Wild Dog #4 (1987)

Wild Dog #4 (December, 1987)
“Chapter Four: I Am Wild Dog”
Writer – Max Allan Collins
Penciller – Terry Beatty
Inker – Dick Giordano
Letterer – John E. Workman
Colorist – Michele Wolfman
Editor – Mike Gold
Cover Price: $0.75

Well, rather than leave us hanging… I figure, what the hell, let’s wrap this up and finally get to the bottom of that burning question we all have inside us… Who is Wild Dog?

Do we find out in this final issue?  Is that cover any indication?  Is it all just a ploy to get us poor unsuspecting readers to pick this one up off the newsstand?  Let’s find out!

Of course, if you’re just joining us now… you definitely wanna catch up with the first three chapters here, here, and here.

We open with Susan King’s news report on the events of the previous issue.  Such a great way to frame a recap page, I must say.  It allows for reflection while making the expositional dialogue seem organic.  Rather than have, using a Marvel example, Wolverine spout off a few lines about his “mutant healing ability, and razor-sharp adamantium claws” to open each issue, we are treated to a more natural recap.

Wrapping up her broadcast, King is approached by Andy Flint.  She is pretty candid on her thoughts about Wild Dog, and makes it clear that she believes he is one of the Red Dog foursome.  When pressed for more specificity, all King reveals is that all she can say for sure is that Graham Gault is not our masked man.

Flint heads off to the gun range to chat with Gault.  They reflect on the recent events on Arsenal Island, and both accuse the other of being Wild Dog.  It would appear, but it is not outright said, that Gault’s money is on Lou Godder… most definitely not that simpleton Jack Wheeler.  Hmm…

Flint decides to follow up on his buddy Lou, and the two recount the terrorist bombing that cost him his wife.  Lou acknowledges that he has already been visited and accused by Susan King, however is steadfast in his claim that he is not Wild Dog.  The two put their heads together, and decide the most likely candidate is in fact, Jack Wheeler.

Here we are provided with Jack’s origin story.  He was a high school (turned college) footballs stand out, and big man on campus.  He was sidelined with a scholarship-costing knee injury, and joined the military in order to finish up his schooling.  While stationed in Beirut, Jack was the sole survivor of a terrorist attack.

Upon returning to the States, Jack met a woman named Claire Smith.  The two quickly became an item.  Suddenly, bad things began happening to Claire.  They appeared to be accidents at first… she would almost get hit by a car… almost have a safe dropped on her from several stories up… Jack was pretty shaken up, however, it almost seemed like Claire expected the incidents to occur.  She tries to explain to Jack that Smith is not her real last name.

One night at the fair, the two profess their love for one another.  A mustachioed gunman pulls up alongside the embracing couple and begins firing away.  Claire, riddled full of holes, dies in Jack’s arms.

Flint recalls Claire’s funeral where he promised Jack he would get to the bottom of the murder.  In the weeks that followed, Flint revealed to Jack that his former squeeze was not a Smith, but a Carmonti.  Her family was “connected”, and found themselves hunted by the rival Vespucci family.

In the interim, Jack finds out that Claire had left him her fortune.  Our Jack is a millionaire.  He uses his newly found wealth to both purchase his auto repair garage… and take it to the families.  It is now that we witness Jack’s first outing… as Wild Dog.  Yup, Jack is Wild Dog!

He manages to locate the Vespuccis taking in some wine, women, and revelry at a nearby hotel and decides to crash their party.  Wild Dog busts in and begins wrecking fools.  He draws his gun, and tells the women to scram… then perforates the Vespucci boys.

As luck would have it, the very man who shot Claire dead enters the room.  Jack rattles off a shot, killing him.  In a wonderful touch, Collins has Jack continue emptying his gun into the murderer’s dead body.  You can only imagine the thoughts going through his head at that moment.  There’s likely a certain amount of closure, however, it is doubtful that there is any satisfaction.

Back in the present day, Andy approaches Jack.  He plainly tells him that he dun goofed.  You see, the recent Wild Dog sighting on Arsenal Island shows a Wild Dog wearing combat boots.  Of our four would-be Wild Dogs, Jack was the only one wearing combat boots that day.  This is a neat touch as well, as it puts Flint’s detective skills on display.  The type of boots a vigilante wears is probably not something most folks would pay any sort of real attention to.

Knowing the jig is up… Jack comes clean.  Flint reminds him that he’s now a wanted man.  Jack corrects him… he’s a needed man.  The issue (and series) ends with Jack proposing a working arrangement with Flint (and the police department, by association), just as a terrorist attack is reported over the radio.  We are out…

Hey, I called it!  I really wish I could rule out that I hadn’t somehow subconsciously spoiled this for myself at some point… but, I’ll take any victory I can get!

I really can’t get over how much I enjoyed this issue/series.  Such an interesting idea to put a Punisher-like character into the DC Universe.  It really shouldn’t work… like at all… but, it does.  It’s made clear this issue that the Punisher comparisons are more than skin-deep with Wild Dog.  He too loses a loved one in a mob-style hit.  He is fueled by vengeance and hate… and thinks his actions are somehow justified.  In his attempt to cut a deal with Flint, it is clear that he doesn’t see what he is doing as completely wrong… perhaps seeing it as something of a “necessary evil”.

We did not get to see any more of the Committee for Social Change in this chapter, which I was kind of hoping would come to a head here.  I suppose they were left around in case this series got “picked up” as an ongoing.  It’s really kind of hard to believe that it didn’t.  Wild Dog’s story, however, does continue in the pages of Action Comics Weekly.  For about a year, Superman (for the most part) vacated Action Comics, and the title went into a weekly-anthology format.  It was an interesting experiment, and for the most part told interesting stories.

Wild Dog would get a one-shot special in the early 1990’s… which I’ve never even seen in the wild, though now know that I need.

In hitting my normal social networking haunts wherein I plug my blog pieces, I was informed that Wild Dog may just be coming back (at least as a concept) as part of DC Rebirth.  Seriously!  Check this out:

Here’s a better/closer look:

Pretty cool, eh?  Here’s hoping this isn’t just an Easter Egg, and Rebirth gives us some fun Wild Dog stories… and hell, maybe he’ll finally get that trade paperback collection we… er, I’ve been asking for!

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