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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 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…
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.
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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