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Welcome back, superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we revisit the Ultraverse of Malibu Comics and examine one of its many stories through the Sludge comic book series.
Previously I reviewed issue #2 of the series which was a surprising and fun comic book to read as the creative team took the risk of emphasizing the violent character Bloodstorm over Sludge himself. Ultimately, this move served as a way to not just build up tension but to expand the specific place of Sludge and the dark forces within the Ultraverse. For this retro review, issue #3 is set during the events of the memorable Ultraverse crossover story Break-Thru.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Sludge #3, published by Malibu Comics in 1993 with a story written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Aaron Lopresti.
The story begins with Sludge still lying down at the dock after just being defeated by Bloodstorm. Suddenly a mob of chaotic people (driven mad by the effects of Break-Thru that just happened) lift him up and throw him into the water without any regrets whatsoever. In hiding, Bloodstorm witnesses their act and thought to himself that he should avoid the madness happening. Suddenly, other mad people ganged up on him forcing him to react by firing his gun and set himself free from their grip. He safely makes it to his car and speeds away, even bumping off a few people on the way.
As Bloodstorm speeds away, another man in hiding who knew him and the boss Marcello was found by the mad people. Out of desperation he runs away and jumps into the water. He realizes that the people are so obsessed with going up to the sky (the Break-Thru effect), they did not bother to follow him at all.
Deep down the water, Sludge finds himself alone and getting relieved of the pain he experienced above. Feeling hopeless, he waits for the river to wash him away…
Being a standalone story set during the events of Break-Thru, this comic book focuses more on the protagonist while simultaneously raising the stakes with regards to the evil forces as the elements of crime gang combined with the supernatural took effect. To be clear, fantasy elements were added to this series which had darkness and grit dominating the plot of the first two issues.
This comic book has an early appearance of “lord” Pumpkin (AKA The Pump) who is the element of sorcery and, more notably, serves as the Ultraverse’s very own Satanic figure. Not only does the Pump have vast powers to take life away from others and has evil pawns to wield, he also leads and guides an apprentice (the kid gangster called Pistol) with pure wickedness, crafted plans of evil, is cunning in his ways of manipulating others to do evil, and he makes promises or deals with others who will receive some rewards but ultimately will be disregarded and lose a lot. This Ultraverse super-villain, as recorded in Malibu Comics’ publishing history, went on to become a walking symbol of pure evil, corruption, sins and danger in other UV comic books.
While there is indeed more focus on Sludge in this issue, it is the Pump who overshadows him. As for Bloodstorm, his presence has been drastically reduced here which is kind of jarring to read as he was the dominant and heavily emphasized in issue #2. Speaking of characters, the gang boss Marcello (who is Bloodstorm’s client) makes a short appearance but his connections not only with criminals but also with para-military forces emphasized his influence in the city.
More on the plot itself, this comic book is pretty loaded and the stakes were really raised high. In key scenes, Sludge finds himself in the middle of gangsters, the people driven mad by the Break-Thru effect, the para-military forces and the Pump’s ugly and evil pawns. Steve Gerber crafted a story that expectedly built up a lot and paid of strongly since the stakes were raised. I should state that Aaron Lopresti’s art here showed signs of improved creativity
Sludge #3 (1993) is a more engaging and more intense comic book on its own complete with the literary debut of the Pump who is clearly the Ultraverse’s most evil villain. If issue #2 was twisting with the way it presented its characters, this comic book has more of its protagonist who went on to face new elements of evil while the story of Break-Thru transpired. I also noticed the Pump’s offer to Sludge symbolizes Satan offering a troubled soul a place in his force of evil. How did Sludge react to the offer from the evil one? You will have to read this comic book.
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Sludge #3 (1993) be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $16.
Overall, Sludge #3 (1993) is recommended!
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