A Look Back at UltraForce #3 (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.

After going through the engaging build-up of UltraForce #2, it is only natural to expect a pay-off filled with spectacle and some intrigue to happen in the following issue. Specifically, within the Ultraverse, Prime, Hardcase, Prototype and the other members of UltraForce made their case already with US President Bill Clinton and other top officials in relation to the growing threat from Atalon and his army from deep underground. Also at stake was the global perception towards the world’s people with superpowers publicly referred to as the Ultras.

So what exactly will happen next with UltraForce? Will they be able to get over individual differences and be able to organize themselves to help protect the world from disaster? Will we see Hardcase, Prototype and rest finally face off with Atalon? We will all find out in this look back at UltraForce #3, published in 1994 by Malibu Comics with a story written by Gerard Jones and drawn by the legendary George Perez!

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with Atalon breaking out from the sea with the intention to transform the whole world and starts by raising an island! He recalls his people’s history of building cities to the light and mentions the time when people living on the surfaces of the Earth drove him and his people into the Earth.

Not only does he have his loyal, armed soldiers with him, Atalon levitates several man-made weapons of mass destruction in the form of missiles. As a result of what he did, disaster strikes with tremendous forces of sea water overwhelming a boatload of Haitian refugees, the release of magma from the seabed, and boats and passenger ships getting overwhelmed.

From his secret place, Rex Mundi watches the disaster as well as images of Atalon. Mundi never expected to be troubled again by his past with the people of Atalon. Mundi, who personally hates Ultras, hopes that the said superbeing will deal with the disaster for him. Meanwhile, the impact of Atalon’s rise from the sea is felt around the world from Cuba and behind the walls of their special headquarters, Hardcase issues the command for their team to take action. They start their trip towards the zone of Cuba…

Quality

UltraForce in action against Atalon!

I can confirm to all of you reading this that this comic book indeed comes with a lot of spectacle in the forms of action and dynamic looking visuals which really provided the anticipated payoff to the tension building and exposition that dominated UltraForce #2. What is also very notable is that the spectacle all look great thanks to the return of the legendary George Perez as the penciller here. It comes to no surprise that all the action scenes, all the crazy moments and hard-hitting stunts here all look great! This is a visual treat and George Perez’s take on the characters are easily among the best in the Ultraverse!

Of course, the spectacle and the payoff would have been hollow had the writing not been strong. The good news here is the script provided for this comic book is very solid and maintains the high quality that started with issue #1. The story progression from issue #2 is very strongly felt through the plotting, dialogue and the narrative. For each page in this comic book, there really is a strong presence of high tension. You can really feel the stakes have been raised high since the previous issue.

Even though there is a lot of stuff, there was still some creative space left to develop the personalities of Contrary (Mantra’s rival) and Pixx. I found the cultural background and history flashback of Contrary’s people really efficiently told and yet compelling in presentation. As for Contrary, her dialogue is greatly written and you can feel how uneasy she is being on Earth while obsessing with getting Mantra. Apart from the expected interactions (and bickering) between UltraForce members, the narrative includes the respective views of the United States, Cuba and England related to the superhero team and the crisis caused by Atalon. This was efficiently done.

As for the presentation of the team, you will really see how compelling the interactions between the members are especially when they are struggling during the missions…outside the safety of their floating ship that is. Hardcase being the field leader is memorable and his reliance on his teammates is quite something to follow.

Conclusion

Atalon proved he is a clear and present danger!

No doubt about it. UltraForce #3 is a great comic book to read and it sure is worth repeating for superhero enjoyment! Unlike the previous three issues (including issue #0), this issue really marks the confrontation between UltraForce and Atalon. Considering the wide scope and impact of the Atalon’s invasion of the surface, I often wondered how the plot fits in within the respective monthly series of Hardcase (I reviewed the 14 issues already), Hardcase (the first 12 issues reviewed already) and Prime.  

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of UltraForce #3 (1994), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the comic book costs $8.

Overall, UltraForce #3 (1994) is highly recommended!

+++++

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A Look Back at Hardcase #14 (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.

Hey comic book geeks and superhero enthusiasts! Are you ready for another trip back to the Ultraverse through the stories of Hardcase? Before getting there, I should state that the last Hardcase comic book I reviewed ended in a very intriguing way.

To find out more what followed, here is a look back at Hardcase #14, published in 1994 by Malibu Comics with a story written by the late James Hudnall and drawn by Steve Carr.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with Tom Hawke/Hardcase wondering if he is turning insane. He went through a lot lately such as getting targeted by Aladdin for elimination, learning that a portion of Linda’s brain was taken by Aladdin via operation, and his new lover Choice (who has the mentioned part of Linda’s brain in her) just vanished in front of him and Lela Cho/Tech (of The Solution) who seated near him.

Lela tries to calm him down and shares to him that she herself went through a whole lot of trouble which made her form her team. Hardcase is concerned that Choice could be in danger already. Lela reminds him of what happened during their time on the moon. She states that there is something out there, a flat world. Hardcase speculates that someone from out there could have taken Choice away…

Quality

Compared to issue #13, the storytelling in this comic book went back to build-up tension and suspense for future developments waiting to happen. When it comes to characterization, you will find Hardcase being without a partner for the first time since the early issues of the series. This also resulted some short but notably dramatic scenes that further developed Hardcase’s personality. As this was written by the late James Hudnall, there is more crossing-over between Hardcase and a few members of The Solution which is pretty good creative move.

When it comes to the art, Steve Carr did a good job visualizing the characters. His art is a radical change from that of Kelly Krantz in issue #13.

Conclusion

Picking up from where issue #13 ended.

To put straight, Hardcase #14 will appeal to fans who don’t mind the lack of action (like issue #13) for as long as the Hollywood hero became more prominent and his personality developed further. If you are wondering what happened to Choice, you’ll have to search elsewhere in the Ultraverse. Also there is continued build-up behind the scenes setting up gradually (yet again) the inevitable rematch between Hardcase and a certain nemesis from the past.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Hardcase #14 (1994), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $14 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $13.

Overall, Hardcase #14 (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 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 #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

16
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

4
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 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 The Solution #1

Back in the 1990s, there was a flood of superhero comic books that introduced brand new heroes, teams and even anti-heroes. A strong contributor to this was the market presence of Image Comics, Valiant Comics, Malibu Comics and other smaller publishers that tried their best to gain shares in what was back then the highly lucrative superhero comic book market which was long dominated by Marvel Comics and DC Comics.

With Malibu Comics, their Ultraverse franchise of superhero comics was a blast and I had a lot of fun reading comic books of The Strangers, Prime, Hardcase, UltraForce, Mantra, etc.

For this review, here is my look back at the Ultraverse team comic book The Solution #1 (September 1993).

RCO001_1469696446~2.jpg
The front cover.

Written by the late James Hudnall and drawn by Darick Robertson (inked by John Lowe), the story begins when Russian personnel get killed by a team of deadly people whose purpose is to raid the nuclear storage buildings.

As a result, several nuclear warheads were taken away without a trace. A KGB agent discusses the tragedy with an Aladdin agent and seeks help. In response, the Aladdin agent recommends to him The Solution.

“We’d like to (help) but our agency can’t give you any direct assistance. You know how it is. However these people might be what you need. Just remember…I never told you about them,” the Aladdin agent said.

RCO022_1469696446~2.jpg
Meet The Solution.

In Hong Kong, a member of the triad instructs his hired assassins to distribute a shipment of illegal substances without getting any interference from The Solution. Predictably, the said team happens to be with them in their secret venue which starts a wave of martial arts, shooting and use of magic.

Enough with the plot. The Solution is a team of super-human mercenaries composed of Lela Cho/Tech (the leader), Eara/Shadowmage, Vurk/Outrage and Dropkick. Quite literally, whenever a major problem happens someone will call The Solution (the answer) to solve it for a fee.

In terms of character design, The Solution has a rather visceral look which was clearly emphasized on the cover art. Outrage, for example, looks very monstrous and one could easily mistake him for an evil figure.

RCO011_1469696446~2.jpg
Obvious antagonists.

Illustrator Darick Robertson’s art is nice to look at and when the action happens, he sure delivers the goods making the hard action moves look intense. Even showing characters firing their guns look intense. The violence in this comic book is quite bloody and the opening scenes really show that.

Even with the non-action, talking scenes, Robertson’s art makes the members of The Solution look believably human. Facial expressions are good and they quite match the dialogue written. The team shot on page 21, which shows Lela Cho in the foreground talking to her teammates in the background, really looks nice.

In terms of writing, I found this comic book to be a bit bloated in terms of details and plot. Most notably, the pace of the story moves very fast and while it does its job establishing The Solution (and part of its purpose as a team-for-hire), the circumstances and the team’s place within the Ultraverse, the story felt really crammed even though there were 28 pages of story and art. I noticed that while the comic book is about The Solution, it ended up showing a total of three different teams (including the hired assassins).

In terms of character development, there was clear focus on Lela Cho which is not a surprise since she is the team leader. It turns out Lela has lots of vested interests in the corporate world and instead of being in a fancy office, she goes out in the field to get things done. She has a very direct, personal access to information online by means of wetware embedded in her skull. She also has a touch of business in her approach with leading The Solution.

“Our potential client has a problem with some Ultras. They want us to take care of it,” Lela Cho said on page 23.

RCO010_1469696446~2.jpg
You got a problem? Call The Solution!

While it may not look as prominent as The Strangers or UltraForce as far as Ultraverse superhero teams go, The Solution stands out nicely for it is unique and its team-for-hire concept is very interesting. When I first read this comic book long ago, I was convinced to pursue the succeeding issues. Even by today’s standards, this old comic book remains fun and engaging.

The Solution #1 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 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.

CoverPrime
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!”

Prime2

Prime3

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.

Prime4
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.