As Alan Moore was wrapping up his Spawn work for Todd McFarlane in 1995, he also accepted Jim Lee’s offer to write WildC.A.T.s. Moore’s monthly stints on WildC.A.T.s and Supreme lead me to believe he would’ve taken over the Spawn regular series if McFarlane had asked him, but apparently McFarlane felt confident enough in his own writing abilities to keep going with the title. The addition of Tom Orzechowski and Olyoptics does bring a style reminiscent of Spawn to the miniseries, and artist Scott Clark seems better suited for McFarlane’s hero than he does the assorted WildC.A.T.s. Clark doesn’t seem able to draw a variety of body types or facial expressions, which you’d think would be a prerequisite for a team book. Spawn wears a mask, and has fairly standard “big, but not too big” comic book anatomy that’s usually covered with a cape anyway, so Clark’s interpretation is pretty close to McFarlane and Capullo’s.
The series opens with Spawn breaking into the WildC.A.T.s' headquarters, demanding a rematch with Grifter and Zealot. The two ‘Cats have no idea what he’s talking about, which is a cue for Future Grifter and Future Zealot to enter. As Spawn is quick to point out, Future Grifter is quite old, and Future Zealot is black. They’re from the future, and they’re on a mission to kill Spawn before he steals a magic talisman and becomes the evil Ipsissimus. Future Zealot can’t bring herself to kill Spawn, so instead everyone agrees to travel to the future and stop the Evil Future Spawn; not to be confused with the McFarlane Toys action figure, Future Spawn. Apparently Void can travel through time, which enables the cast to journey to the predictably dystopian future. I don’t think it’s a big secret that the WildC.A.T.s are at least a little inspired by the X-Men, so perhaps Moore is intentionally doing a riff on one of the more famous X-tropes. The very first page of the story details the origin of the mystic talisman, and I can’t decide if it’s supposed to be Claremontian or just Moore giving another magic lecture:
In the future, the cast is introduced to “WildC.A.T.s 2015,” the future resistance team. Not surprisingly, some of the ‘Cats are dead (Warblade and Voodoo), and some are maimed (the robot Spartan is a disembodied head and Zealot’s legs are missing). Violator’s brothers act as Ipsissimus’ henchmen, and a few Wildstorm characters make cameos, either as servants of Ipsissimus or as a part of the resistance. The united teams take Spawn to the Chrysler Building, which is now renamed “the Red House.” The script treats this as a shocking reveal, but the art simply shows the Chrysler Building with a few of Spawn’s costume elements added to it. It’s not even wearing a giant, impractical cape. This issue is mainly dedicated to showing off the future world, so very few new ideas or plot elements are introduced. Someone asks Spawn how he feels about fighting against his future self, and his response is essentially, “It’s alright.” The fact that Spawn doesn’t seem overly shocked or concerned that this is what he’s going to turn into actually says a lot about the character. He knows he’s already made a deal with a devil, he knows he’s capable of brutal violence…all he’s lacking at the moment is any ambition. The self-awareness that he might just turn out this way, and his cold acceptance of it, does exploit one of the unique aspects of the character.
The cast splits up, explores Ipsissimus’ lair, and encounters a few more future versions of the Wildstorm characters. Most of the females are in a harem, some of the Gen 13 cast has joined Ipsissimus, and WildC.A.T. Maul is now a brainless servant of the evil Future Spawn. Although a version of Spawn is the main villain, the miniseries has definitely leaned heavily over to the Wildstorm side so far, which automatically made it less interesting for me as a teenager. Even when Violator shows up, he just makes a brief cameo before Zealot’s older, future counterpart reduces him to bone. Unless an editor insisted, I really have no idea why Moore dedicated so much of the story to showing us how horrible the future is for Gen 13, the Black Razors, the Coda, and all of the other Wildstorm characters that the industry has abandoned.
Finally, Spawn actually has something to do, outside of setting up a story that mainly involves other characters. The heroes confront Ipsissimus, and Spawn promptly steals the amulet that started the mess. Unfortunately, Ipsissimus reveals that the amulet merely gave Spawn the courage and drive to fight against Malebolgia and steal his powers. The amulet itself is powerless. The WildC.A.T.s realize that Ipsissimus still has all of his memories as Spawn, so they’ve actually allowed an unwitting plant on their team all along. Future Zealot takes Spawn back to the present, and suddenly realizes that he still has the amulet he stole from Ipsissimus.
See? They’ve created the time loop that allowed Spawn to get the amulet in the first place, and while the amulet doesn’t grant him power, it does corrupt him into a power-hungry monster. However, the day is saved when Spawn accidentally knocks Future Zealot’s mask off, and realizes she’s a grown Cyan. Apparently, Moore wrote this under the impression that Cyan actually was Spawn’s daughter, which is why she couldn’t bring herself to kill him in the first issue. A few lines had to be rewritten to acknowledge Cyan is the daughter “who could have been” Spawn’s, but the content is really the same. With time altered, the future ceases to exist and the amulet disappears in-between the cracks of time and space.
Moore hasn’t invented any variations on the time travel story, but when he isn’t dwelling on how horrible and nasty the future is, he does create some entertaining time loops and conundrums for the heroes to explore. I wish the rest of the series explored the intricacies of time travel, or made some attempt to humanize Spawn. As much as I enjoyed this specific issue, getting here was a bit of a chore in places. And maybe doing a time travel story really wasn’t a nod towards the X-Men, but what am I supposed to think when the miniseries ends with a “corrupted” hero turning on his teammates? Dystopian futures and tainted heroes fighting against their allies? Was this really a coincidence?