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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 review, the “Street Wars” storyline came to a solid and even shocking end which ultimately left Sludge free and yet desperate and unfulfilled. At this stage, Sludge is clearly a very lost soul and this opens another opportunity for readers to follow him and see where he will go next.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Sludge #10, published by Malibu Comics in 1994 with a story written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Robb Phipps.
The story begins with Sludge once again alone in the sewers. This time, he holds large quantities of the illegal substance Zuke which he believes will help him achieve something he desires in relation to his existence. Life has been very hard for him since he became a slimy creature.
Then he remembers when the mercenary Bloodstorm was forced fed with Zuke. Afterwards, he consumes the large Zuke containers expecting them to fix him. Nothing happened. No instant results whatsoever which frustrates him. Sludge then walks into the darkness.
On the city street, police officers in cars chase an unusual target…a lady riding a large bird of unknown species. After causing her pursuers to crash and explode, the lady rider reveals herself to be Vinaigrette.
Just as Vinaigrette and her speedy bird move into an alley, Sludge sees them…
When it comes to the story, I can say that the Sludge series really made a serious turn towards a different direction here. Without spoiling the rest of the plot, I can say that very significant changes await readers, so much so their usual expectations towards Sludge become unnecessary. Are you so used to seeing Sludge think or talk inconsistently? Be ready for something really new about him, something that makes him more human moving a bit closer to his past life as a civilian.
Moreover, with the gang war aspect of New York already out of the narrative, this comic book not only follows Sludge more significantly, its story is also more character-driven than before. What Steve Gerber wrote here is very nicely structured and it is also clear he also adjusted his portrayal of the titular character to give readers something fresh and yet familiar to follow.
So what kind of story does this comic book present other than being a more character-driven piece? Definitely it’s not a monster story nor a superhero tale but something more of a misadventure mixed with elements of detective story plus a bit of investigative journalism (mainly due to the series’ notable lady journalist).
In my view, Sludge #10 (1994) is a successful attempt by the creative team to emphasize Sludge’s exploits and personality even more while taking a new direction without ever feeling alienating. I should state that after reading back-to-back issues about the New York gang war which had the titular character caught in the middle, this comic book’s character-driven approach with Sludge is literally like a breath of fresh air. Not only will you see even more of Sludge, you will also enjoy the creators’ attempt on exploring his past life while showing lots of significant new things in connection to the changes he goes through. The story is nicely paced, the storytelling is creatively stylized and there are nice pay-offs for each build-up.
Overall, Sludge #10 (1994) is highly recommended.
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