A Look Back at Sludge #3 (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.

Welcome back, superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we revisit the Ultraverse of Malibu Comics and examine one of its many stories through the Sludge comic book series.

Previously I reviewed issue #2 of the series which was a surprising and fun comic book to read as the creative team took the risk of emphasizing the violent character Bloodstorm over Sludge himself. Ultimately, this move served as a way to not just build up tension but to expand the specific place of Sludge and the dark forces within the Ultraverse. For this retro review, issue #3 is set during the events of the memorable Ultraverse crossover story Break-Thru.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Sludge #3, published by Malibu Comics in 1993 with a story written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Aaron Lopresti.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with Sludge still lying down at the dock after just being defeated by Bloodstorm. Suddenly a mob of chaotic people (driven mad by the effects of Break-Thru that just happened) lift him up and throw him into the water without any regrets whatsoever. In hiding, Bloodstorm witnesses their act and thought to himself that he should avoid the madness happening. Suddenly, other mad people ganged up on him forcing him to react by firing his gun and set himself free from their grip. He safely makes it to his car and speeds away, even bumping off a few people on the way.

As Bloodstorm speeds away, another man in hiding who knew him and the boss Marcello was found by the mad people. Out of desperation he runs away and jumps into the water. He realizes that the people are so obsessed with going up to the sky (the Break-Thru effect), they did not bother to follow him at all.

Deep down the water, Sludge finds himself alone and getting relieved of the pain he experienced above. Feeling hopeless, he waits for the river to wash him away…

Quality

Sludge in trouble!

Being a standalone story set during the events of Break-Thru, this comic book focuses more on the protagonist while simultaneously raising the stakes with regards to the evil forces as the elements of crime gang combined with the supernatural took effect. To be clear, fantasy elements were added to this series which had darkness and grit dominating the plot of the first two issues.

This comic book has an early appearance of “lord” Pumpkin (AKA The Pump) who is the element of sorcery and, more notably, serves as the Ultraverse’s very own Satanic figure. Not only does the Pump have vast powers to take life away from others and has evil pawns to wield, he also leads and guides an apprentice (the kid gangster called Pistol) with pure wickedness, crafted plans of evil, is cunning in his ways of manipulating others to do evil, and he makes promises or deals with others who will receive some rewards but ultimately will be disregarded and lose a lot. This Ultraverse super-villain, as recorded in Malibu Comics’ publishing history, went on to become a walking symbol of pure evil, corruption, sins and danger in other UV comic books.

While there is indeed more focus on Sludge in this issue, it is the Pump who overshadows him. As for Bloodstorm, his presence has been drastically reduced here which is kind of jarring to read as he was the dominant and heavily emphasized in issue #2. Speaking of characters, the gang boss Marcello (who is Bloodstorm’s client) makes a short appearance but his connections not only with criminals but also with para-military forces emphasized his influence in the city.

More on the plot itself, this comic book is pretty loaded and the stakes were really raised high. In key scenes, Sludge finds himself in the middle of gangsters, the people driven mad by the Break-Thru effect, the para-military forces and the Pump’s ugly and evil pawns. Steve Gerber crafted a story that expectedly built up a lot and paid of strongly since the stakes were raised. I should state that Aaron Lopresti’s art here showed signs of improved creativity

Conclusion

The gang boss Marcello and Bloodstorm talk during the events of Break-Thru.

Sludge #3 (1993) is a more engaging and more intense comic book on its own complete with the literary debut of the Pump who is clearly the Ultraverse’s most evil villain. If issue #2 was twisting with the way it presented its characters, this comic book has more of its protagonist who went on to face new elements of evil while the story of Break-Thru transpired. I also noticed the Pump’s offer to Sludge symbolizes Satan offering a troubled soul a place in his force of evil. How did Sludge react to the offer from the evil one? You will have to read this comic book.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Sludge #3 (1993) be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $16.

Overall, Sludge #3 (1993) is recommended!

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/

A Look Back at Sludge #2 (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.

Welcome back, superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we revisit the Ultraverse of Malibu Comics and examine one of its many stories through the Sludge comic book series.

For the newcomers reading this, I published my retro review of Sludge #1 back in December of 2020. I really enjoyed that Ultraverse comic book and now is a good time to revisit that series and find out what will happen next to Sludge, the UV’s most notable monster protagonist. I should state that Steve Gerber (Man-Thing) and Aaron Lopresti made a solid creative duo in Sludge #1.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Sludge #2, published by Malibu Comics in 1993 with a story written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Aaron Lopresti.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with a quick flashback of a young blonde boy who got bullied by other kids due to his unusual appearance and the way he expresses himself. Fast forward to the present day, an armed man (the same kid in the flashback) fires his guns on a man who was on his bed inside his residence.

After finishing the killing, the armed man enters his unusual looking car and leaves in high speed. After passing through the city streets, he drives his vehicle into his secret hideout filled with several weapons. Shortly after cleaning himself, he takes his seat in his private study and starts communicating with Mr. Barnett who tells him that bad news that something happened to his father. The killer then states, “Payment is due.”

Somewhere in lower Manhattan, a man is being beaten by two men who are enforcers of a man wearing a trench coat in their presence. The beaten man named Mikey swears he will get the money to pay off his debt but the coated man tells him that he is a week late and will be penalized.

Suddenly out of nowhere, Sludge comes out and grabs the two enforcers which frees Mike whose ear just got cut off by the coated man. Sludge then calls the coated man by his nickname…

Quality

The situation only gets more intense whenever Sludge comes in.

I’ll go straight to the point on the storytelling by Steve Gerber. The biggest surprise is here is that the focus was shifted from the titular protagonist Sludge in favor of the first appearance of Bloodstorm who is more than just a typical villain. Gerber heavily emphasized Bloodstorm’s personality as one who enjoys inflicting violence or death to others (and get paid for it) as a result of his painful childhood and his eventual acceptance of the beliefs that violence itself is always part of life. Even so, this comic book shows that Bloodstorm does not believe in inflicting misery for money and he calls it a cowardly way of earning money. Even as he finds his client’s business appalling, he still proceeds to do the dirty work to make money. This, of course, puts Bloodstorm in the dark work organized, target-focused mobbing which also puts him on the same course as Sludge. 

As with issue #1, the violence here is pretty intense and adulterated which goes along almost perfectly with the story’s dark and gritty tone. There is a fine mix of suspense, shock moments and the revealing of key details. I assure you all reading that that even though Sludge himself was not so dominant as the centerpiece of the story, the payoff for all the build-up was still worth reading.

Conclusion

Get to know Bloodstorm through this comic book.

Sludge #2 (1993) is a pretty surprising comic book. One might think that it would become the natural progression of what was established in issue #1 (which itself was the first appearance and origin of Sludge) but ultimately it took a completely different approach. I should also state that the duo of Steve Gerber and Aaron Lopresti continued to deliver compelling stuff in this comic book. While the fact that Sludge is not the dominating force in the story might turn off some readers, I can say to you that Sludge #2 (1993) is still a very worthy read and it builds up on something waiting to be revealed in succeeding issues.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Sludge #2 (1993) be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $16 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $48

Overall, Sludge #2 (1993) is recommended!

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/

A Look Back at Sludge #1 (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.

Welcome back, superhero geeks, comic book collectors and fans of the Ultraverse! Before we revisit the Ultraverse, I should state that I am not a fan of monsters as comic book protagonists, especially when it comes to the superhero genre. In the world of pop culture, a lot of people get fascinated with monsters especially those that are dangerous to people. You got the likes of the Swamp Thing, Dracula, the monster of Frankenstein, the Werewolf, etc.

When it comes to the Ultraverse, they have a monster for a protagonist named Sludge. What I find really intriguing was that Sludge was introduced to readers not by making appearances in existing Ultraverse comic books but by actually being featured in full force in the launch of issue of his own series – Sludge #1.

With those details settled, we can find out if there is something special or unique about the Ultraverse monster in this look back at Sludge #1, published by Malibu Comics in 1993 with a story written by Steve Gerber (who previously worked on Marvel’s Man-Thing) and drawn by Aaron Lopresti.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins in a very low place of Manhattan where society’s substratum meets the crust of the earth. Sludge, a grotesque monster with a human perception and a body made out of slime, slowly walks towards a group of poor and homeless people.

Elsewhere somewhere in the city, a radio talk show host talks to his listeners about Frank Hoag, a detective sergeant who worked for twenty years for the New York Police Department or NYPD. It turns out, Hoag has been missing for the past few weeks and the last thing someone knew about him was that he responded to a call about a break-in at the headquarters of a pharmaceutical firm. The next morning at the said place, company employees spotted signs of violence including blood, bullet holes and shell casings. No sign of the detective.

As the radio talk show host engages his listeners by making an issue out of the disappearance of Hoag, police officers got offended while a gang of armed thugs paid close attention to what was said. As the said gang (riding their car) move down the street of homes, they opened fire at the people.

As the gang’s car moves on, the manhole ahead of them opens. Sludge comes out of it and finds himself right on the path of the moving car…

Quality

This is why you don’t mess with Sludge.

The writing is top-notch and this is no surprise not only because of Steve Gerber’s extensive writing experience but also because he knew how to write a story with a monster as a protagonist which was what he did with Marvel’s Man-Thing. Unlike that other monster, Sludge has intelligence and awareness, therefore he is a monster with humanity still existing within. Very cleverly, Gerber introduced Sludge and notable aspects of him in a very smooth and efficient manner. By the time I finished this reading this comic, I realized that I witnessed Sludge’s first appearance and origin story which were done very nicely. I should also state that Sludge here is not a mere monster but really a struggling character worth following.

For his part, Aaron Lopresti’s art is pretty good. His visualization of Sludge really stands out and he did not pull back his punches when it came to drawing the action and presenting the violence.

Conclusion

Considering his physical state, Sludge coming out of the manhole is justified.

I can say that I am very pleasantly surprised and entertained by what was presented in Sludge #1 (1993). It really is a great monster-protagonist story written by Steve Gerber and his work here really shines. By the time I reached the end of the story, I got eager to look forward to the next issue and find out what Sludge will do next. It is a very engaging read and one of the strongest debut issues of the Ultraverse.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Sludge #1 (1993), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $8 while the near-mint copy of the ultra-limited edition costs $32.

Overall, Sludge #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. 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.

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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

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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