There is nothing like witnessing a superhero use technology to fly around with high speed, blast with energy, lift heavy objects using extra strength and use whatever special features to beat the bad guys and save people from harm. I’m not talking about Marvel Comics’ Iron Man here. I’m talking about the Ultraverse parallel to him called Prototype and here is my retrospective review about the 1993 superhero comic book Prototype #1 published by Malibu Comics.
Co-written by Tom Mason and Len Strazewski with art by David Ammerman and James Pascoe, Prototype #1 is the story of the armored figure called Prototype but there is one huge thing to take note here – the armored figure is actually a high-tech project of a corporation called Ultratech and it involves more than one person piloting it.
To put things in perspective, some time in the past the Prototype armor (which was very large and bulky) was piloted by Bob Campbell until a major incident happened during an aerial exhibition that cost him his right arm. Subsequently he got replaced by a much younger man named Jimmy Ruiz. In the present, Campbell is a PWD (person with disability) who was dismissed by the company which compelled him to sue them for age discrimination.
Then he attends the stockholders’ meeting of Ultratech which was organized to be lavish and showy. It is here where Prototype (piloted by Ruiz) makes an energetic appearance sporting a leaner looking armor that closely resembles a human being.
Ruiz says “Stand back, America…it’s showtime!”
While showing off, Ruiz encounters some problems. He has not fully gotten used to the technology and his head feels like exploding. During the stockholders’ meeting, Bob Campbell causes some trouble prompting private security to escort him away. It turns out that Ultratech really distanced themselves from him.
Of course, the company is very happy with the Ruiz-piloted Prototype and they are confident their major financial bets will yield great results. Their executive Stanley Leland stated, “He’s not just a showpiece, he’s a corporate asset!”
As this is a superhero story, life is not normal. As such an incident happens that, predictably, requires Prototype to take action (and entertain readers like you and I).
Technically the story was nicely told and its pacing flowed smoothly. There is a nice balance between spectacle, storytelling and character development. Ultimately by the time I reached the 24th page, I got a grasp of the comic book’s concept, the characters (especially the two pilots) and where the series was going.
How does this comic book compare with Iron Man? To say the least, the concept of a large corporation owning and controlling a high-tech suit of armor piloted by their employee is not only a nice alternative but a very engaging alternative to the Iron Man concept (super rich industrialist who wears a powered suit of armor and uses his special talent on technology).
The Ultraverse was the most interesting and most entertaining superhero line of comic books I read back in the 1990s and Prototype went on to become one of the major heroes of the franchise. Prototype went on to become part of UltraForce, a superhero team that had its short-lived comic book series (with famous artist George Perez doing the art in some issues) as well as a short-lived animated series based on the said comic book series.
Had the Ultraverse lasted longer, succeeded and profited, chances are Prototype would have been a major contender among all other superheroes from the different publishers today and there would have been more merchandise and perhaps even video games based on the character.
If you plan to visit a local comic book store to buy old comic books, I highly recommend Prototype #1.
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