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Ultraverse Revisited: The Solution #1

ultraverse_revisited

solution_0001The Problem

Writer: James Hudnall
Penciller: Darick Robertson
Inker: John Lowe
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Color Design: Keith Conroy, Tim Divar
Interior Color: The ‘Bu Tones
Special Thanks to: Brandon McKinney, Mike S. Miller
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: September 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

This is definitely an issue I know I have not read before…in fact, I’m honestly not sure that I’ve read any issues of this series–I’ve only been "aware of" it, and perhaps read the several-page Rune segment that would have been a flipbook on one of the issues. I do not remember having this issue initially, or even seeing it when it first came out.

We open on someone just before he’s killed…this is our introduction to a huge, hulking Ultra named Meathook. Then we’re introduced to a much more graceful Ultra with finesse (and a sword) in Deathdance. We’re quickly introduced to a teleporting member of this group called Gate…and then a fourth–Book. Having killed all the guards at this base, they steal a bunch of nukes, which leaves the former owners–Russians–none too happy. Later, the Russians speak to contacts at a group called Aladdin, and are referred to yet another group called The Solution. The scene shifts and we’re introduced to more souped up ’90s-style henchmen for hire, protecting a drug shipment. As they’re ambushed by none other than The Solution, we meet Incoming, Dropkick, Shadowmage, and leader Tech (Lela Cho). After defeating Black Tiger, the Solution heads back to one of their secret bases to decompress, and Tech reflects on all that’s happened in barely six months. Another member of the group–Outrage–shows off by smashing, to the amusement of the others. As they begin looking into the Russian nukes situation, Shadowmage uses her magic to let them spy on the perpetrators…but she’s "sensed" by them, and her surprise leads to our cliffhanger, and the Solution might be in trouble.

From the cover itself, I really enjoyed this issue! There’s something to the cover–perhaps the colors involved, with the shades of purple, blue, pink, and white on an orangey background–that just really works for me. And of course, it’s a typical ’90s shot of a group rushing at the viewer, the leader shooting ahead. I imagine another factor for this standing out to me is–as generally tends to be the case on all these early Ultraverse books–this is the only cover I’ve known for The Solution #1.

The interior art is quite striking, albeit strongly conveying the general ’90s vibe that I’m realizing–or re-realizing–I picked up on as a kid more than I realized. It’s sort of interesting to me seeing Darick Robertson as the penciller, as (offhand) I really only know his name from his Transmetropolitan work. Seeing it here is cool, and I really like the visual style. Though a bit gratuitous, there’s a panel of Tech in the shower while the Solution is at their base that stood out more than the scene in Mantra #1 where Lukasz wakes up in Eden Blake’s body. Given the way the Mantra scene stuck with me as a kid, the fact I don’t remember this instance from back then is how I know I never read this as a kid.

On the story side, this issue moves at a pretty fast pace. By modern (2018) sensibilities, it’s way too fast and leaves far too much unsaid and is rather choppy, leaping from one thing to the next. But this is from 1993, and frankly…I really dig the pace. This is "only" a first issue, and it introduces us to all sorts of characters–essentially two teams of villains along with the protagonists making up the titular team, and still other characters. There’s even plenty of room for violence and blood, which is a bit on the messy side but in ’90s shorthand shows off just how "bad-ass" the villains are and how good the Solution is in being able to take them on at all, let alone have victory.

In the modern lens, this would easily cover 3-5 issues…that we get it all crammed into one makes for a jam-packed first issue that is well worth its cover price even now, despite being something I’d typically associate solely as yet another quarter-book.

This is my first real look outside of the initial "core" of Ultraverse titles, and though it might not fly with me if it were new in 2018, I definitely like it as something from 25 years ago. Running with my usual, this issue is absolutely worthwhile if found in a cheapo-bin; easily up to $1. If you dig the art alone, this could even be worthwhile for a bit more. While I know I’ve seen many of the other Ultraverse #1s in bargain bins…I think this is the first I’ve gotten to that I have NOT. Perhaps it is just "that good" that fewer people have gotten rid of it; perhaps it had a smaller print run; I don’t know.

I’m looking forward to getting into the next issue and seeing where things go, and hopefully better associating character names with actual characters.

solution_0001_blogtrailer

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Injustice: Gods Among Us Annual #1 [Review]

injusticegodsamongusannual001The Hunt for Harley

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Xermanico, Jonas Trindade, Mike S. Miller, Bruno Redondo
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez Rodriguez
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Cover: Juan Jose
Assistant Editor: Aniz Ansari
Senior Editor: Jim Chadwick
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

Normally I’m not a huge fan of Lobo, though the character occasionally gets my interest. I had enough curiosity in September that I wound up snagging the Lobo Villains Month issue, and since I’m already following Injustice, there was no reason for me to avoid this issue arbitrarily.

The main thrust of this issue is that Lobo shows up to see if it’s worth trying to collect a bounty on Superman. When pointed out that Superman could just throw him into the sun, and there wouldn’t BE even a single drop of blood for Lobo to regenerate from, the big bad biker from space decides that nope, the bounty is not worth it. However, Superman makes his travel worth his time, and sics the bounty hunter on a thorn in his own side: Harley Quinn. So Lobo goes after her, to darkly comedic results, with a hint of Green Arrow and Black Canary thrown in.

This is by no means a written masterpiece…but I have to say that I enjoyed this issue and its story more than I have most comics lately! The story itself fits quite well within the established setting of the Injustice series and its parameters. I liked the longer singular story, compared to feeling more like I’m getting a couple of shorter stories and a random backup in some of the non-Annual issues.

I also enjoyed the visuals of the issue. Nothing glared out at me as weird or “off,” nothing took me out of the story as I turned the pages despite multiple artists; and I really like this version of Lobo.

While there’s a fair bit of context to be had, having read the series so far that makes this issue work, if you’re loosely familiar with Lobo and Harley (say, from the game itself or other media) and you know the premise of the game (superman’s taken over, the heroes are split and alliances are not what they used to be), you can probably enjoy this as a rather expensive (but at least thicker than a standard issue) once-shot story with nice art.

The overall saga of Injustice is not exactly advanced–this is a fairly “timeless” story within the setting and nothing stands out as “key,” though there are references grounding this in the continuity.

But this is still a good issue that I ultimately didn’t mind paying the $4.99 cover price quite as much as I would many others. If you come across this for a decent price (whatever you deem “decent”) it’s definitely worthwhile.

Injustice: Gods Among Us #10 [Review]

injusticegodsamongus010Betrayals

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Tom Derenick, Mike S. Miller, Bruno Redondo
Colorists: David Lopez, Santi Casas of Ikari Studio
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Cover: Mico Suayan
Cover Colors: David Lopez, Santi Casas
Assistant Editor: Aniz Ansari
Senior Editor: Jim Chadwick
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Given the way I was drawn into this series, I almost hate to admit that it seems that even as things with the characters heat up, the series itself is cooling down for me. I have yet to get to play the game this is based on, so only have the story as this comic series to go on, and the premise is wearing a bit thin.

This issue gives us the next three chapters that were originally presented digitally…two dealing with the “main” story and one that’s really just a “side” story for “perspective.” In the main stuff, Superman’s group has learned that the Hawkgirl they were working with was actually the Martian Manhunter in disguise, while Batman’s group had taken out the original. In retaliation, Superman reveals Batman’s identity to the world. This doesn’t go over well with anyone–least of all Bruce–and prompts additional harsh action. Martian Manhunter confronts Superman and Wonder Woman, and uses his shape-shifting ability to threaten Wonder Woman’s life, prompting quick/deadly action from Superman. In the third part, we get a story of a kinder, gentler Superman of the past and how he went to extraordinary lengths to help a kid who fell off a bike.

Art-wise, no particular complaints. The art fits the stories the issue gives, and I never found myself trying to figure out what was going on due to confusing visuals. The “classic” Superman seemed slightly off, but I’m a lot more “forgiving” of that given this series is entirely its own thing…and I’ve gotten used to seeing a lot of visual interpretations of the character that don’t quite fit “my” preferences.

Though the series is cooling off for me, the story isn’t bad. It’s a bit jarring to see these characters–especially Superman–take things as far as they do; and to see where there can be more drastic, shocking consequences since this isn’t the “main” continuity (characters can be killed, maimed, etc.). I’m finding Flash to be a bit more of a “voice of reason” and the most true-to-form of the various characters; certainly “vocally.”

By and large, this far in, the story is steeped in its own continuity so there’s not much of a jumping-on point, and it seems rather unlikely that anyone would be randomly jumping in at a 10th issue without context of the earlier issues; there’s no real recap–externally or within the story itself–which works for me, having read all the earlier issues…but it wouldn’t seem likely to truly “clue in” a new reader looking for context.

Superman allowing–even instigating–the revelation of Bruce’s identity, particularly as retaliation seems uncharacteristic of Superman, given likely ramifications. I’ll buy it for the sake of the story, but with a healthy dose of skepticism. My favorite part of the issue was the flashback which is a rather strong Superman story, period–Injustice and otherwise.

All in all, not a bad issue…certainly nothing to disgust me into dropping the book, but nothing that particularly drives me to recommend someone jump in on this issue, or even the series, without already being interested in the concept to begin with.

As the issue re-presents 3 chapters that were originally 99-cents each, I’m paying a $1 “premium” to get/read this in print. Yet given the page count, it’s in line with (or has more than) other $3.99 books, so no huge issue there.

Injustice: Gods Among Us #8 [Review]

injusticegodsamongus008Public Relations

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Mike S. Miller, Tom Derenick
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Cover: Mico Suayan with Santi Casas & David Lopez of Ikari Studio
Senior Editor: Jim Chadwick
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

While to my knowledge I’ve read the entire series so far, I feel like I’m missing a piece somewhere, like I lost a couple pages or something…or just outright forgot something where a history/”previously…” blurb would have been quite helpful.

Lex Luthor joins in on the debate between Hawkgirl, Superman, and the others, pointing out that they have to change the “image” the world now has of them…to get out in front and explain to the world what they’re doing, their intent–rather than the world being left to merely observe and draw wild conclusions. Meanwhile, word gets out even beyond Earth to Kalibak (Darkseid’s son) on Apokalips, who takes Superman’s intention of peace to mean soft weakness. With Darkseid’s permission he leads a worldwide invasion against Earth, which leaves the heroes to test recent changes in “strategy.”

Other than somehow not remembering Luthor entering things–perhaps a total brainfart, perhaps just not catching it last month–I’m quite enjoying this series, this story. It certainly helps that so far this series is entirely self-contained…it’s epic, “event”-level stuff, yet it’s just…”itself.” No legions of tie-ins and extra minis and specials to buy. Not even any double-shipping to make the $3.99 cover price an even harder “sell.” Just one issue per month on a regular basis…which leaves me actually looking forward to the upcoming Annual (and wondering if that will be simply some extra chapters to keep the digital chapters from being TOO far ahead of the print edition, or something else).

The characters aren’t exactly all that ‘deep’ or anything, but there’s not room for much depth given how many are involved. Still, the overall “feel” to the story, to the issue works for me, as I just kept on turning pages…I was so engrossed in the story that I failed to even consciously note that the art changed in the middle of the issue. I can see it, consciously looking for it, of course. But it’s extremely rare for me to keep breezing through an issue without being at least slightly thrown off by such a shift.

The art’s good, obviously. There’s that consistency throughout, and the fact that nothing was so jarring as to pull me out of “the story” the entire art team gets loads of credit from me. I like the costume designs here…they’re classic overall, with some modifications that seem partially New-52 influenced, partially just modifications likely from the designers of the game this is based on to have the characters look cooler on-screen.

I typically don’t care much for comics based on video games, but if I was “just” reading this and had no context that it’s based on a game, I’d simply take it as an Elseworlds type thing; an alternate universe.

I imagine one would enjoy this particularly if familiar with the game…yet, in my own experience it’s enjoyable simply for being an alternate take on the characters, centered around a crucial event in Superman’s life.

If you’re not reading Injustice yet, you can get it as single chapters through the Comixology app on app-supportive devices; single issues (about 3 chapters each) in print, or wait til November or so for the first hardcover collected volume (first 6 issues/about 18 chapters).

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