A Look Back At The Strangers #2

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.

I could never forget the sense of engagement and fun I had the first time I read the Ultraverse comic book The Strangers #1 decades ago. After completing that comic book, I was really eager to discover more of the team and what else they would encounter in the next issue. Entertainment and literary value aside, The Strangers #1 succeeded in making me craving for more about the Ultraverse (same with reading Hardcase #1, Mantra #1, Freex #1, Prime #1 and Prototype #1).

Take note that the year was 1993 when Malibu Comics launched the Ultraverse and at that time I was already a fan of the X-Men and Marvel Comics organized the celebration of X-Men’s 30th anniversary that same year. As such, it became a challenge for me to collect X-Men-related comic books while keeping up with the Ultraverse releases. While the X-Men 30th anniversary was heavily marketed, The Strangers and Freex were superhero team titles under the Ultraverse that still caught my attention. I’m really glad that

Enough with the history lesson. Let’s now take a look back at The Strangers #2, published in 1993 by Malibu Comics with a story written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Rick Hoberg.

Early story

The story begins with the Strangers riding a private jet piloted by Lady Killer. Flying over the city of Fresno in California, the jet heads to a very strange cloud which seems to be the source of the powers they suddenly gained (as a result of what happened when they rode the cable car in San Francisco).

After some effort, they discover, to their surprise, an entire island with a forest and a small mountain completely floating hidden in the cloud. Upon landing, Atom Bob, Grenade, Electrocute, Lady Killer, Spectral and Zip-Zap move into the forest to explore. Eventually they got surrounded by members of a tribe (including the flying lady whom they encountered in issue #1) who use magic to take them down…

Quality

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The Strangers move into action!

In terms of quality, this comic book worked strongly as a concluding piece to the previous issue. In issue #1, the story was about one main event that impacted the lives of strangers who happened to be riding the cable car, and those who gained powers got together. The Strangers #2 was more about the powered strangers searching for answers only to find themselves in a tremendous misadventure they did not anticipate. The result is a nice series of further incidents laced with spectacle, interactions between the characters and ultimately another bout of fun and discovery for readers to experience.

When it comes to the writing, the narrative from the 1st issue continued smoothly here. Apart from the big misadventure on the floating island, the further development of each member of The Strangers proved to be very strong. Lady Killer is firmly established to be strong-willed and capable of leading and organizing people. Spectral starts doing more as he gradually learns more about his untapped potential. By the time I reached the end of this comic book, I got to know the characters much more and also craved for more on their further adventures/misadventures. Visually, Rick Hoberg’s art really brought the story to life.

Conclusion

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Get to know the Strangers more with this page.

The Strangers #2 is an excellent comic book worthy of being part of your collection. In my view, this comic book is an essential follow-up to the excellent 1st issue. Without this, your discovery of the Strangers would be incomplete. This comic book also explains how the team got its name.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of The Strangers #2, be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition, the bagged edition and the newsstand edition cost $4, $4 and $8 respectively.

Overall, The Strangers #2 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 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.

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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 Hardcase #3

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.

I love it when improvements in comic books are pulled off in terms of writing, art and creativity.

Let’s start this look back at Hardcase #3, published by Malibu Comics in 1993 under the Ultraverse banner with a story written by James Hudnall and drawn by Jim Callahan.

Cover
The cover.

Early story

The story begins in Mexico. To the surprise of armed, armored personnel, an explosion happened and Choice emerges. It turns out this was footage from the recent past being reviewed by two men in suits. They are aware that Choice is in California and has teamed up already with Hardcase. They speculate that the two are making their way to corporate headquarters.

The shadowy figure, a man who is not a man, in the room makes a decision.

“I’ve decided to provide you with some help for two reasons. One: I want to see Hardcase fall. Two: I want to test out a band of ultra-assassins I’ve concocted,” he said.

Elsewhere, Hardcase tells a police office that they were attacked. A man named Chuck arrives to talk to Hardcase. He is a friend of the sheriffs of Ventura and offers to help. Hardcase introduces him to Choice and tells him that armed assassins were after her to force her to return to the Choice corporation.

Suddenly, very eager TV news crews arrived to get the scoop compelling Choice and Hardcase to leave. What the two do not know is that they are being watched…..

Quality

15
Notable improvement on the art.

In describing the quality of this comic book, I am happy to say that the fun, engagement and strong creativity is back. This is definitely a major improvement over Hardcase #2.  For one thing, artist Jim Callahan returned to do the artwork and brought back the visual fun and flair of issue #1. There is a lot of action scenes in this comic book and each page is nicely drawn by Callahan. Nice impact on the hard blows too.

In terms of writing, James Hudnall did a good job balancing the spectacle with the narrative and characterization. The way Hudnall deepened the plot with intriguing new details is very solid, and he cleverly pulled off some twists here and there.

Conclusion

14
Choice in action.

Hardcase #3 is a good comic book and it more than made up for the lackluster story in issue #2. It should be noted that this comic book efficiently links Hardcase with other elements of the Ultraverse’ shared universe, plus the final page delivered an excellent conclusion.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Hardcase #3, be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition and the newsstand edition cost $4 and $8 respectively.

Overall, Hardcase #3 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 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 #2

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 it comes to engagement with the Ultraverse, I could never forget the impact that came with Hardcase #1 specifically with the way it introduced its title character Tom Hawke. Hardcase was presented as a superhero living with the guilt of surviving a major tragedy from the past that resulted the deaths of two teammates and the permanent brain damage caused on his girlfriend. As part of his moving on, he put his talents to good use as a movie actor.

That being said, let’s take a look back at Hardcase #2, published in 1993 by Malibu Comics with a story written by James Hudnall and art by Cranial Implant Studio.

Cover
The cover.

Early story

The story begins with a costumed lady on the run from something, distracting the many bystanders she passed. As she flies off the sidewalk, two armored men coming out of a truck fire their shots at her compelling her to activate her personal protective shield.

With explosions happening in the air near her, the two armored guys fly up to get near. One of them tells her to give up and come back to them. Suddenly the lady charged herself and fired beams from her eyes hitting one of the armored guys. She manages to escape.

Meanwhile, Tom Hawke/Hardcase attends the burial of Jamal. A brother of the deceased calls Hardcase’s attention and starts a conversation with him. Hardcase expressed how sorry he is for the death of Jamal and said that had he gotten to him sooner, he would have still been living. The survivor’s guilt really disturbs Tom.

5
At the burial of Jamal.

Suddenly, a group of youth approaches Hardcase asking for his autograph. Hardcase receives from Jamal’s brother a card for calling.

Over at San Diego, California, two men in business attire discuss their search for the costumed lady who got away. Near them are monitors of products endorsed by the same costumed lady. Her name is Choice and one of the executives stated that, according to a team analysis, she arrived in California to meet with Hardcase…

Quality

As a follow-up to the compelling launch issue, this comic book is nowhere as engaging. To be fair to the creators, some space had to be made to accommodate and introduce Choice to readers, and give Hardcase someone to interact with. In connection with the first issue, Hardcase is nicely portrayed with having the survivor’s guilt and the Jamal burial scene was helpful in fleshing out his character. James Hudnall delivered a good story overall, just not as deep as the first issue.

The art meanwhile, done by Cranial Implant Studio, really took a deep dive down in terms of quality. Jim Callahan’s art in the first issue was very good and the art in this comic book really failed to keep up with the artistic quality established. Cranial Implant Studio’s art has a very cartoony look done with sloppiness instead of precision. In fairness, the action scenes were decently drawn.

21
Really bad way of drawing the jaw of Hardcase done by Cranial Implant Studio.

Conclusion

Hardcase #2 does not deliver the gripping storytelling and spectacle of the first issue. It’s not a terrible comic book of the Ultraverse, just average in quality. At the very least, the introduction of Choice and her meeting with Hardcase added some intrigue for further stories to come. Indeed, the Hardcase monthly series went on to last 26 issues in total.

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The art was rough but at least the action scenes were pulled off.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Hardcase #2, be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $4 while the newsstand edition’s near-mint copy is at $8.

Overall, Hardcase #2 is worth buying below its cover price.


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 Break-Thru #1

When done right, a crossover storyline showcasing a big mix of superheroes getting involved in a huge event can be memorable and worth revisiting years after getting published.

Back in 1993, Malibu Comics launched the Ultraverse which involved many talented creators. Right from the start, it was made clear that there was a shared universe occupied by The Strangers, Night Man, Prototype, Prime, Mantra, Hardcase and many others.

Before the end of 1993, Malibu launched Break-Thru #1 which started a new storyline that involved many of the above characters plus Firearm, The Solution, Sludge and Solitaire. Adding more punch to this comic book was Malibu’s hiring of legendary artist George Perez who worked on the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series of DC Comics.

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A great cover! One of the best ever for any Ultraverse comic book!

Here is a close look at Break-Thru #1 mainly written by Gerard Jones, drawn by George Perez and inked by John Lowe with colors by Moose Baumann. Credited as contributing writers were Steve Englehart, Mike W. Barr, Steve Gerber, James D. Hudnall, Tom Mason, George Perez, James Robinson and Len Strazewski.

Early story

The story begins immediately after the end of Exiles #4. A man falls to his death from the top of a tower thinking he was reaching the moon at night. Elsewhere, an airplane sharply goes up with too much altitude as the pilot obsesses with going to the moon

As it turns out, the media reports about people trying to reach the moon and getting restless. A member of Exiles lies helplessly on a bed with his entire body covered with medical materials for his injuries. A doctor presses him for answers and he claims to know that Amber, one of the Exiles members, looks a lot like a young lady floating over Los Angeles. He thinks she is responsible for the madness that has been going around the world.

The injured confirmed that the lady, floating high above with reddish energy around her, is none other than Amber. He claims, however, that he has no idea what happened but shared that she was already prone to volatile energy blasts.

Behind the scenes, members of Aladdin discuss what has been happening. One of them believes that Amber may hold important clues to the nature and origin of Ultras. The Aladdin people get distracted with noise caused by Eden Blake (Mantra in civilian form) who secretly eavesdropped on them pretending to be lost (note: a reference is made to Mantra #5 to explain her new employment with Aladdin.)

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The military and Prime.

Aladdin decides to activate their own Ultra named Wrath. Over at the Pentagon, military officers discuss the information about Wrath they got received from their moles at Aladdin. Their leader wondered about sending Prime (with a modified look) on a mission but he can’t have anyone see how he modified the Ultra.

Meanwhile in the bowels of the Earth, a man who is not really a man watches…

Quality

In terms of storytelling, Break-Thru #1 has a nice build-up. It took its time making references to the many, many characters of the Ultraverse. By the end of the comic book, you will realize there are different kinds of Ultras: the solo Ultras, the corporate Ultras, the freelancers, the work-for-hire Ultras, the accidental Ultras and the like. With regards to emphasizing the shared universe, this comic book shows that connections with the individual comic books are tight. References in what happened in Exiles #4, Prime #6, Mantra #5 and others all helped build-up the concept of Break-Thru. The story is 35-pages long which, in my opinion, was sufficient not only to emphasize the conflict Break-Thru but also give readers enough space to get to know what exactly is going on, who are these many characters, what the institutions involved are, etc.

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Mantra with Prototype.
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The Strangers discuss what has been happening.

More on Break-Thru’s concept, I like the way the comic book emphasized how the sudden presence of multiple Ultras affected local societies, members of the public, the government, the secret groups and others. It also sheds light on how people, regardless of social class or status, react to the presence of people who carry special powers or have unusual talents over them. This reminds me of a key scene in the 2012 Avengers movie in which Col. Fury mentioned how the sudden presence of super beings caused a disturbance.

Spectacle? Unsurprisingly there is a good amount of action as well as incidental moments that kept the narrative entertaining.

Visually, Break-Thru #1 is a great looking comic book thanks to George Perez who is famous for drawing multiple characters environments with his distinctive style complete with a high level of detail. There is not a single boring moment with his art and each panel has really nice visuals. The action scenes and incidental happenings (example: Valerie’s sudden burst of energy) come with a lot of punch.

2019-10-17_075541~2.jpg
Freex got affected.

Very notably, Perez’s take on each of the Ultraverse characters is very good to look at and in some ways, certain characters look a lot better than they did in their respective comic book series. A perfect example here is the team Freex whose characters look more human (in style) and more lively. Of course, I don’t mean to say that the illustrators of the Freex series did not do a good job.

Perez’s drawing of Mantra is very good. Similar results with The Strangers, Hardcase, Solitaire and Prototype. Very clearly George Perez carefully did his research on the characters and their respective designs.

Conclusion

2019-10-17_074728~2.jpg
Hardcase, Choice and The Solution on the move!

Overall, Break-Thru #1 is a great comic book to read and it reflects the high quality and deep engagement the Ultraverse had when it was still under the control of Malibu Comics (note: Marvel Comics acquired them and drastically changed the UV for the worse in the mid-1990s). It definitely still is one of the finest superhero crossover comic books of the 1990s and, personally, I found it to be more engaging than the launch issues of other crossover storylines like Zero Hour and The Infinity Gauntlet. If you are interested, Break-Thru continued in Firearm #4, Freex #6, Hardcase #7, Mantra #6, The Night Man #3, Prime #7, Prototype #5, Sludge #3, Solitaire #2, The Solution #4, The Strangers #7 and then in Break-Thru #2.

Break-Thru #1 is highly recommended and you can buy a near-mint copy of it for $4 at Mile High Comics’ website.


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 UltraForce #1 (1994)

There is nothing like seeing squabbling individuals (each with a unique talent or two) realize that they have to end the division between them and work together to solve a problem that affects everyone.

Tropes like that are common in superhero comic books, animation, movies and other forms of media. The concept of having superheroes is precisely the key element behind the UltraForce of the Ultraverse.

To put things in perspective, UltraForce is a team of superheroes (called Ultras in the Ultraverse) composed of Prime, Hardcase, Prototype, Topaz, Ghoul, Pixx and Contrary. The team was formed to protect the public while, at the same time, keep their fellow Ultras (examples: Mantra, The Strangers, Night Man, etc.) from getting out of line with the general public and their government leaders.

Previously, I discussed what would it be like had superheroes conspired with government officials and corporate media as told in UltraForce #2. For this article, we take a look back at the formation of the team in UltraForce #1, published by Malibu Comics in August 1994 with a story by Gerard Jones and art by the legendary George Perez.

RCO001_1463648135.jpg
Great cover by George Perez.

Early story

The story begins with a disaster as fighter planes get pulled down to the ground by an unknown force. A pilot who ejected and flew by parachute finds himself pulled down as well. Down on his back, he feels intense pain and could not get himself up. His body begins to get destroyed when a voice is heard.

“You thought your little flying toys would stop me. You thought your mastery of light and air made you invincible. And no creature of the dark, hidden places could possibly beat you. Now feel the weight. Feel what we feel. The weight of the core of the Earth. The weight of eons of darkness. The age of light and air is done. Prepare for a new age. The age of Atalon!”

Inside a ship above the desert, Hardcase reacts as he watches multiple monitors showing current events highlighting people’s fear of the Ultras, citizen demanding controls, Hardcase reported as saying “only Ultras can control Ultras”, plus an image of Prime and Prototype in action. With him were Contrary, Pixx and Ghoul.

“No!” said Hardcase. “I won’t go through that again!”

Harcase clarifies to his companions that, due to his past with The Squad ending in tragedy, he won’t join a group and end up counting friends’ bodies again. Regarding his reported quote in the media, he stated that he specifically said that government could never control Ultras plus he did not say an UltraForce should try to do it. Being an actor in Hollywood, he decides to go to the media and wash his hands of this.

Contrary, who is the schemer in the team, asked him, “Won’t the public fear Ultras more and more…unless someone steps up to teach Ultras how to function in the world?”

Hardcase asked if she was the one to do the teaching.

Pixx butts into the conversation telling them that Prime and Prototype are about to approach the press. After calling Pixx an attentive student, Contrary tells Hardcase she is the to teach the Ultras which she claims is her business.

In front of the press, Prime (who is a kid inside that overly muscular body) talks impulsively to them and Prototype (who is receiving communication feed from Ultratech which seeks a public coup with the idea of him gathering the team) who states that an UltraForce is needed and that he will recruit one.

This sets off Prime to act even more impulsively over who has credit over the UltraForce idea. Behind the scenes, Ultratech’s Leland and Hardcase watch as things turn wrong (between Prime and Prototype) in front of the press.

RCO006_1463648135~2.jpg
An incident like that in front of the media is enough to mislead the public into thinking negatively about who got covered in the press. There are those who acted badly in front of the press and there are media operators who practice journalism wrongly.

“They’re going to force the government to crack down on Ultras!” – Hardcase.

Concerned that the embarrassment could start a civil war between Ultras and Normals (the people), Hardcase tells Contrary he wants to leave the ship to prevent things from getting worse. Contrary gets on his way saying she was going to talk to Prime and Prototype and even have their ship fly after them.

Hardcase disagrees with her idea and insisted she should not be near the mess (about Ultras and the public) until she comes clean with all her secrets and explain what her academy for Ultras is about.

“Is this the same Hardcase who didn’t want responsibility of leading other Ultras…laying down the law for me?” – Contrary

Eventually Contrary sends Hardcase away and tells Pixx to bring their ship to the Redstone Arsenal.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Topaz appears suddenly in the middle of a football game causing confusion to the players and the spectators.

RCO015_1463648135.jpg
The power of Prime!

Quality

I absolutely enjoyed reading UltraForce #1 for the fact that it has a very engaging story, great art, in-depth characterization and a great presentation of superheroes banding together for a higher cause. It is the complete package of what a fun yet thoughtful superhero comic book should be!

The story written by Gerard Jones shows lots of signs that things were carefully planned not just for the comic book but for the Ultraverse as a whole as it focused on the concept about the Ultras being on the edge of getting misunderstood by the general public (the people who don’t have powers) who in turn relied on the news coverage of corporate media (which itself has lapses or made deliberate moves that did not give the viewers an accurate look at the events that happened) to take a look at beings with powers.

This concept kinda reminds me of the traditional concept behind the X-Men. Charles Xavier founded the X-Men to train mutants to use their gifts for good while trying to establish a bond of understanding and tolerance between mutants and humans.

UltraForce’s concept of the fragile link between Ultras and ordinary people really went deep as it involved not only the media but also the private sector, the government leaders and the armed forces. Heck, in Prototype #1 the corporation Ultratech made its move with Ultras by having a flying, armored guy representing them. In Prime #1, the element of militarism was involved.

The comic book’s concept is nicely reflected in Hardcases thoughts below.

“Great. The military, the media, the eyes of the world…dying for a sign. Are Ultras for them or against them? And what sign are we giving them?”

Gerard Jones also achieved a great job with the characterization. Prime is the impulsive powerful superhero who is also a loose canon because he’s really a kind inside the large, muscular body of a man. Prototype is piloted by a young guy working for a corporation and along the way, he has trouble balancing himself between duty and personal interest. Hardcase, who has been living with guilt as one of two surviving members of The Squad, struggles between his internal struggle and keeping the peace between humans and Ultras. The way I remember these three notable Ultraverse lead characters from their respective comic book series, their personalities were successfully replicated and developed in this comic book.

Contrary meanwhile is subtle yet brainy and strategic figure of the team. For the most part, she is mysterious and yet already has a clear vision about mentoring people with super powers. She is easily the most defining member of UltraForce who does not have her own comic book series. Topaz, who comes from a society of women, is clearly the Ultraverse parallel to DC Comics’ Wonder Woman. She appeared in prior issues of Mantra and her addition to UltraForce added more depth and variety. Of course, given her background, working alongside men is a challenge for her personally. Pixx and Ghoul, meanwhile, contributed nicely as supporting characters in this comic book. For the villain King Atalon, he succeeded in presenting himself and his group as a credible threat to the world. Not only is he powerful in combat, he is very driven with a mission for his kingdom and his people strongly love him and support him.

Even though this was just the first story, UltraForce #1 is already a nice exploration of each member’s personality and the personal relationships between them. How these characters formed a team was not only convincing but was done with a lot of depth and focus. At the same time, the dialogue written for each character is lively to read. Take note how Atalon reacted to Prototype’s attack on him.

“Didn’t your Dr. Einstein tell your people decades ago that great gravity could bend even energy? But you never do listen to your own wise men, do you? Just like my people. We wise ones must find ways to make you listen.”

Spectacle and action? There’s lot of them in this comic book. More than enough to satisfy anyone who enjoys reading superhero stories that pack a lot of hard-hitting action, intense moments of damage on the surrounding made only possible by superheroes, energy blasts and the like.

This bring me to the next aspect of the comic book….George Perez’s great art! I should say that Malibu Comics made the best decision to hire Perez for UltraForce #1 given his established talent of drawing multiple superheroes in high detail (with that distinct style on drawing human faces) and ensuring that what was written on Gerard Jones’ script would come out not only looking great but also always look very lively. I love the way Perez drew the facial expressions of Hardcase, the visualization of Prime’s immense strength, Pixx looking really like a teenager, the high level of detail on the backgrounds, Ghoul’s creepy look and much more. No doubt about it, each and every panel drawn by Perez is great to look at!

Conclusion

I really love reading and re-reading UltraForce #1. It succeeded in its goal of getting the divided superheroes together to form a team in convincing fashion complete with a clear and present danger (Atalon and his people) that justifies the events. It’s got great writing and art, very engaging characters, heavy action and a good amount of characterization. The good news about this comic book is that it can be found in good supply online and you don’t have to worry about paying high prices for it. As of this writing, you can order a near-mint copy of UltraForce #1 for only $4 at the website of Mile High Comics. Apart from comic books, there were some action figures of UltraForce released and there was a short-lived animated series of it on TV.

If you are a comic book reader who is dissatisfied with today’s comic books (and even superhero movies), if you are reader looking for a great superhero team reading experience, or if you want the best superhero comic book experiences of not only the Ultraverse but of the 1990s as a whole, then UltraForce #1 is highly recommended! This comic book is a classic of its decade!


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