A Look Back at Hardcase #13 (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.

As you know by now, I really love following the stories of the Hardcase series of the Ultraverse published by Malibu Comics. Issue #12 had a very intriguing conclusion which gave the first fully year of the series a worthy ending (one that will compel readers to go back to issue #1 and search the origin story of Hardcase and The Squad) while setting up the anticipation for the next story in a compelling way.

As such, here is my look back at Hardcase #13 published in 1994 by Malibu Comics with a story written by the late James Hudnall and drawn by Kelly Krantz.

Cover
The cover.

Early story

The story begins with Hardcase and Choice agonizing over the shocking revelation from Lela Cho /Tech (The Solution) who helped them access crucial information they worked so hard searching. What they do not know is that they are constantly spied on by sinister figures.

“I knew it! I knew it! Those scum-sucking weasels! I’ll kill them,” said Hardcase in reaction to the shocking information. Lela Cho tries to calm him down as Choice agonizes on her knees.

As their emotions eased, Lela prepares her computer for their research of the highly detailed files that Aladdin has about them…

Quality

13
The story of Choice…

To make things clear, this comic book’s narrative is dominated by information-heavy references presented like computer files with accompanying images. There is actual little present-day story regarding Hardcase and Choice but that’s not a problem as the heavy exposition of background stories relating to Choice, Aladdin, Hardcase and others are very well written by Hudnall. By the time I finished the story, I got enlightened and also excited for the next story of Hardcase.

What I love about the heavy exposition was how it efficiently explained the details and completely avoided getting boring. The exposition also emphasized the specific roles Aladdin, the Choice Corporation, Ultratech and NuWare had in the Ultraverse and how they impacted the lives of people. This is comic book universe building crafted excellently by Hudnall.

Conclusion

10
More from the past of Choice.

The best way to describe Hardcase #13 is that it is an exposition-heavy, characterization-focused story that succeeded in its goal of enlightening the reader. James Hudnall’s writing is excellent which, by this time, is not surprising to me. As such, this comic book is worth reading more than once and like issue #12, it will compel you to go back to issue #1 and look deeper at the background of Hardcase and his time with The Squad.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Hardcase #13 (1994), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $4 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $11.

Overall, Hardcase #13 (1994) 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 #12 (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.

At long last, the twelfth issue of the Hardcase monthly series (note: the series lasted a total of 26 issues) of the Ultraverse is finally here. Since the opening page of issue #1, Hardcase has been very engaging, enjoyable and intriguing to read complete with very deep character development as written by the late James Hudnall. In comparison with superhero comics in general, Hardcase itself is pretty unique (a superhero team member who ends up the only walking survivor who gets into Hollywood before returning to doing superhero acts) even by today’s standards.

As the series went on, Hardcase got involved with Choice initially solving mysteries and finding answers. It was only recently they got involved romantically, which hurt Hardcase’s other girl Linda (the other survivor from The Squad). Along the way, Hardcase and Choice got involved with The Strangers and The Solution in memorable crossovers.

Now the stage is set! We will find out if the first full year of the Hardcase series will be completed with impact or not with this look back at Hardcase #12, published in 1994 by Malibu Comics with a story written by James Hudnall and drawn by Scott Benefiel.

Cover
The cover.

Early story

The story begins in the night in the desolate land, just a few miles away from the secret base of Aladdin. Hardcase and Choice were together resting when suddenly Headknocker and Hardwire arrive to attack them. As Hardcase and Headknocker start their rematch (note: they first fought in issue #1), Hardwire goes after Choice.

Even though he knows Hardknocker is tough, the Hollywood superhero makes his move to take on Hardwire and help Choice.

Meanwhile over at Groom Lake Control Center, two men in suits look at the images and details of Hardknocker and Hardwire on oversized screens. As they analyze the situation happening outside their facility, they argue over the possible release and use of the other undesirable ultras they captured…

Quality

10
Choice and Hardwire meet again.

There is no doubt that this is a very high-quality comic book with a very strong script that mixes spectacle with character development, secret society intrigue, mystery and some drama. The storytelling itself was successful thanks to Hudnall.

The story started strongly with action scenes with some build-up of suspense and mystery emphasized when the narrative switches to another scene at a different location. While there is a notable twist in the comic book, it is the ending that really shook things up so much, it made me go back to issue #1 and other references to The Squad. This is great writing done by James Hudnall and he knew how to shake the foundation of the series.

When it comes to the art, Scott Benefiel work here is great and the best one yet within the first year of the series. I love the way he draws facial expressions that really show emotions or intensity and he knows how the pace the flow of events (and still manage to draw dynamic action shots).

Conclusion

4
Headknocker and Hardcase.

Hardcase #12 is a great read and it certainly is not the typical good-versus-evil type of superhero story. As the conclusion of the first year of the Hardcase series of the 1990s, this one really defined the title character’s place in the Ultraverse as Hudnall shook the foundation of the series in a very memorable way. The ending of the comic book is truly powerful and it should be seen. It is easily one of the most notable endings of any Ultraverse comic book.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Hardcase #12 (1994), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $4 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $11.

Overall, Hardcase #12 (1994) 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 #8 (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 everyone! It’s time for another story about Hardcase, who is one of the more interesting characters of the Ultraverse as far as I am concerned. With seven issues already reviewed, I can say that the development of Hardcase really worked well thanks to the combined efforts of the creative team with James Hudnall as lead writer. The previous issue I reviewed was part of the Break-Thru crossover of the Ultraverse.

Now we can start looking back at Hardcase #8, published in 1994 by Malibu Comics with a story written by James Hudnall and drawn by Scott Benefiel.

Cover
The cover.

Early story

The story begins a short time after the end of the Break-Thru crossover, set on the surface of the moon. A team hired by Rex Mundi tries to reach a spaceship (provided by Mundi) only to see it fly off without them.

Inside the ship, Hardcase, Choice and The Solution celebrate not only because they are going home but also because they beat their Mundi-hired rivals (who destroyed the ship of Hardcase and companions).

Back on the moon, the ones who got left behind reached out to Rex Mundi who is actually inside the Los Angeles headquarters of the Choice Corporation. He starts plotting to get Choice back…

Quality

7
Hardcase, Choice and The Solution in space.

As a story, Hardcase #8 pretty much serves like a wind-up of the events of the Break-Thru crossover but managed to follow Hardcase and Choice enough to keep fans of this comic book series engaged. While there is very little room for character development, at least this comic book emphasized Hardcase’s interactions with The Solution which was believable to follow. When it comes to further magnifying the core elements of the Ultraverse, I like the way James Hudnall emphasized the potential rivalry of power between Rex Mundi (the king) and Regina.

As for the visuals, artist Scott Benefiel’s work here was good and I liked how he illustrated The Solution and the rest of the supporting characters. There were a few shots in which his art resembled that of George Perez.

Conclusion

2
The money shot!

Hardcase #8 is an entertaining read even though the title character had to share the spotlight with other characters of the Ultraverse, which is understandable since this is a post-Break-Thru tale. What it lacks in character development, it bounced back nicely with build-up and suspense.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Hardcase #8 (1994), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $4 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $11.

Overall, Hardcase #8 (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 Solution #6

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.

As this is retro comic book review of another Ultraverse comic book written by the late James Hudnall, I encourage you to take time to check out his background and other works via Comic Book Resource’s report of his death on April 2019.

In memory of James Hudnall, here are his words published near the end of The Solution #7:

The Solution is a dream team for me. I’ve been wanting to mix the genres of fantasy and cyberpunk science fiction with the super-hero genre for some time. Add my love of Japanese animation and Hong Kong cinema and you can see where I’m coming from here. This series is designed to show us some of the more bizarre and dark sectors of the Ultraverse without, hopefully, falling into the trap many similar books do where they lay it on too thick. The Ultraverse is a complex and multi-faceted universe and our books explore different sides. Here I want to delve deep into the criminal and espionage arenas as well as the magic sub-cultures that exist.

The characters themselves have a rich and interesting history that I plan to slowly unveil as the series progresses. When you first meet someone, you usually don’t know that much about the person. The characters are rather deep, as we will discover, and their personalities and more complex than you’re probably used to seeing in comics.

Now we can start this look back at The Solution #6, the Ultraverse comic book published in 1994 by Malibu Comics with a story written by James Hudnall and illustrated by John Statema (with ink work by Dennis Jensen and Mark Stegbauer).

Cover
The cover.

Early story

The story begins with Lela Cho (Tech) alone paying respect to her father at his grave. She tearfully recalls what happened right after he died.

The narrative then shifts to 1993, specifically the day her father was about to get buried with many guests involved. Even though she is mourning, a man with blonde hair approaches her. His name is Kyle Sanders and he tells her she wants to talk to her about the corporation called Hypersonic. After receiving his business card, Lela feels a strange sense of dread creeping up on her.

A few days later, Lela attends a Board of Directors meeting at the headquarters of Hypersonic. She reminds them that she inherited all of her father’s shares in the company that makes her a majority stockholder and it was written in his will that she will assume his post as Chairman of the Board. Even though she already earned her Master’s Degree in Business at Harvard, the BOD members rejected her on the grounds that she’s too young and has no previous practical experience. They expressed that it would be better for her to work within the company and climb her way up.

Even though she got rejected and found herself alone, she decided not to give up and move forward by visiting NuWare, a corporation in San Francisco, California, that specializes on bio-tech implants (Wetware) that can make a person an Ultra…

Quality

20
Lela Cho/Tech in action!

This is a very compelling, character-driven comic book, one of the best of the Ultraverse I read as of this writing. Clearly the late Hudnall achieved his goal of not only developing Lela Cho/Tech, but also defining her as a living part within the Ultraverse. Speaking of the Ultraverse, there is this nice and subtle connection with certain people regarding The Strangers.

Back to Lela Cho, her personality was very deeply defined by Hudnall. By the time you reach the end of this comic book, you should at least be caring about her even though her status as a super-rich lady trying to make her way up in business (while protecting herself) puts her on a different class. Ultimately her transformation into an Ultra is special to read and examine, even worthy of a cinematic adaptation.

Regarding the visuals, John Statema pulled of a great job. I love how the facial expressions he illustrated brought out the ranging emotions of the characters, specifically with Lela. When she’s mad, she really looks mad. When she is sad, you will see the sadness. Regarding action, Statema’s effort was decent.

Conclusion

11
Really nice art and good choice with the colors for the light effect.

I really liked The Solution #6. From start to finish, it kept me engaged and ultimately it made me understand Lela Cho/Tech much better, which also made me go back to re-reading the first issue.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of The Solution #6, be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $4.

Overall, The Solution #6 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

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 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