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Welcome back, superhero fans, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we revisit the Ultraverse of Malibu Comics and examine one of its many stories told through an issue of the Sludge comic book series.
In my previous retro review about Sludge #4 (1994), we got to see an inspired monster-versus-monster conflict between the protagonist and a huge, intelligent alligator aced with elements of society, urban legends, idolatry and journalism. That particular issue also showed more of the creative side of series artist Aaron Lopresti when it comes to writing. The next issue reviewed also involved Lopresti as writer.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Sludge #5, published by Malibu Comics in 1994 with a story written and drawn by Aaron Lopresti.
The story begins in New York City. Darkness descends on Manhattan like a shroud, providing haven for those who shun the light. As a man and a lady walk down the sidewalk talking to each other, a very hideous human-like monster comes out of the shadow of the alley and grabs them both.
In the sewers, Sludge hears one of the victims scream which compels him to run to where the trouble happened. As soon as he climbs out of the sewer, he sees the monster in the alley which makes eye-contact with him. As Sludge approaches the alley, the monster gets away leaving the dead bodies of the man and woman behind. As Sludge examines the dead bodies and realizes that the monster ate them, a police car with two officers arrived.
In reaction, Sludge quickly grabs one part of the police car and turns it upside down to buy himself time to get back into the sewer. The details of the encounter between the police and Sludge made it to Shelley, the same New York Daily Globe news reporter who encountered him and the intelligent alligator Veffir Voon Iyax. She discusses the newest information with her skeptical boss…
Let me start first with what is obvious with regards to the plot and presentation. Similar to what happened in Sludge #2, there is noticeably less spotlight on Sludge as creative space had to be used to develop the new monster, emphasize its background story (with an additional new character who has significance) and there were even scenes focused on Shelley and what goes on inside the office of her newspaper which became aware of the events that took place.
The next thing I want to point out is the creative inspiration used in this particular story. This comic book has really clear parallels to the literary classic Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus and there was even a mention of its author Mary Shelley. That being said, there is a scientist-and-walking-abomination aspect with regards to the mentioned additional significant character connected with the new monster. That is not to say that this comic book copied Victor Frankenstein and his nameless monster, rather Aaron Lopresti took inspiration from them, mixed things up and implemented them in telling this new tale of Sludge. When it comes to keeping things fresh in telling another Sludge story, I can say that Lopresti succeeded.
More on the story itself, this one has a clever mix with regards to the dimensions used. In here, Sludge is more determined on helping people who shouted for help while Shelley won’t give up on finding out the truth about the tragic events in their city. Without spoiling the details, I can say that there is this deep dramatization about the monster and the new character responsible for its return from the dead.
As for the quality of the writing, Aaron Lopresti’s work here is not only expressive but also impressive. There is this one page near the end that has these few yet powerful words that strongly connect with the images of Sludge and the monster (who is so creepily drawn!).
Sludge #5 (1994) in my view is another inspired and intriguing Ultraverse tale to read! While issue #4 had parallels to the 1980 film Alligator, this comic book took inspiration from Mary Shelley’s most famous work of fiction which added elements about resurrection, man’s abuse of science, and the consequences of dealing with the unnatural into Sludge’s side of the Ultraverse. I should state that this comic book also has the scariest looking monster Aaron Lopresti drew for the Ultraverse at the time of publication.
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Sludge #5 (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 #5 (1994) is highly recommended.
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