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Welcome back, superhero enthusiasts, comic book collectors and fans of Malibu Comics! Previously, I reviewed an issue of The Strangers which happened to be the 2nd-to-the-last issue of its monthly series (which itself was mostly spearheaded by the dynamic duo of Steve Englehart and Rick Hoberg).
I was about to do a retro review of The Strangers #24 but realized that there are still some other comic books of the series that I have not reviewed yet. As such, I decided to read those other issues before reviewing the final issue.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at The Strangers #14, published by Malibu Comics in 1994 with a story written by Englehart and illustrated by Hoberg.
The story begins when a strong, muscular man with long blonde hair strikes a huge rock formation high in the hills to the east of San Francisco Bay in California. While talking to himself (most likely a way to deal with his isolation), he continues to lift very large piece of rock, smashes more rocks and throws a tractor as if it was just a ball.
“I am…Powerhouse! I am Powerhouse! I…am Powerhouse,” he said to himself.
Still talking to himself, Powerhouse realizes that the world must never know about him as it has done its best to destroy him. He quietly changes into civilian clothes and drives away into the distance in his car.
On the streets of East Bay Hills in Berkeley, Hugh/Grenade and Bob/Atom Bob walk down the fancy commercial zone as they enjoy the time-off Elena/Lady Killer gave them. Soon enough, people started recognizing the two as members of The Strangers even though they are not in costume. This community buzz catches the attention of an executive at a local radio station who then picks Powerhouse (in civilian form) to go to East Bay Hills to report about Hugh and Bob…
I’ll got straight to the point about what this comic book is all about. This is the story of an ultra who gained powers very long before The Strangers, Mantra, Prime, Hardcase, The Solution and all the other Ultraverse heroes even started. That being said, Powerhouse is an old man (who really does not look like in his sixties or seventies) whose life turned upside-down as a result of gaining super powers as a teenager in the year 1938 (note: this was the year Superman debuted in comics in real life). Having lost DECADES of his time in the world, Powerhouse became a man who found himself lonely and having trouble adjusting into the modern world (1993 in the Ultraverse specifically). What bothers him even more is the fact that super beings like The Strangers members Atom Bob and Grenade are gladly accepted and celebrated by the public which is the complete opposite of how he was perceived when he became a super being.
The writing done by Steve Englehart is very rich to read and through it all, you will feel the pain, frustration and anguish of Powerhouse. As usual, Rick Hoberg’s art is always great to look at and you can see in this comic book how he adjusts his style when the narrative shifts from the talk scenes into the action scenes and the like.
Fundamentally, The Strangers #14 (1994) highlights Powerhouse (both his present-day self and his origin) with Atom Bob and Grenade literally pushed out of the spotlight. Powerhouse is clearly inspired by the old ages of superhero comics and the creative team cleverly presented him as a super-powered man who finds himself struggling to fit in the 1990s. While this super being debut story is fun and engaging, its only weakness is that The Strangers have little real presence in the story (note: the cover art looks great but is really misleading).
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of The Strangers #14 (1994), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the comic book costs $14.
Overall, The Strangers #14 (1994) is recommended!
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