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.


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A Look Back at Avengers #366

Back in the early 1990s, collecting comic books that had #1 on their cover or had a special cover on the front was a trend among comic book collectors. Marvel Comics back then was well known for releasing comic books with gimmick covers using material like foil, holograms, embossed art and the like. They also released comic books with gimmick covers when a comic book series reached its “anniversary” with the 25th issue, 50th issue, 75th issue, 100th issue and so on.

Then something happened in 1993. Marvel celebrated the respective 30th anniversaries of the X-Men and the Avengers that year and that meant releasing comic books with gimmick covers as well as some related merchandise to entice the fans and the collectors.

Here, I discuss with you Avengers #366.

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The “gold” gimmick cover of Avengers #366.

Released in 1993, Avengers #366 marked the 30th anniversary celebration of its franchise and for a cover price of $3.95, it had a gimmick cover and over 60 pages of content.

The story begins with the Avengers – composed of Captain America, Sersi, Black Widow, and Hank Pym watching a situation. Sersi reveals that Dane/Black Knight is being tortured and that they have to rush to stop the bad guys who captured him. Vision arrived suddenly to their surprise and tells them that Black Knight, Crystal, Hercules and Deathcry have been captured. More startling is that the Kree brought a nega-bomb to Earth. The said weapon was used by the Kree to kill billions of inhabitants. Running out of patience, Sersi tells her teammates that immediate action is needed and angrily she flew out of the Avengers headquarters determined to make the Kree pay. Immediately the Avengers assembled and moved on to rescue their friends.

In terms of storytelling, the comic book has a predictable tale about its superheroes moving to help their suffering teammates. Of course, even though I won’t spoil the plot, it’s obvious where the story is going. To fill the many pages, there is a lot of expository dialogue as well as character interaction moments in between scenes.

When it comes to action and spectacle, there is a lot to see here and there although the quality of the art keeps them from being dynamic.

There is also one additional story published and it even has Deadpool in it.

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This is how the Avengers looked like in 1993.

For a comic book celebrating the Avengers’ 30th anniversary, I found it weird that the Avengers #366 lacked any retrospective to the origins of the franchise. It’s like the publisher did not want readers to remember how the Avengers were formed, who were the original members and why the team was formed in the first place. In other words, the story was nothing special and it does not justify the gimmick cover.

If you are a fan who started liking the Avengers franchise because of Marvel Entertainment movies, then this comic book will most likely not appeal to you. The Hulk, Iron Man and Hawkeye are not included and the style of spectacle will most likely fail to impress you. However, if you are an Avengers fan who started reading the comic book series at least a few years before 1993, this one just might entertain you temporarily.

Looking back in 1993 when I barely had enough money to buy new comic books, I’m glad I never bought Avengers #366. By comparison, the 30th anniversary celebration of the X-Men was better and more engaging with the Fatal Attractions storyline.