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At long last, the twelfth issue of the Hardcase monthly series (note: the series lasted a total of 26 issues) of the Ultraverse is finally here. Since the opening page of issue #1, Hardcase has been very engaging, enjoyable and intriguing to read complete with very deep character development as written by the late James Hudnall. In comparison with superhero comics in general, Hardcase itself is pretty unique (a superhero team member who ends up the only walking survivor who gets into Hollywood before returning to doing superhero acts) even by today’s standards.
As the series went on, Hardcase got involved with Choice initially solving mysteries and finding answers. It was only recently they got involved romantically, which hurt Hardcase’s other girl Linda (the other survivor from The Squad). Along the way, Hardcase and Choice got involved with The Strangers and The Solution in memorable crossovers.
Now the stage is set! We will find out if the first full year of the Hardcase series will be completed with impact or not with this look back at Hardcase #12, published in 1994 by Malibu Comics with a story written by James Hudnall and drawn by Scott Benefiel.
The story begins in the night in the desolate land, just a few miles away from the secret base of Aladdin. Hardcase and Choice were together resting when suddenly Headknocker and Hardwire arrive to attack them. As Hardcase and Headknocker start their rematch (note: they first fought in issue #1), Hardwire goes after Choice.
Even though he knows Hardknocker is tough, the Hollywood superhero makes his move to take on Hardwire and help Choice.
Meanwhile over at Groom Lake Control Center, two men in suits look at the images and details of Hardknocker and Hardwire on oversized screens. As they analyze the situation happening outside their facility, they argue over the possible release and use of the other undesirable ultras they captured…
There is no doubt that this is a very high-quality comic book with a very strong script that mixes spectacle with character development, secret society intrigue, mystery and some drama. The storytelling itself was successful thanks to Hudnall.
The story started strongly with action scenes with some build-up of suspense and mystery emphasized when the narrative switches to another scene at a different location. While there is a notable twist in the comic book, it is the ending that really shook things up so much, it made me go back to issue #1 and other references to The Squad. This is great writing done by James Hudnall and he knew how to shake the foundation of the series.
When it comes to the art, Scott Benefiel work here is great and the best one yet within the first year of the series. I love the way he draws facial expressions that really show emotions or intensity and he knows how the pace the flow of events (and still manage to draw dynamic action shots).
Hardcase #12 is a great read and it certainly is not the typical good-versus-evil type of superhero story. As the conclusion of the first year of the Hardcase series of the 1990s, this one really defined the title character’s place in the Ultraverse as Hudnall shook the foundation of the series in a very memorable way. The ending of the comic book is truly powerful and it should be seen. It is easily one of the most notable endings of any Ultraverse comic book.
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Hardcase #12 (1994), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $4 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $11.
Overall, Hardcase #12 (1994) is highly recommended!
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