Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hardcase #1

Hardcase #1 (June 1993)

Writer: James Hudnal
Pencils: Jim Callahan
Inks: Norm Breyfogle
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Designer: Paul Mounts
Editor: Chris Ulm

Cover Art: Dave Gibbons

Variants: Ultra 5000 (same cover art as standard issue), Silver hologram (alternate cover art featuring Hardcase and NM-E), Gold hologram (alternate cover art featuring Hardcase and NM-E)

My summary/review (Just as a note of warning, there are all kinds of spoilers in this review):

Well, like Prime, this issue starts off with something that is not normally seen (at least at this that time) in your average hero comic.  The destruction of a team; resulting in the death of two members and a third being put into a coma with brain damage.  That team was The Squad (we will see this entire story later in the Ultraverse run as a mini series that goes through tThe Squads story in greater detail.) 

Among the members of The Squad; D.J. Blast and Forsa are killed.  D.J. Blast sacrifices himself to take NM-E out.  Starburst is brain damaged after this fight and is in a hospital with little to no hope of ever recovering.  Of the four members, only Hardcase (Tom Hawke) is left alive and in one piece. 

We then flash forward a year and see Hardcase fighting some bad least that's what it appears to be.  It turns out that Hardcase has quit the hero business and become a Hollywood actor/stuntman.

Going to take a moment here to talk about a few things noticed.  NM-E looks a lot like the alien from the movie Aliens.  Not exact mind you, but elongated head with a toothy grin.  A tail like weapon used to spear Forsa (ala Bishop from the end of Aliens.)  Not much else is revealed about NM-E here...that will come later in the tales from the Ultraverse.  Hardcase is a sort of Golden Age Superman and Wonder Man (of the Avengers) style character.  Not totally invulnerable, cannot fly under his own power...but can jump really far and high.  He also has a form of enhanced hearing.  Add in the Actor/Stuntman angle and you have a nice mesh of two characters...with his own characteristics added to not make him a clone of any one character.

Back to the story...Hardcase is dealing with not being a hero anymore, and a police officer calls him on it.  The officer is called off by a bank robbery that is happening nearby, and Hardcase declines tagging along to help.  Headknocker (heh) is robbing the bank, and he's an Ultra.  He kills several guards and tosses the bank manager around like a ragdoll.  On the movie set, Hardcase hears gunfire from the battle and decides that he has had enough and jumps off to help.  Although, a bit too late for the officer that he was just talking to.  He had been getting a poster signed for his son, and talking to Hardcase about coming back to help the police out as they really appreciated what he and The Squad had done.  This adds a bit of Spider-Man angst to the character as well...just a little.  The whole feeling somewhat responsible for the death of another when it could have probably been avoided if he had intervened vibe is here and helps Hardcase come to a conclusion.

Hardcase and Headknocker trade blows and Hardcase wins.  Headknocker is taken into custody and Hardcase decides that he is back in the game.Watching all this unfold is a mysterious figure...a man who is not a man.  He is Between NM-E not completing its mission, and the emergence of other Ultras, the man who isn't a man gets angry and decides that they all must die...even if half the world is destroyed in the process.

Not a bad first issue here as well.  Hardcase is a figure that has suffered a lot during his time as an Ultra and is looking for a way to just live his life...but that isn't what fate has in store for him.  It has a very different vibe than that of the first issue of Prime.  This is a good thing though, as each book seems to have its own focus.

The art is alright, and I think saved a lot by the inking of Norm Breyfogle.  I am not really familiar with any other work of Jim Callahan, and a search at the Grand Comics Database does not turn up much at all. 

As far as the look of Hardcase…He starts out in the flashback with a kind of an Aquaman/Luke Cage feel to his outfit.  His current costume is in keeping with the time frame...shiny shoulder pads and chains around his waist and wrists.  It's not a terrible look, but definitely influenced by the time.

Also of note is that Nicholas Lone, Solitaire, is seen here taking his money out of the bank that Head Knocker robs.

A few other blurbs about this issue from various Ultraverse publications follow...

Summary from the other Ultraverse comics Published that month:

First hard hitting issue!  Hardcase comes out of his self-imposed retirement and leaps headlong into his first action in months - but will it be his last?

From the Collectors Guide to the Ultraverse:

Hardcase returns to being an ultrahero, after the death of two members of his tam, The Squad.  He takes on Head Knocker.

From the Ultraverse Year One issue:

Years ago, a Jumpstart Effect gave ultra powers to Jamal Blass, Carlos Jiminez, Tom Hawke and Linda Warren,  These four joined together as the world's first ultra team.  Their abruptly ended when the mysterious Rex Mundi sent the Nanotech Mechanized Entity (NM-E) to destroy them.  Having survived NM-E's rampage; Hardcase was left to deal with the aftermath (two members were dead and another one was comatose).  Believing that he let his friends down, Hardcase retires as a hero and launches a successful movie career.  On the set of his latest film, Hardcase learns of a robbery in progress at a nearby bank and decides he cannot sit idly by while while innocent peoples lives are in danger.  At the bank he encounters the powerful ultra, Headknocker, and the two engage in a brutal battle.  Hardcase defeats Headknocker by beating him down with a police car.  Afterwards, Hardcase realizes that he can no longer remain in retirement and becomes an ultra hero once again.

1 comment:

  1. Good review, David.

    I'm sure I read this when it came out, but I don't remember it. I do remember that the Ultraverse titles were all very good straightforward super-hero stories with appealing heroes and more-than-decent artwork. I thought all of the series had potential to become popular.

    A pity Malibu didn't last longer as an independent company.