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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 an issue of the Sludge comic book series.
Previously, I reviewed Sludge #3 which was a tie-in comic book to the first big crossover event of the entire Ultraverse – Break-Thru. In that issue, he encountered the “lord” Pumpkin who himself became a notable super villain in the UV. That story also showed the first major test of Sludge when it comes to resisting temptation and evil.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Sludge #4, published by Malibu Comics in 1994 with a story written and drawn by Aaron Lopresti, and scripted by Steve Gerber.
The story begins when two black teenagers go down the city sewer to look for something as part of a job of them agreed to do for someone named Gordy. They accidentally find Sludge whose appearance and ability to talk scares them away. As the two keep running to another direction, a reptilian monster sees them. The monster grabbed and killed the taller youth, leaving the shorter one scared.
A short time later, a police officer finds the scared teenager hiding behind plants at Central Park. The survivor is in a state of shock repeating his friend’s name a lot. The police update about the boy eventually reaches the office of the New York Daily Globe and an attractive reporter named Shelley intends to follow what could be a hot scoop…
In this comic book, I can see that the creative team of Steve Gerber and Aaron Lopresti decided to shake things up a bit when it comes to telling a new story of Sludge laced with elements of society, urban legends and journalism. The good news here is that this story is well-written and the visuals really brought the script to life for readers to be engaged with.
When it comes the elements that inspired this particular story, the concept about alligators occupying the sewers instantly reminds me of the 1980 film Alligator and along the way, Gerber-Lopresti went on pounce on the concept resulting in the introduction of a brand new Ultraverse villain in the form of a monstrous, human-like alligator named Veffir Voon Iyax which can also talk and reason like humans. This new villain is really interesting and its background about being part of a species of alligators worshipped by people from long ago sheds light on the idolatry which is both unholy and foolish.
On the aspects of society and journalism, the story sheds light on how some people – even minors – would go to really unsafe places and do very risky jobs for a variety of reasons. The journalistic aspect of this comic book emphasizes how far journalists would go to write stories based on questionable data and that a newspaper would recklessly publish such stories even though they lacked solid evidence to prove the unbelievable is true. The newspaper journalist Shelley had quite an amount of the spotlight, she became a clear supporting character in this comic book.
In keeping up with the superhero flavor of the Ultraverse, there is a good amount of spectacle here as it has a big battle between Sludge and the monstrous alligator which is nicely presented. This is a battle between monsters that was carefully structured and executed well.
Sludge #4 (1994) is both an intriguing and enjoyable read. The Gerber-Lopresti team succeeded in telling another Sludge tale that is fresh as it took inspiration from pop culture and society. At the same time, this comic book show that Sludge is clearly not the only monster in New York City’s sewers. As such, his place within the Ultraverse is really unique.
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Sludge #4 (1994) be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $16 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $48.
Overall, Sludge #4 (1994) is recommended.
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