A Look Back at Freex #13 (1994)

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.

Welcome back superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we go back to the mid-1990s which was a really wild time for comic collectors. To be more specific, this newest retro comic book review revisits Ultraverse through the exploits of Freex, the monthly series about a group of young adults with unusual capabilities (or abnormalities) who are constantly on the move as they are social outcasts.

In my previous retro reviews of Freex, the team encountered Contrary (who later became a significant part of UltraForce) and her so-called school of gifted children. Subsequently, they left Contrary’s lair but without Ray who decided to stay behind. Freex, who gained a new member in replacing Ray, went underground encountering Prime and a lone individual called Old Man. After separating from Prime, the team move further underground with Old Man and discovered a lot of things they never expected.

With those details laid down, here is a look back Freex #13, published in 1994 by Malibu Comics with a story written by Gerard Jones and drawn by Scott Kolins.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins deep under the Earth’s surface wherein the Freex – AJ, Angela, Michael, Valerie and new member – and Old Man encounter a huge and intimidating sentient being which has the head and tusks of an elephant. The being calls itself Prometheus and claims that he has lived underground for a very long time, created new beings and saw the development of settlements that the people on the surface are not even aware of.

Intriguingly, he reveals to the Freex that he created the substance that were injected by a certain nurse into the bodies of each team member when they were still infants which later manifested into the capabilities and abnormalities they now have…

Quality

This short scene about Atalon and his army is a prelude to the Atalon storyline in the early issues of UltraForce.

The most significant aspect about this comic book’s story is the clever approach taken by the creators to not only show the further development of Freex but also emphasize and expand the lore of the Ultraverse while connecting this series to UltraForce (the early issues written by Gerard Jones and drawn by the late George Perez) which itself had a great conflict between Atalon’s forces and Earth’s governments. To put it short, this Freex tale is a prelude to the events seen in UltraForce #0, UltraForce #1 and the rest of the Atalon saga. The good news is that the emphasis of in-universe connection (as opposed to crossovers) was done well and nicely structured.

More on the Freex themselves, the revelation that the members’ powers were the result of being injected (by Wetware Mary) into them with the substance created by Prometheus resulted in dramatic reactions from them which also adds to the tension of their current misadventure together so far away from society. The revelation also added tremendous weight into the series’ narrative raising questions such as the following: Wow will each Freex member reintegrate into society as they know the truth about what caused them to have powers/abnormalities? Where will they go once they made it back to the surface? Will they keep secret the existence of Prometheus?

In relation, the creative team took their time to develop each member’s personality and emotions. Most notable was the portrayal of the new friendship between Valerie and their new member (indoctrinated by Contrary) which hints that something significant could happen to not only themselves but to the team itself.

What also struck me in this comic book was the way the 2nd half of the story was presented…by becoming really wild and crazy. Eerily, the confusion felt by Freex during the 2nd half was something I as a reader felt. To find out what I’m talking about, I urge to get a copy of this comic book and read it yourselves.

Conclusion

This page revealed more about the origins of the Freex members.

While the 2nd half of the story had a crazy ride, I still found Freex #13 (1994) to be really engaging and intriguing mainly on the big revelation and UltraForce connections told in the first half. At this stage in the series, it really looked like that the team was on its way into the unknown as their own place within the Ultraverse really widened (similar to what happened on the part of The Solution in issues #10, #11 and #12).

Overall, Freex #13 (1994) is recommended.

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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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/authorcarlocarrasco/

A Look Back at Sludge #9 (1994)

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.

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 review, the conflict between the crime organizations intensified as the titular character continued to struggle with achieving his desired goal which includes getting involved with the Pump’s evil schemes. Eventually something unexpected happened Sludge which involved Zuke, the potent illegal substance the Pump keeps on unleashing to the public.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Sludge #9, published by Malibu Comics in 1994 with a story written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Robb Phipps.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with Sludge in pain as he pulls out a long spike from his right hand which became flesh again. This was the result of his holding Zuke which his right hand somehow absorbed. Wanting answers, he calls out to the Pump who (along with his teenage protégé) was no longer present in the room. A female ghost appears to Sludge and tells him that the crime boss is downstairs.

It turns out, the Pump has an evil plan in mind which would involve the mercenary Bloodstorm. The crime boss puts a very large capsule of Zuke into the mouth of the restrained Bloodstorm. Just as Sludge arrives, Bloodstorm becomes very enraged as a result of absorbing a high quantity of the illegal substance. Shortly after Pump quells the drugged mercenary, Sludge approaches him for more Zuke as he is convinced that the drug will turn him to normal just like how it turned his right hand back to normal.

The Pump orders Sludge to take Bloodstorm’s body back to his employer Sabatini then return. He reminds him that he has the Zuke and is capable of eradicating him…

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Sludge has yet to realize he could really go up against the very evil Pump.

Now this is the most intriguing tale of Sludge in relation to the unstable relations between the gangs of New York. Vittorio, the one trusted assistant of the late crime boss Marcello, leads the gang and tries to craft a new direction with emergence in mind by negotiating a truce with the Dragon Fang while also starting efforts to duplicate the very addicting substance called Zuke which has long been an asset to the Pump’s gang. Unsurprisingly, Vittorio encounters trouble trying to win the trust of the more established crime bosses and he is also unaware that they are all being targeted by the Pump.

Once the Pump unleashes his newest move against the gangs, the situation intensifies and gets twisted which makes this a really solid reading experience. Steve Gerber crafted this story to be intense and unpredictable at the same time, while also showing how Sludge deals with his situation being powerless under the Pump. There is one notable addition to the plot which involves violent action which you must discover for yourselves.

When it comes to the visuals, Robb Phipps take on Sludge is vastly different compared to Aaron Lopresti’s Sludge. The result is that Phipps’ art style made Sludge and the other characters have that cartoony aesthetic and yet they are still recognizable. What visual style and elements Phipps had on certain issues of Mantra he illustrated (click here, here and here) are pretty much present in this comic book.  

Conclusion

A high-stakes meeting disrupted.

Sludge #9 (1994) is another solid read and one of the most intriguing stories of the Sludge series. As the concluding chapter of the “Street Wars” storyline, this comic book has the usual elements that defined Sludge stories while also succeeding in moving the plot forward (note: the storyline conclusion is engaging, even shocking) complete with twists and noticeable intensified violence. At this point in the monthly series, Sludge is off on a path of despair and he is clearly lost. This element alone should compel readers to examine Sludge’s personality closely and analyze where he is heading to and what purpose does he have left.

Overall, Sludge #9 (1994) is recommended.

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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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/authorcarlocarrasco/

A Look Back at Break-Thru #2 (1994)

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.

Welcome back superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we go back to the mid-1990s which was a really wild time for comic collectors. To be more specific, this newest retro comic book review revisits the conclusion of the epic Ultraverse storyline Break-Thru which was illustrated by the late George Perez (1954-2022). I encourage you readers – especially long-time fans of the iconic illustrator – to check out my commemorative article about George Perez by clicking here.

For the newcomers reading this, Break-Thru was a 2-part storyline that creatively involved almost all the main characters of the Ultraverse (The Strangers, Mantra, Prime, Prototype, Freex, The Solution, Hardcase, Sludge, Solitaire and others) who got impacted in varied ways by Amber (of the Exiles) who floated high in the air causing chaos on societies below. Specifically, that was the concept of Break-Thru #1 (1993) and issue #2 has the story continuing with a setting in outer space with the moon as the key destination.

With those details laid down, here is a look back Break-Thru #2, published in 1994 by Malibu Comics with a story scripted by Gerard Jones (plotted by Mike W. Barr, Steve Englehart, Steve Gerber, James Hudnall, Tom Mason, George Perez, James Robinson and Len Strazewski) and illustrated by the late George Perez.

An epic cover by the late George Perez.

Early story

The story begins at the surface of the moon with Hardcase, Choice and the members of The Solution who just survived the explosion (connected with Hardcase #7 and The Solution #4) of the flying saucer they used on their journey. Nearby, the people responsible for the destruction are riding their own flying saucer, scanning the surface of the moon searching for an entity.

Behind the scenes, the very hidden yet powerful Rex Mundi watches and tells Gate that other ultras are seeking the entity. As the saucer floats to a cave detecting the presence of the entity, the occupants get shaken as Prime hits them hard. Prime tells himself that the entity in the cave feels danger from the searchers and he has to protect it as he has been connected with it (refer to Prime #7). After getting blasted in retaliation by the saucer, Prime finds himself hit even more as Rex Mundi’s enforcers suddenly come out of a portal very near him.  

From a distance, Mantra (refer to Mantra #6) sees the fight happening and needs a life force to survive. Elsewhere, Hardcase, Choice and The Solution witness the arrival of a space shuttle. The Strangers and Prototype (refer to The Strangers #7 and Prototype #5) come out together…

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This is classic George Perez presentation of action and characters using multiple panels in a single page.

Starting with the writing, I should mention that all the writers who were involved in plotting this comic book as well as the previous issue should be commended for their combined efforts on making the Break-Thru storyline happen complete with in-universe ramifications, developments and connections to almost all the monthly comic books via the Break-Thru tie-in issue (also check out Sludge #3, Freex #6, Solitaire #2 and Night Man #3). Clearly Break-Thru was planned to be a major turning point of the Ultraverse by involving and mixing most of the major characters together and have them struggle with tremendous obstacles they simply cannot ignore as the stakes were indeed too high.

More on this comic book, the major conflict was set on the moon which proved to be a very unique setting not just for dynamic battles to happen but also to serve as the place where a mysterious and powerful entity is hidden. When it comes to the story, the entity (more science fictional in concept) is mysterious and cleverly not blatantly evil. It is its mysteriousness that makes the entity a worthy force to have the UV’s heroes come after.

The writers added depth to the plot by showing Yrial of The Strangers and Prototype each having their own vested interests to get to the entity and acquire whatever it has that is valuable. At the same time, Mantra and Prime each discovered valuable knowledge about the entity that impacted their perceptions about their purpose as beings with super powers.

Mantra, Prime, The Solution, Hardcase and Choice.

While the story here still has so many characters expressing themselves and releasing expository information, the narrative is a little bit easier to understand and follow compared to issue #1 (which had a lot more information to release via exposition). That being said, the scenes of spectacle became more enjoyable to read and along the way there were some notable character moments to look at.

Visually, this is unsurprisingly a great looking comic book as it was illustrated by the late George Perez. What I love most about Perez’s art style and visual presentation are all here: high details on each character drawn as well as their surroundings, the dynamic approach on setting up the panels on each page, fantastic looking superhero action, and much more! As with Break-Thru #1 and other Ultraverse comic books drawn by Perez, this one is absolutely great to look at and it easily lifts up the visual/artistic quality of the UV and its heroes. As George Perez was involved in the plot of this comic book, the narrative was never overwhelmed by his great art and the artist really exerted a lot of effort on visualizing each and every one of the established UV characters (including the supporting characters).

Speaking of the established characters, I should state that Perez made Mantra’s face (with mask) look a bit more realistic and feminine while Kevin Green has a more convincing teenage boy look, Sludge looks a bit more creepier and Yrial looks visually identical to the way Rick Hoberg draws her. When it comes to the varied physiques of each established UV hero, Perez captured them all perfectly. Clearly the late artist did his research on every character.

Conclusion

The first physical encounter between Prime and Hardcase. Remember this before reading the UltraForce comics.

Break-Thru #2 (1994) is truly an epic Ultraverse story that also worked as a major turning point of the UV as a whole. Compared to other epic superhero stories that Marvel and DC Comics published, Break-Thru is not the usual large gathering of superheroes who have to work together to defeat an evil force that threatens everyone’s existence. It is more about the UV heroes getting together to solve major obstacles before reaching the main destination. By the time I reached the end of this comic book (and its storyline), I experienced great satisfaction not just from Break-Thru itself but also in relation to how the Ultraverse heroes realized what they are living for and what their respective purposes really are about. What also happened in this comic book explains why jumpstart events happened on Earth. Very clearly, this was an epic story that was planned early and even though this was published just months after the Ultraverse first debuted, the characters were developed enough to make Break-Thru’s concepts sensible and acceptable. There is a lot of fun and engagement in this comic book drawn by the late George Perez (who also worked on DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths and Marvel’s The Infinity Gauntlet).

Overall, Break-Thru #2 (1994) 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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/authorcarlocarrasco/

George Perez (1954-2022)

George Perez, the incredible comic book artist who made major contributions to illustrated literature (especially the superhero comic book genre), sadly passed away due to complications related to pancreatic cancer. He was 67-years-old and I can say that superhero comic book art and dynamic expressions will not be the same without him.

George Perez with the two Wonder Woman plastic models. (photo source – DC Comics Facebook page)

Already there were comic book industry figures who reacted to the death of the legendary Perez. DC Comics co-publisher and legendary creator Jim Lee paid tribute stating, “We creators may all have access to the same tools of the trade: pen, paper and imagination, but what George could do with his prodigious talents was off the charts.”

For his part, Rob Liefeld stated, “I’ll remember George for his innovative and prolific storytelling. Thank you for all the great memories. Rest In Peace, George Perez.”

For the newcomers reading this as well as those who are simply unaware of Perez’s legacy, he was responsible for visualizing DC Comics’ 1985 epic maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths (note: he drew countless characters complete with varied settings or environments in high detail) and redefining Wonder Woman (note: he also wrote the stories) which made her a more essential pop culture icon. George Perez also worked for Marvel Comics over many projects and was chosen to illustrate the memorable 2003 JLA/Avengers crossover series of Marvel and DC. Perez also worked with other publishers such as Malibu Comics for several Ultraverse comic books and Image Comics for Crimson Plague and Witchblade. In recent years, he was responsible for Sirens published by BOOM! Studios.

For me, Wonder Woman was best defined during the post-Crisis era of DC Comics which involved George Perez and Len Wein who wrote the early issues of the Wonder Woman monthly series in the late 1980s.

In his decades-long career in comics, Perez unsurprisingly earned varied awards and honors (references here, here, here and here to name a few).

I should say that George Perez is a long-time favorite comic book illustrator of mine. I enjoyed reading the superhero comic books he illustrated and I love his art style on the characters, the environments and crowds. If there is anything I love about Perez’s art, it is his distinct style along with his implementation of high levels of details on the characters, objects, creatures and surroundings. Perez is also known to capture the distinct visual elements of superhero characters such as Spider-Man’s costume and his spaghetti-like web, Superman’s physique and distinct letter S, Prime’s overly muscular body and more. Every time Perez is involved as artist, the result is almost always a visual feast that often adds punch to the script prepared.

When I was still actively collecting comic books back in the 1990s, I often get excited whenever I learned that George Perez illustrated upcoming comic books. In 1992, he drew Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect (2 books) which was mind-blowing and intriguing for me! In 1993, I became a fan of the newly launched Ultraverse of Malibu Comics and I got very excited to learn that Perez was hired for their major UV crossover Break-Thru (2 issues). Perez also drew one issue of Prime and most of the early issues of the UV team UltraForce (issues #0, #1, #3, #4, #5 and #6). If you want to see Perez draw ALL the characters of the Ultraverse, you should read the 2-issue Break-Thru storyline.

A page from Break-Thru #2 showing just some of the many Ultraverse characters Perez illustrated. This was published before the release of UltraForce.

Speaking of UltraForce, check out this video by Crypto Comics (with observations on Perez’s art works)…

Going back to George Perez’s amazing run on Wonder Woman, I urge you to watch the video below…

For me, the most defining stories of Wonder Woman ever told in any art form are still the comics that Perez wrote (note: he co-wrote stories with Len Wein on the early issues) and illustrated during the post-Crisis era of DC Comics. Check out my retro reviews of Wonder Woman 1980s comics on this website.

Truly, George Perez will be missed by a lot of people and his countless pieces of works will be revisited in the foreseeable future. In closing this piece, posted below are varied works (comic book covers and interior art) done by the late creator through the decades for your viewing pleasure and learning. This is a tribute to Perez and may he rest in peace!

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Note: All images shown are properties of their respective companies.

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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/authorcarlocarrasco/

A Look Back at Sludge #8 (1994)

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.

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.

As seen in my previous Sludge retro review, the stakes were raised even higher and Sludge finds himself in the middle of a major conflict between the gangs of the city with the involvement of the group of the Pump. By this point, the titular character is not only desperate but also is getting torn between good and evil.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Sludge #8, published by Malibu Comics in 1994 with a story written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Aaron Lopresti.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with TV news coverage doing a recap of events that shook New York City and its people – the abduction of a drug mule, the destruction of a ship filled with illegal immigrants, the destruction in the cemetery left behind by a major conflict there, and the death of crime boss John Paul Marcello which involved action by Sludge.

Sludge then wakes up from another nightmare and finds himself inside a boiler room which has a TV set and a chair. It turns out the place was set up by a janitor who does not even know Sludge is present. Slowly, Sludge sneaks his way back to the sewer.

At a cemetery, the burial of Marcello is being attended by many people and among them is Don Celini who regarded the late crime boss as a man of vision who made a lot of money for many people. Vittorio, the former loyal assistant to Marcello, is told by Don Celini to demonstrate leadership qualities to the heads of the other gangs. In the evening at a discreet place, Vittorio meets with Bloodstorm with a lot of money on the side…

The reporter Shelley on the pursuit for details.

Quality

To make things clear about the storytelling, the conflict between the crime gangs not only became more intense but also turned out quite intriguing. Clearly writer Steve Gerber carefully planned out the events, character developments and twists for this series. That being said, this comic book has a fine mix of suspense, crime story and even the supernatural for the narrative’s progress, and the good news is that these elements were presented in a believable way.

As presented in the previous issues, Sludge’s desperation and death wish will keep on intriguing you especially when he gets bothered by the Pump (arguably the most evil figure of the entire Ultraverse). Even as the war between gangs heat up, the story even had space for investigative journalism moments through the news reporter Shelley (who encountered Sludge in person before) whose pursuit for the facts remains unrelenting.

Conclusion

Sludge in a dark boiler room.

While the previous issue made me think deeply about the state of Sludge’s character and the gang war he became involved with, Sludge #8 (1994) is an even more intriguing Ultraverse read complete with solid twists that must be seen. Without spoiling the story, this comic book will strongly resonate with readers who really started the Sludge series from issue #1 (note: Bloodstorm’s involvement in this comic book will be more relevant if you have previously read his detailed introduction in issue #2). The current storyline – Street Wars – went significant steps forward in this story and I can say that the creative team of Gerber and Aaron Lopresti were successful in making me anticipate the conclusion.

Overall, Sludge #8 (1994) 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. 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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/authorcarlocarrasco/

A Look Back at Backlash #1 (1994)

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.

Welcome back superhero fans, 1990s arts and culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we continue revisiting the Wildstorm universe as it was under the Image Comics banner back in the 1990s. Recently, I reviewed back-to-back issues of Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams that involved Chris Claremont and his creation Huntsman (click here, here, here and here) which ultimately expanded the lore of the team within the Wildstorm universe of the time while developing Zealot tremendously.

Still within the Wildstorm universe of the 1990s, it’s time to shift to another key figure – Backlash (civilian identity: Marc Slayton) co-created by Jim Lee and Brett Booth (follow him at Twitter and visit his blog). To put things in perspective, Backlash and WildC.A.T.S’ popular Grifter (Cole Cash) have something in common other than being highly capable fighters – they were teammates within Team 7 long before StormWatch (note: Backlash first appeared in StormWatch #3 in 1993) and WildC.A.T.S were formed. In fact, Team 7 also had Michael Cray (Deathblow), Jackson Dane (Wetworks) and John Lynch (who appeared in early WildC.A.T.S issues and went on to be the mentor in Gen13) who went on to become important Wildstorm figures in the present day.

In 1994, a 4-issue mini-series titled The Kindred was published featuring Backlash and Grifter with a story written by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi, Brett Booth (who illustrated) and Sean Ruffner. Months after that mini-series ended, a regular series focused on Backlash was launched.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Backlash #1, published by Image Comics in 1994 with a story written by Ruffner, Jeff Mariotte and Booth. Booth was the artist.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with Backlash quietly infiltrating the Edward H. Levi Federal Penitentiary, a facility designed to control the growing population of criminal super-powered beings (SPBs). Eventually two armored guards pass by and as soon as one of them notices signs of the break-in, Backlash takes them down using his psionic whip and hard action.

After subduing two more pairs of guards, Backlash enters a large place that has prisoners contained in what he refers to as “aquariums”. Two of the prisoners recognize him. He finally reaches the cell of a red-headed lady named Amanda Reed – also known as Taboo – who has been imprisoned for murder. Backlash makes an offer – if she helps him, he will get her out of the prison…

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Backlash struggling on the way of getting out with Taboo.

Let me start with the story. This comic book has an unusual approach on its plot in which the flashbacks are more prominent than the present-day tale of Backlash freeing Taboo and getting out of the prison. The good news here is that the flashbacks are pretty engaging to read and they solidly fulfilled the writers’ goals of immersing the readers with useful story details and building up the tension while also emphasizing Backlash’s personality and what motivates him deep from within. To put it short, the flashbacks are the most important features of the storytelling and they also have the most interesting scenes (including an encounter with Pike who previously appeared in the early issues of WildC.A.T.S). The present-day view of the plot lack engagement compared to the flashbacks but the creative team succeeded in emphasizing Taboo, what she is capable off and why she is feared.

The characterization of Marc Slayton is pretty good in my view. By the time I reached the end of this comic book, I found him to be a really intriguing protagonist. Backlash is definitely not inspiring but the irony is that his personality and purpose within the Wildstorm universe of the time were compelling enough to follow.

When it comes to the art, Brett Booth’s work here is still good to look at as I follow the story. Be mindful that this was his work when he was very young and as seen in this comic book, he definitely proved his talent, his art style was clearly distinct and he was capable of coming up with really good action scenes that really made Backlash a notable Wildstorm action hero. It should be noted that Booth illustrated this comic book with dynamism in mind.

Conclusion

A key scene from the past of Marc Slayton/Backlash nicely drawn by Brett Booth.

Backlash #1 (1994) is fun and compelling to read. The flashbacks are strangely the most engaging parts of the plot and they succeeded in getting me oriented with the protagonist, what has been going on and what the stakes are right at the start of this particular series. Combined with the still-good-to-view art by a very young Brett Booth, this comic book has a lot of fun stuff to enjoy especially for those who are obsessed or simply wanting to discover more about the Wildstorm universe of the 1990s.

Backlash #1 (1994) 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. 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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/ and on Instagram athttps://www.instagram.com/authorcarlocarrasco/

A Look Back at WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #13 (1994)

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.

Welcome back superhero fans, 1990s arts and culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we continue revisiting Jim Lee’s flagship title under the Image Comics label – WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams!

For the newcomers reading this, I’ve been doing retro reviews of WildC.A.T.S that had Chris Claremont and Jim Lee collaborating together during the early Image Comics years following their previous works together on X-Men comic books while they were at Marvel. Issue #10 of WildC.A.T.S saw the debut of Claremont’s very own Huntsman while Zealot became the major character among her teammates (note: Voodoo had the 2nd most amount of page presence while the rest made very short appearances). In issue #11, the stakes were raised as most of the WildC.A.T.S got captured by the new super villainess Tapestry and Voodoo remained possessed, leaving Zealot as the only free team member who – out of fear – had to reach out for reinforcements (note: brand new characters who happened to have history with Zealot). In issue #12, Zealot and Huntsman really struggled clashing with the Troika while the reinforcements were on their way. What happened saw new revelations about Zealot and the plot expectedly built up the anticipation of the next big conflict.

The issue I am about to review is the conclusion of the current storyline Claremont wrote and  Lee illustrated which, so far, expanded the lore of the WildC.A.T.S within the WildStorm universe of the time. So far, I’ve been enjoying re-reading WildC.A.T.S issues #10 to #12, seeing what kind of creative stuff Claremont and Lee could make while being free from the restrictions and limitations of Marvel Comics.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #13, published by Image Comics in 1994 with a story written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Jim Lee.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with the possessed Voodoo – now looking frail and ugly as a result of Raksha’s hunger for flesh – attacking Jacob Marlowe’s two trusted assistants who arrived to help her. Deep inside her body struggling with Raksha’s possession, Pris manages to stop her attack – Voodoo’s face restored to normal – and warns Jules and Stansfield that Jacob and her teammates have been turned into evil by Tapestry and that Zealot may still be free.

Meanwhile, Grifter, Hunstman, Zealot, Savant, Soldier and Mr. Majestic fight the mind-controlled WildC.A.T.S – Spartan, Maul, Jacob Marlowe and Warblade – and Alabaster Wu who are acting under Tapestry’s evil. As Grifter shoots Maul and kicks Jacob Marlowe’s head, Huntsman reveals to him that Tapestry and Zealot have a history together while Alabaster Wu was trying to save his people…

Quality

Chris Claremont’s Huntsman contributes solidly into the story even though he is not protagonist.

As expected, this storyline-concluding issue delivers the natural progression of what started in issue #10 laced with lots of solidly fun action, key character interactions and more notably the further development of Zealot supported by Huntsman. To put it short, if you enjoyed the previous works of the Claremont-Lee creative team and you enjoy the early, bombastic ways of WildC.A.T.S, then this comic book should delight you.

Without spoiling the entire plot, this comic book concludes the storyline that started in issue #10 and it also marked the end of Claremont-Lee’s collaboration on this particular volume of the WildC.A.T.S comic book series. What is very notable in my view is the way Claremont emphasized the evolution of Zealot not only as a WildC.A.T.S member but also her very own personality as well as her very own spot within the WildStorm universe.

It is in this storyline where you will see Zealot being much more than just a fearless, hard-fighting warrior who lives by the strict standards of the Coda. In this particular comic book, her greater purpose is realized (and you will realize that in a particular scene with Savant late in the story) and the interactions she has with the Huntsman, her sister Savant and others really brought out more of her personality. This is clearly Zealot redefined just as Claremont expanded the lore of the WildC.A.T.S.

Fans of Grifter should be happy to learn that their favorite character (who returned at the end of issue #11) joined the big battle and Claremont’s prepared dialogue of him made him more livelier than his usual portrayal in this comic book series. Huntsman, meanwhile, is his usual honorable self but gets to define his place among the WildC.A.T.S through action. His companion Miranda (now wearing armor thanks to Zealot) plays a short yet notable key role in the story.

The reinforcements composed of Mr. Majestic, Savant and Soldier each have a stronger presence in this story which is expected and they don’t just talk and do some action…they also contributed to the plot and what Savant knew emphasized the essence of the conflict between Zealot and Tapestry.

As for the super villainess herself, Tapestry is very convincingly evil and this comic book shows exactly why the fearless Zealot deeply fears her and why she is a danger to everyone. While she has a very sinister agenda, Tapestry’s confirmation of her origin (in the form of dialogue) and what her place is between the Daemonites and Kherubim will intrigue readers, most especially WildC.A.T.S fans. As for her conflict with Zealot, this comic book will show you how they are connected with each other and what elements connect them together. Their spectacle-filled duel here is a must-see and you will enjoy it a lot when you pay attention to the details (read Savant’s expository dialogue) as the action happens.

When it comes to artwork, fans of Jim Lee should know that this comic book has some of very best pieces of art the famed creator ever made during his time with Image Comics. Very clearly, Lee took his time designing the shots and when to really go out with great visual detail as the story went on.

Conclusion

In the heat of a battle against the other WildC.A.T.S, Grifter and Huntsman still managed to talk.

I can say that WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #13 (1994) is still a great comic book as it solidly and satisfyingly concluded the 4-part storyline that Chris Claremont came up with in this collaboration with Jim Lee. More on the storyline itself, Claremont took a really daring approach on presenting the titular team by having Zealot in the lead (with his creation Huntsman as the 2nd major player) and then putting most of the other team members on the background which effectively emphasizes the presence of the very wicked Tapestry (truly the definitive parallel to Zealot) along with the Troika (note: this is their best and most action-packed portrayal).

While this WildStorm universe-building story concept could put off some Claremont-Lee team fans who expected to see a WildC.A.T.S story fashioned like what was seen in the creators’ past X-Men works, this particular storyline for me is still a great read and its concept is commendable.

I should also state that the themes of omnipotence, legacy and destiny are all well defined in this comic book which made the 4-part storyline make more sense to read and analyze. More on Zealot, the way Claremont developed her will make you think deeply about how you should perceive her, how you think her place within the WildC.A.T.S will affect her teammates, etc. This comic book and its three immediate predecessors all have very solid writing by Claremont!

Overall, WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #13 (1994) 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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/ and on Instagram athttps://www.instagram.com/authorcarlocarrasco/

A Look Back at Ultraverse Premiere #4 (1994)

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.

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 Ultraverse Premiere series.

For the newcomers reading this, Ultraverse Premiere was a series of comic books published by Malibu Comics that showcased several tales of the Ultraverse and its characters. These stories were made to expand the lore of the UV, emphasize key characters and give fans a lot of content to enjoy. Certain issues of Ultraverse Premiere served as flip comic books which are thick (a lot more than the normal 32 pages) and allow you to read Ultraverse Premiere tales on side and read another UV comic book on the other side. The Ultravere Premiere comic book I am about to review here had The Strangers #13 on its flip side.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Ultraverse Premiere #4, published by Malibu Comics in 1994 with stories written by Len Strazewski and Kurt Busiek, and drawn by Frank Gomez and Kris Renkewitz.

The cover.

Early stories

Story 1 – the story begins with Prime making several appearances protecting innocent people from gangs, muggers, thieves and natural disasters. Specifically, his presence is making an impact on the lives of many neighborhoods and its people.

Sometime later, inside a private facility, the figure identified as Prime turns out to be fake and was designed as a human-shaped suit that was piloted inside by Sy Bernstein. He is personally determined to make an impact on crime in his local community with the fake Prime as his main tool.

Story 2 – the story begins with Lady Killer privately viewing a cartoon preview based on her team – The Strangers – with an executive of Imagine-Arts. Shortly after, Lady Killer meets with more executives of the said company and she is told that Imagine-Arts and Labrava Company (Lady Killer’s own enterprise) make a business deal match and they offer to buy her out. Lady Killer tells them that her company and herself are not for sale…

Quality

Lady Killer talking hard on business.

As far as storytelling goes, this comic book’s two tales succeeded in expanding the lore of the Ultraverse through Prime (as a figure to certain members of the public) and Lady Killer, the leader of The Strangers. The Prime-related story offers a nice take on one small part of the Ultraverse that deals with a local community tainted with crime and how Prime’s influence on the ordinary people impacts the said community in varied ways. Of course, these are all executed not with Prime/Kevin Green himself but rather with someone who happens to have the means to pose as Prime and pretend to be the ultrahero himself. Having read a lot of the adventures of the real Prime, this Prime tale is a really nice take although I should say that the art by Frank Gomez has that very rough look all throughout.

The second story meanwhile is an interesting side-story of The Strangers specifically limited to Lady Killer. She gets into business talk with one company which only leads to an intriguing turn of events which creatively emphasizes capitalism to be corrupt and twisted. In some ways, the anti-corporate theme of the story overshadows the plot itself and as the story progressed, Lady Killer slightly becomes less relevant. To be fair to the creative team, this side-story happens to be the first portion of a storyline that involves J.D. Hunt. To say the least, this tale is worth reading even though its protagonist lost some relevance due to a plot twist that started before reaching the end.

Conclusion

Something very odd here.

Ultraverse Premiere #4 (1994) indeed carries enough entertainment and literary value on its two UV tales alone. Just consider The Strangers #13 as a notable additive thanks to the flip side feature. Prime fans will most likely be intrigued and even entertained with the first story while The Strangers fans might end up dissatisfied with the story centered on Lady Killer not because it is the first chapter of a multi-part story but more on its storytelling quality. At least the art of the Lady Killer tale done by Kris Renkewitz is good to look at.

Overall, Ultraverse Premiere #4 (1994) 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. 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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/authorcarlocarrasco/

A Look Back at WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #12 (1994)

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.

Welcome back superhero fans, 1990s arts and culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we continue revisiting Jim Lee’s flagship title under the Image Comics label – WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams!

Previously, I reviewed WildC.A.T.S #11 which served as a build-up issue with the titular team and their place within the WildStorm universe in mind. Considering how much the narrative in issue #10 was driven through Zealot’s struggles and her meeting the Huntsman (his debut), issue #11 was alienating as the two mentioned characters had significantly lesser exposure. Of course, it is noted that issue #11 saw the rather heavy entry of Tapestry, an eroticized and highly manipulative villainess who not only encountered the fearless Zealot ages prior but also scared her deep inside. Out of fear and desperation, Zealot summoned her long-time ally Savant who in turn reached out to Soldier (who also knew Zealot) and Mr. Majestic (only mentioned by name). Issue #11 also saw the rise of the Troika (Attica, Slag and H.A.R.M.) in terms of exposure and even character development.

At this stage, it was clear that franchise creator Jim Lee literally gave author Chris Claremont the driver’s seat to develop the WildC.A.T.S franchise significantly and lead it to a new, bold direction. It was clearly the most unconventional WildC.A.T.S story published at the time!

With those details laid down, here is a look back WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #12, published by Image Comics in 1994 with a story written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Jim Lee.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with the Huntsman driving the high-tech motorcycle with Miranda and an ailing Zealot seated in the side-car. They are being chased and attacked by the Troika from above (Attica and Slag riding on H.A.R.M. in its aircraft form) firing several rockets at them. While the rockets caused huge explosions on the city street, Attica states he will consider the attack on their targets successful only he sees their dead bodies.

Meanwhile inside a facility, Tapestry continues to deeply manipulate the mind of Warblade among the captured WildC.A.T.S members. Already Jacob Marlowe and even the cybernetic Spartan have been manipulated to do her bidding. As Tapestry continues working on Warblade in the presence of Soma and the others, the Raksha-possessed Voodoo hungers for new meat.

Moments later, as Voodoo goes out agonizing over the craving, a vehicle – with Jacob Marlowe’s loyal assistants Jules and Stansfield – arrive. Deep inside Voodoo, a conflict between her and the Raksha occupying her body begins… 

Quality

Mr. Majestic is the WildStorm universe’s parallel to DC Comics’ Superman!

Like issue #11, this comic book continues to build-up the WildC.A.T.S lore but with notable differences. For one thing, the story moved forward more while also having the intensity build up constantly leading to the set-up of the upcoming conflict between Tapestry’s troops (along with the manipulated WildC.A.T.S) and Zealot with Hunstman (and the incoming reinforcements). To put it short, the exposition in this story was less and the plot noticeably progressed more.

When it comes to the significance of the characters, this time the narrative’s spotlight shifted back more on Zealot and Huntsman which was the right move pulled off by the creators as Tapestry was already established as the new force of evil for the good guys to deal with. As for the new characters introduced in the previous issue, Tapestry has a smaller share of the spotlight while Savant and Soldier are present again but only after much of the action had passed. It is also in this issue that Mr. Majestic appears at last marking the start of his involvement in the conflict.

As for Zealot and the Huntsman, their alliance in this story has progressed more as well. Under Chris Claremont, the fearless Zealot was portrayed to be struggling very hard as she became more vulnerable than ever! This is Zealot that has to be seen! As for Huntsman, he truly is an effective fighter. So much so, he sure can fit into the WildC.A.T.S and keep up with their action. Still, Huntsman is indeed an honorable man as he still dedicates himself in protecting Miranda (who is a lot more than she appears) while making his moves to help Zealot at her most vulnerable time.

When it comes to the visuals, this is one Jim Lee-drawn comic book that I found unusually alienating to look at. His penciled art are still here but in certain pages, they looked odd as they were inked by other people. The ink work done on page 17 really stood out with a very high contrast look.

Conclusion

By this point of the storyline, Zealot and Huntsman are clearly the major characters.

While it is essentially a build-up issue, the entertainment value in WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #12 (1994) went up as the story progressed more, the spotlight shifted more on Zealot and Huntsman (clearly the two major characters for this storyline) and the exposition and explanations were lessened. The ironic thing is that readers will see less of the titular team (as most of them were captured and being manipulated by Tapestry) here. The presence of Savant, Soldier and Mr. Majestic here is pretty light which is understandable as the focus on Zealot and Huntsman was deeper this time. Ultimately, this comic book sets the readers up to for the inevitable big battle in the next issue.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #12 (1994), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $20 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $60.

Overall, WildC.A.T.S: Covert Action Teams #12 (1994) 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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/authorcarlocarrasco/

A Look Back at Sludge #7 (1994)

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.

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 cover.

Early story

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…

Quality

Avoiding the touch of Sludge is a must!

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.

Conclusion

Shelley of the city newspaper at the scene of the crime.

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.

+++++

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 with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/authorcarlocarrasco/