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Ultraverse Revisited: Hardcase #3

ultraverse_revisited

hardcase_0003Hard Decisions

Writer: James Hudnall
Penciller: Jim Callahan
Inker: Rodney Ramos
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Designer: Moose Baumann
Editors: Chris Ulm, Hank Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: August 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

This is another "new" issue to me, that to the best of my recollection I have never before read. As such, I’m continuing to rather enjoy the building of the earliest part of the Ultraverse, and at three issues in, beginning to get a bit more of an appreciation of the world of this one title at least.

First off, I noticed that we’re back to Jim Callahan art, which is a welcome refresher after the "studio art" we had for the second issue. Having Callahan‘s work again brings us back around to the first issue in visual familiarity/continuity, making this feel like a more "authentic" issue of the title, based on first impressions from that first issue.

The issue’s story opens with the Choice Corporation (Choice the character being their public spokesmodel) as we get a glimpse into the recent past, and then the top men of the corporation are trying to figure out how to get her back/neutralize her…and we have a bit of a reminder of "The Man Who Isn’t A Man" existing (and truthfully, I’d forgotten about him entirely in context of this title); TMWIAM sends his group of assassins/enforcers "The Omega Team" in to try to deal with Hardcase and collect Choice. Meanwhile, Hardcase and Choice speak with a Detective Chuck Brown–I believe he’s the brother of the police officer that was killed in the first issue…showing that that character wasn’t just a throw-away to "guilt" Hardcase, but something for lasting connection and repercussions. We also get the development than apparently Choice is able to be frank with Hardcase, but talking to anyone else, her "conditioning" kicks in and she denies any and all notion of impropriety regarding the Choice Corporation and any of their actions. Hardcase takes her to a beach to get away so he can get more information out of her, when Gun Nut, Trouble, and The Needler (The Omega Team) attack. Most of the rest of the issue is their fight; three against two. When the Omegas are down, a camera crew catches up, asking Hardcase about the fight, and Choice chimes in blaming them on a rival corporation (despite knowing the Choice Corporation had sent them, after HER). Back in the offices of the Choice Corporation, The Man Who Isn’t A Man assumes control of "cleanup" of the situation, and Hardcase and Choice get back to his house…and find The Strangers waiting for them!

In pulling issues for Months 3 and 4, I was reminded of the Hardcase/Strangers crossover in the #4s, but was somewhat surprised to have this issue actually end on the Strangers showing up–I’d "assumed" they’d show up partway into the next issue, and the story would then cross into their title; or vice-versa of Hardcase showing up partway into their issue and then everyone follow over into Hardcase. But I think I do like this better than my assumption…as even without recalling/knowing of the "crossover," just having them show up here at the end of #3 kinda mirrors the ending of Prime #3, with the third issues leading into the shared world of the Ultraverse at large, where the first couple issues of each title pretty much stuck to themselves.

This issue continued the situation of folks being after Choice, and Hardcase being involved. The fight sequence seems a bit long-ish, but when we have 26 story pages, that makes it less problematic to me, as it keeps the fight-to-other-stuff ratio lower for the issue itself.

Another good issue that leaves me curious about where things go and thus looking forward to the next issue!

hardcase_0003_blogtrailer

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52 Week #52 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: A Year in the Life

Booster and Rip Hunter vs. an evolved Mr. Mind for the fate of the multiverse!

52week52Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Mike McKone, Justiniano, Eddy Barrows, Chris Batista, Pat Olliffe, and Darick Robertson
Inks: Andy Lanning, Walden Wong, Rodney Ramos, Drew Geraci, Darick Robertson
Colors: Alex Sinclair, David Baron and Hi-Fi
Letters: Ken Lopez
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Special Thanks to: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is almost stand-alone, in a way. It tells the story of Booster, Rip, & Co. as they battle Mr. Mind, who has evolved and emerged, ready to feed on the multiverse created at the end of Infinite Crisis…a task they’ve apparently been working at for awhile. We’re shown some decent detail as to the nature of the multiverse and its origins, and while I’ve not been following any of the One Year Later books that have mentioned it in any way, it seems a good explanation of things to me, for now.

This issue employs quite the artisitic team, and while it might seem like some scramble to get extra pages in this issue, the story itself provides great contextualization and use of the multiple artists. I enjoyed the shifts in art…and the overall visual tone of this issue was on par with–if not surpassing–the usual…a fine finish that I hold no complaint with.

Story-wise, one can go a couple directions. Plenty of action, though with a fair amount of time-travel and looks to different points of plans that were set in motion previously, this issue lacked a concrete feel of being set in the final week, feeling instead like a special issue chronicling an "untold tale" of a "lost week" or some such. On the other hand, with the other core storylines having wrapped up the last couple months, this was the biggest "loose thread," and a LOT was crammed in, even with 40 pages, detailing its conclusion.

All in all, we get a number of cool moments–and an obvious if unexpected reunion of sorts–with events either tying back to the first issue of this series, or evoking some SERIOUS deja vu. It answers some questions, while leaving other newer questions (no pun intended), and provides what I consider some good, solid comic-book closure. That is, the stories conclude…but the door is in no way slammed shut on things.

Obviously, if you’ve followed the series all that far, there’s no reason NOT to get this issue (those extra pages? Same cover price, even!). And heck, even if you haven’t followed this series all that closely…there’s stuff in this issue that looks like it’ll have some solid repercussions in the months to come throughout the DCU (as well as some explanation given to the nature of the apparent multiverse that’s been brought back), so wouldn’t be a bad issue to nab as a single, even if some smaller moments/subtleties are lost for not having read the series as a whole.

A solid ending to a solid series…

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

52 Week #44 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Deaths in the Family

Last issue’s bloody conclusion sets the stage for this week, as the Black Marvels face the Horsemen of the Apokalips…

52week44Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Dan Green, Rodney Ramos, Eddy Barrows
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s a lot to be said about this issue, and it certainly marks a clear turning point both for the series, as well as the Black Marvels. What we’ve seen over the course of the last 30+ issues in particular, and series as a whole brings several plots together in a collision point that paves the way for the upcoming World War III week.

After last week’s rather sudden betrayal by Sobek and devouring of a member of the Black Marvel family, the remaining Black Marvels have it out with the Horsemen of the Apokalips. The bulk of the issue depicts this battle, with the conclusion leading back to Montoya’s story even as she spends time in Nanda Parbat, and kicks her story forward a bit, too.

Thankfully, this issue has a full complement of pages, allowing just an extra couple pages of story, rather than an origin backup.
All in all, this issue packs quite the punch, and continues to offer the payoff that was lacking in the earliest issues of the series.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the craftsmanship of the story itself at this point that’s not been said before–it’s fully solid, as has come to be standard for the book, with its core writing team. 44 issues in, there’s a consistency that just flows, and took me quickly through this issue without any pause for any visible story glitches.

Visually, the art team tackles some harsh material, and depicts some rather gory stuff, making this one of the darker, bloodier issues to date (even beginning at the cover as we see the reflection of Isis in a pool of spilled blood). To a small degree, Black Adam in particular seems just a bit "off" visually from prior appearances–that I’d notice or care says a lot about the last couple years of the character’s presence on my comic-reading-radar. While this is noticeable, it really doesn’t detract from the issue’s story–the characters are clear and fairly emotive, and other than a general lack of familiarity with the individual Horsemen, it’s not hard to tell who’s supposed to be who. The only "complaint" I really have is the visual similarity between Richard Dragon and Ralph Dibny, as I’m not particularly familiar with the former, and the latter has sported a similar appearance throughout this series.

After this issue, there are a mere 8 chapters left…it’s hard to believe it’s only been 10 months since the story kicked off, and it’s already rushing at breakneck speed toward its conclusion. While some smaller bits of continuity will almost certainly be lost on a newer reader, and there’s no real "catch-up" mechanism (such as a "last issue" or "story thus far" page), this wouldn’t be an absurd point to jump back into the series if you gave it up due to the relatively slow start. At the same time, it doesn’t seem overly likely that anyone’s going to be really pulled in this far in if one hasn’t already been following the story.

Another very good issue of what I suspect may–for me–go down as a favorite run, period.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

52 Week #40 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Man Ain’t Nothing But a Man

Steel vs. Lex Luthor (and a teaser on what’s up in Kahndaq)…

52week40Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Chris Batista
Inks: Rodney Ramos & Dan Green
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is almost entirely focused on Steel, and his fight with Lex Luthor. Only the final two pages deal with anything else–Kahndaq and the worsening situation there (that likely will be picked up and run with before too long as the final quarter of this series kicks into high gear).

John Irons–Steel–arrives at the LexCorp building to confront Luthor over his role in the New Year deaths of thousands, as well as to rescue his neice from the evil businessman’s clutches. He’s got some help, though they split off to deal with various threats, ultimately paving the way for Steel’s personal confrontation with Luthor.

At face value, this is just one big fight-scene, though there are a few moments scattered throughout for characterization–particularly via characters’ interactions. This fight has been building for months…since the beginning of the series, really.

I for one really enjoyed this issue. I’m pretty sure the last time (in-continuity) that I really saw Steel in action–the John Henry Irons Steel, that is–was the end of the Superman: Man of Steel series or the Superman vs. Darkseid: Apokalips Now 4-5 years ago. I only recall seeing him become a literal "man of steel" in the earlier issues of this series, not actually using the armor he created for himself. As such, seeing the character suit up and dive into battle here was very, very welcome.

The writing’s about normal for this series…being a big fight-scene, there don’t seem to be any deep or nuanced bits of dialogue to dissect, just two men throwing down after building hard feelings over a course of the last 10 months or so.

However, whether intentional or just my reading too much into it, I’m reminded of one of the closing chapters of The Return of Superman where the characters are battling their way into the heart of Engine City to confront the Cyborg and have to face their own individual battles en route, while fighting for the larger single goal.

The art for this issue is quite good–I have no complaints with it, and actually enjoyed it. There’s a full-page shot of Steel that would make a great poster, and is the best I recall seeing the character since some of his earliest appearances in the 90s. I don’t recall offhand if I knew Batista‘s art prior to this series, but the name sticks now, and I certainly enjoy his art.

This issue’s story takes the full allotment of pages, leaving no room for an origin backup, which is more than fine by me. In that sense, we get a full "normal" issue’s-length on the Steel/Luthor story, with the Kahndaq sequence replacing the backup, keeping this issue as a whole from being "just" some wrongly-titled issue of Steel.

If you’ve not been along for much of the ride, not much to sell you on here; if you’re a fan of Steel, though, this is a great issue, if only to see him in-armor and in action. Otherwise, this is an issue for those in for the long haul with the singles.

We’re well past the half-way point, squeaking past the 3/4 point…and I’m strapping in for the final section of this particular roller-coaster ride.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

52 Week #28 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Beyond the Black Stump

Batwoman’s back, Tornados show up, and a check-in ‘n revelation in the goings-on of the lost-in-space heroes (and heroine).

52week28Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Drew Johnson
Inks: Jack Jadson, Rodney Ramos & Ruy José
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Stephen Wacker & Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

After the ‘revelation’ that Montoya and the Question stumbled onto last issue, the two are back in Gotham City to contact Batwoman, and make her aware of what is prophesied to transpire with her involvement. We get a look at a group of people apparently playing with parts of the Red Tornado…truth be told, I’m not terribly sure what’s going on there. Finally, just earlier this week I’d been thinking about how it’s been a number of weeks since we got to check in with the heroes-lost-in-space…and voila! Here they are again…though a different light is cast on Lobo and the entity they’re facing in combat.

Overall, I am enjoying this series. Just over halfway in, it seems we’re into the thick of things, stuff’s happening, and there’s a number of questions cropping up as well as pointers at the title holding more significance than simply being a one-year/fifty-two-week periodical.
A certain pace seems to be in place, and being this deep into the series, it’s no longer as unfamiliar or unexpected as it seemed in the beginning.

This issue in particular I’m not nearly as thrilled with: I don’t care at all about this Batwoman character, and if I recall the previous issue correctly, there was a certain logic-jump that seems rather "forced" to me (isn’t BatGIRL’s surname Cain?)

I’m also not familiar enough with the Red Tornado to particularly care at the ‘cameo’ situation in this issue.
Structurally, this series could greatly benefit–in my opinion–by an introductory page to remind us of where things were left with certain characters when we last saw them, given the number of pages between appearances.

Visually, nothing jumped out at me; the art is solid and on the whole, it works very well for me; no complaints from me on that.

This is definitely an issue that will likely only really appeal to those already following the series; there doesn’t seem to be anything that in this issue singly that greatly affects the greater DCU, and doesn’t seem to particularly stand all that well on its own without the ongoing context of the series-as-a-whole.

The Origin of Catman
Writer: Mark Waid
Penciller: Dale Eaglesham
Inker: Art Thibert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Asst. Ed.: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Ed.: Jeanine Schaefer
Editors: Wacker & Siglain

Not a bad couple of pages; this pulls together the different portrayals of the character and makes for a singular narrative of the character, acknowledging both the ridiculous/goofy past and the sharper current stuff. The art’s attractive, and as far as these origin segments go, this fits right in with the rest.

I still would prefer a single special with nothing but origins, in exchange for a couple more pages of actual story per issue, though.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Booster Gold #20 [Review]

Quick Rating: So-so

Story Title: 1952 Pick-Up
Booster goes to 1952 to kill some time while Rip fixes the stalled Time Sphere.

boostergold020 Guest Writer: Keith Giffen
Guest Penciller: Pat Olliffe
Inker: Norm Rapmund
Artist (Bookend Sequence): Dan Jurgens
Finished Inks (Bookend Sequence): Rodney Ramos
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Asistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Jurgens & Rapmund
Publisher: DC Comics

While on the one hand it’s kinda cool seeing Giffen (if only as a "guest writer") back on this character…this issue feels entirely like some "filler issue." It doesn’t seem to tie to the previous arc, nor really begin anything new…and even on the art, is "bookended" by one art team with the bulk of the issue another.

Rip’s time-bubble has stalled out, and he’s quickly annoyed by an impatient Booster. Booster decides to "time dive" into the early 1950s, where he gets swept up in a quick adventure apparently involving the original "Suicide Squad." He also gets a chance to see at more length the time period of "The Fonz," who he finally realizes is not real, but still enjoys none the less.

As a generic "Booster Gold, the greatest hero you’ve never heard of" story, this isn’t bad…but it really doesn’t advance the ongoing plot any, doesn’t deal with ramifications of recent goings-on, and as such just doesn’t feel like it matters–all the more if the reader isn’t familiar with Suicide Squad history in detail. I finished the issue, and was simply left wondering "That’s it? That’s all this issue is?"

The visuals are decent–I still very much enjoy Jurgens’ pencils. Not so thrilled with the main part of this issue, especially having Jurgens‘ art side-by-side with Olliffe‘s. Ollife‘s work is not bad by any means…it’s just not Jurgens‘, and not what I associate with my ideal visual style for this book.

As an ongoing thing, this issue feels like you could pass on it without missing out on anything essential to the ongoing chronicle of Booster. As a one-off, it’s a decent issue to pick up just for a quick read of a story dealing with the character. (Then again, what seemed a throw-away two-parter earlier in the series sparked a 5-issue arc several issues after).

This issue could be a lot better…but ultimately, it doesn’t begin to be as bad as it "could" be.

Ratings:

Story: 2/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Joker’s Asylum II: Killer Croc #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

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