A Look Back At Prime #1

As a comic book collector, 1993 was a notable year. That year Marvel organized the 30th anniversary celebration of the Avengers and the X-Men (which I’m a fan of). Image Comics meanwhile released a lot more comics showcasing the works of many creators apart from the publisher’s Seven Founding Fathers. Over at DC Comics, Superman was brought back to life but after they started the Reign of the Superman storyline. Oh yes, there was Valiant which scored hits with Turok #1 and even partnered with some Image Comics creators to produce the Deathmate crossover comic books.

At one corner was Malibu Comics which made a brave entry into the highly competitive superhero genre of comic book publishing in America by launching the Ultraverse, a line of superhero comic books which was the result of brainstorming by several comic book creators (many who previously worked with Marvel and DC Comics).

They launched a lot of comics (all those with #1 on their covers) which made it on the walls and shelves of local comic book stores I visited. Among the many Ultraverse launch comic books displayed was Prime #1 which had a great cover drawn by the late Norm Breyfogle.

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The cover with nice art.

Co-written by Len Strazewski and Gerard Jones with art by Breyfogle, the comic book introduces readers to Prime, an overly muscular, caped man who tries to do something good but is quite flawed with his approach.

The story begins when Prime confronts a junior high school coach named Meyer accusing him of being a pervert. Meyer reacts surprised since he personally does not know Prime (“Who are you? What are you?”). He claims that he does not know what exactly the big guy knows. At the side were two high school girls witnessing the encounter.

And then Prime said his words, “I saw you, coach Meyer! I saw you on the basketball court in fifth period..touching those girls!”

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The coach fought back causing Prime to react. Because the hero was not aware of his strength, he miscalculated with his grip on Meyer breaking his arm unintentionally. Prime’s reaction clearly showed his realizing his mistake.

The incident scared the one of the girls away and carelessly Prime tries to explain himself to the other girl standing by. He even called himself as the girl’s “protector and avenger”, telling her not to be afraid of him.

As it turned out, the incident was a recently past event within the narrative of the comic book which is a nice touch. The coach, already injured, gave his testimony expecting cash from a shadowy organization collecting information not only about Prime but the Ultras (the in-universe term referring to beings with super powers).

That’s as far as I will go with telling the plot details. Prime #1 should be read from start to finish and the good news is that old copies of it can be found online at affordable rates and there are lots of copies in overall good condition.

Other notable elements of Prime #1 worth discussing, without spoiling the plot, is the way the story was structured by Strazewski and Jones. At least for 1993, it somewhat defies the tradition of following the views of the protagonist. Instead, Prime is emphasized through the views of others from the injured coach to the soldiers and the media. This approach does not necessarily make Prime a supporting player in his own comic book but rather it was an efficient way of showing how he thinks and acts, what he is capable of doing and how he reacts to others. By the time the comic book ends (with a very intriguing ending no less), you will get to know Prime a lot.

I also liked the way the writers used corporate media as a key element on exploring the connecting elements of the Ultraverse. Hardcase is shown briefly while a reference was made on Prototype. Check out the page posted below on how corporate media looks at Prime.

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Corporate media exposure and conspiracy efficiently told in one page.

When it comes to the art, the late Norm Breyfogle (1960-2018) delivered visuals that had that cartoony look and yet the visual expressions are quite mature, even dark and gritty. It is a very nice approach and it is no surprise, looking back, that Breyfogle went on to draw a lot more issues of Prime for Malibu Comics. Breyfogle died on September 24, 2018 due to heart failure in Michigan. Before making his mark on the Ultraverse, the late artist drew a lot of comic books for DC Comics and is known for his contributions on Batman.

More on hero himself, Prime is a flagship character of the Ultraverse and the combined talents of the writers and artist were major factors behind it. On face value, Prime looks like the Ultraverse answer to DC Comics Superman but in reality he has a lot more common with Shazam/Captain Marvel. I can explain why but that means spoiling the plot more here.

Overall, Prime #1 is still a very good old superhero comic book to read. It is fun and intriguing from start to finish. Considering its very good quality and being a nice showcase of the talents of the creators, Prime #1 is one of the best Ultraverse launch comic books. It is too bad, however, that there are no signs from Marvel Entertainment (note: Marvel Comics acquired Malibu Comics in the mid-1990s) whatsoever on the possible revival of the Ultraverse which remains in limbo under them.

Even so, I still say that Prime #1 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. 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

Also if you are interested to join an Ultraverse-related community online, I recommend the Facebook group here.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

 

 

A Look Back At Freex #1

I want to say that I am a fan of Marvel’s X-Men. Given the long publication history as well as how many creators – most notably Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio – defined and redefined them through the ages, the X-Men for me is the best superhero team comic franchise from Marvel.

Back in 1993, Malibu Comics launched a new line of superhero comic books called the Ultraverse and there I was inside a comic book store along Presidents Avenue, BF Homes, Paranaque one time struggling to decide which of the many Ultraverse launch titles displayed to buy with my very limited budget. As I was very fond of the superhero team dynamics of the X-Men, I bought Freex #1.

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Cover of Freex #1.

Written by Gerard Jones with art by Ben Herrera (inked by Mike Christian), Freex #1 introduces Ray/Boomboy (a guy who lived hidden from the public due to his abnormal body), Valerie/Pressure (a very bitter lady who could produce steam or plasma out of sweat), Lewis/Anything (a guy who could reshape his body), Angela/Sweetface (who has several fleshy tentacles from her body) and Michael/Plug (a digital escapee).

The comic book emphasizes the five individuals’ respective struggles with not only their abilities but also with being social outcasts. This eerily parallels Marvel’s X-Men in more ways than one. The big difference is that the Freex do not have a mature adult to guide them nor do they have a large estate to hide and live in. Clearly the Freex are in a desperate situation to survive and realize their destiny.

In terms of storytelling, the pacing is fine and for the most part character development or spotlight was noticeably invested on three of the five Freex which is understandable since the comic book had only twenty-five pages of story and art. In terms of spectacle, there presentation is nice and the action scenes nicely reflect what the characters could do.

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Valerie Sharp’s flashback.

Going back to character development, I find Boomboy’s back story to be the most interesting. Due to his rock-like appearance, his family had no choice but to hide him in the basement for an unspecified number of years. Unsurprisingly he became very lonely and he dealt with loneliness by reading a book about a certain literature classic.

Due to his high consumption related to his abnormal condition, Boomboy’s family realized that feeding him was too costly and they found a place where he could be transferred to and receive special care. Thinking that he would end up like a slave at the new place, Boomboy naturally rebels and forcefully leaves the house causing damage.

For the first time, Boomboy explores the suburban exterior while causing people nearby to panic as he looks like some monster to them. The uncertainty for him ended when Lewis meets and welcomes him.

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It truly is very hard to be social outcasts.

Very notably, Boomboy claims that “Huck” (actually Anything) saved him and went on to really believe in him.

Being an X-Men fan, I noticed that Freex has some similar themes with Marvel’s superhero team in the sense that there is a group of individuals with special abilities (or abnormalities as some would call them) who are noticeably rejected by members of the local society they live in. Valerie said it correctly: So we are here, right? Living in some locked-up squat, stealing to eat with the cops all over us!

Valerie’s words captured the desperate situation of Freex. They don’t have a mature leader to look up to. They cannot go back to where they came from. They cannot reunite immediately with the people who care for them. They are already rejected by the local authorities.

Overall, I find Freex #1 as engaging as it was when I first read it way back in 1993. It has aged nicely with its fine mix of drama and spectacle composed with a more mature audience in mind. If you are a comic book collector looking for 1990s concepts or if you want something similar to the X-Men or even DC Comics’ Teen Titans, then I recommend this comic book.

It’s too bad that Marvel bought out Malibu Comics and shut them down. As of this writing, Freex and the rest of the Ultraverse characters and concepts are all in limbo and remain unused by Marvel for decades now.

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Freex with a stronger superhero look they adapted later in their short-lived comic book series.

Still I can imagine the unlikely scenario that Marvel Studios (under the orders of their parent company the Walt Disney Company) would revive someday the Ultraverse properties in a limited way without cannibalizing their very own superhero properties already in use in movies. I think Freex would make an interesting animated series or as a video game or as action figures. Truly there is still good entertainment potential with Freex similar to the other Ultraverse franchises.


Thank you for reading. If you found 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.

Author’s Note: This article was originally published at my old Geeks and Villagers blog. What you read on this website was an updated and expanded version. In other words, this newest version you just read is the most definitive version

A Look Back at Solitaire #1 of the Ultraverse

When you fight evil, you do it alone.

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Solitaire in action in Solitaire #1 published in 1993 by Malibu Comics under their Ultraverse line of comic books.

The concept of vigilante figures taking the fight against crime alone backed with resources (in the form of weapons) is a long running tradition in superhero comic books. DC Comics has its iconic Batman doing lots of detective work and fighting criminals many times on his own. Similar stories were seen with the Punisher and Daredevil over at Marvel.

When Malibu Comics launched the Ultraverse line of superhero comics in 1993, they added variety into the big mix. They had their own parallel to Marvel’s Punisher and DC’s Batman in the form of Solitaire and they boldly launched a comic book series of the character.

Released in late 1993 with story by Gerard Jones and art by Jeff Johnson and Barb Kaalberg, Solitaire #1 introduced readers to Nicholas Lone who wears a purple-and-blue costume with mask and fights criminals as Solitaire. He’s not just a brave, tough guy who daringly goes against thugs. He’s is very talented with martial arts, acrobatics and weapon use.

The comic book begins when thugs working for a crime lord called the King are about to catch a helpless lady who gets saved by Solitaire. The hero easily outmaneuvers the bad guys and he proved to them that he really is hard to hurt.

At his headquarters, the King made it clear to readers that Solitaire has been a problem to him for some time already and feels bad when the hero disrupts his operation. Solitaire meanwhile prepares himself for the next move against the King by returning to his hideout (an old theater), doing some research by computer and coordinating with his contacts on the streets.

Regarding the quality of the comic book, I say the script is nicely paced as it does a good job introducing Solitaire to readers while still having spare spotlight for the King. Within twenty-five pages, the hero got clearly defined as a man of action as well as a person with a purpose. His fight against crime is defined by key parts of his past especially with the fact that his own father – Antone Lone – is a crime lord.

When it comes to super powers, Solitaire has very quick reflexes which makes him a hard target for armed thugs. He also has healing factor which works rapidly and gives him a major advantage over the bad guys. In fact, the presence of the healing factor (which works like that of Wolverine) makes Solitaire more daring and more willing to take risks engaging the bad guys with violence. He can get stabbed and his body can be shot with several bullets and still he will recover quickly to get the job done.

Solitaire is indeed super and yet there is something intriguing with his personality. Apart from being the son of a crime lord, Nicholas Lone’s acquisition of his powers is a painful mark on him personally. This was because his father gave him those powers as a result of his attempt to commit suicide. The powers are the result of the installation of nano-machines into his body.

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Overall, Solitaire #1 is a good and intriguing read. It really comes with a flavor that makes it distinct from other superhero-versus-criminals stories and the introduction of Solitaire alone is worth the cover the price. If you can find copies of Solitaire #1 on the back issue shelves of the comic book stores, I recommend buying it as well as the other issues.

It’s too bad that the Ultraverse ended after Marvel Comics acquired Malibu Comics back in the 1990s because like Prime, Hardcase and Prototype, Solitaire is very unique and intriguing at the same time. In my opinion, Solitaire is the most defining crime fighter of the entire Ultraverse and it’s too bad stories featuring him are not too many.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to your fellow comic book geeks and Ultraverse fans. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format for you to order.

Author’s Note: This article was originally published at my old Geeks and Villagers blog. What you read on this website was an updated and expanded version. In other words, this newest version you just read is the most definitive version