the dichotomy.  Fortunately, their commander is a stand-up feller named Duke Dane, who possesses a cool head and a calming demeanor…

The op is, ominously, located in Transylvania, which should ring a few alarm bells for people familiar with Bram Stoker.  (There’s also a meeting of top brass in an I/O conference room featuring and Admiral Halsey, who notified me of his need for a bath and a cup of tea…)  Once in the air, it’s all codenames and black ops tomfoolery, parachuting into the drop zone and other paramilitary buzzwords, only to discover that they’ve been beaten to the target…

The guards have been ripped to pieces, as if by animals (RED FLAG!!!!) and suddenly, the explosive charges they’re carrying have been remotely set to go off in three minutes.  Of course, weapons expert Claymore (Real Name: Clay Maure, I am crappin’ ya negative) is suddenly entranced by a swirling mass of golden goop in one of the surviving canisters…

As the strange substance responds to his gaze, Claymore fails to notice an unfriendly face hiding in the ridiculously spacious air ducts until she takes a potshot at him, splashing him in the strange substance within the enclosure…

Claymore is engulfed in liquid metal, T2-style, when they’re suddenly ambushed (AGAIN) by strange, pale, fanged “Transylvanian nationalists”, who prove that Claymore’s new coating is bulletproof the old-fashioned way.  Realizing that he’s now a metallic juggernaut, Claymore wades into the attackers, waging a nine-on-one battle and holding his own, only to forget about those pesky destructive charges…  until they blow.

Claymore laments the loss of his partners, only to find that Flint Dane, clever feller that he is, immediately saw the potential in having one of his squad become a golden god and decided to horn in on that action…

Whilce Portacio’s plotting in this issue is pretty pedestrian, I’ll grant you, but comparative to the first issues of the other Image books (save for Savage Dragon, which had a clear story through line, even if it was too much story for the page count), it’s actually quite good.  If there’s any weakness to be had here, it’s the focus on action over all else, and an overuse of double-page spreads that make it hard both to read the book and also to show you images from it that are large enough to make any sense.  Ripping into the clearly-vampires-but-nobody-says-it-yet, the team that’s about to become Wetworks literally destroys them, leaving naught but ash and cool posing opportunities behind.

That’s some seriously messed-up dialogue, by the way, but it’s thankfully not all tough-guy quips and Rambo quotes.  At least the coloring is well done, really selling the idea that these are humans encased in solid gold, rather than looking like they’re wearing a yellow bodystocking.  It’s really nice work…  Back in the story, Dane and company are attacked by I/O gunship and all seems lost, even with their new armor, until another golden-clad warrior appears and blows up their attackers.  Identifying herself as Mother-1, she addresses Dane, Jester, Grail, Shipwreck, Roadblock, Lady Jaye and Donatello with a proposition…

Our Real American Heroes vow to defend humanity from the Night Tribes, even as their own superiors have written them off and declared them enemies to be shot on sight, but even worse things wait in the wings…


No, wait, I mean… WEREWOLVES!

Though it wears its White Wolf and Hasbro influences on its sleeve, I have to say I didn’t hate this book.  In ’94, I eschewed it because the main characters were indistinguishable golden cyphers (which they, in fact, are, at least in these pages) and because I was still reeling from the blow to the synapses that was Youngblood #1, but there’s more innovation and skill in Portacio’s work here than 24-year-old me gave credit for.  Wetworks #1, while showing some growing pains for the writer/artist, is nonetheless competently plotted, well-drawn, especially by 90s Image standards, and has a strong premise, earning a surprising-to-me 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Later issues of the book would even teach us how to tell the characters apart, and give each defining characteristics and eventually, a sexy lady vampire…



Something of a surprise, with a lot to offer, even with a too-large cast of hard-to-distinguish characters...

User Rating: 2.8 ( 1 votes)

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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.

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