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SBTU: Gold – What If…The Ultraverse had Continued?

sbtu_wi_goldWelcome once again to Super-Blog Team-Up! This is a blog ‘event’ where numerous blogs team up to present posts together on a particular theme or prompt, but done so in the individual blog or podcast’s own style, topic, and so on. For general such content, check out the Twitter hashtag #SBTU!

Whether you stick around for my topic or want to see what else there is–there should be a section of links at the bottom with links to the other SBTU posts this week, and you can follow any of those to a number of other high-quality blogs and podcasts!

This time around, the group topic/theme is split…with several looking at particular Creators, while others are asking the question "What If…?"

After juggling several ideas, I decided to look at the notion of an alternate reality in which the Ultraverse had continued.


The Ultraverse was an imprint of Malibu Comics, launched in 1993. It was a new superhero universe, and for 12-year-old me was quite the exciting thing. I’d juuuuuust missed the launch of Image Comics. And at age 12, I was certainly far too young to have been around for any of the launches/relaunches of what came to be the DC Universe and the Marvel Universe. While there were a number of other new comics universes popping up in the early/mid-’90s (or gaining notoriety), the one that really grabbed ME was Malibu‘s Ultraverse.

The line launched with 3 titles: Prime, Hardcase, and The Strangers. One of the "side elements" that had grabbed me was a promotional "Ultraverse #0" comic you could "only" get via a mail-away offer once you’d collected specific "coupons." There was one coupon each in those 3 launch-titles, another in Malibu Sun (a house previews publication) and I believe the fifth/final coupon was in an issue of Wizard. By tracking down and purchasing all five publications, mailing your coupon and a check in, you’d get the exclusive #0-issue. A good sort of promotion at the time; though I don’t believe the first such promotion. It played into collectability, exclusivity, as well as "encouraging" one to buy more than they might otherwise. (And in 2020 I find it quite tame compared to many modern marketing things).

ultraverse_future_shock_01_feb_97Over subsequent months, the initial 3 series continued, while new 1-2 new titles premiered in most of the subsequent 7 months or so. In mid-1994, Ultraforce teamed up several of the characters like Prime, Hardcase, and Prototype as a new official team (in addition to the Strangers, Freex, and The Solution). In 1995, the Godwheel event series brought Thor and Loki into the Ultraverse; Loki remained for awhile. Shortly after, Rune crossed into the Marvel universe, where he stole the Infinity Gems from the Infinity Watch. The Gems were then lost into the Ultraverse for a few months. Eventually they were re-assembled, Ultraforce faced the Avengers, and reality was changed. "Black September" saw several titles get #Infinity issues and then begin with new #1s. These dropped off after a few issues leaving Prime and Ultraforce; and when those ended, February 1997 saw one last publication in Ultraverse Future Shock.

mantra_0001While I’d jumped on immediately with the Ultraverse, my following the titles was a bit spotty; and overall, the primary titles I wound up more or less catching up with/keeping up with were Prime, Mantra, and Rune. I sampled other titles over time and was aware of the various books, but at the time I couldn’t begin to collect everything. In the years since, I’ve gone back and to the best of my knowledge, managed to collect every single story-issue for the Ultraverse, minus ashcans, promotional/preview things, and a Sega CD Prime comic.

All this is a rather too-brief bit covering my experiences with the Ultraverse…but I felt a bit of background was appropriate, as to my approaching the topic. I was a fan at the very beginning of the Ultraverse, followed to varying degrees through its run including Black September and beyond; and have since gone back and acquired all the issues I missed originally.

And preparing for this round of SBTU was not the first time I’ve "crunched the numbers" and considered the fact that–had the Ultraverse continued uninterrupted–it COULD have titles in the 300 range in present-day.


Disclaimer: All details/info about anything ULTRAVERSE after February 1997 IS MY WORK OF FICTION and wishful thinking. What I present below is one instance of what I could imagine COULD have been, and is part of MY answering the question of "What if the Ultraverse had continued?" It is in no way based in any sort of fact, rumor, inside information, anecdote, creator interviews, etc. whatsoever and should not be taken as such.


What if the Ultraverse had continued?

So, in SOME alternate/parallel universe out there, the Ultraverse continued. In that world, behind the scenes a deal was struck that saw the Ultraverse properties sold off from Marvel, with a new company/publisher created. Going with the branding, it became simply "Ultraverse Comics." Said deal worked out such that June 1997–the fourth anniversary of the original Ultraverse launch from Malibu–saw the re-launch of the Ultraverse as a publisher and a comics universe.

Prime, Mantra, Nightman, and Ultraforce headline this relaunch. All-new #1s, incorporating prior continuity while taking some things in new directions. Double-sized first issues with detailed Marvel XXXXXX Saga styled recaps of prior relevant details, so the titles were grounded in continuity but any new reader would have all the relevant info drawn from before.

In addition and a bit ahead of the times, this alternate-reality Ultraverse was determined not to mess with numbering. Its universe was on its THIRD iteration, its SECOND relaunch/renumbering, and would not sacrifice its numbering again. As the years wore on it would result in the Ultraverse having–next to Image‘s Spawn and Savage Dragon–a body of titles with the highest numbering in North American-published comics.

In this alternate reality, the Ultraverse would have loads of crossovers with other publishers, with numerous mini-series featuring said crossovers. Seeding events from early 2004 to Fall 2005, a Crisis on Infinite Earths type event took shape, led by the Ultraverse titles. Only instead of Infinite Earths it was Numerous Publishers. Various threads begun by Thanos accessing the Ultraverse in 2004 would lead to titles across Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, Ultraverse, and others showing signs of something much larger going on that would bring things to ahead affecting all participating universes. (Think a mix of COIE, Zero Hour, the 2003+ run up to Infinite Crisis, etc.)

Culminating for the Ultraverse in September 2005 with Ultraforce #100, a new reality was created, and all regular Ultraverse titles went on hiatus for six months. In place of those titles, a weekly Ultrasupes book premiered that ran for 25 weekly issues, detailing the Ultraverse‘s participation in the huge, new reality made up of a mixture of all participating publishers’ characters. Such an effort involving so many publishers and properties from mainstream publishers was a feat not to be repeated, though it would be referenced in continuity for many years to follow.

Flashing forward 14-some years to December 2020, the Ultraverse would celebrate four titles hitting their 275th issues; numbers second only to Todd McFarlane‘s SPAWN which had put out its 300th issue the year before.

It would be absolutely foolhardy for me to try to envision every last issue (and in detail) published across 23 years in a single post, so I won’t even try. Instead, I will present a year-by-year sampling of issues published by this reality’s Ultraverse, beginning with its June 1997 premiere and concluding with December 2020.


Once again: All details/info about ULTRAVERSE comics after February 1997 IS MY WORK OF FICTION. Sit back and enjoy a textual/conceptual glimpse into 20+ years of Potential History That Never Was.


June, 1997

  • Prime #1
  • Mantra #1
  • Night Man #1
  • Ultraforce #1

June, 1998

  • Prime #13
  • Hardcase #11
  • Strangers #12
  • Mantra #13
  • Freex #12
  • Prototype #10
  • Firearm #9
  • Solution #11
  • Night Man #13
  • Solitaire #4
  • Wrath #8
  • Warstrike #6
  • Ultraforce #13
  • Strangers vs. Stormwatch #6

June, 1999

  • Prime #24
  • Hardcase #23
  • Strangers #24
  • Mantra #24
  • Freex #24
  • Firearm #21
  • Solution #23
  • Night Man #25
  • Solitaire #16
  • Wrath #20
  • Warstrike #18
  • Ultraforce #25
  • Exiles vs. Exiles #4

June, 2000

  • Prime #36
  • Hardcase #34
  • Strangers #36
  • Mantra #36
  • Freex #36
  • Prototype #17
  • Firearm #33
  • Solution #35
  • Night Man #37
  • Ultraforce #37
  • Strangers vs. Wildcats #1

June, 2001

  • Prime #47
  • Strangers #48
  • Mantra #48
  • Freex #48
  • Solution #47
  • Night Man #49
  • Wrath #28
  • Warstrike #23
  • Ultraforce #49
  • Prototype vs. Darkhawk #4

June, 2002

  • Prime #59
  • Hardcase #44
  • Strangers #60
  • Mantra #59
  • Prototype #35
  • Night Man #61
  • Sludge #17
  • Solitaire #28
  • Ultraforce #61
  • Siren #13
  • Freex vs. Azrael #3
  • Firearm vs. Spawn #3

June, 2003

  • Prime #70
  • Hardcase #56
  • Strangers #72
  • Mantra #71
  • Prototype #44
  • Firearm #49
  • Night Man #73
  • Solitaire #40
  • Ultraforce #73
  • Prime vs. Deadpool #1
  • Solution vs. GI Joe #5

June, 2004

  • Prime #82
  • Strangers #84
  • Mantra #83
  • Freex #59
  • Night Man #85
  • Solitaire #52
  • Warstrike #41
  • Ultraforce #85
  • Solution vs. Thunderbolts #2
  • Strangers vs. Ghost #2

June, 2005

  • Prime #94
  • Strangers #96
  • Mantra #94
  • Freex #71
  • Solitaire #64
  • Ultraforce #97
  • Prime vs. Justice League #3
  • Prototype vs. Iron Man #1
  • Ultraforce vs. Avengers II #2

June, 2006

  • Prime #100
  • Strangers #102
  • Mantra #101
  • Freex #77
  • Solitaire #70
  • Ultraforce #103
  • Solitaire vs. X #1
  • Prime vs. Justice League #9

June, 2007

  • Prime #113
  • Hardcase #71
  • Strangers #114
  • Mantra #113
  • Freex #89
  • Solution #64
  • Night Man #99
  • Ultraforce #116
  • Ultraforce vs. X-Men #1
  • Prime/Spider-Man #7

June, 2008

  • Prime #123
  • Hardcase #83
  • Strangers #126
  • Mantra #125
  • Freex #101
  • Firearm #66
  • Night Man #111
  • Wrath #48
  • Ultraforce #128
  • Solitaire vs. Predator #6

June, 2009

  • Prime #136
  • Hardcase #94
  • Strangers #138
  • Mantra #135
  • Freex #113
  • Firearm #78
  • Night Man #123
  • Ultraforce #140
  • Siren #27

June, 2010

  • Prime #148
  • Strangers #150
  • Mantra #147
  • Night Man #135
  • Rune #25
  • Ultraforce #152
  • Mantra vs. Dr. Strange #6
  • Firearm/GI Joe #1
  • Night Man vs. Batman #1

June, 2011

  • Prime #159
  • Hardcase #110
  • Strangers #162
  • Mantra #159
  • Firearm #82
  • Night Man #147
  • Ultraforce #164
  • Freex vs. New Mutants #6

June, 2012

  • Prime #171
  • Hardcase #122
  • Strangers #174
  • Mantra #172
  • Freex #129
  • Prototype #73
  • Firearm #94
  • Solution #79
  • Warstrike #55
  • Ultraforce #176
  • Ultraforce vs. The Authority #5
  • Prime vs. Shazam #2
  • Night Man vs. Aliens #2

June, 2013

  • Prime #183
  • Strangers #186
  • Mantra #185 & # 186
  • Freex #141
  • Solution #91
  • Ultraforce #188
  • Mantra vs. Captain Marvel #5
  • Firearm vs. Batman #3

June, 2014

  • Prime #196
  • Hardcase #132
  • Strangers #198
  • Mantra #197
  • Freex #153
  • Prototype #76
  • Firearm #105
  • Night Man #163
  • Solitaire #91
  • Ultraforce #200
  • Firearm/GI Joe II #6
  • Strangers vs. Justice League #1

June, 2015

  • Prime #208
  • Hardcase #144
  • Strangers #211
  • Mantra #209
  • Prototype #88
  • Firearm #110
  • Night Man #175
  • Solitaire #103
  • Wrath #60
  • Freex vs. Teen Titans #2
  • Freex vs. Spawn #2

June, 2016

  • Prime #221
  • Strangers #223
  • Mantra #221
  • Freex #168
  • Night Man #187
  • Solitaire #113
  • Warstrike #67
  • Ultraforce #221
  • Siren #40
  • Firearm/GI Joe III #6
  • Strangers vs. Prometheus #3
  • Ultraforce vs. JLA #4

June, 2017

  • Prime #233
  • Strangers #235
  • Mantra #233
  • Freex #180
  • Firearm #121
  • Night Man #199
  • Sludge #38
  • Solitaire #125
  • Ultraforce #233
  • Strangers/Thunderbolts #3

June, 2018

  • Prime #245
  • Hardcase #161
  • Strangers #247
  • Mantra #245
  • Freex #192
  • Rune #38
  • Ultraforce #245
  • Siren #43
  • Night Man vs. Midnighter #4
  • Strangers vs. X-Men #4

June, 2019

  • Prime #257
  • Strangers #259
  • Mantra #257
  • Solution #98
  • Solitaire #138
  • Ultraforce #257

June, 2020

  • Prime #269
  • Hardcase #177
  • Strangers #270
  • Mantra #269
  • Prototype #109
  • Sludge #59
  • Solitaire #150
  • Wrath #64
  • Ultraforce #269

December, 2020

  • Prime #275
  • Hardcase #183
  • Strangers #275
  • Mantra #275
  • Freex #200
  • Prototype #115
  • Solitaire #156
  • Rune #51
  • Ultraforce #275
  • Siren #53


I absolutely ran out of time to even BEGIN to do all the pretty covers and such I’d envisioned when settling on this topic. Logos and trade dress and the like across various titles. However, in mapping out this fictional, parallel-universe Ultraverse line, I have plenty of fodder for future posts, and to come back to this topic with those covers and such. Especially for the big/round number issues…the 50s, 100s, and so on.

But…

Returning to real-world present-day Earth in 2020:

It’s been 27 1/2 years since the premiere of the actual Ultraverse.

Had Prime, Hardcase, or Strangers proceeded 1 issue per month for all this time, uninterrupted, we’d actually see them at #300+ each.

At 27 1/2 years old, the Ultraverse would be as old now as the Marvel Universe was around 1989 (counting from 1961/62).

Consider how deep and aged Marvel continuity and titles were in the early-1990s, and the Ultraverse would be approaching a similar point!

Remember the 30th anniversary of the Fantastic Four?

What about the 30th anniversary of Spider-Man?

I myself consciously recall the 30th anniversary of X-Men in their Fatal Attractions crossover.

In a modern age of comics where continuity matters little and comics’ numbering is a joke, where variant covers seem to drive the industry and even DC Comics seems to be backing away from emphasis on monthly comics…it’s interesting enough to me to consider what a different world it would be with an Ultraverse still producing new content.

What might the industry look like had it continued? What creators would have continued or built careers there rather than other publishers? What characters and stories might we have gotten as a result…or NOT gotten, as the case might be?

And what of all the gimmicks that we saw with the original Ultraverse?

ultraverse_premiere_0000The primary "gimmicks" I think of with the original Ultraverse is the initial coupons thing for Ultraverse Premiere #0, the full-cover hologram covers for several titles, and the frequency of a #0 issue being what a #1 should have been. Occasional variant covers–the one that most stands out to me in memory is Prime #4 which had a fight between Prime and Prototype…one cover shows Prime victorious while the other shows Prototype victorious.

During the Black September stuff, the #"Infinity" issues sported bright neon-colored logos on all-black covers. There was an image on the back cover, though. Alternate covers provided the logo and trade dress on the image. Whichever "variant" you got, you still got to see the image to associate with the issue. With the #1 issues the next month, variants’ variance was more subtle, with covers carrying a painted look or a standard look.

sbtu_chromium_eraofexcess_hologram_04

But even with a wealth of stuff like this…it was a FARRRRR cry from every single title from every single publisher carrying at minimum "A" and "B" covers, let alone "retailer incentive" covers or "theme month" covers and all that.

I suppose that gets into other topics, though.

As 2020 has itself been a far cry from what I’d planned…perhaps this very post will get me back into gear actually covering the original Ultraverse. I had a good burst a couple years ago with my Ultraverse Revisited run, and DO aim to pick that back up in the near future, real-life-permitting (though I’ve said that since leaving off in 2018!)

ultraverse_revisited

As an abrupt conclusion jumping off from the Ultraverse but holding to the "What If" theme: back in 2016, I did a post looking at the question What If Superman #75 had come out in 2016? Basically, showing off dozens of mocked-up cover images I did to represent the ridiculousness of modern variant covers that totally dilute the market and make any given cover rather generic and unrecognizable.


Super-Blog Team-Up Continues Below!

  

Between The Pages Blog – Scrooge McDuckTales Woo-oo!

Dave’s Comics Blog – Blue Devil Creation

Magazines and Monsters – Comic Book’s Unsung Heroes! Steve Gerber!

In My Not So Humble Opinion – Kurt Schaffenberger, The Definitive Lois Lane Artist of the Silver Age

Comics Comics Comics… – Sergio Argones

SuperHero Satellite – What If Peter Parker became Speedball instead of Spider-Man?

Pop Culture Retrorama – What If The Sinister Dr. Phibes Had Been Produced!

Source Material – What If Captain Confederacy

The Telltale Mind – Arak: Son of Thunder – A Lost Adventure

Comic Reviews by Walt – What if the Ultraverse Had Continued?


 sbtu_what_if_ultraverse_blogtrailer

Ultraverse Revisited: Strangers #6

ultraverse_revisited

strangers_0006The Tao of Physiques!

Author: Steve Englehart
Pencil Art: Rick Hoberg
Ink Art: Dave Simons
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Color Designer: Robert Alvord
Color Team: Prisms
Editor: Chris Ulm
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

This issue opens with a full-page image of Deathwish throwing Electrocute through a wall. The issue’s title–The Tao of Physiques!–is big and bold on this page, as well an explosive callout proclaiming "All Out Action with The Strangers And" [issue credits]. There’s also a small box saying "Thought he was GONE, didn’t you? So did THEY…"

Essentially, this first page is like an AD for the issue, something you might find in another comic. Or like some sort of ’90s action movie poster, showing a hero vs. a big bad with a title, some hype-y language, names of creators, and some tagline.

This seems like something that absolutely would NOT be found in modern comics, and helps ‘date’ this issue as something out of its true to life time period OF the ’90s. It’s also something that–having recently read a discussion thread on some of the ills of modern comics particularly post-2000–feels all the more welcome as something of a time some quarter-century-plus in the past.

The Strangers have just defeated Deathwish, and help clean up the destruction that resulted from that battle; the various members discussing this need and the "explosion" of Ultras onto the scene and whatnot. They then find a survivor–an old man–in the wreckage and he gets transported to a hospital, with several of the Strangers following. Once there, weird stuff starts happening…and Deathwish rises again! Yrial seems detached and basically AGAINST helping, leaving the rest of the Strangers to deal with Deathwish. As they fight him–and marvel at his still being around when they thought he was destroyed–we see Yrial perform some Voodoo stuff she doesn’t want the Strangers to know about, and it turns out she’s gotten to the bottom of things…as she releases another entity from a dying woman, that seems to balance out the power of Deathwish; the new entity confronts Deathwish and both disappear, while the two human bodies they came from disappear into dust. As the issue ends, we see that the Strangers will next face Prototype during Break-Thru!

It’s kinda interesting to me that the issue ends with reference to Break-Thru but not much "selling" of the event or its premise; and no standout ads for it coming up, nor even one of the Ultraverse Checklist ads. The previous issue seemed almost a done-in-one with the rise of a new villain that had been foreshadowed, but then immediately defeated. Yet here already we have the "return" of the villain, and again a "defeat," perhaps permanently, with the introductions out of the way previously, allowing a full unleashing in this issue. We also get "moments" of development for other characters, the lost art of thought balloons, and generally touching on several plot threads at once (Hugh and Candy, Yrial and Zip-Zap, the whole team vs. Deathwish).

Surfacy as some of the stuff might be, it’s pretty loaded with potential when one looks a bit between the lines, so to speak. We see a growing relationship between Yrial and Zip-Zap…a friendship more than mentor/mentee; for lack of better phrasing, almost like a Storm/Jubilee thing from the X-Men ’92 cartoon, if Jubilee was Storm’s anchor-point rather than vice-versa. Candy is self-aware, but still not truly alive, and wants to know what it is to truly be alive and feel real feelings and such, and takes a lot of her frustration out on Deathwish. I don’t know if these elements get explored in further depth as this series progresses, but I look forward to future issues and finding out!

The art is pleasantly detailed–it’s not over-rendered into false realism but it’s not simplified cartoony. It continues to be strong and consistent with past issues, which is a great thing that seems another element lost in many modern comics. I recognize all the characters that seem like SHOULD be recognized, save for the woman the light-entity comes from; but I suppose that could be argument for a job well done as she was seemingly "just some woman" and not someone we SHOULD have paid attention to (and none of the characters did, either…it was Yrial’s magic that allowed her to even pick up on anything).

In 2019, this sixth issue would be the conclusion of a singular opening story; and we’ve essentially had several smaller stories within this title, including a crossover with Hardcase. But this does kind of cap things off with Deathwish seeming even more out of the picture than the previous issue, and the team more "gelled" than before; and this is the last issue before the first big "event" of the Ultraverse in Break-Thru.

As a total broken-record, I say yet again that this is an issue that doesn’t necessarily work entirely on its own as a single issue in a vacuum; there’s no great reason to go into a 4-longbox-bargain-bin section and pull just this issue as a prize unto itself. You’ll get bits of character stuff for a number of characters; a rise/return of a powerful villain and the team fighting him, and so on–so a bargain bin buy wouldn’t be horrible. But this would be enjoyed a lot more with at least the previous issue, if not as part of a small run of all 6 issues thus far (7 if you also get the Hardcase #4 crossover issue).

I enjoyed this, and I’m looking forward to the next issue as much for continued development of the Strangers as for getting into the event itself.

strangers_0006_blogtrailer

Ultraverse Revisited: Hardcase #6

ultraverse_revisited

hardcase_0006Friends and Enemies, Part Two: Returning Favors

Writer: Jim Hudnall
Penciller: Scott Benefiel
Inkers: Mike Christian & Jordi Ensign
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Moose Baumann
Interior Colorists: Family Fugue
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

After being stabbed and looking like he was bleeding out, we open this issue with Hardcase having an out of body experience, watching Choice find his body, fend off Hardwire, and try to get Tom to a hospital. While having this experience, Hardcase–Tom–is told by Linda (Starburst) to go back while he can. After waking in a hospital bed, Tom and Choice are visited by an old friend…who turns out to be an "old friend" in The Alternate. She claims she’s trying to help them survive, while "The Man Who Isn’t a Man" prepares to send agents to the moon to get something for him that he can destroy all Ultras with. Thanks to his remarkable healing, Hardcase is up and ready before long to re-confront Hardwire, and being prepared this time, succeeds. When police show up, Hardcase dislocates both of the villains arms, so that he can’t use his fingers against them. After this all wraps up, Tom lays in bed with his mind in overdrive, reflecting on the evening–Choice, as well as what he actually saw while dying.

The art for this title has been rather uneven…but it worked well in this issue, taken alone. The cover is nicely detailed, with Hardcase looking like Hardcase…even though it has him seemingly deliberately looking AWAY FROM the attacking villain. Within the issue, the art seems good as a whole. It seems slightly "off" to me–but then, my primary memory of the title and its art comes from the first issue, so that’s what I tend to judge a lot of the art against. It’s better than a couple of the other early issues, though, and better than I remember some of the later issues. The story’s not hard to follow–the action of what’s going on–and that’s the main thing. It’s nothing to write home about, but nothing I’m gonna really complain about.

Story-wise, we get some solid follow-up on Hardcase’s injury–and that while he’s nearly invulnerable, he can be hurt; but he also heals much faster, so even dire damage isn’t necessarily fatal. That said, we get some hints at forthcoming answers for Choice, and knowing what I do of the Ultraverse, it’s easy to pick up on the references to the moon and such (all the more after seeing them in Prime–which is another "core" Ultraverse title as one of the three originals). We get some resolution to this initial encounter with Hardwire; foreshadowing of stuff to come, and generally have a decently well-rounded ’90s comic that moves everything forward as an "episode" rather than being just a 1/6th slice of some singular graphic novel the way most modern/2018/2019 comics seem to be.

As with many ’90s comics and other Ultraverse issues, one could pick up on context simply reading this issue…but it’s not one I’d recommend in isolation or as some singular target issue. It bridges the previous issue and what’s to come in Break-Thru, contributing a bit of setup for that event and preparing us for Hardcase joining the greater stage of the Ultraverse as a whole. This is well worth a 25-50 cent purchase to have along with the earlier issues…but you’re better off grabbing the first issue than this if you just want a single issue of Hardcase.

hardcase_0006_blogtrailer

Ultraverse Revisited: Prime #6

ultraverse_revisited

prime_0006Primal Changes

Written by: Gerard Jones and Len Strazewski
Art by: Norm Breyfogle
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design by: Keith Conroy
Interior Color: Violent Hues
Editors: Chris Ulm & Hank Kanalz
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

For it being at least 20 years (most likely) since the last time I actually read this issue…it’s amazing to me what a sense of familiarity it has. While I have certain (what I would call) "key" memories of the series in general, some part of my mind wants to stretch or condense stuff, apparently…in an inversely-proportionate way for the way things actually unfolded!

As with many other "early" Ultraverse issues…the cover is rather "iconic" to me. Not so much in a singularly-standout way, or "this would/did make an amazing poster!" way. But for the sheer oddity of it, the way its weirdness sticks in my memory. We basically a grotesquely-bubbly Prime,either armless or with arms stretched behind his back, a look of distress on his face.

The previous issue left off with a badly-weakened Kevin being taken into government custody, their leader excited about what he’s found. We open this issue with Prime fighting a dinosaur–before suddenly finding himself in space, where he loses consciousness as he can’t breathe. We see that Prime is experiencing a simulation, as Col. Samuels insist he be kept alive. Coming out of the VR setup, Prime attacks, before being calmed down as he realizes it’s The Government and he–Kevin/Prime–can be of service. As proof of the claim, Prime is introduced to then-president Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea. Meanwhile, Kelly’s mother informs her of a call from Eden Blake’s mother–Kelly’s needed for babysitting (see Mantra #5). Back with Prime, Kevin/our hero has agreed to the Government’s testing/etc, in preparation for what turns out to be an astounding mission: He is bound for the moon! (literally!). Another simulation sees Prime facing off with super-agent Wrath (from Aladdin). Prime then sets off quickly for the moon…simply up, up, and away flying to the moon. Unfortunately, he’s not physically capable, and crashes back to Earth after a bad re-entry. Ready to give up, Kevin’s father encourages him to keep trying…though we find out Mr. Green is a lifelike simulation. The REAL Mr. Green and his wife argue over what’s been going on with their son Kevin…Mr. Green blaming himself for everything. Later, equipped with precautionary equipment designed to protect Kevin if the Prime body fails again, Kevin once again "Primes up," this time with a much different body. Now, Prime is READY. Now, Prime can survive in a vacuum without his body having issues. Now, he is (as he proclaims on the final story page) "…primed for outer space!"

The cover is another that both "sort of" shows something from within the issue, while being its own thing. Prime indeed goes into space, where he "bubbles up" which necessitates some modifications if Prime is to be able to survive in space. Kevin, of course, seems quite authentic! Sure, he "Primes up" into this big, buff super-hero…but he’s still "just" a 13-year-old kid. So the idea that he will–under his own (super-) power be expected to fly to the MOON is this ***really*** big deal to him! It also makes sense that he’s not yet disillusioned by "the Government" and such, and sees the Government as "the good guys" and wants to make them proud…almost as much as he wants to make his parents proud.

The art is the usual solid Breyfogle work. I like the familiarity and style, though there’s at least one panel where I’m reminded that there’s some sort of thing with Prime’s face where the actuality of it on the page somehow doesn’t match something in my memory.

Story-wise, this is very much a ’90s comic…visually and structurally, and I like it! There are multiple plot-threads being moved along, with a couple of distinct-seeming subplots: Kevin’s parents, and Kelly. Kelly’s subplot ties this title in to Mantra, where we see Kelly’s side of things prior to Lukasz/Eden returning home in Mantra #5. There’s also the use of Wrath and reference to Aladdin that continues to build on that organization’s place in the Ultraverse as it becomes more of a "thing." We also see more of the Prime-body’s development, that it isn’t just one set default, but takes on properties that the host (Kevin) need at the time or based on stuff handy. I know "Space Prime" becomes a bigger deal in the next issue, but it’s cool seeing the "setup" and development here in this issue–that Kevin doesn’t "just" spontaneously generate that body.

Unlike so many modern comics, there’s a lot to be had within this single issue. It does serve as a bit of a transition from solo title to moving Prime into a larger picture, as the next issue is part of the nearly-line-wide event Break-Thru; which I believe was really the first time many of the characters truly interact with each other.

The setup from the first five issues do mean that this issue doesn’t totally stand alone as well. In a way, it’s standalone, but one will get a lot more out of it having read the previous issues…especially (at least) THE previous issue, #5. For 25 cents this would not be a horrible purchase, but it’d likely be enjoyed with more context–#5, and likely #7 as well. I wouldn’t seek it out as an isolated single issue.

For better or worse…there’s a certain lure to this title that I have to resist, as I want to charge ahead through this series (much as with Mantra) without worrying about the larger context of the Ultraverse…but for this Ultraverse Revisited project, I’m determined to go month by month through all the titles!

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Ultraverse Revisited: Mantra #5

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mantra_0005Mantra: The Animated Series

Creator/Writer: Mike W. Barr
Penciller: Terry Dodson
Inker: Jasen Rodriguez
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Moose Baumann
Interior Color: Family Fugue
Editor: Chris Ulm
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

This issue is an interesting piece, right from the cover. We have a generic gradient background, with a folded film strip receding to the lower left. In the foreground we see a ‘regular’ Mantra looking curiously at a reflection that on the film is exaggerated and cartoony. On the surface it almost seems like a self-acknowledgement of Mantra being "well-endowed" physically and the costume emphasizing that. But…it also actually fits the interior of the issue, serving as a very reasonable cover for this particular issue of this title!

As the issue opens, we see Mantra and Warstrike–fresh back from Boneyard’s place–confronting Strauss about the charm that failed to return them the way he’d promised. After this confrontation, that pair splits up after an awkward moment. As Mantra flies away, the demon from Prime #5 spots his target! Still without a body, the demon possesses another cartoon character–a Wiley Wolf. Meanwhile, back at home, Mantra experiments with the magic sword, discovering/confirming its additional cloaking ability to hide as a ring on the costume’s belt, but manifest at will when needed. Mantra–or rather Eden Blake–well, actually, Lukasz–walks into the house looking perfectly normal, the Mantra getup magically cloaked. We see that the kids are being watched both by Blake’s mother, and the actual babysitter Kelly Cantrell (who we should recognize as Prime–Kevin Green’s–crush over in Prime). Even without big super-heroics and such, we see the natural mixing/"small-world-after-all" of all these characters existing in the same world. We see further tension between "Eden" and her mother, who still does not know this is actually Lukasz inhabiting her daughter’s body.

The next day at work, we find that there’s even more to Eden’s story than anyone realized, which lends itself well to what Lukasz may need to accomplish: Eden’s recruited for Aladdin! Before there’s any dwelling on that, Eden gets an emergency call from her friend Marla…seems that now Brent is dead as well as her husband Carl! (We know Brent as the guy Lukasz woke up next to when he first found himself in Eden’s body!) Eden then has to rush off to deal with an emergency as Mantra…Wiley Wolf is threatening her kids’ school! The "living cartoon" is dealt with, though Mantra may have let slip more than intended by addressing Evie by name–something odd for Mantra, who has never actually MET Eden Blake’s daughter. Later at home, Eden takes a copy of Ultra Monthly Magazine from the kids, and realizes a model posing as Mantra for risque photos in the magazine will be a prime target for the cartoon/demon!

We then launch into several pages of 6-panel grids made out to be filmstrip frames as Mantra is engaged by the demon, pulled into the tv world…and finds herself a cartoon! And as a cartoon, subject to typical cartoon gags and visuals, as well as rules. She manages to defeat her foe and return to the real world…with just enough page space left to demand the model be paid properly for her trouble, don’t do it again, and a single panel showing the demon (trapped as Wiley Wolf) kneeling in disgrace before an angry Boneyard.

Judging by the length and detail of my "summary" above, compared to other recent Ultraverse issues I’ve covered…I think it’s very safe to say that Mantra is STILL one of (if not my top) favorite Ultraverse titles.

As a guy, sure, there’s likely something subconscious to the depiction of this female character’s visuals and light-on-covering-clothing as we see on panel. But I truly find it fascinating this notion of a man trapped in a woman’s body, having to learn to adjust to the world from that state; but even on the notion of ANYONE being trapped in SOMEONE ELSE’s body–PERIOD. Considering what it means to all those around the body–Eden’s friends, coworkers, anything Eden had set in motion for herself–as well as a suddenly strained relationship with her mother, and an awkward, unexplained distance from her kids (that the kids surely pick up on but may not understand)…there’s a lot of depth to be had!

For better or worse, though…some of this understanding and knowledge and way I take in the character and stories is me more than 2 decades later re-reading stuff that I read and loved as a kid! If not this particular issue, then at least this series.

I continue to enjoy the visuals on this title…it certainly seems pretty consistent with the previous issues; with Dodson on pencils, that certainly makes sense. There’s a certain grounded feel to things, while still looking like drawings in a comic book. Alternatively, the "animated" portion takes on the goofy cartoon-like look in a rather obvious way…both poking fun at old cartoons as well as perhaps borrowing the style of the "_____ Adventures" comics of the time–Batman and X-Men at least–based on their respective cartoon series.

Story-wise, I love all the subplots and worldbuilding going on here…it feels like Mantra is an extremely rich title in that regard! In some ways the story is all over the place, though–Mantra and Warstrike barging in on Strauss, then scene-hopping all over the place for just a page or few pages at a time. This would not "work" for most titles, but does for me here as said with stuff above.

Perhaps more for the "Mantra the Animated Series" segment, this issue can SORT OF work on its own. Nothing overly fancy or special in and of itself, but if one gets through the main part of the issue, they’re then treating to the "Mantra Adventures" segment.

Five issues in and we should be "wrapping up" a story arc as far as looking from the modern perspective in 2019. I vaguely remember that the next couple issues cross over with the rest of the Ultraverse–first as a whole for the Break-Thru event and then with a prominent Prime issue; so I don’t remember any clear-cut hard-stop breaks in terms of an actual story conclusion or new story start.

As always…I definitely recommend this in context of the other issues of the title! If you can get these first 5 or so issues, you’re in for a treat; or if you’ve read the previous issues, you’re still in for a treat with this issue. If you find this issue alone for 25-50 cents, it’s probably gonna be a fun, VERY-’90s sort of read where you can pick up on context within the issue itself.

I remember in broad strokes where this series goes, at least for a bit, and I’m eager to get to a prominent story in particular, but I’m holding myself back to continue reading issues as single issues in the greater context of the whole of the Ultraverse publication!

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Ultraverse Revisited: Freex #5

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freex_0005Up Against the Wall

Writer: Gerard Jones
Penciller: Ben Herrera
Inker: Larry Welch
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Robert Alvord
Interior Color: Violent Hues
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

Beginning with the cover of this issue, it wasn’t quite what I expected. I didn’t recognize the presumed-villain on the cover…a bit grotesque, and apparently new. But on opening the issue, I remembered that–Oh, yeah–the Freex are dealing with the "Master of the Hunt" and his hounds. And the bulk of the issue is really just a lengthy fight scene, as the individual Freex have to draw on their powers–working through the pain, even–in order to come together and stop this "Master." Despite their challenges, the group eventually defeats him–as he’s first burned (turns out, that was him on the cover!) and then taken down by his own hench-hounds. The Freex escape, and all’s well that ends well…right?

The art for this issue seems a bit "off." While I mostly recognize the various characters, they have a sort of generic, non-regular-artist look…and unfortunately, that was a bit off-putting for this issue. The characters look–for one thing–a bit "older" than they did before, and I’m just not a fan of this specific iteration of them.

At least the writing is consistent, where we’ve gone from seeing these characters absolutely not working together to where they finally do draw together and push their powers to help each other and overcome (a bit) certain fears. It’s like as of this fifth issue the team finally becomes…a team.

This remains an iffy title for me–I don’t love it (especially after this issue) but I don’t hate it. I haven’t gotten used to it, but continue to see the potential it holds both as a title and with its individual characters. Best way for me to put it for my repetitive vagueness is that when I think of the title, see one of its covers…it doesn’t bring back fond memories nor does it really grab my interest such that I actively want to jump in and read. When I put it off or "dread" getting into an issue…I tend to either truly enjoy it or at least realize it’s not horrible. I’ve been interested from cliffhangers to see where it goes next, but by the time I get to the next issue I’m usually back to a passive-ish not really caring.

All that said…if you can get several issues as a run…particularly for now, these first five issues–and cheaply (say, 25-50 cents each ideally, under $5 for sure) they’re definitely well worth the read for an early-’90s team of abnormal misfits shunned by society…and serving as a sort of X-Men parallel but instead of being the ’60s, it’s "in the ’90s!"

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James Hudnall’s passing

I just learned tonight that James Hudnall–a co-founder of the Ultraverse and writer of Hardcase has died.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty of others posting about this at length.

I’d just sat down to work on a different post myself, tonight, and expected a notification I’d seen pop up on my phone to be about a new Kickstarter or such; instead that notification was this news.

Visiting Hudnall‘s Facebook page, the news was shared by his family. Corroboration by multiple sources.


I’d seen posts in the Ultraverse Facebook group by him, and it was cool to see he was still/again doing some comics work.

I know his name from Hardcase in particular…and was reminded tonight that he was the writer on the Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography from 1989…a "key" piece of Superman history post-Crisis.

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Tom Mason posted a nice recollection of his experience with Hudnall in the Facebook group for Ultraverse (not sure if its setting is public or not, if you can see it, it is, if not, it’s not).

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While I’ve yet to read the entirety of the Hardcase series (I’m up to #s 5/6 on my current read-through project), the cover from #1 is one of those "iconic" (for me, at least) comic covers from the ’90s. Hudnall being the writer means I’m sharing covers with art that wasn’t his…but especially in comics, art and writing go hand-in-hand.

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Ultraverse Revisited: Prototype #4

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prototype_0004Wrathful Moon

Writers: Len Strazewski and Tom Mason
Penciller: David Ammerman
Inker: James Pascoe
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Designer: Robert Alvord
Interior Color: Family Fugue
Editor: Chris Ulm
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

The cover starts us off with a glimpse of what the issue contains, in telling us someone called Wrath enters this issue. Enter: Wrath. That is, this is the official debut of the character…and (25 years’ spoiler-free time gone by) I know the character winds up with his own series, so that–plus the "logoed" name on the cover–hints at the importance/significance of this character, over some run of the mill generic character that could otherwise fill a similar role. It’s also remarkably refreshing having just a single cover image to worry about, that it shows Prototype fighting the guy we can (from the cover alone) assume IS this Wrath character.

Despite the above, the ’90s were a time with loads of new characters being introduced by all publishers, so there being a "logo" for a character’s name wouldn’t necessarily mean they’d get an ongoing series or even mini-series. And some part of me remembers that the Ultraverse trading cards that were produced included a bunch of characters that only ever saw print there–though my memory and understanding of that may be faulty after all this time, clouded by "rumors" or stuff I’ve come across (but not verified) over the years. Point being–the logo AND knowing the character got his own series tipped me off here, where the logo alone wouldn’t not necessarily tell one such information.

As we open the issue itself, we find Jimmy Ruiz contemplating his latest "upgrade," an implant that should make his interfacing with the Prototype suit much better. He’s called back to bed by a woman…while outside Ultratech HQ, a woman from his past tries to find out about his whereabouts, knowing only that Jimmy works for Ultratech and lives in the building. Meanwhile, a costumed figure gains access to the Prototype suit, and sets off a stabbing pain in Jimmy–he knows from that that his suit is being messed with. The two collide–one leaving, the other going–and Jimmy winds up on the lesser end of things. Getting to the armor, Jimmy suits up…and we get a good chunk of pages with Prototype and Wrath brawling. The fight spills out of the building, where Angella is threatened…Prototype saves her from an errant blast from Wrath, who didn’t actually wish to harm an innocent–he seems to have a new, grudging respect for Prototype beyond his initial assessment. Wrath escapes, as Prototype’s armor isn’t doing well…and we find out why Angella is seeking to re-connect with Jimmy! Elsewhere, the original man of the Prototype armor, Bob Campbell, tests out his home-brew armor, but finds himself trapped by an ambush of officers–highly armed–accusing him of theft from Ultratech.

I recall–and believe I’ve touched on this previously–there being two Prototypes: "the original" (Bob Campbell) and the "new" that I "knew" (Jimmy Ruiz). For all the more I was consciously aware, though, Jimmy was the hero, and Bob was a villain. Though I also think I recall that after Black September, Bob was Prototype in Ultraforce and no one remembered Jimmy…or some such. That’ll be something to get into in quite awhile, after covering all of the pre-Black-September Ultraverse comics.

That said, I’d figured Bob Campbell to be some 2-d jaded "bad guy," and yet he’s getting a story similarly compelling (to me) as that of Jimmy’s…and maybe it’s that I’m 25 years older now, but to a certain degree, I find it easier to "get" Campbell than Ruiz. I actually find myself more interested in Campbell’s story and feeling like that’s simmering a bit too long on the "back burner." Still…this is from 1993, a time when comics had these things called "subplots" that WOULD simmer on the back burner for ages before flipping to the "A" plot. Instead of random-seeming "retcons" we’d actually SEE and "touch base" on these events happening simultaneous with the main plots, and KNOW something is coming…rather than an arc or two further in being told "oh, by the way, while all this has been going on, this guy’s been doing ____."

Visually, this is a solid issue. There were parts of it that reminded me of Prime, so I guess some of the art seems a bit Brefogle-ish…though that could also be other parts of the art process such as the inking and coloring. It reminded me of Prime‘s art, and I’d say I enjoy the similarity as it further solidifies that the titles take place in the same universe at the same time and all!

When I started this Ultraverse Revisited project, I’d hoped to blow through the line a lot faster. That real life has slowed me down to a nearly-embarrassing extent has brought a lot more "real time" back to the reading in terms of time passing between my getting to each issue.

While this title is pretty good "internally," with time and keeping it as just one title out of the 12 or so Ultraverse titles, each individual issue of this one title feels a much smaller piece of things than being "the next issue" of itself.

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Ultraverse Revisited: Solution #3

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solution_0003The Hunted

Writer: James Hudnall
Penciller: Darick Robertson
Inker: Barbara Kaalberg
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Designer: Tim Divar
Interior olor: Foodhammer!
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

Once again, looking at an issue of The Solution I find myself wondering how, exactly, I managed to #1 miss this series entirely as a kid and #2 not pick up on this sooner even as an adult.

This issue opens with a young woman being stalked by a couple of menacing figures that we come to realize (along with her) are aliens–Darkurians–as they “morph” into their true form of hulking, monstrous beasts ready to devour her. Then another figure enters, first playing music from a harmonica, and then wielding fantastic weapons that are quite effective against these Darkurians. The next day, we join in with several members of The Solution as they debate publicity, with everyone but Lela having reasons for NOT wanting to be in front of any cameras. Vurk, impatient and edgy, prepares to leave. Lila asks Aera to put a “trace” on him–using her magic so that they’ll be able to locate him, should the need arise. Vurk hits the town, looking for some excitement–though what he finds interesting and what a cab driver finds interesting don’t exactly intersect. He’s in luck, though, when he stumbles across a figure he recognizes–a certain harmonica-player (incidentally, apparently named “Harmonica”). Shifting to his large, brutish (alien) form, Vurk leaps into battle with Harmonica…the two are old opponents. Harmonica’s weapon/harmonica seems to be able to transform into whatever he declares–laser, flight-belt, sword, whatever–and he more than holds his own against Vurk. The fight is inconclusive, halted first by police and then by the Solution (having located Vurk via that “trace”). We shift to the Solution meeting with a client…and learning that they’ll be working with someone. We see on the final page: Hardcase and Choice!

This issue’s story seems so simplistic in a way. Show some aliens mugging a random woman on the street, they get killed to show how bad-ass this Harmonica guy is. Touch base with the Solution–they are the team this title’s about, after all–then Vurk goes off on his own. He fights Harmonica, giving us an extended fight scene that shows us how bad-ass HE is, before stuff is brought to an abrupt halt with neither being victorious…this leaves things open for later. And we end with the setup for a “crossover” with Hardcase to leave us ready for what comes next. Nothing’s all that deep, but we get our title characters present in the issue, while the focus is on one particular member…and we get a bit of a sense of history for him with encountering Harmonica, as well as development in his admitting his own people want to kill him. As He’s a “tank” on the team, Harmonica being able to take him on, having taken out the Darkurians earlier, and getting away here without issue sets Harmonica up to be a bigger player in future issues.

And I absolutely love the art in this issue! It’s clean, and detailed, the character designs definitely have that nostalgic, ’90s “vibe” but without seeming hokey or rushed. I’m sure this is thanks not only to Robertson‘s pencils, but also Kaalberg‘s inks with Divar and Foodhammer!‘s coloring. I don’t know if it’s my personal color preference or other details, but I especially like Lela’s appearance and costume. I feel like I’m all over the place with enjoying or being “iffy” on Ultraverse issues’ art…perhaps it’s other comics’ art I’ve looked at since my last Ultraverse coverage.

My enjoyment of this issue is largely that it’s nothing “deep,” and even picturing the issue’s opening a la Law & Order or CSI, with a brief intro to set something up, then a jump to the actual main characters and them dealing with stuff after the events of the initial sequence. Having read a couple issues of the series before this also laid some groundwork, so while I’m not great with characters’ names yet (especially being a couple months–at least–since reading the previous issue) but recognize them visually and having seen them, it’s easy to “go with the flow” of things.

As “just some ’90s issue,” this would probably work pretty well overall as a standalone issue…it has the feel of a random issue trying to set something up without being itself bogged down with stuf from prior issues. The cover itself isn’t all that interesting; and I never really paid it much attention, focusing mainly on the title logo and issue number. Essentially we get naked-backside-of-Vurk fighting against Harmonica-with-a-sword…boring as a cover for only reading previous issues, but at least “fitting” given the actual interior contents of this issue.

If you find this for 25 cents or so–bottom-price bargain bin, basically–it’s worthwhile if only for “exposure” to the title and such. Generally-speaking, it’ll work better with the context of the first couple issues (admittedly, also ideally bargain-priced).

While I’ve been iffy with this title on lack of knowledge…it’s quickly becoming a high-quality, enjoyable favorite…which I feel like I didn’t expect when I started this deep-dive into the Ultraverse.

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Ultraverse Revisited: Firearm #3

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firearm_0003American Pastimes Part Three

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Cully Hamner
Inker: John Lowe
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Designer: Moose Baumann
Interior Color: Foodhammer!
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Special Thanks to: Larry Welch
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

The previous issue ended with Swan a bit out of his depths, and being rescued by a flying Ultra. Here, he wakes up in a room full of Ultras…and finds some answers he’s been looking for…and a new threat! Retaining a hostage–that Swan is determined to save–these Ultras reveal that they’ve got a certain interest in hunting. Human prey. While they’ve denied him his own particular firearm, they give Swan a slight head start, and then the hunt is on! We see Swan take them on–fighting for his life–and ultimately see what kind of man he is, when he catches a break, and can completely escape…or head back in to save the hostage.

I feel like this story is a bit repetitive. The "eccentric rich folks buying property and importing humans to hunt" feels like something I’ve seen at least a couple other places, albeit originally published a number of years apart, probably. I’m thinking there’s at least a Batman story like that, and can’t really imagine there’s not a Green Arrow story like that. Of course, this is the first time I’ve seen it as super-powered people–Ultras–hunting a normal human! And there are only so many stories to be told…what keeps many fresh is a shift in particulars. So while I observe this, it’s not something I’d truly count against the issue/story itself.

The art is quite good, and feels entirely consistent with the earlier issues. Nothing really jumps out as "strange" or "new," nor as any great distraction. Nothing particularly stood out as singularly amazing or awesome…but I’d put that to simple quality of the art! It’s serving the story, conveying the action, and allowing the story to be experienced, rather than calling attention to itself needlessly. In other words…I like the art and the way it’s presented!

As a story, this is a "part three," but has a different "feel" from the first couple of issues to me. For one thing, it feels a bit more frenetic and action-packed…with less "building blocks" and more "doing" in general. In that way, this pays off the first couple issues that introduced us to Swan and his part of the world and set things up for him to wind up in this situation. I really like that this also mostly feels like its own thing, its own "episode," as we just start with Swan waking up and then having to think on his feet…we don’t have pages of exposition/recap…we basically just get launched into the action. I don’t recall (if I ever knew anyway) and haven’t "looked ahead" to see if American Pastimes is carried as a 4 or more chapter arc…but this feels like it could well be a 4-parter or even 5, and structurally I’d probably be happy with either.

While there’s definite nuance to be caught reading this issue out of the first two issues and the ending leads me into wanting to read the next issue…I think this stands pretty well by itself. I’d miss some stuff and have less of an overall context for the feel of the character of Alec Swan (and less of the sense of wanting to see him portrayed "live" by Jason Statham)…this works decently as a one-off issue. "Ultras with powers hunt a human who is really good at fighting back."

All in all, this would be a decent issue to snag randomly from a bargain bin. It’s best matched with issues 1 & 2, but especially if one can get it for 25 cents, it’s worth getting and reading even in "isolation." As part of the ongoing series, I definitely enjoyed it, and I look forward to the next issue!

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