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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 Sludge retro comic book review, the stakes were raised for Sludge and the city of New York as a new conflict started brewing that brought in two gangs along with the Pump and his own gang, and even mercenaries. Issue #6 was the start of a new multi-part storyline that Steve Gerber crafted and it encouraged re-reading the early issues of the Sludge series to understand the scope of the new conflict.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Sludge #7, published by Malibu Comics in 1994 with a story written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Aaron Lopresti.
The story begins with a man and a woman on bed. Their privacy gets interrupted when the Pump suddenly appears in frightening fashion. It turns out, Sludge was in the middle of a nightmare and even sees a frightening vision of Edna. He then makes his way through in the sewer.
One morning at the Eretz Shalom Cemetery, a police investigation is being conducted as the local authorities found several dead bodies as well as scorched ground, bodies fused together and a some odor. Shelley, the very determined reporter of the New York Daily Globe, tries to uncover details at the crime scene only to be interrupted by a detective named Quinn. In response to her question, Quinn admits they are just discovering things and trying to figure things out.
Suddenly a lady wearing a suit and necktie approaches them…
As far as storytelling goes, this tale is a very solid follow-up to the previous issue. While issue #6 showed the start of a big conflict involving three groups, this one shows the emotional and physical impact on the gang leaders (John Paul Marcello and the Dragon Fang) and the unrelenting pursuit of the Pump and his minions on wrecking down society by means of drug pushing and violence. In a way, this Ultraverse story daringly showed its own portrayal of illegal drugs and gang wars while also showing Sludge suffering more and getting even more desperate with his life. I should also state that there are scenes that added detective story and suspense vibes into the narrative.
It should be noted that at this point in the Sludge series, the titular character does some things here that would maker readers question his moves and his sanity, especially since the Pump (note: the Ultraverse’ very own Satan figure) keeps on tempting and manipulating him. Sludge, who was once a crooked cop when he was still human, clearly is vulnerable deep inside and he also is not resistant to the evil influences around him. Very notably, the story by Steve Gerber is strong enough to make me go on to read the next issue.
Sludge #7 (1994) is the kind of comic book that will make you think deeply about the true nature of the titular character and why should you keep on reading each new comic book of this series when you learn that the said character is far from being heroic. The lines that separate good and evil is very blurred at this stage of the Sludge series. This is one clever and really engaging piece of work done by the Gerber-Lopresti team, and at the same time it is also one of the most intriguing Ultraverse tales ever told. That being said, the comic book’s concept is incidentally not ideal for readers who seek good-versus-evil conflicts that get resolved.
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Sludge #7 (1994) be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $16.
Overall, Sludge #7 (1994) is recommended.
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