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Ultraverse Revisited: Solution #3

ultraverse_revisited

solution_0003The Hunted

Writer: James Hudnall
Penciller: Darick Robertson
Inker: Barbara Kaalberg
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Designer: Tim Divar
Interior olor: Foodhammer!
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

Once again, looking at an issue of The Solution I find myself wondering how, exactly, I managed to #1 miss this series entirely as a kid and #2 not pick up on this sooner even as an adult.

This issue opens with a young woman being stalked by a couple of menacing figures that we come to realize (along with her) are aliens–Darkurians–as they “morph” into their true form of hulking, monstrous beasts ready to devour her. Then another figure enters, first playing music from a harmonica, and then wielding fantastic weapons that are quite effective against these Darkurians. The next day, we join in with several members of The Solution as they debate publicity, with everyone but Lela having reasons for NOT wanting to be in front of any cameras. Vurk, impatient and edgy, prepares to leave. Lila asks Aera to put a “trace” on him–using her magic so that they’ll be able to locate him, should the need arise. Vurk hits the town, looking for some excitement–though what he finds interesting and what a cab driver finds interesting don’t exactly intersect. He’s in luck, though, when he stumbles across a figure he recognizes–a certain harmonica-player (incidentally, apparently named “Harmonica”). Shifting to his large, brutish (alien) form, Vurk leaps into battle with Harmonica…the two are old opponents. Harmonica’s weapon/harmonica seems to be able to transform into whatever he declares–laser, flight-belt, sword, whatever–and he more than holds his own against Vurk. The fight is inconclusive, halted first by police and then by the Solution (having located Vurk via that “trace”). We shift to the Solution meeting with a client…and learning that they’ll be working with someone. We see on the final page: Hardcase and Choice!

This issue’s story seems so simplistic in a way. Show some aliens mugging a random woman on the street, they get killed to show how bad-ass this Harmonica guy is. Touch base with the Solution–they are the team this title’s about, after all–then Vurk goes off on his own. He fights Harmonica, giving us an extended fight scene that shows us how bad-ass HE is, before stuff is brought to an abrupt halt with neither being victorious…this leaves things open for later. And we end with the setup for a “crossover” with Hardcase to leave us ready for what comes next. Nothing’s all that deep, but we get our title characters present in the issue, while the focus is on one particular member…and we get a bit of a sense of history for him with encountering Harmonica, as well as development in his admitting his own people want to kill him. As He’s a “tank” on the team, Harmonica being able to take him on, having taken out the Darkurians earlier, and getting away here without issue sets Harmonica up to be a bigger player in future issues.

And I absolutely love the art in this issue! It’s clean, and detailed, the character designs definitely have that nostalgic, ’90s “vibe” but without seeming hokey or rushed. I’m sure this is thanks not only to Robertson‘s pencils, but also Kaalberg‘s inks with Divar and Foodhammer!‘s coloring. I don’t know if it’s my personal color preference or other details, but I especially like Lela’s appearance and costume. I feel like I’m all over the place with enjoying or being “iffy” on Ultraverse issues’ art…perhaps it’s other comics’ art I’ve looked at since my last Ultraverse coverage.

My enjoyment of this issue is largely that it’s nothing “deep,” and even picturing the issue’s opening a la Law & Order or CSI, with a brief intro to set something up, then a jump to the actual main characters and them dealing with stuff after the events of the initial sequence. Having read a couple issues of the series before this also laid some groundwork, so while I’m not great with characters’ names yet (especially being a couple months–at least–since reading the previous issue) but recognize them visually and having seen them, it’s easy to “go with the flow” of things.

As “just some ’90s issue,” this would probably work pretty well overall as a standalone issue…it has the feel of a random issue trying to set something up without being itself bogged down with stuf from prior issues. The cover itself isn’t all that interesting; and I never really paid it much attention, focusing mainly on the title logo and issue number. Essentially we get naked-backside-of-Vurk fighting against Harmonica-with-a-sword…boring as a cover for only reading previous issues, but at least “fitting” given the actual interior contents of this issue.

If you find this for 25 cents or so–bottom-price bargain bin, basically–it’s worthwhile if only for “exposure” to the title and such. Generally-speaking, it’ll work better with the context of the first couple issues (admittedly, also ideally bargain-priced).

While I’ve been iffy with this title on lack of knowledge…it’s quickly becoming a high-quality, enjoyable favorite…which I feel like I didn’t expect when I started this deep-dive into the Ultraverse.

solution_0003_blogtrailer

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Revisiting Dakkon Blackblade – A Magic: The Gathering Legend

Writer: Jerry Prosser
From a story by: Steve Conard & Jeff Gomez
Pencils: Rags Morales
Inks: Barbara Kaalberg
Letters: Bryan Dresner
Color: Atomic Paintbrush
“The Dragon War”: Jack C. Harris & Alex Glass
“Magic: The Untold STory”: Sharon Claire Mitchell
Graphic Design Edtorial Pages: Kenny Martinez
Assistant Editor: Jeof Vita
Armada Line Edtor: Jeffrey Artemis-Gomez
Published by: Armada/Acclaim Comics
Cover Price: $5.95
Cover Date: June, 1996

This is another of Armada‘s MTG projects that I’ve actually just read for the first time. I’m not sure where I got this volume–whether it was new at the time, from a bargain bin, or from a friend. Whatever the case–it’s one of the later books, and not one I’ve found to be all that common.

This issue has art by Rags Morales–something I found to be very interesting, as he’s been an artist whose stuff I’ve had an eye on since 2004’s Identity Crisis from DC. The art works really well–the issue looks like good fantasy to me. The style has something that I haven’t noticed in the other MTG books that at the same time is obviously fantasy but also looks like mainstream comic art.

The story itself doesn’t impress me all that much, as it seems to be a bit of a legend within a legend. While we learn a bit about Dakkon and how he gets his blade, and I’m not entirely sure what I did expect…this wasn’t it. The cover, I suppose, put me in mind of Dakkon being on some quest to track down/fight the Swamp King, and I just thought this would be a bit more “epic” than it proved to be. However…I got a huge kick out of learning the origin of the Carthalion line.

Given contemporary MTG comics are $4.99, for another 96-cents, this is a “prestige-format” one-shot with plenty of story pages, a notable absence of advertising, and PLENTY of “back-matter” which makes it quite worthwhile at the cover price by today’s standards. I’m not sure it would have seemed as worthwhile 15/16 years ago…but this is absolutely worthwhile if you find it for cover price or under, anywhere.

I had to force myself to read the prose story in the back–something about the larger-than-a-book pages and double-columns put me off. In the end, it was an enjoyable story, and definitely a “compressed” thing–it could easily have been a mini-series in itself if it was put out in non-prose comics format. The essay “analyzing” the various Armada comics wasn’t all that informative, though I read it all the way through without too much trouble, once finally in the mindset to read pages of text in a comic. These definitely packed a lot more time and value into the issue as I probably spent–all told–at least an hour to read everything cover to cover, which beats pretty much any other comic out there.

As said above, I’d not read this before, so no real sentimental value on this; no particular memories of when it came out and all that. It’s another MTG comic, that I enjoyed reading as I read it, had to force myself to read the prose, but generally it was a good read.

Other Revisiting Magic: The Gathering posts:

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