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Ultraverse Revisited: Freex #4

ultraverse_revisited

freex_0004Hounded

Writer: Gerard Jones
Penciller: David Williams
Inker: Michael Christian
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Keith Conroy
Interior Color: Violent Hues
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: October 1993
Cover Price: $2.50

This opens where I think I remember the previous issue leaving off–with some group of Ultras pursuing the Freex–this group being the "Hounds." The opening narration is from the point of view of the leader–who calls himself the "Master of the Hunt." He’s been maligned, so how dare these freaks think THEY can just go off the grid and be left alone? Speaking of the Freex, they’re gathered around the lifeless robotic "body" Michael left behind, trying to figure out what they’re supposed to do. Val and Ray fight, she blasts his book…though feels bad about it once realizing she’s done exactly what his mother had done in taking everything away from him. meanwhile, Michael–in electronic form–discovers the police don’t actually know where they are; they’re still safe, but doesn’t know who’s actually hunting them. He’s intercepted on his way back to his friends, which causes his thoughts/focus on Angela to manifest on a computer screen in the police office. The Hounds engage the Freex, who eventually escape. As they seek a place to hide for awhile, Val separates–with Ray thinking she’s being selfish, but it turns out she broke into a bookstore to get a replacement copy of his book she destroyed. As a group, the Freex then do find safety in some shop…invited in by its owner, Ruby. She offers Ray an insight: he taught HIMSELF how to read, which is NOT dumb or stupid. As the group starts to settle in…the peace is disrupted when someone blasts Ruby…the Master of the Hunt has found them!

Maybe it’s the covers, but I’ve a couple times now found myself almost "dreading" a Freex issue because of the cover. Maybe it’s that I’ve seen the image too many times with no real context, maybe it somehow doesn’t fully convey something the way I’d like…I don’t know. This issue’s cover shows us a hound blasting Val…looking to me like a singular villain; and the blast hitting her head making it look like he’s extracting knowledge or zapping her with some sort of mind-control ray or something. We can kind of make out some of the other characters looking in on the situation, but they’re hardly a focus, and not overly apparent at first glance.

That being said…I didn’t hate this issue. We get the continued development of our "Freex" gang, as the characters are still learning to work together and BE together, even having decided to stick together–safety in numbers and such. Michael’s still learning his own powers, and we see here that there’s someone else able to tap into stuff and influence the electronic interface–not just him. The kids behave like kids, and continue getting to know each other and how they all fit together.

The art on this isn’t bad, but doesn’t really blow me away. I like the interior art a lot more than the cover. It’s not hard to follow what’s going on from the visuals, and no one seems specifically unrecognizable or oddly proportioned in any unexpected ways. Again–the art is not bad, but it’s nothing that stands out to me singularly…it does exactly what it’s supposed to, but doesn’t feel above-and-beyond or such. Nothing in this issue strikes me as poster-worthy, and no singular image stands out as anything iconic.

rune_0eRune [E]: The Cursed
Plotted by: Barry Windsor-Smith & Chris Ulm
Drawn & Colored by: Barry Windsor-Smith
Scripted by: Chris Ulm
Inked by: John Floyd
Computer Color by: Albert Calleros
Lettered by: Patrick Owsley
Text Pages Designed by: Jim Chadwick
Edited by: Steve Gerber

Once again, we have a starts-abruptly "scene"–this time telling us the date: June 24, 1993…the day the Jumpstart Effect hit the cable car creating the Strangers and the resultant cable car crash to injure Johnny Domino. But we diverge, following Edwin Doyle–another passenger on the car. He has a bad headache attributed to the incident, but as he’s guided home by a frail individual that just showed up, he transforms–as does his new "friend" and we see that it’s a frail, sickly Rune guiding him…supposedly helping him, but it’s not hard to see that Rune intends to feed on this newly-created Ultra.

This is the first of these chapters to really feel like it has a narrative to itself, to be a bit of a story rather than a stretched out "moment" or other vignette. It’s still only 3 pages, but there’s a lot of narration  on the full single page that opens, and lots of dialogue, broken up amidst 4 and 5 panels on the second and third pages. We meet Edwin, are given context of where this is and what’s happened, get to see him meet Rune, see him transform into an Ultra-form…and presumably see his end. A very brief but nearly-complete "hero’s journey" of sorts.

Visually this fits with the other chapters–obviously, given the creative team doesn’t change with each segment of what’s essentially a single issue serialized. I like that we essentially have a beginning, middle, and end here…it’s the most "actually-a-story" so far. As I think I suspected–and indeed noticed–the first couple chapters were just there, with nothing more to go on, so there wasn’t enough to really pick up on as far as any sort of story or narrative. As we’ve now seen Rune use his stones to learn he’ll live, seen him in ancient times feeding on a human offering, consult Nikola Tesla on energy sources, get caught in a nuclear explosion, now we see him about to capture some Ultra-energy.


All in all, this is a solid issue–well worth getting if you’re collecting the series and/or can get this along with the first 3 or (presumably) the next several issues. Nothing here stands out as this being some singular stand-alone thing worth hunting down in isolation. It’s worth a quarter or so to read "a Freex issue" or to fill in a run, of course.

The Rune chapter works pretty well as a standalone-within-a-whole: it’s by no means a sole selling point of the issue, either. That this is a Rune Month issue is sorta incidental…that marks it as October 1993 at a glance even without the cover date, but the issue doesn’t seem integral to anything other than the Freex title.

I continue to be interested in where things go with these characters, even if I don’t have quite as much "champing at the bit" excitement for the title.

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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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