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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.

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Ultraverse Revisited: Prime #2

ultraverse_revisited

prime_0002Hunted

Writers: Len Strazewski, Gerard Jones
Artist: Norm Breyfogle
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Keith Conroy
Editor: Chris Ulm
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: July 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

I remember this issue as being (for a time) "hotter" than the first. I believe it was originally bagged with a trading card, so that there added to the "speculator" fuel–folks buying multiple copies to leave one in the bag sealed, another to take out. And that it’s in this issue that we see on-panel/learn on-panel about Kevin Green, and whatnot; the "reveal" of Prime’s "secret identity" and family and such.

We ended #1 with Prime becoming a hollow husk and a kid punching out of it and then barfing. We open this issue with a sick, naked kid stumbling to a house, which we come to realize is Kevin Green. His parents are obviously freaked out–what happened to their kid, why is he sick, why is he naked, etc. They get him to a doctor who thinks that despite the apparent amnesia, he’ll be ok…Kevin, of course, knows he’s ok–he’s PRIME! Later, at school we see Kevin’s definitely not a popular kid…and even Kelly–the girl he’s got a crush on–isn’t interested in him (though she IS interested in talking about Prime…something Kevin uses to his advantage). Before long, bored in class, Kevin feels something happening and rushes to get out…as Prime is re-formed around him! After school (as Prime) he finds Kelly and takes her flying. Before he can drop her off, he’s hit by a huge creature, and forced to both prevent Kelly from being injured AND fight the creature. After defeating the creature–Prime thinks he’s accidentally killed it–we see Kelly talking with a friend, who thinks the entire situation (particularly the ‘adult superhero’ having an an interest in Kelly) is weird. As Prime flies away, a new version of the creature catches up to him, and ultimately "absorbs" him–capturing him. We end the issue with Prime now trapped inside a larger body, trying to get out.

This issue is far less "iconic" to me, and I’ve got a fraction of the familiarity with it that I do the first issue.

The art is good, but something about it felt "off" and a bit different this issue–probably that I’m not as familiar with this issue’s specific imagery as I am the first. Something about the way Kevin is depicted here is not quite what I THOUGHT I remembered, so he looked weird to me; I can only assume that in my mind’s eye I picture Peter Parker or some such, or something more recent that I’ve seen with Billy Batson. Seeing an awkward-looking young teenager that looked like what he is threw me. As with the previous issue…I realize just HOW "’90s!" the art is, and that much as Image had a "reputation" that’s often referred to, it’s actually the likes of Breyfogle‘s Prime art that imprinted on me as "’90s Art." Coupled with the somewhat obvious-for-its-time digital graphics/bright colors/etc., the art makes for a good issue, showing what’s going on and all, and definitely feels like a comic book, though it seems significantly less "refined" than more contemporary comics. Of course, there’s a whopping 25-year gap between this issue and present-day!

Story-wise, we get a bit of world-building here. Prime–the hulking over-muscled superhero is actually 13-year-old Kevin Green, until now a "normal" boy with "normal" parents who worry about him. He goes to a normal school, experiencing normal things–boredom with classes, unrequited crush, peer ridicule, etc. The only thing that makes him "special" is generating this Prime body around himself–which is something he’s now familiar with, but apparently cannot control. Additionally, we get the start of a long-running theme that seemed rather new at the time: what is the perception of an adult superhero interacting with a young girl? After all–as readers, WE get to see that Kevin and Prime are one and the same, and that Prime is just a hulking body formed around his own, but it’s still Kevin that’s "in charge." Since other characters do NOT know this, they only see an adult…who is obviously "interested" in a girl who appears maybe half his age.

As a whole, this definitely comes off as a ’90s comic–something I’ll likely continue to say about this series, if not much of the Ultraverse in general. Structurally, the first issue could have been a "Zero Issue" with this being the first, but I’m rather glad it’s set up as it is–we were introduced to Prime the superhero in the first issue, left with the mystery of the boy in his body, then this issue introduces the boy and his own situation before getting us back into Prime-time action (ooooh…look at what I did there!) for the rest of the issue. We have the developing subplots of Kevin and Kelly, Kevin and his parents, Doc Gross and what he intends for Prime; and another cliffhanger. We’re promised in a dynamic caption that next is the ORIGIN of Prime…so along with the mirroring of the first issue’s cliffhanger, there’s also the hook that we’re about to learn the origin of the character, which would leave me plenty ready to keep on with this title!

As a decades-outta-print back issue, this would be a prime find in a bargain bin. I’m sure I’ve seen this a couple of times at least, both open and bagged. I recall this being a "hot" issue back in the day, both as a new title AND for the "bagged" factor (you’d need to buy TWO copies! One to open/read, one to SAVE! Because an external bag completely physically separate from the comic itself being removed DESTROYS the actual, physical comic book itself!)…there was also the "revelation" of Prime’s "secret identity" and all that. Especially with present-day sensibilities and the conscious knowledge of the finite nature of the entire Ultraverse and the relative commonality of the issues (especially for the first year or so of the Ultraverse line’s publication), I’d definitely recommend this as a purchase if you find it in a bargain bin…but ideally, along with the first issue and maybe several of the subsequent issues. I suppose this reads "ok" as a standalone…but especially as "only" a #2, there’s no real "reason" to specifically go after this without the first issue.

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