Altered Reality: The Ultraverse Before and After Black September

Welcome Ultra-fans to the Super-Blog Team-Up! Today the Ultraverse Network is part of a crossover banding together several different blogs under the banner of Parallel Worlds and Alternate Realities! Each blog in this crossover will focus on alternate versions of their favorite characters and niches.

Super-Blog Team Up

Here at the ULTRAVERSE NETWORK, we’ll explore how the Black September crossover altered the continuity of the Ultraverse.

When Malibu Comics was purchased by Marvel, the entire Ultraverse line was cancelled and restarted. Only a few of the more popular series were rebooted and relaunched, with some being radically altered. The history and continuity of the Ultraverse was retroactively changed in numerous ways, and a number of characters simply ceased to exist (or in the new continuity, ceased to have ever existed). The story covering this reality-altering event was labeled “Countdown to Black September”, which ran through Ultraforce vol I #8-10, Ultraforce/Avengers Prelude, Avengers/Ultraforce, & Ultraforce/Avengers. Each of the rebooted and relaunched Ultraverse books started with a special “∞”-numbered issue identified as part of Black September.

Ultraverse Black September Infinity

Confession time, I’m not an expert on the post-Black September Ultraverse. I was a big Ultraverse reader when Malibu launched the line, but after the Marvel buy-out I drifted away. For this post, most of what I’m sharing has come from research or information shared by other Ultra-fans. In the coming weeks and months I will update this post if we uncover any further continuity changes. Additionally, I strongly encourage you readers to contribute any missed continuity changes in the comments.

In this post we won’t be recapping the Black September event itself (read it or Google it if you are curious). Instead we’ll be focusing on the retroactive continuity changes (retcons) that resulted from Black September; not to be confused with story-driven character changes. For example, while the changes to Mantra after Black September were dramatic, they were progressions of the story, not retcons. In the post-Black September continuity, Lukasz still inhabited the body of Eden Blake, and then the Mantra power was transferred to Lauren Sherwood. Therefore no retcon occurred. Night Man was another character who experienced dramatic changes from progression of his story as opposed to retcons.

Ultraverse Black September - New World Order

Below is a list of continuity changes (retcons) found in the post-Black September Ultraverse:

  • Prototype – One of the biggest retcons was the elimination of Jimmy Ruiz from the history of Prototype. When Malibu first launched the Ultraverse, Jimmy Ruiz was a teenager working for UltraTech piloting the new Prototype armor. Ruiz replaced the former pilot of the Prototype armor, Bob Campbell. Campbell was forcibly retired after losing his arm on the job. While Ruiz struggled in his role as Prototype, he proved himself on many occasions and was a valued member of the Ultraforce. In the post-Black September continuity, Ruiz was written out of continuity and Bob Campbell was retconned as the only Prototype to have ever existed. Campbell was a member of the Ultraforce and had never suffered the loss of his arm. As far as we know, Campbell was retconned to replace Ruiz in all of his adventures.
  • Hardcase – Hardcase (alter ego Tom Hawke) was one of the premier Ultraverse heroes when Malibu launched the line. In the post-Black September continuity, Tom Hawke existed but never became Hardcase. Since he never became Hardcase, it seems likely that his team called “The Squad” also never existed.
    Here is where it gets a little confusing. A little more than a year after the Black September reboot, Hardcase made an appearance (even though he’d been retconned out of existence). Hardcase returned wearing his original uniform and informed the Ultraforce that he knew about the alterations to the history of the universe. When Black September occurred, he was apparently shunted into a limbo dimension. According to Mark Bourne, a former editor of the Ultraverse titles, Hardcase’s appearance occurred because the creative team wanted to return the stories to the original Ultraverse continuity. Marvel Comics filed for bankruptcy before that story could unfold and the Ultraverse line was canceled. The final Ultraverse story, Future Shock, addressed some of these altered reality plot threads.
  • Choice – Choice was a supporting character in the Hardcase title. Her origin was deeply-rooted in the history of “The Squad”. She never appeared in the post-Black September Ultraverse, and we can assume she was written out of continuity due to her ties to “The Squad”.
  • Contrary – Contrary was a mysterious character, tied into the origin of the Freex (or most likely tied into), and founder of the Ultraforce. She organized the Ultraforce team and provided their technology. She was also known for manipulating people to further her own agenda. In the post-Black September continuity, she was written out of continuity and ceased to have ever existed. Personally, I think Marvel got rid of her because they thought she was robbing Emma Frost’s M.O. and wardrobe.
  • Rune – Rune’s origin was altered slightly in the post-Black September continuity. In the original Ultraverse, Rune began as a barbarian on an alien world who ate the flesh of a dragon to gain it’s strength. In the post-Black September continuity, Rune began in Africa and consuming the dragon was removed from his history.
  • Solitaire – Solitaire escaped Black September relatively unscathed. The only real post-Black September alteration is the mystery of what inspired Solitaire to begin his quest in becoming a hero. In the original Ultraverse continuity, he was inspired after he witnessed a battle between Hardcase and Headknocker which most likely didn’t happen in the post-Black September continuity.
  • Ultraverse history – Another minor retcon in the post-Black September continuity was that Marvel’s Infinity Gems were woven into the origins of the Ultraverse itself. In the post-Black September continuity, the entity on the Moon who triggered the Jumpstart effects was apparently awoken by the disruption of the space/time continuum caused by the Infinity Gems.

Some folks question the status of other characters from the original Ultraverse who didn’t appear in the post-Black September continuity. Such as:

  • Freex – It’s not specified if these characters existed in the post-Black September continuity. Since Contrary was erased from existence (it was strongly hinted Contrary was involved with the creation of the Freex), it’s possible the Freex were as well.  Freex member Cayman did appear in the post-Black September continuity in Ultraforce and the All-New Exiles, but he never made any mention of the Freex.
  • The Strangers – I’m a little blurry on this one. While The Strangers did not appear as a team in the post-Black September continuity, member Zip-Zap is reported to have appeared in a later Prime issue. Unfortunately, I’m not able to verify that appearance. Does anyone else know of it?

While the post-Black September Ultraverse was a very different place for our favorite heroes, all other changes were story-driven rather than retcons. Again, I’ll happily update this post if any further continuity changes are identified. My thanks to the following Ultra-fans for their assistance with research on this post: Mark Bourne, Derek Crabbe, Ryan Carpenter, Neil Robertson, Bruce Reville and Sean Koury! Thanks guys, stay Ultra!

Super-Blog Team-Up Links

As mentioned, several different blogs have teamed-up today to cover Parallel Worlds and Alternate Realities! While we’re featuring the Ultraverse here, you should visit these other comic blogs to see how they spotlight their own favorite characters and niches today. Visit them now, visit them later, and visit them often!

Our thanks to the Super-Blog Team-Up for inviting us to participate in this fantastic crossover!

The End of the World! Sort of.

The Strangers #11 cover by Rick HobergThe Strangers # 11
“Detour”
Written by Steve Englehart
Art by Rick Hoberg & Tim Eldred
Edited by Roland Mann

As the title suggests, this story veers away slightly from the main arc surrounding Yrial. That’s not a bad thing, however, This issue not only features some amazing artwork from Hoberg & Eldred (particularly in depicting the various locales our heroes find themselves in) but Englehart’s character work truly shines — especially with Zip-Zap.

In this story, The Strangers have escaped from the world of demons they were in last issue, only to find themselves on an odd planet composed of pieces of many different worlds. Zip-Zap not only saves the team from certain death at the beginning of the tale (borrowing a gimmick from The Flash) but he then puts the together the true nature of this world, befriends some locals and even challenges The Entity who gave them their powers to actually do something useful. We really get a good feel for something that I’ve always felt to be the case — Leon is the heart of this team. I’d argue that Candy, ironically, is the “soul” embodying their mutual desire to figure out who they are and what they can be but Leon is the kindest of them all. To him, nobody is truly a Stranger — they’re just somebody he hasn’t gotten to know yet.

Elena also comes out and makes a strong statement about being the leader of the team in this issue — and nobody challenges her on it. In fact, Bob seems to endorse the idea and they two of them sneak away for some alone-time, which doesn’t go unnoticed by others. We get some more Hugh & Candy loving, as well, while Dave obviously feels left out as the group is breaking into little romantic cliques.

While the issue doesn’t progress the Yrial storyline very much, I still really enjoyed it. Englehart is at his best at times like this — multi-issue epics where he can mix-and-match the heroes in different settings and get deep into their emotional connections. While I wouldn’t put this story on the level of something like The Celestial Madonna storyline from Avengers, I can’t help but see echoes of such in this issue and others.

A truly fine example of why this title deserved a much longer lifespan!

Jumpstart Your Collection: Gold Holographic Covers

Ultraverse Gold Holographic CoversThe Ultraverse is a dead universe. For now, hopefully. That means no new comics have been produced since 1996, but that also means there is a finite amount of books to collect. And the good news is that most of these books can be found on the cheap.

My contribution to the Ultraverse Network will be from the collector’s angle … I have spent years trying to track down all these books and a big part of that was figuring out which books actually existed. So we’ll start from the top with the gold holographic covers.

Ultra-collectibility rating: 10/10

To me, these are the books to have. The silver holographic books are the ones most people remember, since they were distributed for the first issues of seven launch titles: Prime, Mantra, Hardcase, Strangers, Prototype, Exiles and Freex. Malibu printed 5,000 of each of these to be given out as retailer and fan incentives. These were quite the hot ticket back in the mid-1990s!

But I never even knew the golds existed until a few years ago when I started spotting them online. You don’t see them very often, but they are out there. According to a post from the Ultraverse Facebook group, Malibu publisher Scott Mitchell Rosenberg was asked at the 2012 San Diego Comic Con for the story behind the gold covers. He said there were 200 printed of each of the seven titles, also to be given out as incentives. Nobody really knows how many were actually distributed. I’m guessing a bunch of them were tossed out when Malibu was closed down after the Marvel purchase but I don’t know that for sure.

Some are easier to find than others. My entirely unscientific observation from years of following eBay auctions is that the easiest to spot are Mantra, Protoype and Exiles. Freex is a little tougher. Prime is tougher still. And Hardcase and Strangers are really rare. In a typical year I see anywhere from 10-20 auctions with these. Last year somebody sold 10 gold Mantras in a single batch(the auction said it was some type of warehouse find). Five years ago a set of all seven sold for $150; this year individual golds have been selling for up to $40. It’s not impossible to put together a set, but it will take a lot of time and effort unless you just get lucky (like the dude who got all seven at once).

By the way, these books are beautiful! Holograms were not that unusual back then, but the effect works stunningly well when it takes up the entire cover.

One note about the Ultraforce holographic cover. It’s also gold, but was printed seperately. There is no silver version of this book, and there are 5,500 golds. It’s easy to find; I bought 20 from Mile High for $32 total in 2007. So lets just not include that book when we are talking about the others.

“Atom Bob Brought You Down! Remember The Name!”

The Strangers #10The Strangers # 10
“The Door To Doom!”
Written by Steve Englehart
Art by Rick Hoberg and Tim Eldred
Edited by Roland Mann

This issue starts off with a really fun cover as The Strangers are engaged in undersea combat with some sort of demon that’s partially emerged from a rift of some kind. At first glance, it’s kind of confusing as to where they are and what’s going on but I find myself spending a lot of time looking at it and it’s got some definite energy so I give it a thumb’s up.

Story-wise, the team has finally found the coordinates that Yrial gave them and they end up traveling through a rift into another dimension — one inhabited by a demon king named Bastinado. Bastinado has a peculiar way of talking that’s amusing but it also sort of undercuts the threat we’re supposed to be feeling. Here’s some examples: “Bastinado! Bastinado me! you t’ink Bastinado foolish — Bastinado no speak your words good!” Honestly, Bastinado, you speak English as well as some folks that I know around here. You’re fine, really.

After an epic battle, Atom Bob steps up to the plate and kicks Bastinado’s ass, pretty much single-handedly. The team then departs, having learned some powerful secrets about Yrial’s people that they believe will help convince the chief to let her go… or else they’ll spill the beans about what they know.

If it sounds like I’m giving the plot short thrift, it’s because I am.

I want to talk about something very specific here — in the previous issues we’ve seen Bob struggling with his role on the team. Is he a leader? He’s clashed a bit with Elena because while people naturally gravitate to Bob, she’s the one with the actual experience running groups. In this issue, she saves his life at one point, leading to a bruised ego on his part.

And that leads to something else we’ve seen from Bob — a desperate need to prove himself, not just as a hero but as a man. He’s tried and failed to impress Choice, Electrocute and Elena. While the implication is that Elena and Bob may have gotten physical between last issue and this one, he still feels like he’s a failure in her eyes. He wants to show everyone that he’s strong, capable and potent. In the battle with Bastinado, we see Bob’s power really come to the fore and he looks almost demonic in battle, with his eyes glowing red and with him shouting his name, demanding that everyone take note of him.

I generally try to stay away from spoilers for later in the series, instead pretending that we’re all reading these books for the first time as I review them. But all of these story points really come to fruition down the line and it’s worth noting that Englehart has planted these seeds early on. It’s a remarkable bit of plotting and character building.

Art-wise, things are very strong here. I liked the demons and any time Hoberg gets to draw Elena in a swimsuit is fine by me. There’s a nice shot of several team members in their costume that’s almost pin-up worthy, as well.

At the back of the book is a tribute to Jack Kirby, with remembrances from various people in the Ultraverse family. Well worth checking out.

Another great issue – the book has definitely hit its stride!

 

Arr! Here Be Pirates!

The Strangers #9 cover by Rick HobergThe Strangers # 9
“Taken By This Guy!”

Written by Steve Englehart
Layouts by Rick Hoberg
Pencils by Steve Skroce
Inks by Tim Eldred
Edited by Roland Mann

Let me start by saying that this is one of my all-time favorite issues of The Strangers. There’s some seriously whacked-out stuff that goes on in here but it’s delightfully strange and I love it.

Our heroes are in hot pursuit of answers when we begin our story, intent on following up on the coordinates given to them by Yrial before she was taken away by her people last issue. As such, they’re boarding a yacht in the Caribbean and we get some incredibly awesome character work from Englehart here — we get to see more of Hugh and Candy’s romance, which while extremely physical does seem to include some genuine emotional connections, as well. Hugh seems to recognize that he’s lucky in this relationship and doesn’t want to screw it up. Meanwhile, romance is brewing in other quarters, as well — Bob has taken an interest in Candy’s physical attributes while Elena is admiring him, in turn. There’s some fun stuff where Elena is thinking how strange it is that age 31, she’s the “old woman” of the group. She decides to try flirting with 19-year old Bob to prove that there’s some life left in her!

Meanwhile, Leon continues to prove that he’s really the heart of the group as he worries about Yrial. Leon is usually the one who shows the most genuine concern about the other members — especially Yrial, with whom he bonded early on. It’s a sweet side to his character and I’m glad that Englehart didn’t go the “angry black youth” route with the character.

Once they decide to take a break on an island they’re passing, we get to see my favorite parts of the issue — Cap’n Scar and his gang of Ultra pirates: Scar himself is able to absorb powers via a scar on his chest; Gecko is a lizard man; Sandblast is basically Marvel’s Sandman; Yardarm is able to stretch his arms; and Sangre seems stronger and faster than a normal woman. The villains talk in pirate-speak and attack passing ships, looting them for all they’re worth… and they’re thrilled to see The Strangers. Why? Because they were also on the cable-car in issue one! When they got their powers, they decided to become pirates.

That’s right!

They decided to become pirates.

I adore that. I do wonder — did they talk like pirates before they got their powers? Did they always have a fondness for nautical stuff? Or did one of them pitch it to the others as a gimmick? I’d really like to know! It just doesn’t seem like something a normal group of people would do. Rob banks? Sure. Get revenge on bullies from school? I could see that. Start hanging out in the Caribbean talking like pirates and dressing like one? Huh.

Anyway, The Strangers defeat the bad guys and leave them for the Coast Guard to pick up. They then resume their trek towards the coordinates that Yrial gave them. In terms of progressing the “epic” from last issue, this one didn’t do much but it gave us some great character moments and the villains were a blast so I give it an enthusiastic thumb’s up!

The art here is by Skroce, following Hoberg’s layouts, and the stuff is gorgeous. Everyone looks great and the action scenes are never confusing. I love the designs on the pirate villains, too.

Great stuff!

Next issue: The Door to Doom!

Lady Killer Joins Your DC Heroes RPG Campaign?

Lady KillerIf you’re a fan of classic roleplaying games, you probably remember DC Heroes, a much beloved game published by Mayfair back in the 1980s. A number of people still play this system and over at writeups.org, you can find a number of heroes that have been statted up and are ready for play.

Lo and behold, one of them is Lady Killer from The Strangers! Sébastien Alexandre Andrivet did the honors and I’m sure he’d appreciate hearing some feedback if you use her in your campaigns.

Here’s a handy page listing all their Ultraverse writeups — you’ll have to keep clicking through the pages to see them all.

Enjoy!

The Strangers # 8: An Epic Begins

The Strangers #8 by Steve Englehart and Rick Hoberg The Strangers # 8
“Taken By the Sky!”
Written by Steve Englehart, Art by Rick Hoberg (pages 1-16), Steve Skroce (17-24) & Tim Eldred (inks)
Edited by Roland Mann

The cover proclaims “Beginning Their First Epic!” which kinda discounts the recently concluded Break-Thru, doesn’t it? Anyway, we start with our heroes returning to Earth and finding a large contingent of media (and military) waiting for them. As Grenade points out, “Stealing J.D. Hunt’s rocket from an air force base will do that for you!”

There’s a nice exchange between Leopold (of Aladdin) and Captain Christopher Dugan. While Aladdin wants The Strangers to come in for questioning, the Captain refuses, claiming that he gave our heroes permission to use the rocket — this is obviously not the case but Dugan feels the world owes The Strangers thanks for their role in defusing the crisis. Awful nice of him, isn’t it?

We also get a conversation between David and Dugan about gays serving in the military. Keep in mind that this was during the Clinton era and the topic of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was definitely seeping into the minds of the populace. Englehart’s own views come across pretty clearly, I believe, as Dugan responds to David’s admission of his homosexuality by saying, “We’re not all neanderthals in the service, son! I signed up to protect the country, not worry about its love life! The only way I rate people is by effort on the job!”

It’s interesting to see how far we’ve come on discussions like this in just a couple of decades — by today’s standards, dialogue like this seems very heavy-handed and preachy but at the time, it was a pretty bold declaration.

It’s at this point that Chief Aula shows up and informs Yrial that it’s time to come home — she was assigned to The Strangers to help them learn about their origins and she’s done so. Thus, her mission is over. To everyone’s surprise, Yrial states that she’d like to remain with the group and learn more about their ways but this only proves to the Chief that she’s grown too close to them. Yrial strikes out at her leader but eventually relents, telling her friends to abide by her decision to follow the dictates of her people.

The Strangers, of course, ignore this and fly to Sky Island in hopes of getting her back. They liberate Yrial and she tells them that she’s secretly visited their world many times and grown to appreciate it. After a terrific battle between Sky Island’s inhabitants and The Strangers, Yrial once again submits to the Chief’s orders and she’s imprisoned. The Strangers leave but Elena discovers that Yrial slipped a small piece of clay into the folds of her cloak — one that hads longitude and latitude coordinates on it. The Strangers realize that Yrial still needs their help and they swear to follow through on this clue.

Story-wise… some good moments, especially for Yrial. She was always my least-favorite member of the team and so any storyline set amongst her people were never my favorites. Even so, we have nice scenes for several different characters, though by this time I was beginning to feel that David was being defined by his sexuality, as opposed to having it just be a part of who he was. Again, I realize what Englehart was going for and applaud it but it’s still a bit cumbersome.

Steve Skroce, who would do some fine work at Marvel, fills in here on the latter half of the book and does a nice job. In fact, he does a passable imitation of Rick Hoberg — which may be attributable to Eldred on inks. Skroce draws a very fetching Electrocute, in particular.

The cover… I don’t like it. Several characters (like Candy) look stiff and weird and the colors on Yrial makes her fade into the background.

So we’re off and running on this ‘epic’ and we’ll have to see if it lives up to the billing.

Steve Englehart Speaks (Circa 2005)!

230px-SteveEnglehartOne of the big movers and shakers of the Ultraverse was, of course, Steve Englehart. Between The Strangers and Night Man, he did a lot to define the universe that we all love. I came across this chat transcript from 2005 and thought it might be of interest to everyone. The entire thing is fascinating and covers the whole gamut of his writing career but there is a little nugget of Ultraverse info that I’m sharing here:

Jellobay: Any chance Night Man or the Strangers might make a comeback?
Steve Englehart: I don’t think there’s much chance of Ultraverse stuff coming back.
Steve Englehart: I had a long talk with Marvel recently and they gave me no hope in that direction.
Jellobay: Too bad. There would be a market for it.
Steve Englehart: I agree there’d be a market for the Ultraverse, but Marvel says no.
Brian Cronin: Is it a sales thing, or a rights thing, Steve? Or an “I can’t talk about it” thing?
Steve Englehart: It’s some sort of contract thing, as best as I can tell. I was skeptical of that for a long time, but I keep hearing it.
Steve Englehart: Something evidently in the agreement between Marvel and Malibu, though I can’t even imagine what it could be. In the end, the contract explanation could just be hot air. All I know is, they don’t want to go there.

Here is some more about The Strangers in particular:

Lex: Mr. Englehart, I just wanted to thank you for your “Strangers” comic. It was one of the comics I followed when I first became a comics reader. I think of it as starting my love of this medium. So, thank you for that.
Jellobay: “Strangers” was the best, I still read through them from time to time.
Steve Englehart: I liked that book a lot, too, and it tends to get overlooked now because of the “Night Man.” But I have to say, overall, I get asked about the Ultraverse a lot, which tells me people really would like to see it again…which brings me back to Marvel’s not wanting to go there

Lex: Which was your favorite “Strangers” character to write?
Steve Englehart: Well, I have to say Atom Bob, because he was, in the beginning, so laid back about it all…and in the end, he was something else entirely.

Lex: Atom Bob. He was always my favorite. Did you intend for him to become the Pilgrim from the beginning?
Steve Englehart: No, I did not intend the Pilgrim thing from the beginning. I just sort of said one day “who would be the least likely person…?”
Brian Cronin: I remember being really freaked out by that
Brian Cronin: The pilgrim revelation.
Lex: Well, yeah, he was the least likely person to become Pilgrim. I didn’t realize how emotional invested I was in the Strangers characters until that happened. It was huge!
Brian Cronin: Yeah, Lex. It is long enough ago that I’m detached now. but at the time, I’m sure I was foaming at the mouth, “how could you do that?!?”
Steve Englehart: I love to make readers foam. :)

Brian Cronin: By the by, “Strangers” can’t be as good as “Night Man,” because Night Man had a team-up with Gambit!
Jellobay: I’m a Marvel fan boy, but they ruined the Ultraverse.
Steve Englehart: Yeah, various Ultraverse characters have appeared in the Marvel Universe– but now there’s an edict that they can’t any more, for the same unclear reasons as below. But I have been saying for ten years now, it would so cool for these guys, who only knew a few superheroes among themselves, and had achieved a level of celebrity in their universe– if they came to the Marvel Universe, they wouldn’t know they were supposed to be impressed by Spider-Man, or care who the X-Men were. It would let us see the Marvel U with fresh eyes. But it’s never happened.

Brian Cronin: Did you write for the “Night Man” TV series?
Steve Englehart: I wrote 3 episodes of the TV series.

Do check out the entire transcript for more!

 

 

The Strangers # 7: Prototype!

strangers7The Strangers # 7
“Prototype-A Behavior”
Scripted by Steve Englehart with co-plot by Tom Mason & Len Strazewski
Art by Rick Hoberg & Tim Eldred
Edited by Roland Mann

This issue picks up from Break-Thru # 1 and Prototype # 5 so we start in the middle of the action — The Strangers, we are told, have stolen J.D. Hunt’s rocket to get to the moon in hopes of investigating the strange energies that are found there. Now, I thought about doing mini-reviews of those other issues but I chose not to because both series will be covered elsewhere and I think we all need to be reminded sometimes of what it’s like to follow only one or two series — and then have said series hijacked by a crossover. It’s been about 20 years since I’ve read Break-Thru and much of my memory is cloudy… so reading this issue of Strangers is very much like being a reader who chose not to follow the rest of the crossover.

How does it hold up?

Pretty well, actually!

We get some really fun interactions between Prototype and The Strangers — I particularly enjoyed Prototype claiming that he’s a more experienced Ultra than our heroes and Electrocute pointing out that all he did was trade shows and public appearances until The Strangers showed up. We also get to meet Supra and Empire, who are there to reclaim the rocket — as is Prototype. Obviously, this means that we get some classic hero-on-hero action! That sounds kinda rude but you know what I mean…

We also learn that Dave’s indigo power allows them to survive in space. Yes, it turns out that whatever force gave The Strangers their powers knew they’d eventually need to leave Earth and journey into the stars.

Meanwhile, Yrial and Electrocute battle Prototype out in space and we’re reminded once more that our android heroine is one of the most powerful members of the team. Her actions lead to Prototype realizing that fighting is getting him nowhere so he surrenders and offers to work with The Strangers. A wise decision.

After battling some carnivorous aliens, Empire is killed and Electrocute is reminded once more of how little she understands about the human experience… seeing death so close and personal greatly upsets her and leads to her begging Grenade for comfort. If it sounds like I focus a lot on Electrocute in these reviews it’s because Englehart’s characterization really shines in her scenes. She’s the classic “tin man” who yearns to be human and while it’s a classic trope, it’s always effective when done well.

There’s an emotional sacrifice on the part of Supra that allows our heroes to escape with the rocket and continue their trek to the moon — kind of a shame to see both of the new characters we’re introduce to here killed off but they’re more interesting in death than they were beforehand.

We then get an absolutely hilarious two-page strip featuring Englehart and Hoberg explaining The Strangers and their origins to some young fans, who continually point out all the other heroes that are similar or that these creators have worked on previously. I loved this. Really, really worth seeking out.

Story-wise, this is a fun issue with solid characterization. Even if you aren’t reading the rest of Break-Thru, it made sense and progressed not just the crossover’s plot but the ongoing Strangers subplots.

Great art from Hoberg — as always, his facial expressions are solid and he draws a fantastic Prototype!

Next issue: The End of a Stranger?! Can it be? Stay tuned….