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Welcome back, superhero geeks, comic book collectors and fans of the Ultraverse! Before we revisit the Ultraverse, I should state that I am not a fan of monsters as comic book protagonists, especially when it comes to the superhero genre. In the world of pop culture, a lot of people get fascinated with monsters especially those that are dangerous to people. You got the likes of the Swamp Thing, Dracula, the monster of Frankenstein, the Werewolf, etc.
When it comes to the Ultraverse, they have a monster for a protagonist named Sludge. What I find really intriguing was that Sludge was introduced to readers not by making appearances in existing Ultraverse comic books but by actually being featured in full force in the launch of issue of his own series – Sludge #1.
With those details settled, we can find out if there is something special or unique about the Ultraverse monster in this look back at Sludge #1, published by Malibu Comics in 1993 with a story written by Steve Gerber (who previously worked on Marvel’s Man-Thing) and drawn by Aaron Lopresti.
The story begins in a very low place of Manhattan where society’s substratum meets the crust of the earth. Sludge, a grotesque monster with a human perception and a body made out of slime, slowly walks towards a group of poor and homeless people.
Elsewhere somewhere in the city, a radio talk show host talks to his listeners about Frank Hoag, a detective sergeant who worked for twenty years for the New York Police Department or NYPD. It turns out, Hoag has been missing for the past few weeks and the last thing someone knew about him was that he responded to a call about a break-in at the headquarters of a pharmaceutical firm. The next morning at the said place, company employees spotted signs of violence including blood, bullet holes and shell casings. No sign of the detective.
As the radio talk show host engages his listeners by making an issue out of the disappearance of Hoag, police officers got offended while a gang of armed thugs paid close attention to what was said. As the said gang (riding their car) move down the street of homes, they opened fire at the people.
As the gang’s car moves on, the manhole ahead of them opens. Sludge comes out of it and finds himself right on the path of the moving car…
The writing is top-notch and this is no surprise not only because of Steve Gerber’s extensive writing experience but also because he knew how to write a story with a monster as a protagonist which was what he did with Marvel’s Man-Thing. Unlike that other monster, Sludge has intelligence and awareness, therefore he is a monster with humanity still existing within. Very cleverly, Gerber introduced Sludge and notable aspects of him in a very smooth and efficient manner. By the time I finished this reading this comic, I realized that I witnessed Sludge’s first appearance and origin story which were done very nicely. I should also state that Sludge here is not a mere monster but really a struggling character worth following.
For his part, Aaron Lopresti’s art is pretty good. His visualization of Sludge really stands out and he did not pull back his punches when it came to drawing the action and presenting the violence.
I can say that I am very pleasantly surprised and entertained by what was presented in Sludge #1 (1993). It really is a great monster-protagonist story written by Steve Gerber and his work here really shines. By the time I reached the end of the story, I got eager to look forward to the next issue and find out what Sludge will do next. It is a very engaging read and one of the strongest debut issues of the Ultraverse.
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Sludge #1 (1993), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $8 while the near-mint copy of the ultra-limited edition costs $32.
Overall, Sludge #1 is highly recommended!
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