A Look Back at The Strangers #4 (1993)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Previously, I took a look back at Hardcase #4 which marked the crossover between Hardcase and The Strangers. It was a fulfilling read in the sense that it built-up the initial connections between the Hollywood ultra (with Choice on his side) and the team. The crossover however continued in the other Ultraverse series titled The Strangers.

Join me on this look back at The Strangers #4, published in 1993 by Malibu Comics with a story written by Steve Englehart and illustrated by Rick Hoberg.

Cover
Same cover as Hardcase #4 but with the banner of The Strangers.

Early story

The story begins deep inside a secret facility with Hardcase and the Strangers already caught by Aladdin. Grenade tries his to break through the pink energy field separating them from Aladdin personnel but fails. The group is told that Aladdin has been watching ultras for some time and has developed was to neutralize anything ultras could do. It has been made clear to them that nobody will enter the pen until they all agree to join Aladdin.

After much talk, Hardcase and the Strangers managed to bring the energy field down and free themselves…

Quality

11
Hardcase, Choice and the Strangers inside Aladdin’s facility.

While Hardcase #4 served mainly as the build-up, this comic book serves as the big pay-off completely loaded with spectacle and fun! The creative team of Steve Englehart and Rick Hoberg, in coordination with the creative team of Hardcase, crafted this very memorable conclusion to the 2-part crossover of Hardcase and The Strangers.

Crossing over aside, this comic book provides readers a nice look at Aladdin, a secret society run by the American government focused on ultras (people with extraordinary abilities). Ultras who won’t help the government are put under lock-and-key mainly for the protection of society. Ultras who agreed to work for the government are authorized and supplied to help in the so-called grand scale.

The interactions between Hardcase (and Choice) with the Strangers that started in Hardcase #4 continued nicely in this comic book. The interactions went on to evolve into great team work in this misadventure. When it comes to superhero action, Rick Hoberg’s illustration is very wonderful to look at. Hoberg’s visual presentation on Hardcase and Choice was no less excellent, plus his art on the opposing ultras (working for Aladdin) was nicely done.

On the aspect of characterization, I liked how Yrial (the African lady who often reminds me of X-Men’s Storm) reacted so bluntly after admitting she had previous knowledge about Aladdin. There was also that nice exchange between Atom Bob and Choice, which made the guy feel idiotic and like a commercial. The exchange was noticed by Grenade and Electrocute which resulted some clever dialogue.

Conclusion

4
This page added more to Hardcase’s character. Nicely drawn by Rick Hoberg.

The Strangers #4 is excellent and worthy of being part of your collection of comic books. It is compelling and fun to read from start to finish. By the time the story ends, this comic book should make you care more about Hardcase and the Strangers.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of The Strangers #4, be aware that as of this writing,  MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $4. The near-mint copy of the newsstand edition is priced at $13.

Overall, The Strangers #4 is highly recommended.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

A Look Back at Hardcase #4

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

When done right by really talented people, superhero crossovers within the shared universe of a particular publisher can be fun to read. In this retro comic book review, we are about to explore one of the earliest Ultraverse crossovers ever published. To put things in perspective, the Ultraverse imprint was launched in 1993 by Malibu Comics, and there were several titles that debuted like Prime, Mantra, Hardcase, The Strangers and Prototype to name a few. Unsurprisingly, in-universe crossovers were bound to happen shortly after launch and create new opportunities of fun for fans and readers.

Here is a look back at Hardcase #4 published in 1993 by Malibu Comics with a story co-plotted by James Hudnall (writer) and Steve Englehart, and drawn by Roger Robinson.

Cover
Really nice cover!

Early story

The story begins inside Hardcase’s home. He and Choice were surprised by the presence of The Strangers inside. While Hardcase was fuming mad, Lady Killer and her teammates tried to calm him down expressing they meant no harm and simply wanted to talk with him.

2
Imagine having strangers inside your nice home without your authority.

“Look—we’ve just come back from a fight with a bunch of ultras who wanted to kill Choice and me. And earlier today, another group showed up and took out part of my house. So, to put it mildly, I’m not exactly in a sociable mood,” Hardcase said calming down.

Eventually Hardcase and Choice talked with the Strangers….

Quality

7
Meet the Strangers!

For the most part, this comic book is less about spectacle (unsurprisingly) but more about exposition and character interaction. This does not mean Hardcase #4 is boring, in fact it’s still compelling to read. In clever ways, this comic book has some very relevant stuff for Hardcase fans specifically lots of in-depth, additional details about him (including details about The Squad) and how he changed to be an ultra. In short, this one shows Hardcase’s origin and what happened afterwards. James Hudnall’s script here not only connected nicely with the final Squad moments in issue #1 but also deepened the details. By the time I finished reading Hardcase #4, the tragic event that opened Hardcase #1 made even more sense to me.

The writing is this comic book’s biggest strength not only because it fully explored more of Hardcase’s past but also due to the nice interactions Hardcase and Choice had with the Strangers. I really like the short scene when Atom Bob thought about getting Choice interested in him since he finds her really charming.

Hudnall’s writing was indeed full of exposition and yet it was nicely paced and I never felt lost with the narrative. I should also mention that the presence of the secretive organization called Aladdin is felt even strongly in the story, building up the suspense for it.

When it comes to the art, Roger Robinson did a decent job visualizing the characters. For the most part, each member of the Strangers as well as Hardcase and Choice were still recognizable visually. For the action scenes, which are not that many, his art was satisfactory.

Conclusion

5
The interactions are nice!

While Hardcase #4 lacked spectacle, its portrayal of the crossover between Hardcase and the Strangers still made it a good read. There is additional stuff for Hardcase fans and the interaction between him and the Strangers was nicely crafted. Ultimately, this crossover was the first of two parts leading to The Strangers #4.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Hardcase #4, be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $4. The near-mint copy of the newsstand is priced at $13.

Overall, Hardcase #4 is recommended.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back At Ultraverse Premiere #0

What is the one thing I love most about superhero comics of the 1990s? It’s easy – the Ultraverse! Launched in 1993 by Malibu Comics during the late stage of what is now called the Comic Book Speculator Boom in Amerca, the Ultraverse was a line of superhero comic books featuring all-new characters and concepts which were the result of intense brainstorming by the founders of the Ultraverse.

Back in mid-1993 here in the Philippines, I first got to discover the Ultraverse through print ads in comic books and take note that the Internet was not yet publicly accessible. By June that year, I visited a comic book store in BF Homes, Paranaque and was astonished to see the store’s wall with multiple Ultraverse comic books on display. With my limited funds at that time, I only managed to buy Freex #1 and Mantra #1. By the end of the evening, I greatly enjoyed what I read and became an Ultraverse fan ever since.

As the months passed by, I enjoyed reading more Ultraverse comic books. What was also fun to read were the special double-sized UV comic books, the Ultraverse Double Feature comic books (flip comic books) and then there was the Ultraverse Premiere #0 comic book which had a cover of Mantra drawn by the great Jim Lee! This is the one comic book I am taking a look back at.

UVprem1
The front cover drawn by Jim Lee!

So what Ultraverse Premiere #0 and what made it special other than having a cover drawn by Jim Lee? Released in late 1993, the comic book is a showcase of separate stories featuring Prime, The Strangers, Rune, Hardcase, Mantra and Freex. It is also a showcase of the respective talents of a big mix of writers and artists that include Len Strazewski, Tom Mason, Gerard Jones, Steve Englehart, Barry Windsor-Smith, Rick Hoberg, James Hudnall, Mike W. Barr, Norm Breyfogle and others.

Given its release date, the stories served as preludes leading to the stories told in the launch comic books. For example, the Hardcase story shows Tom Hawke/Hardcase with his team called The Squad performing what turned out to be their last mission leading directly to the events that started Hardcase #1.

UVprem3
Tom Hawke/Hardcase with his lovely teammate during his time with The Squad.

The story of Mantra in the comic book however was presented more like a side-story. Lukasz is already shown as Mantra with her mystical powers and revealing outfit in place. The short story adds a nice perspective on the personality of Mantra as well as her burden of having to take care of a daughter.

The Rune segment meanwhile was a look at the making of the character involving Barry Windsor-Smith and his art. In the text written by Chris Ulm, what caught my attention was the following segment.

After writing up the concept in the Ultraverse bible, I shortly added Rune to “Fusion”, the story of a conspiracy to develop the ultimate biological weapon by a covert group called Aladdin.

UVprem4
This opening of the Freex short story starts very strongly.

Of course, there is also the fine story of Prime by Len Strazewski and Gerard Jones with great looking art by the late Norm Breyfogle. Remember in the early pages of Prime #1 when the overly muscular superhero claimed he saw the school coach touch the young girls? That got emphasized in the Prime short story in this comic book.

And then there is the one very memorable whole page art of Prime by Breyfogle.

UVprem2
I love this art of Prime by the late Norm Breyfogle.

The stories and art, in my view, were done with a lot of passion by the creators. They make Ultraverse Premiere #0 a worthy comic book to collect even though Marvel (which acquired Malibu Comics in the mid-1990s) screwed the Ultraverse and left the characters and concepts in limbo with no clear sign of any revival coming.

Last but not least, there is this great art of the Ultraverse characters done by Art Nichols at the rear of the comic book.

Ultraverse
The best back cover of any superhero comic book of the 1990s!

Art Nichols’ work on the back cover is fantastic and timeless in my view. It’s great multi-character art that truly captures the spirit of the Ultraverse!

If you are going out to buy old comic books, I strongly recommend Ultraverse Premiere #0.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

A Look Back At Prototype #1

There is nothing like witnessing a superhero use technology to fly around with high speed, blast with energy, lift heavy objects using extra strength and use whatever special features to beat the bad guys and save people from harm. I’m not talking about Marvel Comics’ Iron Man here. I’m talking about the Ultraverse parallel to him called Prototype and here is my retrospective review about the 1993 superhero comic book Prototype #1 published by Malibu Comics.

Proto1
Prototype #1 cover.

Co-written by Tom Mason and Len Strazewski with art by David Ammerman and James Pascoe, Prototype #1 is the story of the armored figure called Prototype but there is one huge thing to take note here – the armored figure is actually a high-tech project of a corporation called Ultratech and it involves more than one person piloting it.

To put things in perspective, some time in the past the Prototype armor (which was very large and bulky) was piloted by Bob Campbell until a major incident happened during an aerial exhibition that cost him his right arm. Subsequently he got replaced by a much younger man named Jimmy Ruiz. In the present, Campbell is a PWD (person with disability) who was dismissed by the company which compelled him to sue them for age discrimination.

Then he attends the stockholders’ meeting of Ultratech which was organized to be lavish and showy. It is here where Prototype (piloted by Ruiz) makes an energetic appearance sporting a leaner looking armor that closely resembles a human being.

Ruiz says “Stand back, America…it’s showtime!”

Proto2
The leaner and meaner armor of Prototype.

While showing off, Ruiz encounters some problems. He has not fully gotten used to the technology and his head feels like exploding. During the stockholders’ meeting, Bob Campbell causes some trouble prompting private security to escort him away. It turns out that Ultratech really distanced themselves from him.

Of course, the company is very happy with the Ruiz-piloted Prototype and they are confident their major financial bets will yield great results. Their executive Stanley Leland stated, “He’s not just a showpiece, he’s a corporate asset!”

Proto4
Jimmy Ruiz in the Prototype suit with the Ultratech executives.

As this is a superhero story, life is not normal. As such an incident happens that, predictably, requires Prototype to take action (and entertain readers like you and I).

Technically the story was nicely told and its pacing flowed smoothly. There is a nice balance between spectacle, storytelling and character development. Ultimately by the time I reached the 24th page, I got a grasp of the comic book’s concept, the characters (especially the two pilots) and where the series was going.

Proto3
Action for you. Really nice job done by the artists.

How does this comic book compare with Iron Man? To say the least, the concept of a large corporation owning and controlling a high-tech suit of armor piloted by their employee is not only a nice alternative but a very engaging alternative to the Iron Man concept (super rich industrialist who wears a powered suit of armor and uses his special talent on technology).

The Ultraverse was the most interesting and most entertaining superhero line of comic books I read back in the 1990s and Prototype went on to become one of the major heroes of the franchise. Prototype went on to become part of UltraForce, a superhero team that had its short-lived comic book series (with famous artist George Perez doing the art in some issues) as well as a short-lived animated series based on the said comic book series.

Had the Ultraverse lasted longer, succeeded and profited, chances are Prototype would have been a major contender among all other superheroes from the different publishers  today and there would have been more merchandise and perhaps even video games based on the character.

If you plan to visit a local comic book store to buy old comic books, I highly recommend Prototype #1.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article to be engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco.