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Ultraverse Revisited: Firearm #3

ultraverse_revisited

firearm_0003American Pastimes Part Three

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Cully Hamner
Inker: John Lowe
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Designer: Moose Baumann
Interior Color: Foodhammer!
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Special Thanks to: Larry Welch
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

The previous issue ended with Swan a bit out of his depths, and being rescued by a flying Ultra. Here, he wakes up in a room full of Ultras…and finds some answers he’s been looking for…and a new threat! Retaining a hostage–that Swan is determined to save–these Ultras reveal that they’ve got a certain interest in hunting. Human prey. While they’ve denied him his own particular firearm, they give Swan a slight head start, and then the hunt is on! We see Swan take them on–fighting for his life–and ultimately see what kind of man he is, when he catches a break, and can completely escape…or head back in to save the hostage.

I feel like this story is a bit repetitive. The "eccentric rich folks buying property and importing humans to hunt" feels like something I’ve seen at least a couple other places, albeit originally published a number of years apart, probably. I’m thinking there’s at least a Batman story like that, and can’t really imagine there’s not a Green Arrow story like that. Of course, this is the first time I’ve seen it as super-powered people–Ultras–hunting a normal human! And there are only so many stories to be told…what keeps many fresh is a shift in particulars. So while I observe this, it’s not something I’d truly count against the issue/story itself.

The art is quite good, and feels entirely consistent with the earlier issues. Nothing really jumps out as "strange" or "new," nor as any great distraction. Nothing particularly stood out as singularly amazing or awesome…but I’d put that to simple quality of the art! It’s serving the story, conveying the action, and allowing the story to be experienced, rather than calling attention to itself needlessly. In other words…I like the art and the way it’s presented!

As a story, this is a "part three," but has a different "feel" from the first couple of issues to me. For one thing, it feels a bit more frenetic and action-packed…with less "building blocks" and more "doing" in general. In that way, this pays off the first couple issues that introduced us to Swan and his part of the world and set things up for him to wind up in this situation. I really like that this also mostly feels like its own thing, its own "episode," as we just start with Swan waking up and then having to think on his feet…we don’t have pages of exposition/recap…we basically just get launched into the action. I don’t recall (if I ever knew anyway) and haven’t "looked ahead" to see if American Pastimes is carried as a 4 or more chapter arc…but this feels like it could well be a 4-parter or even 5, and structurally I’d probably be happy with either.

While there’s definite nuance to be caught reading this issue out of the first two issues and the ending leads me into wanting to read the next issue…I think this stands pretty well by itself. I’d miss some stuff and have less of an overall context for the feel of the character of Alec Swan (and less of the sense of wanting to see him portrayed "live" by Jason Statham)…this works decently as a one-off issue. "Ultras with powers hunt a human who is really good at fighting back."

All in all, this would be a decent issue to snag randomly from a bargain bin. It’s best matched with issues 1 & 2, but especially if one can get it for 25 cents, it’s worth getting and reading even in "isolation." As part of the ongoing series, I definitely enjoyed it, and I look forward to the next issue!

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Ultraverse Revisited: Night Man #2

ultraverse_revisited

nightman_0002Mangled!

Author: Steve Englehart
Pencil Artist: Gene Ha
Ink Artist: Andrew Pepoy
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Color Design: Tim Divar
Colorists: Foodhammer!
Editor: Chris Ulm
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

One trouble with reading "all" of the Ultraverse titles is that it means I’m not "focusing" or "concentrating" on a single title…I’m not investing in a singular character/team, and there’s a definite disconnect in reading chapters of a singular story months/weeks apart, with numerous other issues in between. Of course, this does somewhat mimic–as is my intent here–following the Ultraverse as it originally came out 25+ years ago. Still, it would be interesting to run through a single series issue by issue or story by story.

All that said, this is the second issue of The Night Man and it feels like forever since I read the first issue!

The cover shows our main character fighting a guy in some sort of exo-armor/exoskeleton while neon signage in the background indicating the neighborhood they’re fighting in–outside an establishment presenting nude girls.

The issue opens with Johnny Domino in bed, five hours into his attempt to sleep, and finally admitting defeat. Reflecting on recent events–his car accident, the start of The Strangers and an "Ultra Fever" (the public’s fascination with the mass-emergence of Ultras recently), his failure to save Ginger in the first issue–he heads out into the night. His own Ultra-ability kicks in as he senses the murderous intent of an individual and intervenes…meeting someone calling himself "Mangle." Johnny isn’t able to capture the villain, but does rescue a boy, and returns the boy to his home (though the kid didn’t want to go home). We get a bit of insight into Johnny’s sense of rightness, seeing what it means to him that family rifts be put right while they can…showing some longer-term hurt in the character. Investigating Mangle’s reference to Nuware, Johnny investigates, confronting J.D. Hunt about it with little result. Frustrated, he winds up playing his sax on a beach where his dad hears (he’s a security guard) and without knowing the story still manages to offer useful advice to his son. Johnny gets back out there as Night Man and learns about his new foe before a rematch.  Despite having the opportunity to kill Night Man here and now thanks to his advantageous exoskeleton, Mangle decides it’s a game and leaves Night Man alive–proclaiming that he likes to play–and leaves the scene. Beaten, Night Man realizes he’s been lied to…BIG TIME!

I like the art for this issue…Johnny looks as I’d expect–particularly recognizable by his hair, and I like the Night Man outfit. That said, I’m not "blown away" by the art–it is good, but it’s only for this review and noting the credits that I recognize it as Gene Ha. I think I recall not caring much for his art style with Adventures of Superman back in issues before Infinite Crisis…and that being where I first came to recognize his name. That I like the art here is a good thing, and that’s that!

Story-wise, this issue definitely continues from the first issue, though not exactly off a cliffhanger. It’s definitely the "next issue," with plenty of context and exposition to remind us of recent stuff such that–though one definitely benefits from having read it–it’s technically possible to read this issue by itself and follow right along without truly missing much. It feels a bit clunky and awkward, as such…but it’s definitely a product of its time (the early 1990s), and I’ll gladly take it at this point, being so inundated with modern comics’ propensity to force one to do "homework" just to figure out what’s going on, thanks to seemingly everything being written for an eventual "graphic novel."

I like that we get some added development of Johnny himself, emphasis on his inability to sleep and yet still function, that he has a relationship with his father, that he’s got certain sensibilities (seeing the rescued kid home) even as a vigilante-of-the-night, and so on. Nothing’s particularly deep, and while this issue could be summed up in really brief, broad strokes, there’s a lot of stuff going on, world-building with the character and this title.

As I’ve said time and again, there isn’t really anything about this issue that would make me suggest seeking it out individually and specifically…but it’s definitely a solid second issue, a "next issue," and nothing turn-off-ish about it to say "nah, don’t bother." This is of course, bargain-bin fodder as a physical object…but finding it in a bargain bin (especially with #1 and 3+ also available) I’d recommend giving it a look-see.

I look forward to continued seeing the continued development of this title and its place–and the character’s place–in the Ultraverse.

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Ultraverse Revisited: Sludge #2

ultraverse_revisited

sludge_0002Because They Pay Me

Writer: Steve Gerber
Penciller: Aaron Lopresti
Inker: Gary Martin
Letters: Patrick Owsley
Color Design: Robert Alvord
Interior Colorists: Violent Hues
Editor: Chris Ulm
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

It feels like ages since I read Sludge #1–though it hasn’t been THAT long. I remember vague details but not character names and such. Even the main character, I "only" remember as "Sludge," though I remember he was a dirty cop who maintained certain principles and was shot up for it.

In that regard, this issue felt like "another episode" if not "THE next episode" of stuff, comparing this to a tv series.

We have a cold open on an inner monologue, someone who was bullied as a kid. We come to see that the kid has grown up and become a mercenary…his "defenses" and "coping mechanism" to deal with the bullying led him to this position…and he’s good at his job, enjoying dishing out the killing. Meanwhile, a couple thugs are pressuring someone to pay up on a debt, and to send a message plan to take a body part. It’s up to the guy who owes to determine which–and whether it’s external or internal. Sludge comes across them and recognizes one of the thugs, which leads to confrontation and the thug winds up dead. Also meanwhile, authorities are trying to figure out what the connection is with dead folks and their having been killed by massive overgrowth of cells where the faces essentially grow over themselves, suffocating the individuals. As readers, we know–we’ve seen–it’s Sludge, where his touch does the deed. Getting these multiple viewpoints, we’re learning and seeing more than Sludge for the moment, as this issue’s stuff comes together. Someone at the pharmaceuticals company involved in stuff hires the mercenary, and after we see him deal with another contract, he’s on to Sludge. As we’ve seen the mercenary’s internal state, we see that on first sight, Sludge becomes the embodiment of all the torture he went through as a kid, the creature MUST be killed, it was born to die as he–this mercenary–was born to kill it. We end the issue with him standing over the apparently-dead body of Sludge.

I tend to think of Sludge as a dark title visually…probably I’m thinking of the blues and blacks from the first issue’s cover, which is the main cover I think of for the character/title. This issue felt "colorful" overall, which made Sludge himself seem a bit out of place and more "alien" or "Other." That’s a good thing, especially if it was done intentionally and is not just me "reading too much into it" or "finding more than what’s actually there." I also like some of the subtleties and "moments" that are actually left to the imagination–such as a woman who is killed. We know she’s killed, but it’s not overtly shown, it’s not gratuitous. The visuals convey what’s needed and get the story across very well!

Story-wise, this issue focuses on the villain, while giving us incidental additions to Sludge’s character and situation. It’s a bit scary how well I can identify with the villain’s experience as a kid–not that it’s a direct matchup–and reiterates to me what a difference there is in how one handles a situation. Regardless, this makes the villain more sympathetic than he’d be otherwise. It’s interesting to be able to get into the guy’s head a bit–it grounds him, makes him more authentic–even though I never rooted for him and certainly don’t condone his line of business.

We get the introduction of this villain with his background and all; we also get development in the overall story as far as Sludge himself is concerned, and he gets a bit of resolution regarding individuals involved in his becoming the creature he is now; and there are more underhanded dealings with the pharmaceutical company as the whole thing is pushed to be covered up and principle loose ends–namely Sludge–are to be dealt with. And the cops are figuring out that something is out there and something is going on, which makes things doubly problematic for the "bad guys."

This issue builds on the first issue, but also stands alone fairly well. As a reader you definitely benefit from having the context and setup of the first issue; aside from the context, this doesn’t really refer back to stuff and doesn’t do the "continued from…" thing. It’s surprisingly readable and enjoyable as a one-off, and as with many Ultraverse issues…it’s well worth 25-50 cents to buy and read from a bargain bin. As I’ve been fortunate to find so many Ultraverse issues as cheaply as I have, I’d tend to recommend not going over $1 or so for this…but if you have to order it online to get it at all, it wouldn’t be horrible to pay its cover price, give or take depending on your desire to read it yourself!

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Ultraverse Revisited: Solitaire #1

ultraverse_revisited

solitaire_0001The Pleasure Principle

Writer: Gerard Jones
Penciller: Jeff Johnson
Inker: Barb Kaalberg
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Keith Conroy
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Interior Color: Foodhammer
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $2.50

I’ve acquired this issue a number of times–out of its bag, with and without the bag, with and without one of the cards. But in all these years, I’d never gotten around to actually reading this this! In this particular case, I’m reading a bagless copy with a $2.50 cover price.

We open on a couple of thugs beating a woman, and see her rescued by a guy in a purple and blue costume–an obvious vigilante figure. He claims he’s "hard to hurt," and he’s looking for someone called "The King." Though he takes a bad gunshot wound–with the original victim he rescued actually approaching him to help HIM–he gets up under his own power, proving what he said about being hard to hurt. The scene cuts to the so-called King, quite angry about the intervention of this Solitaire into his plans. We see and learn that he considers himself King Pleasure–if it feels good, DO it. Back with Solitaire, we see the vigilante deliver the victim to safety while he continues tracking King’s men. We see that Solitaire’s HQ is in an old movie theater, that he’s good with computers, and he’s got an established network of people to help him with his crusade…and that he has issues with his father and isn’t surprised to learn that King Pleasure has some sort of tie to his Father. Solitaire puts a plan in motion, and is able to get into King Pleasure’s inner sanctum, rescue a couple of his captives, and END this King’s reign. We also see Solitaire reveal his identity to King…he is Nicholas Lone, son of the crime lord Anton Lone. While the King’s "palace" burns and the rescued victims watch, Solitaire speeds off in his car, brooding over his origin, silently vowing to himself that "this fight" has only just begun.

In a way, this issue feels too quick and simplistic. But that’s (as often the case for me in 2018) most likely due to being trained for most of the last 17-some+ years to read stuff for the larger story, for the 6-issue "graphic novel," as it seems that modern comics have mostly lost the "art" of the single-issue story.

Though this is the premier issue of an ongoing/12-issue series (in 2018 I know this as a 12-issue finite series, but do not recall if it was originally intended as such or if it was intended as an open-ended ongoing series) it feels like it could be simply a one-shot, a single issue introducing a character, showing him off, introducing and resolving an immediate story, and leaving him to "the universe" to be used or not as any creators might choose.

This works very well as a setup-issue, a foundation-laying issue. We meet the title character, see him in action, see what he’s about, see what he’s capable of, meet supporting characters/locations, see him resolve a case, and have a decently-proper sort of ending…all in one single issue. Which makes this great "pilot" for a series.

I like the structure of the issue, the way this story is presented. In tandem with the art itself, this looks and feels like a ’90s comic in general.

Visually, the art is good–though there seem to be panels where there’s some shortcutting going on, it’s nothing not seen elsewhere, and doesn’t detract from the story. One is easily able to read along and keep up with what’s going on, and there are some nice, dynamic layouts that move the story along fairly cinematically. Simply looking at the art, it doesn’t stand out to me in a "this is my favorite artist ever" sort of way, but it’s not bad, and I especially like the colors for Solitaire’s outfit!

I’m very pleasantly surprised at how much this issue seems to work as a one-shot and "first issue" together. It’s very solid as a first issue, and on my first reading seems to be independent of all the other Ultraverse titles thus far, with no real reference to Ultras, other Ultras, and so on. Solitaire’s own "hard to hurt" nature reminds me a lot of the Bloodshot character from Valiant, and I’m interested to see how far those similarities go in future issues of this book.

Buy this for the "bagged" gimmick, for the trading card…buy it because it’s a #1, buy it because you like the cover art, buy it for whatever reason…you don’t need previous issues, and there’s no actual "To Be Continued" and thus for this one-off issue you don’t even "need" any future issues–though the fact that there are later issues mean there’s more material for you to get if you liked this issue!

Given the nature of the issue…I absolutely recommend it if you find it in a bargain bin (25-50 cents for sure, with the bag/card insert, certainly up to $1 or so!). It’s a good read, and as with many of the other Ultraverse titles, I’m curious and looking forward to reading additional issues.

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Ultraverse Revisited: Rune Month Coupons and Covers Combined

ultraverse_revisited

The 11 Ultraverse books in October 1993 were all part of a "Rune Month" promotion. Buy all 11 titles, collect the coupon each contained, and mail away for a standalone Rune #0 comic (and a bonus The Solution #0 as well).

Each of the 11 titles were presented as "flip books," that is–you had the main cover, but if you turned the book over–"flipped" it–you had a different cover, with the pages printed such that when you’d read from this side, everything was properly oriented as if it was a different issue…but it was still the same physical product. If you own two copies of these issues, you could file them separately as if they were two different comics.

BUT, you did NOT NEED to buy two separate products to get "both covers," unlike stuff in 2018!

rune_0a   rune_0k

The first and final chapters of the Rune stuff had their own "standalone" covers…the main difference being the text on each. THE STONES ARE CAST… followed by …AND DEATH WALKS THE EARTH.

The other 9 covers could "combine" to form a singular poster-sized image. These connecting covers presumably made it cheaper–commission one image, use it across 9 covers–PLUS it serves as a definite "bonus" for bothering to collect all the issues.

rune_all_9_covers_a

I present the image here with the gutters, to show the individual covers…

rune_all_9_covers_b

…and here with the gutter removed to show the singular intended image.


The coupon for ordering Rune #0 / The Solution #0 was presented as a 4-page insert in the middle of each comic. The pages are shown below:

ultraverse_ads1093_rune0coupon_01

Front…

ultraverse_ads1093_rune0coupon_02

Inside front…

ultraverse_ads1093_rune0coupon_03

Inside back…

ultraverse_ads1093_rune0coupon_04

…and the back, with the coupon itself. On these, you could make a photocopy of the coupon, rather than having to pull the insert or cut anything out of the comic itself.

With the coupons, shipping/handling was "only" $5…for TWO comics! Sure, this was 1993, but especially in 2018, that does NOT seem bad at all!

For the Rune issue at least, it was also non-essential and truly "bonus," as the content itself, the 33 pages of story, were serialized across the month’s 11 issues in 3-page chunks.

Bothering to order Rune # 0 itself was simply like ordering a "collected edition" that compiled the 11 segments into a single issue that could be read alone rather than digging 11 other comics back out to re-read or such.

Of course, The Solution #0 is a different matter…but I guess in this regard, that is the true bonus. Collect the coupons for Rune, but since you already read Rune #0 in 3-page chunks if you wanted to, the second #0 issue would be all new content rather than "just" "reprinting" something already read.

As I recall, the actual package that came included a standalone poster of the 9-part Rune image/#0 cover, and possibly a couple other things. When I presumably cover the issue as its own standalone piece whenever I get to the January 1994 Ultraverse issues, I’ll most likely mention (if not show) what I have filed with my original copy.

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Ultraverse Revisited: House Ads October 1993

ultraverse_revisited

Here are the house ads that I came across throughout the October 1993 Ultraverse titles!

ultraverse_ads1093_nightman_preview01

We had this introduction to The Night Man, by Steve Englehart; it also included several pages from The Night Man #1; but as they were simply pages from the issue and I already covered the issue itself, and I haven’t been putting story pages in these posts, I’ve opted to simply present the introduction as it’s the unique content.

ultraverse_ads1093_prototype_sludge

Here we have another “split-page” ad, with the two titles sharing the page, though as their own pieces on it.

ultraverse_ads1093_exiles_prelude_to_breakthru

This ad was in several issues, and totally spoils Exiles #3. Of course, there’s other stuff that happens in the issue, and the issue itself sorta left room for hope, if one hadn’t seen this ad already. The ad basically smashes any hope one would have for Tinsel’s outcome. That said, the ad doesn’t tell us how she dies–so you still have to read the actual issue for that.

This could have been a bait and switch sort of thing…after all, if they have to SAY “for real,” does that mean that it isn’t actually for real or permanent? Well, this was 1993, not 2018 Marvel, so…a bit more weight goes to it!

ultraverse_ads1093_ultraverse_checklist

I did not remember this ad at all, but it’s one that I really like. While on one hand you shouldn’t NEED to have something laid out for you like this as a reader…it’s cool to show both a checklist of issues-so-far for completists, as well as showing how stuff has, truly, actually been getting doled out all along without retcons or fudging to force something to fit.


While not exactly house ads, across the titles (themselves across several weeks–the entire month of October 1993!) there was a 4-part “strip” of The Mighty Magnor.

I was vaguely aware of the character thanks to a Savage Dragon crossover ; and it’s easy to forget (or never even realize) that Malibu Comics was actually the original publisher of Image Comics–those earliest first issues from Image were published by Malibu! [EDIT: vaguely aware enough that I mixed up Magnor and Megaton Man…bit of a brainfart! The Savage Dragon crossover was actually the Savage Dragon/Megaton Man. Apparently I was trying to recall the hubbub with the pop-up cover of The Mighty Magnor #1 but that got intercepted by recent thoughts on Savage Dragon and my enjoying the tidbit of Image comics first being published through Malibu!]

Anyway, here are the 4 Mighty Magnor strips from October 1993:

ultraverse_ads1093_mightymagnor_01

Week #1

ultraverse_ads1093_mightymagnor_02

Week #2

ultraverse_ads1093_mightymagnor_03

Week #3

ultraverse_ads1093_mightymagnor_04

Week #4

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Ultraverse Revisited: Ultrafiles and Letters Pages October 1993

ultraverse_revisited

Now that we’re done with the actual issues/story contents for the October 1993 Ultraverse titles, on to the Ultrafiles and letters pages!

All of these are at half-size to fit on the blog page…just click on the images to open a larger version!

ultrafiles_october1993a

Ultrafiles page 1…

ultrafiles_october1993b

Ultrafiles page 2 with the Ask Diane section.

letters_exiles0002

The Exiles letters page from Exiles #3.

letters_freex0004

The Freex letters page from Freex #4.

letters_hardcase0005

The Hardcase letters page from Hardcase #5.

letters_prime0005

The Prime letters page from Prime #5.

letters_prototype0003

Prototype letters page from Prototype #3.

letters_strangers0005

And finally, the Strangers letters page from The Strangers #5.


It’s definitely cool to see letters pages–in 2018, they seem pretty much a relic of the past, so definitely a bit of nostalgia there. Several of these don’t even have a "name" yet, but letters were run anyway. And of course, the Ultrafiles pages deal with the entire line, and include a bit of information about the upcoming Break-Thru, as well as the Ask Diane blurb.

As said at the top of this post…click on any of the images to open them in a larger size, as they’ve been shrunk to fit this blog layout.

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