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Welcome back, superhero fans, 1990s arts and 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 comic book review, I found Sludge #5 an inspired piece of work that relates to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which also carried elements about resurrection, man’s abuse of science, and the consequences of dealing with the unnatural. The comic book was also the 2nd consecutive issue of Sludge written by artist Aaron Lopresti.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Sludge #6, published by Malibu Comics in 1994 with a story written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Aaron Lopresti.
The story begins on the ocean with Sludge hitching a ride on a garbage barge being towed by a ship. Sludge then starts swimming off to a certain destination.
On the upper east side of Manhattan, a nicely dressed lady arrives with a suitcase and meets with a lawyer named Roger Sutton at his office. Inside, a trade happens with papers of a transfer of deed in exchange for highly unusual looking capsules.
Shortly after, as she drives off to her next destination, a blockade of two cars formed to stop her. A few armed men show up and fired bullets into her car to abduct her and take the suitcase containing the capsules.
As this comic book marks the return of Steve Gerber, the story built up tension signaling that an urban war involving crime lords, mercenaries and the evil Pumpkin is coming. Remember Bloodstorm from issue #2? He’s back with a supporting role that fits in nicely within the brewing conflict. The demonic Pump, his teenage crime captain and gang are back serving as the unseen third force in the same conflict.
The way Steve Gerber constructed the brewing conflict is pretty solid and he managed to even efficiently introduce an Asian gang lord (complete with his family business and members) while emphasizing the presence of John Paul Marcello as the other big-time crime figure of the city. As for the titular protagonist, Sludge is portrayed to be struggling with guilt and hopelessness which push him to approach one of the evil forces. Sludge’s knowledge about Marcello will compel you to revisit issue #2. At this stage in the series, Sludge is becoming more desperate about his existence and purpose while dealing with the stress of being in the middle of a brewing conflict. His personal struggle on dealing with the evil influence of the Pump (clearly the Satan figure of the Ultraverse) is something that people living with weak faith and suffering will find relatable.
Sludge #6 (1994) is a strong return by Steve Gerber on the storytelling and it marked the start of a new storyline titled Street Wars which really raised the stakes of the series. The good news is that Gerber’s writing is very good and the characters are all nicely defined. Aaron Lopresti’s visuals maintained that high level of quality and he clearly defined the look of the Sludge series.
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Sludge #6 (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 #6 (1994) is recommended.
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