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Ultraverse Revisited: Freex #2

ultraverse_revisited

freex_0002Blown Apart

Writer: Gerard Jones
Penciller: Ben Herrera
Inker: Michael Christian
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Keith Conroy
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: August 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

After the little bit of teambuilding/interaction in the first isue, this issue has an appropriate story title in "Blown Apart." While we ended the previous issue with a new player in the game showing up and promising answers…this issue seems to open a bit AFTER that, with Valerie already attacking Ray for being a monster (didn’t we hash this out last issue?) where we don’t seem to see what set her off. During the fight, the police have shown up, shown their spotlight into the space these "Freex" are using, and they scatter. Angela refuses to use her powers because she doesn’t want anyone to "see," (and flashes back to kissing a boy and his trying to go further and not understanding her reluctance to be touched); we also see Michael get pieced back together (including "goop") and forming an actual human body (naked), as well as some flashback stuff of him and how HE got his powers (much as we saw with the other characters in the first issue). While Val’s ditched the others, she’s "rescued" by another kid calling himself "Rush" (super speed, apparently) who recruits her to help him with a "job" (he’s being paid). Even though she finds out he’s basically serving as an "enforcer" for "loan sharks," and seems slightly distressed at hearing gunshots and seeing convenient news pieces keeping both her and Rush up to date on what’s going on with the other Freex…she goes along with him, merely asking what they have to do.

While I enjoyed the first issue more than I’d expected to, I did not enjoy this issue as much. I don’t like that I feel like there’s some "missing time" between issues–how I remember that issue ending and how this one begins don’t really match up. I didn’t notice this as much with other second issues, and I’m not quite sure why it jumped out at me here. Perhaps that somehow I was most specifically curious and looking forward to seeing how things played out.

The art isn’t bad, and is mostly consistent…though there’s something to it that just seems a bit "off" in the appearance of the characters’ ages. Perhaps I’m just getting old in their not looking as I’d expect for their age.

I really do not like Val. I get that the character’s supposed to be "hard" and is projecting a front and all; but just because I can be aware of that and the character element successfully conveyed doesn’t mean I have to like her or that I don’t see her as being stupid and petty. I don’t remember this Rush character at all, period. Story element, visually…the character just does not stand out to me from anything I remember ever seeing…as such, I’m pretty sure he’s a minor/throwaway character that’s not gonna last.

Despite the drawbacks, I’m still curious where this story goes, and interested in getting to the next issue. I just don’t have quite the sense of optimism I had with the ending of the first issue.

As usual…this isn’t really an issue to "target" as a standalone…you’ll want to at least get the first issue to read them together, and probably several issues. I think this is the roughest issue for me to read or write about so far in the Ultraverse books…so here’s hoping the next issue is more appealing!

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Ultraverse Revisited: Exiles #1

ultraverse_revisited

exiles_0001Exiles

Writers: Steve Gerber, Tom Mason, Dave Olbrich, Chris Ulm
Penciller: Paul Pelletier
Inker: Ken Banch
Letterer: Clem Robins
Color Design: Paul Mounts, Moose Baumann
Editor: Chris Ulm
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: August 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

It seems almost fitting to get to this issue, with Marvel having recently started yet another iteration of the title (by name). Thing is…this issue, this title, this iteration–this is the original. Before Blink was popular, before the rise of Generation X, and before the "X" was highlighted…we had simply Exiles. As in "cut off" from others, kept apart. A group that is different and kept out of the main body. Not yet another X-team

The issue opens in a high school, with teen Amber Hunt making out with her boyfriend–a football player. Before long, the school is attacked by an ultra (Supreme Soviet and some robots), and then another group of ultras arrives to oppose them. There’s some back and forth and the "Exiles" (Tinsel, Trax, and Deadeye) come out on top–though one of their own is badly injured–and they get Amber off-site. Once back at their headquarters–an island called Stronghold–Amber freaks out over being "kidnapped" (they saved her life, apparently), even as she meets further members of the group (Leader Dr. Rachel Deming, and Ghoul). While the apparent leader checks on the wounded, we find that Trax is quite a womanizer, and depicted (with Deming’s assistant Heather) in a way that sure as heck wouldn’t fly on the comic pages in 2018! Elsewhere, and in true ’90s fashion–Malcolm Kort–for whom Supreme Soviet works–shows off how "bad-ass" and "evil" he is by subjecting Supreme Soviet (for his failure to capture Amber) to a procedure that seems a lot like Marvel‘s Inhumans’ Terrigen stuff. If a body is brought into contact with this "Theta Virus" and the body is a "potential" they can emerge with mutations and powers. Otherwise, they have unpredictable but always fatal outcomes! The scene shifts to a couple other Exiles (Catapult and Mustang) sent to collect Timothy Halloran…though further villainous henchmen Bloodbath and Bruut get to him first. The battle is joined, and ultimately not only do the Exiles fail to keep the bad guys from making off with Timothy…but Timothy’s mother is killed. This leaves the Exiles angry and ready for payback.

I’m pretty sure I’ve read this issue before. At least, I’ve skimmed it before. Probably to see Ghoul’s first appearance…though I barely recognize him, given changes the character faces later in the Ultraverse stuff. And of course, just by name, Amber Hunt jumps out at me, given what I know of her importance to come–in Break-Thru as well as post-Black September stuff with the original Phoenix Resurrection.

Taken just as a first issue, this isn’t bad, though I didn’t get the same sense of "fun" or such that I’ve gotten with other Ultraverse issues. It also seems kinda strange to me that this is yet another group being introduced so soon in the Ultraverse, despite stuff like Hardcase suggesting so very few Ultras around. Then again, I suppose one could look to stuff like in Prime #1 news referring to the latest new Ultra and whatnot as there being an ‘explosion’ of ultras, beyond just the Jumpstart that hit The Strangers. I don’t get much of a sense of any of the individual characters here…they seem more two dimensional and almost caricature-like. While I was able to get most of the names from context, I had to go online to figure out Mustang’s name…yet he’s front and center on the cover!

The art is pretty good overall–definitely has that ’90s look–but I have to wonder at some of the layouts and such–particularly the inconsistent placement of "caption boxes" identifying several characters, but then not used anywhere else.

We’ve got a lotta characters and situations here…with a lot of potential. With multiple sub-groups of the Exiles, a leader, an island headquarters…this is set up to show us a significant group, major players in the larger world of the Ultraverse.

As with the other titles so far…this is well worth getting from a bargain bin; and as a first issue, it introduces the main characters, shows what they can do, introduces conflict, and baits the reader on what will be missed if the next issue is missed. So snag this if you’re interested and find it for 25-50 cents. If you find it with other issues, I do remember this is best read along with issues 2-4, an arc that makes for a better group purchase than single-issues by themselves.

I do look forward to seeing some more development with Amber Hunt and getting more of a sense of the character prior to her "big stuff." And to seeing some things play out with this title that I know are coming, but have never "experienced" reading along with the Ultraverse issues in general…I’ve always just been aware "looking backward" on them.

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Alien(s) Day 2018

April 26, 4/26–chosen for the planet designation LV-426 where the Alien was found and then the larger outbreak in Aliens–marks the day to observe the franchise.

For my part…sharing my latest shelf configurations!

aliens_shelf_04262018

I believe I have all of the Aliens paperback novels at this point. Including the Predator stuff, I’m still missing a Predator Omnibus from Titan; but I’m not in a huge rush to get that. There’s also a Predator counterpart to the Aliens: Bug Hunt volume; but again, not in a rush to get that.

Along with the books themselves on the shelves, I’ve got the various Pops and Mystery Minis and Minimates and whatnot. Seems the most appropriate place for the figures to be!

aliens_gn_shelf_04262018

Along with the various paperback novels, of course I have a number of comics volumes for Aliens, Predator, and Aliens vs. Predator. And rather than have them lost in with everything else, I opted to move my Blu-rays to this shelf (with the added benefit that they help keep everything standing up for the moment). I was counting on a matching volume to the Fire and Stone stuff with Life and Death, but never having seen anything about a hardcover and recently-ish seeing a paperback…I’m quite disappointed at the lack of proper "library edition" volume.

With my recent reconfiguring of the entire "comics space" I wasn’t able to find a good way to have the novels together with the graphic novels…so they are actually completely different bookcases in different parts of the overall space. I imagine I’ll get into more on that whenever I get to actually re-photographing the entire space and shelves and working up a huge post showing it all off!

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Ultraverse Revisited: Prototype #1

ultraverse_revisited

prototype_0001Budget Cuts

Writers: Tom Mason, Len Strazewski
Artists: David Ammerman, James Pascoe
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Paul Mounts
Editor: Chris Ulm
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: August 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

I’ve long been familiar with this title, and especially this debut issue’s cover. Of course, that’s on the surfacey level. Actually READING the thing? I don’t know if I had ever read this. It’s possible that I’d only read a later issue or two, or perhaps only known the character from appearances in other titles (such as Prime and Ultraforce) as well as the Ultraforce cartoon…and of course, I love the design. ’90s though it may be, it’s got something to it that I always liked!

We were actually first exposed to the notion of Prototype back in the pages of Prime #1. One of the news briefs in that issue referenced Prototype being injured and possibly killed, and a statement from Ultratech’s Stanley Leland.

As this issue opens, we seem to be getting more info about that particular incident, where Bob Campbell (Prototype) was helping test weapons systems in the armor, and the situation went wrong, costing him his arm, job, and way of life. This opening scene turns out to be a dream/nightmare (rather than "just" flashback) as we find ourselves back in the present with Bob, now with a prosthetic arm, living alone with his cat. We cut to a couple PDAing in the street, when they run afoul of some large, green bulked-up guy screaming about and trying to find Ultratech. As he bellows to Ultratech and Leland that "Glare" is coming, we cut to Leland giving a presentation regarding Prototype…and this includes the NEW Prototype literally bursting onto the scene. While newer, sleeker, and perhaps more powerful, we get hints that this newer armor isn’t truly complete, as it’s still got issues…we also later get hints that it’s also causing its new wearer–Jimmy Ruiz–issues. Leland and his crew make the best of the presentation, despite Campbell trying to make a scene, and then Ruiz having to fly into action against Glare. We get several pages of the new Prototype vs. Glare, and then a mysterious intervention by Leland’s assistant before a crowd around the scene of the battle accuse Prototype of killing the guy.

Somewhere along the way, I learned that after the Black September stuff (essentially the Ultraverse‘s "reboot," which happened a couple years into the universe’s existence) the original Prototype, Bob Campbell, was Prototype again. Of course, I’d only really known Jimmy Ruiz, and as I type this, off the top of my head I can only really think that was due to Prime #4 and Ultraforce stuff. Seeing Campbell get more involvement in this issue makes me suspect he was a more important (and perhaps rounded) character than I’d thought. It’s also likely that somehow he was blended in my mind–in part–with Justin Hammer and the scene of Hammer’s failed attempts of duplicating Tony Stark’s armor in Iron Man 2.

This issue drops us into some action right away while contextualizing and expanding on the blurb we’d gotten in Prime #1. We see Campbell and where he is now/what his life is like; then we get the introduction of a villain-figure, move to the introduction of the new Prototype, while getting the seeds of some likely problems to come; we see how Campbell is treated by his former employer, we get to see the new Prototype in action beyond the "staged" stuff, and we’re left with a cliffhanger and to wonder where the kid stands on the matter of killing an opponent, wanting to be a superhero, his lack of training, etc.

In short, we’re introduced to key players, given context and development, and left with something to bring us back for a second issue.

Visually, this is a solid issue; I enjoyed it overall, and would really have to dig to find stuff I’d be able to cite as a problem. This is–and looks like–a ’90s comics (considering it IS one, that’s to be expected!). Probably one of the more standout elements to me is the design of the two Prototype armors–Bob Campbell’s, and the one worn by Jimmy Ruiz. The Campbell armor is large and bulky–an easy comparison for me is to the Iron Man "Hulkbuster" armor; while the Ruiz armor is a very sleek and slim "Iron Man Lite" armor that looks like pieces of armor on a skintight bodysuit.
This felt like reading a new issue for the first time…at most, I suspect this would be the second time I’ve actually read the issue. And for it feeling like the first time, it was a good issue. Since this is the first issue…it’s of course a great one to start with, to jump in on…and if you like Iron Man for the cool armor and tech stuff, this is definitely an issue to grab from a bargain bin! Heck, this is one that would be worth getting from a bargain bin for the cover alone, if you’re of a mind to display comics.

I look forward to reading the subsequent issues of this title and getting more context for the characters involved…all the more as I know the character crosses over with Prime "next month" in the fourth issue of that series. This is well worth 25-50 cents, and since it’s a first issue, if you’re curious about the character, I’d say even $1 is not bad to start at the beginning with this character!

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The Weekly Haul: Week of April 18, 2018

With my Ultraverse Revisited project in full swing, and throwing up a review for Action Comics #1000 last week, here it is nearly another New Comic Book Day and I’m just now getting to last week’s haul!

weeklyhaul_04182018a

Because of the intentional delay/coordination for Action Comics 1000 to release for the actual 80th anniversary of Superman, we actually have two Superman books this week. I believe this is the final issue of this iteration of Superman itself, and we now have to wait for DC Nation and Man of Steel before the titles start back up in July.

I’m way behind on reading Batman but was able to enjoy this issue quite well. It’s the first chapter of a story involving Booster Gold. And I’ll just say that Batman on the cover stating that Booster Gold must die? He’s got a darned good reason, though Booster seems a bit out of character to me for developments over the past 10-11 years or so that I’ve read/internalized.

We also have the final issues of Super Sons and Deadman, as well as the latest issue of Mister Miracle…all three of which I have got to get caught up on reading!

weeklyhaul_04182018b

Big TMNT week for me, with Batman/TMNT II, TMNT Universe, and TMNT #81.

And then several more of the True Believers reprints…basically the only way I’m intending to buy much in the way of “new Marvel” for awhile/at all. And I actually regret the Infinity Incoming, as that reprints an issue I regret buying in its original form! However, the Rebirth of Thanos reprints an EXCELLENT, nostalgic issue of Jim Starlin‘s Silver Surfer and I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading it this way. I’m also not overly keen on Thanos Rising, but enjoyed that digitally so this gives me a print edition now.

I’m hoping the new comics for April 25 aren’t too plentiful or expensive…but we’ll see how that works out!

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Ultraverse Revisited: Early House Ads July 1993

ultraverse_revisited

Here are house ads from the second month of the Ultraverse line: July 1993! We have two with dates, one without…and then the "Ultrafiles" pages which were all the same this month across all five titles.

ultraverse_ads_prototype

I’m pretty sure that this one for Prototype is my favorite of the month’s ads. There’s just something to the design of the armor that I really like, and I swear this scanned image doesn’t do the print version justice…there’s just something I really like about the coloring. And as with many ads for comics, I really, really like the fact that the promo image basically IS the cover of the first issue. This shows us the character, as well as the image to look for to get the actual comic itself!

Helpful as the "text boxes" may have been on the first round of ads, I find the "tagline" format to be more effective here, making the ad more of a poster image than something in a pamphlet.

ultraverse_ads_exiles

Fighting to Save Themselves From Mankind and Mankind From Itself. Another large-font, central sort of tagline for a new title. Exiles gave us another super-team (seemed the Ultraverse was full of those!) and definitely has a very ’90s look from the ad.

ultraverse_ads_rune

Lacking both tagline AND text box, we have this add with some character and the small Rune logo serving almost as a signature, with the large-text format of Barry Windsor-Smith. This also lacked any date. So we had this image of something called Rune, associated with BWS, and based on other ads, one would only assume this was another title or such "coming soon."

Of course, years later, it’s interesting to look back on it, especially knowing that October 1993 became "Rune Month" with a 3-page story-chunk as flipbooks to the month’s issues, that collectively made up the contents to a Rune #0 issue, with coupons to send away for the standalone #0 issue as its own thing. But more on that in posts to come, as the house ads get closer to the ‘event’ itself.

ultrafiles_july1993a

Where text was swapped out for the Ultrafiles pages to make them unique to each title in the June 1993 issues, for July 1993 they seemed to all be exactly the same, and show all 5 titles out for Ultraverse month #2. The first page (above) is the "Ultratorial #2."

ultrafiles_july1993b

…while the second Ultrafiles page has quick quotes from the creators on the two new additions to the line: Freex and Mantra.

I really like these pages as a common piece across all titles, as well as the "checklist" of showing the covers of the month’s issues. And again, this was a time when the vast majority of comics DID only have one cover…or the "variant" was some sort of spot-coloring or foil in place of color or the presence or not of a UPC box. Not completely different art pieces!

Essentially, the issues thus showed off all of the current month’s titles, plus most of the  issues had full-page ads for the next month’s new series’ debuts. One would not even need the internet or such to know what they’re looking for in shops; one has what one needs from the actual single issue…NO "homework" required.

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Ultraverse Revisited: Strangers #2

ultraverse_revisited

strangers_0002Hey! Hugh! Get Off’a McCloud!

Writer: Steve Englehart
Penciller: Rick Hoberg
Inkers: Tim Burgard, Larry Welch
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Designer: Keith Conroy
Editor: Chris Ulm
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: July 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

This issue opens with an anecdote that also proves to be the issue’s title…then shifting to our group of strangers in an aircraft, heading for a cloud that the strange woman from the first issue disappeared to. They reflect on the events of the previous issue (in a page-ish on-panel/page recap). They then come up with a plan for compensating for screwed up sensors in Dave using his yellow flame to fly, and manually guide them. The group finds an entire island in the sky, surrounded by the cloud! After a rough landing, the group is captured, and eventually are able to communicate with the inhabitants of the island (after a battle that threatens the airworthiness of the island), and seem to have more questions then they started with. The leader of the island’s inhabitants suggests that "searching for the reason IS the reason" regarding their seeking how they all got these powers, and so on. As he "assigns" the woman–Yrial–to the team and sends them on their way, they determine they’ll call themselves what they started out as: The Strangers! Meanwhile, we get some token development regarding a likely soon-to-be villain.

This issue (as I’m likely to be saying about many, many Ultraverse issues in the coming weeks/months) is "VERY ’90s" in tone. It’s got what–especially by contemporary comics–is a choppy story with rather quick and convenient plot points (and plot jumps), with some familiar tropes. We have a bunch of people who don’t know each other but suddenly got powers working together–some token disagreement, but conveniently working well together. We have a random flying island manned by a group that knows way more than our heroes, but won’t clue them in, saying they’ve gotta find the information themselves. And we have a group assembled and an additional person arbitrarily added to the group that must be accepted…for the heckuvit. And we still don’t really have any answers, just a slightly wider world that now not only includes a bunch of people hit by lightning developing super powers, but an ancient people with a flying island over the United States and the US Government apparently doesn’t know/hasn’t done anything about it.

Story-wise, this works…I’m not completely enamored with the title as of this second issue, but it’s still early; and I’m much more familiar with the likes of Prime and Mantra, with the Strangers as a blind spot…so while I’m eager to get back to familiar stuff, this is new for me. It’s "only" the second issue, and we have a superhero team starting to work with each other, coming together…so it’s going to be continued development. I don’t believe I’d known prior that Yrial was "assigned" against her own choice to participate in the team…I must have thought she was "just another" of the people on the cable car.

Visually this is a solid issue. It "looks" like a ’90s comic, and I could do without some of the layouts…but at least the main double-page splash of the group suddenly coming to the island is something that arguably serves the story–showing the sheer enormity of the island, adding to its spectacle as something floating over Los Angeles. This is a colorful comic, not least of which is thanks to Dave and his multiple colored flames and extended "yellow flame" learning-to-fly sequence. No huge complaints or anything for this issue.

Given what I do know of the Strangers, I would not recommend this issue completely stand-alone. It works well as a 2nd issue…but especially as ONLY the 2nd issue, I can’t think of any reasonable reason to seek this out in isolation on its own without the first issue; and ideally along with the first and next issue to be a bigger chunk of overall story. That said, I’d definitely consider this a bargain bin comic, and wouldn’t recommend paying more than $1 if it can be helped; and ideally 25-50 cents.

I’m curious to see the further development of this group of characters, though not as much as I am in Prime or Mantra. Given those were two of my favorite Ultraverse books as they came out, that I mostly kept up with, I recognize my bias even as I can’t honestly or with proper authenticity rid myself of it. Those were my favorite titles, so delving back in, I want to get back to what I enjoyed…forcing myself to read other titles is–while starting out–forcing myself to read other titles I haven’t read and don’t have a singular interest in. This isn’t a bad issue, but it hasn’t immediately become a favorite for me or anything like that.

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