Waiting for the Trade – Wynonna Earp

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

The Complete Wynonna Earp

by Beau Smith

collects Wynonna Earp 1-5, Wynonna Earp: Home on the
Strange 1-3 and a story from Tales of Terror.

 Why I Bought This: This is roundabout so bear with me. From 1995 – 2000 Fleer produced a
card game called Overpower that featured characters from Marvel, DC and Image
that to this day is still one of the most fun games I’ve ever played. The rules
of the game involved teaming four characters to make a team; however there was
a 76-point cap on team-building–characters had values between 16 and 23,
making four 19’s the average. Captain America was a 20-point character
and most of his ideal teammates were 19 or 20 points as well usually requiring
a 17-pointer to make a legal team. Wynonna Earp was the 17-point character that
best complimented Cap’s game mechanics, so consequently I ended up playing her
card (which being the 90s was also a foil-enhanced promo card that looked
pretty damn neat) on my team quite a bit even though I had never read a comic
she had appeared in. From time to time I’d try to find her in a back issue bin
just to see who the hell she was but to no avail (probably because she got
cancelled after five issues). My curiosity persisted because her basic premise
on paper has the potential to be quirky-fun—she is a descendent of Wyatt Earp
who works for a secret government law enforcement agency tasked to deal with
the supernatural and consequently ends up fighting vampires and mummies while
dressed like a cowboy even though it’s the 20th century. Lo and
behold a decade later you can find anything on the Internet: including this
trade paperback discounted well below cover price at MyComicShop.com, who gives
free-shipping at $50. One day I was close to that number and figured why the
hell not give Wynonna Earp a try after all these years.

The Plot: Wynonna
Earp, descendent of Wyatt Earp, is tasked by the U.S. government to crack down on
supernatural activity. This is a collection of several different stories that
ultimately sees her face just about every classic monster archetype by the time
it is done.

 

Chapter 1 – We open in
flashback to five years ago when police officer Wynonna Earp intervenes in a
hostage crisis in Arizona
on the night of the full moon. She unloads her pistol on the perp only for him
to pop back up and claim to have known her ancestor despite looking like he’s
only 30-years old. They fight and eventually she has to decapitate him with a
meat cleaver to get him to stay dead. Government agents arrive on the scene and
put the body and its head in two different morgue vans. The next day Wynonna is
approached by U.S. Marshalls and clued in that supernatural monsters are real
and the government established a sub-agency within the U.S. Marshalls Office
to deal with it since the administration of Teddy Roosevelt. She is offered a
chance to join up, thus becoming a U.S. Marshall much like her famous ancestor.

            Flash forward to present time (1995 publication date) in San Francisco where Earp
is dressed in a remarkably skimpy costume for a law officer and there is
another hostage situation. She takes over for the FBI since the perp is again
supernatural, although what the hell he’s supposed to be is beyond me. He looks
like your typical 1990s Wolverine/X-men villain with brown spiky skin and big
claws. Anyway Earp walk in the room and casually shoots him while he’s holding
a female hostage, and then decks the hostage since she knows the perp’s M.O. is
to use his current girlfriend to stage fake hostage situations whenever he’s
almost caught.
    Earp’s next assignment takes her to San Diablo, New
Mexico where a group of vampires are synthesizing
their own blood into a drug called Hemo that is “five times more intoxicating
than Heroin” and causes violent rampages far worse than PCP as the users
eventually start to become vampires themselves. We meet the head vampire, Bobo
Del Ray: who is drawn a lot like the last monster with brown scaly skin, long
tongue and large claws along with his fangs and the oversized musculature
popularized by Cable and Venom in the 90s that just about every Image Comic
ripped off. Anyway Bobo disembowels some delivery boy because the delivery bay
didn’t like Mayberry (with Andy Griffith) and that’s his favorite show. We see
some lesser vampires rob a blood bank while two Native American Indians look on
under the full moon. Wynonna’s plane arrives in New Mexico for the not exactly a cliffhanger
ending.

Chapter 2 – Wynonna marches
into a dive bar, beats up the bartender, pulls out her guns and arrests
everyone in the bar claiming it’s a front for Hemo selling all while observed
by a vampire in his bat-form (although like in the film Van Helsing their bat-form is really a full-sized humanoid bat
hybrid). Said vampire reports to Bobo, who instructs him to take bring Wynonna
to him. Two vampires then attack her in her hotel room but she fights them off
hand to hand before using a sword to decapitate them. When his men don’t come
back, Bobo sends a larger vampire posse after Earp; who by now is on her horse
and riding off to take the fight into the desert. This time three vampires get
the drop on her and seem to have the upper hand when the two Native Americans
from last issue show up and transform into werewolves and tear two of the
vampires apart giving Earp time to pull out a machine gun that shoots wooden
stakes. With the vampires dead, she stands off with the werewolves.

Chapter 3 – The werewolves
resume human form and explain they are registered with the government as bounty
hunters, so Earp is all like “that’s cool.” The werewolf and vampire clans are
at war (ala Underworld) so Earp is
willing to let them tag along for the big fight. Bobo meanwhile reacts to his
second posse not returning either, and heads into town with his entire vampire
army and initiates a massacre. Earp and friends arrive in town guns ablaze
before Bobo attacks her one-on-one. They trade punches while the werewolves mop
up the vampire underlings, until Earp attaches a bomb to Bobo’s arm and blows
it off. Then she pulls out a knife and stabs him a bunch until he casts some
spell to invoke a demon and grows into a giant. This just makes him a bigger
target for the stake guns and when she throws some holy water in his mouth he
melts.

Chapter 4 – Mobsters in Russia, Japan,
China, Italy and Columbia
have all been found dead next to bloody Egyptian symbols. Now the mobs of NYC
are meeting to make sure it doesn’t happen to them and the government is
sending Earp to stake it out and make sure there isn’t a supernatural element
to the killings. We meet the Egyptians and they have a mummy working for them
(revealed in a very nice looking splash page) named Raduk. We meet the various New York mobsters
including head mobster Don Vito, burly bodyguard Guido, and head of security
Nicholas Deffero. Meanwhile Wynonna, ever a fan of the direct approach, waltzes
into a club that is a front for the Egyptian mob and throws her badge around
until the club owner Amir meets with her. She questions him on various mystic
mumbo jumbo and he feigns ignorance but offers to meet with her at the Egyptian
museum the next day. We learn Wynonna and Deffero have a romantic past. The
next night the mummy attacks Don Vito at an Italian restaurant using super
strength to mow through his generic thugs and kidnap him. At the museum Amir
lures Wynonna to the mummy. She gets captured and he announces he intends to
mummify her.

Chapter 5 – Amir has a magic
knife that he says will resurrect Tiamat when he uses it on Earp, who is now
bandaged like a mummy. First however Amir has to cut symbols into Don Vito for
no adequately explained reason. Deffero and Guido arrive and begin shooting.
They scatter the Egyptians but the mummy is immune to bullets. Deffero frees
both hostages and hands out guns while the mummy out strengths Guido. They
split into groups of two, Earp of course with her former lover. They banter
until they encounter the mummy again; bullets are still useless but Deffero
(with a last minute save by Guido) buys time for Earp to prepare a mix of Tanis leaves that immobilize
the mummy so she can decapitate it. And then Earp and the good mobsters shoot
all the evil mobsters in the head. Afterwards Earp and Deffero go on date.  She tells him it will never work out between
them because he’s a crook but that doesn’t stop her from taking him to bed thus
bringing the original Image 90’s series to an end.

Chapter 6 – (Now published by
IDW in 2003). In 1929 Curly Bill, Brocius, Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury
(apparently all real outlaws killed by Wyatt Earp) return from the grave and
kill Earp in a hotel. Apparently they made a deal for immortality in Hell predicated
on ending the Earp family line. They’ve been killing family members and saving
Earp for last but what they don’t know is he has a secret child with an
actress, which of course will lead to Wynonna Earp. Back in the present, Earp
is battling zombie mailmen led by the fabulously named Postmonster General. She
uses the usual combination of headshots and flamethrowers to deal with them.
Back in California,
we learn the immortal outlaws set up the whole zombie thing to take out Wynonna
since they are now aware of her. They decide to call in another contingency
plan to deal with her.

Chapter 7 – In West Virginia one of the
outlaws is sticking a bag of hairy creatures under an airplane. Back in LA two
more of the outlaws and a random Bigfoot kill some mobsters. Cut to Earp on a
plane when suddenly hillbilly gremlins show-up mostly eating the wings,
although one sneaks inside and eats a stewardess. Earp and an inexperienced male
field agent find two more gremlins in the cockpit having killed the pilot and
sabotaged the controls. Earp tasers one of them which causes it to explode,
then takes the other hostage and forces it to teleport her and the other agent
to the ground. Meanwhile the Outlaws notice gray hairs and weight gain as their
immortality is wearing off when they get word the gremlins failed and Earp is
in Arizona.
She meets with her superiors who inform her there is a monster conspiracy
against her.

Chapter 8 – The outlaws
decide to arrange a trap for Earp in Tombstone.
They have a sorceress named Mimi throw up a big glowing force field to both
keep regular law enforcement out and get her attention. Earp peaces together
what is going on with the outlaws and their immortality. She calls in her
werewolf bounty hunter friend from the first story arc as back-up. Some dude named
Smitty, who is apparently her Q, gives her some fancy guns that can kill
anything immortal and a sword made of metal from the Roswell crash. He’s also outfitted the
gremlin (Bob Earl) from the last issue with an internal bomb so they can get
him to cooperate and teleport them through the force field. Finally they are
joined by another buxom female marshal Holly Day. Both Earp and the outlaws
dress in traditional cowboy gear and its time for the showdown at high noon.
Earp dispatches some minor demons with her guns and generic thugs with her
sword as the spirit of Wyatt Earp shows up to watch over her. Three werewolves
prepare to attack her but then one of them turns on the other two and its
bounty hunter dude saying he snuck in with the rest of the monsters and no one
noticed. The five heroes dispatch various underlings and then Wynonna takes out
the sorceress with one punch so it comes down to a five on five shoot out at
the OK Coral (literally). The heroes of course win with their immortal killings
guns although Holly takes one in the chest and Smitty takes one in the leg; the
werewolf also takes several shots but it doesn’t bother him much. The last
outlaw (I think Ike Clanton) shoots at Earp point blank but his bullets
mystically miss as we see Wyatt Earp take possession of her body. He reveals
himself as he (she/they) shoots Clanton in the head and then departs Wynonna’s
body. Johnny Ringo (I assume another real life outlaw foe of Wyatt Earp’s)
arrives and reveals himself as the mysterious leader of this whole thing, and
Wynonna finishes him off on her own. She then has a moment with her famous
ancestor’s ghost, who gives her his approval to carry on his legacy and fades
into the ether. She then tends to her wounded allies and we learn Holly is also
an immortal. Wynonna vows to make good on Wyatt’s legacy.

Chapter 9 – In Black Crow, Kansas a farmer is
killed by a mysterious something with a scythe one night. Earp arrives to
investigate and the sheriff fills her in on a haunted wheat field —there have
been five murders in the wheat and with each murder the wheat grows taller;
also farm/electrical equipment won’t work within 150-feet of the field. She does
some research and learns a family was murdered here 100 years ago. That night
she and the sheriff search the field and find an evil scarecrow. Bullets don’t
work and in a humorous scene Earp questions it on its back story by running
through all the horror clichés from ghost of the 100-year-old murder victim to
children of the corn to ancient Indian burial ground before realizing he’s just
a living scarecrow; at which point she casually sets him on fire and ends the
story.

Critical Thoughts: This a middling collection of stories at best, although the one
positive is it gets better as it goes.

The first story is frankly
terrible and really fits the worst parts of every cliché about year one Image
comics to a tee: it’s all big art, big guns and mild gore with zero
characterization. The protagonist has no personality at all in this story (and
really that barely improves throughout). It feels like Smith named her after
Wyatt Earp and figured that was all he had to do to establish character. But
that assumes all readers know what Wyatt Earp is like; and if you’re like me
all I know about him is he existed and he had two movies released in the same
year in the 90s neither of which I bothered to watch. I really think a key
chapter is missing in this story, and that’s a “Year One” mission. We see Earp
encounter the supernatural for the first time and get recruited and then BAM it’s
five year later and she’s casually shooting vampires and spiked mutants.
Where’s the story where she learns how to fight the supernatural or even reacts
to the fact the supernatural is real? Heck why is there no supporting cast at
all? She’s really nothing more than boobs with a gun in that first story.

The second story is a slight
improvement. The villains have an actual plan; albeit not a very good one. We
have a semblance of supporting characters with the mobsters caught in the
middle—although the romance feels kind of shoe-horned from left-field and
consequently falls flat. The big mobster bodyguard Guido demonstrates snippets
of actual personality in his loyalty to his boss and a few humorous asides.
Even the Image art style works a lot better in this story as the splash pages
in this one are the best in the issue. Still it’s not a very good story especially
since you could take all the mob elements out and still have the same story
about Egyptians trying to resurrect Tiamat since it’s never clear why they are
targeting mobsters to do whatever the hell it is they are doing. The ultimate
crux of the plan involves sticking the monster’s spirit in Wynonna’s body,
which you think the villains could find 1,000 different other ways to lure some
woman into their trap that don’t involve pissing off heavily armed gangsters.

The IDW relaunch proves to be a huge
improvement for the series. We get a lot more monsters per issue and many of
them have the zany attitude I expected when hearing the premise of this series.
We also finally meet some of Wynonna’s fellow agents. I for one always like a
good Q scene in the Bond films so ripping that aspect off and giving her
specific weapons for specific supernatural threats is a big improvement over
just having her decapitate every type of monster each issue like the Image
series did. While I’m not really invested in cowboy lore, creating villains
that have an actual personal connection with the hero is an improvement over
the monster of the month approach in the first five chapters. Finally if you
are going to build the series around her connection to Wyatt Earp as her chief
selling point-characterization then a story that explicitly strengthens that
lineage was definitely needed. Her goodbye with Wyatt is the only time we see
any emotion from the protagonist in the entire trade. I still wouldn’t call
this great story, but it’s both tonally and narratively light years better than
the Image stuff and it has some enjoyable moments.

The last story is a short
funny throw-away and works quite well on that level. Again I think this title
is better served by having a little deliberate silliness in it. Having Wynonna
be in on the joke gives her a little more personality too, something she sorely
lacks in the early stories.

Grade D+.  There’s nothing here anyone needs to read, but it is something
different than the usual superhero fare that dominates the medium and sometimes
variety is nice. Maybe if you enjoy westerns or crime stories more than I do it
might be your cup of tea. And while the quality to start is terrible, the book
shows continuous improvement with every story arc. I still think the premise
has more potential than what I’ve seen here, so who knows maybe one day I’ll
grab the second trade on the cheap; but as for this collection, to use Scott’s
terminology, it’s a mild recommendation to avoid.