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Welcome back, superhero fans, 1990s arts and culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we revisit the Ultraverse of Malibu Comics and examine one of its many stories told through an issue of the Sludge comic book series.
In my previous Sludge retro review, the conflict between the crime organizations intensified as the titular character continued to struggle with achieving his desired goal which includes getting involved with the Pump’s evil schemes. Eventually something unexpected happened Sludge which involved Zuke, the potent illegal substance the Pump keeps on unleashing to the public.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Sludge #9, published by Malibu Comics in 1994 with a story written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Robb Phipps.
The story begins with Sludge in pain as he pulls out a long spike from his right hand which became flesh again. This was the result of his holding Zuke which his right hand somehow absorbed. Wanting answers, he calls out to the Pump who (along with his teenage protégé) was no longer present in the room. A female ghost appears to Sludge and tells him that the crime boss is downstairs.
It turns out, the Pump has an evil plan in mind which would involve the mercenary Bloodstorm. The crime boss puts a very large capsule of Zuke into the mouth of the restrained Bloodstorm. Just as Sludge arrives, Bloodstorm becomes very enraged as a result of absorbing a high quantity of the illegal substance. Shortly after Pump quells the drugged mercenary, Sludge approaches him for more Zuke as he is convinced that the drug will turn him to normal just like how it turned his right hand back to normal.
The Pump orders Sludge to take Bloodstorm’s body back to his employer Sabatini then return. He reminds him that he has the Zuke and is capable of eradicating him…
Now this is the most intriguing tale of Sludge in relation to the unstable relations between the gangs of New York. Vittorio, the one trusted assistant of the late crime boss Marcello, leads the gang and tries to craft a new direction with emergence in mind by negotiating a truce with the Dragon Fang while also starting efforts to duplicate the very addicting substance called Zuke which has long been an asset to the Pump’s gang. Unsurprisingly, Vittorio encounters trouble trying to win the trust of the more established crime bosses and he is also unaware that they are all being targeted by the Pump.
Once the Pump unleashes his newest move against the gangs, the situation intensifies and gets twisted which makes this a really solid reading experience. Steve Gerber crafted this story to be intense and unpredictable at the same time, while also showing how Sludge deals with his situation being powerless under the Pump. There is one notable addition to the plot which involves violent action which you must discover for yourselves.
When it comes to the visuals, Robb Phipps take on Sludge is vastly different compared to Aaron Lopresti’s Sludge. The result is that Phipps’ art style made Sludge and the other characters have that cartoony aesthetic and yet they are still recognizable. What visual style and elements Phipps had on certain issues of Mantra he illustrated (click here, here and here) are pretty much present in this comic book.
Sludge #9 (1994) is another solid read and one of the most intriguing stories of the Sludge series. As the concluding chapter of the “Street Wars” storyline, this comic book has the usual elements that defined Sludge stories while also succeeding in moving the plot forward (note: the storyline conclusion is engaging, even shocking) complete with twists and noticeable intensified violence. At this point in the monthly series, Sludge is off on a path of despair and he is clearly lost. This element alone should compel readers to examine Sludge’s personality closely and analyze where he is heading to and what purpose does he have left.
Overall, Sludge #9 (1994) is recommended.
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