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When done right by really talented people, superhero crossovers within the shared universe of a particular publisher can be fun to read. In this retro comic book review, we are about to explore one of the earliest Ultraverse crossovers ever published. To put things in perspective, the Ultraverse imprint was launched in 1993 by Malibu Comics, and there were several titles that debuted like Prime, Mantra, Hardcase, The Strangers and Prototype to name a few. Unsurprisingly, in-universe crossovers were bound to happen shortly after launch and create new opportunities of fun for fans and readers.
Here is a look back at Hardcase #4 published in 1993 by Malibu Comics with a story co-plotted by James Hudnall (writer) and Steve Englehart, and drawn by Roger Robinson.
The story begins inside Hardcase’s home. He and Choice were surprised by the presence of The Strangers inside. While Hardcase was fuming mad, Lady Killer and her teammates tried to calm him down expressing they meant no harm and simply wanted to talk with him.
“Look—we’ve just come back from a fight with a bunch of ultras who wanted to kill Choice and me. And earlier today, another group showed up and took out part of my house. So, to put it mildly, I’m not exactly in a sociable mood,” Hardcase said calming down.
Eventually Hardcase and Choice talked with the Strangers….
For the most part, this comic book is less about spectacle (unsurprisingly) but more about exposition and character interaction. This does not mean Hardcase #4 is boring, in fact it’s still compelling to read. In clever ways, this comic book has some very relevant stuff for Hardcase fans specifically lots of in-depth, additional details about him (including details about The Squad) and how he changed to be an ultra. In short, this one shows Hardcase’s origin and what happened afterwards. James Hudnall’s script here not only connected nicely with the final Squad moments in issue #1 but also deepened the details. By the time I finished reading Hardcase #4, the tragic event that opened Hardcase #1 made even more sense to me.
The writing is this comic book’s biggest strength not only because it fully explored more of Hardcase’s past but also due to the nice interactions Hardcase and Choice had with the Strangers. I really like the short scene when Atom Bob thought about getting Choice interested in him since he finds her really charming.
Hudnall’s writing was indeed full of exposition and yet it was nicely paced and I never felt lost with the narrative. I should also mention that the presence of the secretive organization called Aladdin is felt even strongly in the story, building up the suspense for it.
When it comes to the art, Roger Robinson did a decent job visualizing the characters. For the most part, each member of the Strangers as well as Hardcase and Choice were still recognizable visually. For the action scenes, which are not that many, his art was satisfactory.
While Hardcase #4 lacked spectacle, its portrayal of the crossover between Hardcase and the Strangers still made it a good read. There is additional stuff for Hardcase fans and the interaction between him and the Strangers was nicely crafted. Ultimately, this crossover was the first of two parts leading to The Strangers #4.
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Hardcase #4, be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $4. The near-mint copy of the newsstand is priced at $13.
Overall, Hardcase #4 is recommended.
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