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Ultraverse Revisited: Prime #6

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prime_0006Primal Changes

Written by: Gerard Jones and Len Strazewski
Art by: Norm Breyfogle
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design by: Keith Conroy
Interior Color: Violent Hues
Editors: Chris Ulm & Hank Kanalz
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

For it being at least 20 years (most likely) since the last time I actually read this issue…it’s amazing to me what a sense of familiarity it has. While I have certain (what I would call) "key" memories of the series in general, some part of my mind wants to stretch or condense stuff, apparently…in an inversely-proportionate way for the way things actually unfolded!

As with many other "early" Ultraverse issues…the cover is rather "iconic" to me. Not so much in a singularly-standout way, or "this would/did make an amazing poster!" way. But for the sheer oddity of it, the way its weirdness sticks in my memory. We basically a grotesquely-bubbly Prime,either armless or with arms stretched behind his back, a look of distress on his face.

The previous issue left off with a badly-weakened Kevin being taken into government custody, their leader excited about what he’s found. We open this issue with Prime fighting a dinosaur–before suddenly finding himself in space, where he loses consciousness as he can’t breathe. We see that Prime is experiencing a simulation, as Col. Samuels insist he be kept alive. Coming out of the VR setup, Prime attacks, before being calmed down as he realizes it’s The Government and he–Kevin/Prime–can be of service. As proof of the claim, Prime is introduced to then-president Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea. Meanwhile, Kelly’s mother informs her of a call from Eden Blake’s mother–Kelly’s needed for babysitting (see Mantra #5). Back with Prime, Kevin/our hero has agreed to the Government’s testing/etc, in preparation for what turns out to be an astounding mission: He is bound for the moon! (literally!). Another simulation sees Prime facing off with super-agent Wrath (from Aladdin). Prime then sets off quickly for the moon…simply up, up, and away flying to the moon. Unfortunately, he’s not physically capable, and crashes back to Earth after a bad re-entry. Ready to give up, Kevin’s father encourages him to keep trying…though we find out Mr. Green is a lifelike simulation. The REAL Mr. Green and his wife argue over what’s been going on with their son Kevin…Mr. Green blaming himself for everything. Later, equipped with precautionary equipment designed to protect Kevin if the Prime body fails again, Kevin once again "Primes up," this time with a much different body. Now, Prime is READY. Now, Prime can survive in a vacuum without his body having issues. Now, he is (as he proclaims on the final story page) "…primed for outer space!"

The cover is another that both "sort of" shows something from within the issue, while being its own thing. Prime indeed goes into space, where he "bubbles up" which necessitates some modifications if Prime is to be able to survive in space. Kevin, of course, seems quite authentic! Sure, he "Primes up" into this big, buff super-hero…but he’s still "just" a 13-year-old kid. So the idea that he will–under his own (super-) power be expected to fly to the MOON is this ***really*** big deal to him! It also makes sense that he’s not yet disillusioned by "the Government" and such, and sees the Government as "the good guys" and wants to make them proud…almost as much as he wants to make his parents proud.

The art is the usual solid Breyfogle work. I like the familiarity and style, though there’s at least one panel where I’m reminded that there’s some sort of thing with Prime’s face where the actuality of it on the page somehow doesn’t match something in my memory.

Story-wise, this is very much a ’90s comic…visually and structurally, and I like it! There are multiple plot-threads being moved along, with a couple of distinct-seeming subplots: Kevin’s parents, and Kelly. Kelly’s subplot ties this title in to Mantra, where we see Kelly’s side of things prior to Lukasz/Eden returning home in Mantra #5. There’s also the use of Wrath and reference to Aladdin that continues to build on that organization’s place in the Ultraverse as it becomes more of a "thing." We also see more of the Prime-body’s development, that it isn’t just one set default, but takes on properties that the host (Kevin) need at the time or based on stuff handy. I know "Space Prime" becomes a bigger deal in the next issue, but it’s cool seeing the "setup" and development here in this issue–that Kevin doesn’t "just" spontaneously generate that body.

Unlike so many modern comics, there’s a lot to be had within this single issue. It does serve as a bit of a transition from solo title to moving Prime into a larger picture, as the next issue is part of the nearly-line-wide event Break-Thru; which I believe was really the first time many of the characters truly interact with each other.

The setup from the first five issues do mean that this issue doesn’t totally stand alone as well. In a way, it’s standalone, but one will get a lot more out of it having read the previous issues…especially (at least) THE previous issue, #5. For 25 cents this would not be a horrible purchase, but it’d likely be enjoyed with more context–#5, and likely #7 as well. I wouldn’t seek it out as an isolated single issue.

For better or worse…there’s a certain lure to this title that I have to resist, as I want to charge ahead through this series (much as with Mantra) without worrying about the larger context of the Ultraverse…but for this Ultraverse Revisited project, I’m determined to go month by month through all the titles!

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The Weekly Haul: Week of April 17, 2019

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Another mixed sort of week! Not huge, not tiny!

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This week has the new Batman issue…I’m pretty sure that makes 2 weeks and 2 issues! Perhaps the title is back on schedule?

Spider-Man: Life Story #2 puts us 1/3 through this series. The first issue was set during the ’60s…this one’s the ’70s and we find Peter in his early 30s.

Naomi #4 is suddenly some big huge Big Deal (stupidly so, it seems). Thankfully, Comic Heaven had no problem with letting me get my single copy for cover price (having already bought 1-3…I’m solely interested as the SERIES, not stupid speculation!)

Then GI Joe: A Real American Hero #261 and Silent Option #4.

And of course, the weekly Comic Shop News.

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The latest round of Walmart 100-page giant issues all hit. I can honestly say that the novelty is wearing REALLY THIN at this point…part of the "fun" is 1. getting the ALL and 2. having them spaced out across the month so they’re not some big, bulky, HEAVY purchase. $30 in one go is not so fun!

Add to that, there’s been NO SIGN at over half a dozen Walmarts across 6+ weeks of the Detective Comics #1000 100-Page Giant. And like Valiant…if I can’t get "ALL OF THEM," then suddenly there’s farrrrr less incentive to even keep up with these. While I might suck it up for the next couple months–get to the #12s for the Batman and Superman ones–if I’m not able to locate the Detective one for cover price, I mayyyy be done.

Time will tell!

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Ultraverse Revisited: Mantra #5

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mantra_0005Mantra: The Animated Series

Creator/Writer: Mike W. Barr
Penciller: Terry Dodson
Inker: Jasen Rodriguez
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Moose Baumann
Interior Color: Family Fugue
Editor: Chris Ulm
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

This issue is an interesting piece, right from the cover. We have a generic gradient background, with a folded film strip receding to the lower left. In the foreground we see a ‘regular’ Mantra looking curiously at a reflection that on the film is exaggerated and cartoony. On the surface it almost seems like a self-acknowledgement of Mantra being "well-endowed" physically and the costume emphasizing that. But…it also actually fits the interior of the issue, serving as a very reasonable cover for this particular issue of this title!

As the issue opens, we see Mantra and Warstrike–fresh back from Boneyard’s place–confronting Strauss about the charm that failed to return them the way he’d promised. After this confrontation, that pair splits up after an awkward moment. As Mantra flies away, the demon from Prime #5 spots his target! Still without a body, the demon possesses another cartoon character–a Wiley Wolf. Meanwhile, back at home, Mantra experiments with the magic sword, discovering/confirming its additional cloaking ability to hide as a ring on the costume’s belt, but manifest at will when needed. Mantra–or rather Eden Blake–well, actually, Lukasz–walks into the house looking perfectly normal, the Mantra getup magically cloaked. We see that the kids are being watched both by Blake’s mother, and the actual babysitter Kelly Cantrell (who we should recognize as Prime–Kevin Green’s–crush over in Prime). Even without big super-heroics and such, we see the natural mixing/"small-world-after-all" of all these characters existing in the same world. We see further tension between "Eden" and her mother, who still does not know this is actually Lukasz inhabiting her daughter’s body.

The next day at work, we find that there’s even more to Eden’s story than anyone realized, which lends itself well to what Lukasz may need to accomplish: Eden’s recruited for Aladdin! Before there’s any dwelling on that, Eden gets an emergency call from her friend Marla…seems that now Brent is dead as well as her husband Carl! (We know Brent as the guy Lukasz woke up next to when he first found himself in Eden’s body!) Eden then has to rush off to deal with an emergency as Mantra…Wiley Wolf is threatening her kids’ school! The "living cartoon" is dealt with, though Mantra may have let slip more than intended by addressing Evie by name–something odd for Mantra, who has never actually MET Eden Blake’s daughter. Later at home, Eden takes a copy of Ultra Monthly Magazine from the kids, and realizes a model posing as Mantra for risque photos in the magazine will be a prime target for the cartoon/demon!

We then launch into several pages of 6-panel grids made out to be filmstrip frames as Mantra is engaged by the demon, pulled into the tv world…and finds herself a cartoon! And as a cartoon, subject to typical cartoon gags and visuals, as well as rules. She manages to defeat her foe and return to the real world…with just enough page space left to demand the model be paid properly for her trouble, don’t do it again, and a single panel showing the demon (trapped as Wiley Wolf) kneeling in disgrace before an angry Boneyard.

Judging by the length and detail of my "summary" above, compared to other recent Ultraverse issues I’ve covered…I think it’s very safe to say that Mantra is STILL one of (if not my top) favorite Ultraverse titles.

As a guy, sure, there’s likely something subconscious to the depiction of this female character’s visuals and light-on-covering-clothing as we see on panel. But I truly find it fascinating this notion of a man trapped in a woman’s body, having to learn to adjust to the world from that state; but even on the notion of ANYONE being trapped in SOMEONE ELSE’s body–PERIOD. Considering what it means to all those around the body–Eden’s friends, coworkers, anything Eden had set in motion for herself–as well as a suddenly strained relationship with her mother, and an awkward, unexplained distance from her kids (that the kids surely pick up on but may not understand)…there’s a lot of depth to be had!

For better or worse, though…some of this understanding and knowledge and way I take in the character and stories is me more than 2 decades later re-reading stuff that I read and loved as a kid! If not this particular issue, then at least this series.

I continue to enjoy the visuals on this title…it certainly seems pretty consistent with the previous issues; with Dodson on pencils, that certainly makes sense. There’s a certain grounded feel to things, while still looking like drawings in a comic book. Alternatively, the "animated" portion takes on the goofy cartoon-like look in a rather obvious way…both poking fun at old cartoons as well as perhaps borrowing the style of the "_____ Adventures" comics of the time–Batman and X-Men at least–based on their respective cartoon series.

Story-wise, I love all the subplots and worldbuilding going on here…it feels like Mantra is an extremely rich title in that regard! In some ways the story is all over the place, though–Mantra and Warstrike barging in on Strauss, then scene-hopping all over the place for just a page or few pages at a time. This would not "work" for most titles, but does for me here as said with stuff above.

Perhaps more for the "Mantra the Animated Series" segment, this issue can SORT OF work on its own. Nothing overly fancy or special in and of itself, but if one gets through the main part of the issue, they’re then treating to the "Mantra Adventures" segment.

Five issues in and we should be "wrapping up" a story arc as far as looking from the modern perspective in 2019. I vaguely remember that the next couple issues cross over with the rest of the Ultraverse–first as a whole for the Break-Thru event and then with a prominent Prime issue; so I don’t remember any clear-cut hard-stop breaks in terms of an actual story conclusion or new story start.

As always…I definitely recommend this in context of the other issues of the title! If you can get these first 5 or so issues, you’re in for a treat; or if you’ve read the previous issues, you’re still in for a treat with this issue. If you find this issue alone for 25-50 cents, it’s probably gonna be a fun, VERY-’90s sort of read where you can pick up on context within the issue itself.

I remember in broad strokes where this series goes, at least for a bit, and I’m eager to get to a prominent story in particular, but I’m holding myself back to continue reading issues as single issues in the greater context of the whole of the Ultraverse publication!

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The Weekly Haul: Week of April 10, 2019

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Heyyy…look at that! I’ve been forgetting to use, re-use, and/or re-design this handy little logo for this Weekly Haul "feature" I try to do!

Anyway…medium-sized week for April 10, 2019. And for the first time in awhile, I think, it’s straight "big two" in DC and Marvel…though as-is-normal for me these days…Marvel‘s on the short end of things.

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First up, the new Superman and Supergirl issues. It seems rather odd to have Supergirl at such a (relatively) high number compared to Superman, but that’s what you get when you have renumberings/reboots/whatever shenanigans!

Detective Comics is "back" ALREADY…quite a bit of difference from last year’s Action Comics #1000 with a 3-or-so-month gap before #1001. For that matter, Action–which has long been "ahead" in numbering (thanks particularly to its Action Comics Weekly days)! (As an aside–check out Chris’ blog Chris is on Infinite Earths for a run-down in great detail of the Action Comics Weekly period of the title!)

So, by the end of this year…Detective Comics will be "in the lead" in terms of numbering! This issue also sports a new logo! I’m not enamored with it–like a lot of other comments I’ve seen online, it reminds me of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon logo, and does look like it’d be more at home on a line of toys and/or animated tv show than this comic series. That being said…I think it ALSO seems rather out of place against the current Batman logo, which I may be "used to" but still don’t overly like. To me, the new Detective Comics logo would look a lot better if it better-matched the Batman title…and I’m more than ready for (I say this now, anyway) a new logo for that title.

Next, we have the aforementioned Batman title. I’m not sure if this issue was "late" or what, but I’d swear the two titles were alternating weeks. And here we’re "already" at Wonder Twins #3…and I still need to read the first 2 issues as well!

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On to the Marvel titles…I suppose in my opening comment I neglected to mention that where Marvel has THREE issues I picked up on Wednesday…all three are reprints! Nothing "new!" The Marvel Tales issue features Thanos and reprints Warlock #10 (his original series), Silver Surfer #45 (an issue that I covered a few years ago), and Warlock and the Infinity Watch #8.

Incidentally, going from that, the True Believers Thanos and Gamora reprints Warlock and the Infinity Watch #9…the very next issue. And finally, True Believers Stormbreaker reprints Thor #339.

While I’m getting rather tired of the True Believers heading (I’d much rather $1 "facsimile editions" of these various issues), they continue to show (me) that Marvel is perfectly capable of putting out cheap(er) comics. AND that I overall really care very little for stuff they’ve published over the last 10-15 years (pretty much Avengers Disassembled to present). So reprinting stuff from the ’90s especially, as well as the ’80s and such…that’s where the bulk of my interest seems to be.

Finally, the week’s Comic Shop News features Second Coming. I’m not really sure what to make of it…it’s certainly gotten hype, and I might give it a try; though like most such projects, it strikes me as something probably better gotten as a collected volume rather than single issues. Time will tell!


I’ve found myself "gearing up" again with a couple things. I mentioned Mortal Kombat with last week’s post, and that interest continues. The same week that Mortal Kombat 11 is due out, the first new Magic: The Gathering novel War of the Spark is also due out. I find myself really hoping that even if they don’t "self-publish," that Wizards of the Coast gets back into doing regular novels for their various properties again…at least "core story" things. Maybe there don’t have to be new books every month delving into every side-character’s sibling’s personal history, but at least get a couple new books each year! I’d even settle for published versions of material they’ve released online!

And there’s the Force of Will card game. I loved what I saw with it last year, but it fell to the side due to "real life stuff" getting in the way. I’m not really sure what "sparked" it THIS time around, but I’ve found myself getting some new stuff for it including a couple of "playmats" and such, and even impulse-ordered a "crate" of stuff thanks to seeing it on several YouTube videos. And when I read a description of another item a bit closer, realized that where I thought it included 72 cards, it actually includes 72 booster packs…which is basically two boxes‘ worth. For only a little more than twice what I paid for a "cheapo box" last year, and not much more than what I paid for another box (also last year). So while I may not have much of anything overly "special" from the game…definitely bulking up on cards, and hopefully will be able to get friends to play it with me.

Though I’m also starting to re-consider my outright "boycott" of local gaming store(s). (Been refusing to do business with WPN gaming stores over their pricing of the Jace’s Spellbook product last year). However, even if I "give in" and seek out being able to play Force of Will at a game store, I fully intend to hold to NOT buying Magic: The Gathering product from the game store.

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Ultraverse Revisited: Freex #5

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freex_0005Up Against the Wall

Writer: Gerard Jones
Penciller: Ben Herrera
Inker: Larry Welch
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Robert Alvord
Interior Color: Violent Hues
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

Beginning with the cover of this issue, it wasn’t quite what I expected. I didn’t recognize the presumed-villain on the cover…a bit grotesque, and apparently new. But on opening the issue, I remembered that–Oh, yeah–the Freex are dealing with the "Master of the Hunt" and his hounds. And the bulk of the issue is really just a lengthy fight scene, as the individual Freex have to draw on their powers–working through the pain, even–in order to come together and stop this "Master." Despite their challenges, the group eventually defeats him–as he’s first burned (turns out, that was him on the cover!) and then taken down by his own hench-hounds. The Freex escape, and all’s well that ends well…right?

The art for this issue seems a bit "off." While I mostly recognize the various characters, they have a sort of generic, non-regular-artist look…and unfortunately, that was a bit off-putting for this issue. The characters look–for one thing–a bit "older" than they did before, and I’m just not a fan of this specific iteration of them.

At least the writing is consistent, where we’ve gone from seeing these characters absolutely not working together to where they finally do draw together and push their powers to help each other and overcome (a bit) certain fears. It’s like as of this fifth issue the team finally becomes…a team.

This remains an iffy title for me–I don’t love it (especially after this issue) but I don’t hate it. I haven’t gotten used to it, but continue to see the potential it holds both as a title and with its individual characters. Best way for me to put it for my repetitive vagueness is that when I think of the title, see one of its covers…it doesn’t bring back fond memories nor does it really grab my interest such that I actively want to jump in and read. When I put it off or "dread" getting into an issue…I tend to either truly enjoy it or at least realize it’s not horrible. I’ve been interested from cliffhangers to see where it goes next, but by the time I get to the next issue I’m usually back to a passive-ish not really caring.

All that said…if you can get several issues as a run…particularly for now, these first five issues–and cheaply (say, 25-50 cents each ideally, under $5 for sure) they’re definitely well worth the read for an early-’90s team of abnormal misfits shunned by society…and serving as a sort of X-Men parallel but instead of being the ’60s, it’s "in the ’90s!"

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NECA TMNT Quarter Scale: Donatello

It’s been a few weeks–maybe a month or so, now–since I got the last of the NECA TMNT quarter-scale figures I’ve been after.

I believe there’s also a Foot ninja and a Raphael-in-trenchcoat…but I’m really not interested in either of those. I prefer Raph as-is without the trenchcoat…and a lone Foot ninja makes little sense to me, and at this scale and price I’m NOT investing in 3-5+ of the things to justify the "generic minion/bad-guy" thing.

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I didn’t have the patience at the time to get a better shot of the front of the box…a bit of glare, as such.

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The sides of the box…

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The back of the box.

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I’d neglected at the time–due to other things going on in my private life–to get a solo shot of Donnie. Right now I don’t really have open space to properly get a good shot, so here he is towering over the Gamestop 1990 Movie Mikey and a Target 2-pack Foot ninja.

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And here’s the current (at least as of this posting in early April 2019) shelf of my NECA TMNT stuff with Raph, Leo & Mikey, and of course, Donnie…as well as the Baby Turtles that I started this crazy-expensive collecting ride with.

I may still try to get the ooze cannister prop and Casey Jones mask prop…but after a number of extremely-expensive (for me) purchases across a number of paychecks, and other stuff I’m trying to get…expensive NECA stuff is on hiatus for me at the moment.

(One more expensive NECA purchase from several weeks ago yet to share, though!)

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James Hudnall’s passing

I just learned tonight that James Hudnall–a co-founder of the Ultraverse and writer of Hardcase has died.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty of others posting about this at length.

I’d just sat down to work on a different post myself, tonight, and expected a notification I’d seen pop up on my phone to be about a new Kickstarter or such; instead that notification was this news.

Visiting Hudnall‘s Facebook page, the news was shared by his family. Corroboration by multiple sources.


I’d seen posts in the Ultraverse Facebook group by him, and it was cool to see he was still/again doing some comics work.

I know his name from Hardcase in particular…and was reminded tonight that he was the writer on the Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography from 1989…a "key" piece of Superman history post-Crisis.

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Tom Mason posted a nice recollection of his experience with Hudnall in the Facebook group for Ultraverse (not sure if its setting is public or not, if you can see it, it is, if not, it’s not).

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While I’ve yet to read the entirety of the Hardcase series (I’m up to #s 5/6 on my current read-through project), the cover from #1 is one of those "iconic" (for me, at least) comic covers from the ’90s. Hudnall being the writer means I’m sharing covers with art that wasn’t his…but especially in comics, art and writing go hand-in-hand.

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