Ultraverse: Ragnarok

 

Hello, Legions of the Unspoken!  It’s been a bit since Ol’ Dean Compton has been able to celebrate the greatness of 90’s comics with y’all, but life has been getting in the way.  Hopefully things are starting to calm down and I can get here a lot more often.

One thing that doesn’t seem to be calming down anytime soon is the public’s hunger for superhero movies, especially Marvel movies.  The Cinematic Universe has excited the public in a way that very few other movie franchises seem to be doing these days.  Black Panther has taken the world by storm, and it’s very, very good!  The movie that preceded it, though, Thor: Ragnarok, had a very neato tidbit that’d get a 90’s comic book fan as excited as a puppy in a dog park.

One of the most beloved of the many universes, and maybe the most beloved, that popped up in the 90’s was the Ultraverse.  Malibu’s big swing for the fences wound up coming up short, but for a while prior to the Marvel purchase, the little company that could on the left coast was spitting out fascinating ideas faster than seeds at a watermelon eating contest.  One of those ideas seems to have shown up in Thor:  Ragnarok, and her name is Topaz.

 

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While this Topaz looks decidedly different from the Ultraverse’s Topaz, the similarities are fairly shocking and vastly outweigh the differences.

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Yeah, the similarities don’t just jump out at you when you look at two pictures next to each other.

Topaz was an integral member of UltraForce who used a power staff to keep her enemies in line.  She is a warrior-queen from a matriarchal realm, and she’s pretty female supremacist.  Now I know that’s gonna float some boats for some fellas reading this, but it was also fun watching her attempt to learn how to integrate into a male-dominated society in UltraForce.  She used a power staff to deal with threats, and she got caught up in a big cosmic scuffle featuring The Avengers, Thor, and…The Grandmaster.  Sound like the Topaz from the movie a little.  TRY A LOT.

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Loki on this cover looks like a kid who just figured out how to steal some cookies without his parents knowing.
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Loki being involved in this shindig with the Grandmaster, UltraForce, and the Avengers just further cements my belief that this Topaz is indeed the Topaz in Thor:  Ragnarok.   Also, these covers are awesome, but confusing.  They’re nowhere near as confusing as the actual story though, which is fucking saying something, amirite?

Topaz is one of the central characters in the UltraForce/Avengers crossover, which has a lot of dealings with The Grandmaster.  Sound familiar?  In the movie, she’s the right-hand woman of the Grandmaster, and she fights Thor.  In the UltraForce/Avengers crossover, she teams with Siren to take on Crystal and Black Widow as part of the game between Grandmaster and Loki.  There’s never a huge Avengers vs. UltraForce showdown, as the crossover mostly follows the “heroes meet, fight, realize they are on the same side/being manipulated, team up against the threat, and then look really cool doing it” template.

 

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George Perez is the fucking man.

But the really important thing about Topaz right now isn’t her history, although as I said, she’s fun in UltraForce, and her debut in Giant-Size Mantra #1 is pretty awesome too.  It’s the fact that Ultraverse fans like myself have been waiting for Marvel and Disney to do something with this dormant universe for way too long.  The Ultraverse was full of fantastic ideas and amazing characters, and it was created by a group of some of the best writers in comic books.  The universe was shepherded well by Chris Ulm, Tom Mason, Dave Olbrich, and Scott Mitchell Rosenberg so that everything felt important and needed.  You never knew when something small would happen and it would balloon into something huge.  Until the Valiant relaunch, it was easily the best universe created since the Marvel Universe.

For about 20 years, Ultraverse fans waited and waited for any sign of life from the Ultraverse.  There would be rumors, rumors of rumors, and Joe Quesada flat out saying that these characters would never see the light of day again.  Ultraverse fans like myself finally have a ray of hope with Topaz showing up in this movie.  Will Prime return?  Hardcase?  Firearm?  The Solution?  Will they get their own comics back?  Maybe a Netflix show?  I know the 90’s kids who loved The Strangers and Sludge sure hope so!  Here’s to seeing a lot more Ultraverse characters in the comics, on TV, and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe very, very soon!

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Vengeance for the Rider (Part 1)

RCO001Welcome back, my fellow Unspoken-ites! (God, that’s never gonna catch on….) It is I, your loyal Symbifan, returned to share with you my hilarious and thought-provoking observations. (You know you love me!) This time, I speak of the short but awesome period in which The Spirit of Vengeance had seemingly been destroyed and another rider had risen up to claim the mantle! I speak of course of Vengeance! Intrigued? Well then, without further ado….

RCO003Our tale begins in a dark and dank mausoleum within the gates of Cypress Hill Cemetery. Here, perched atop a dusty pedestal, rests all that remains of the Ghost Rider. His grinning skull stares blankly at nothingness. His unholy flame to burn no more. (Damn, I’m an awesome writer, huh? I mean, I really set the mood there! Self high five!)

Now, it should be noted here that this in not a Ghost Rider story per se. No, this is a story that focuses on the character known as Vengeance during his time filling the boots of the title character. That said, there will be parts of the story pertaining to Ghost Rider or other supporting characters that I will leave out of my narrative. This doesn’t mean that I dislike the original story or characters that the good folks at Marvel so lovingly created. I simply wish to focus on a different character’s journey. This is Vengeance’s time to shine. (Whew! I was way too serious for way too long there! Let’s return to the article, shall we?)

RCO013We find Lt. Michael Badilino parking his motorcycle outside the aforementioned mausoleum. As the motor runs he ponders, with Ghost Rider dead, does he even need or want his powers as the demonic vigilante called Vengeance? He is still a cop after all. He can still do good in the world without his skull-headed alter ego. He wishes to know, not for the first time since his death, what Dan Ketch AKA Ghost Rider, would advise him to do. As he wanders within to pay his respects, he is surprised to see that the skull and leather jacket of his friend and ally….are missing! (But we just saw them on page one! Damn crafty thieves! You turn around for one second and wham!) Enraged, hellfire bursts through the mausoleum doors, transforming Badilino’s bike! Moments later, a transformed Badilino emerges himself. Only he is Lt. Michael Badilino no more. He is Vengeance! Balling his leather-clad fists, he vows that he will find Ghost Rider’s remains and that whoever took them will feel his wrath! (Neat, huh?! Go on. Keep reading!)

RCO017_w-1We then find ourselves at another part of the same cemetery. At this particular mausoleum, graverobbers are just putting the final touches on a lock and chain with their trusty crowbar. They comment on just how much the price for human skulls has gone up. (Take note, kiddies. Comics do teach you valuable things.) As they enter, they immediately find their gruesome prize. But before they can claim it, a clawed hand slashes through the air, decapitating one of the thieves! Unaware of this, Vengeance rides out of the cemetery gates, deep in thought. It’s then that the clawed creature makes itself known as it easily hurtles the fence, bag in hand! Vengeance is witness to this and decides that Ghost Rider would investigate this further if he were in this situation. He revs up his hellish bike and speeds off after the monster, leaving a hellfire trail in his wake!

It doesn’t take long to locate the creature. Vengeance spies it fleeing down a nearby alleyway on foot. Timing it just right, he leaps from his motorcycle and strait towards the monster! Just then, a clawed hand snaps back, catching our hero by the throat! The momentum and the creature’s own strength is then used to toss Vengeance straight into a parked car! (I’d be saying, “Let’s see the Carfax.”) This minor setback doesn’t keep the rider down for long. He leaps to his feet in just enough time for the beast’s form to finally be revealed! (Look at that thing! Damn, it looks like a sexy Kardashian!)

RCO022It then speaks, threatening to take the skull of our ghostly champion! Vengeance answers this with a blast of hellfire channelled from his fist! This hurls the creature through a brick wall at the opposite end of the alley, destroying the bag it carried. It is revealed to have been filled with human skulls! Declaring this to be the thief of Ghost Rider’s skull, Vengeance attacks again by leaping at his enemy. This proves foolish once again as he is struck in midair by a giant fist! The creature then pulls some sort of “lightsaber thingy” from God-knows-where and lifts Vengeance by the throat with it’s free hand. But as the monster raises the weapon to strike, Vengeance stabs it straight through the heart with one of his shoulder spikes! He then follows up by throwing a few more into the beast for good measure! The fight is finished by pummeling what life remains out of it with his fists! (Talk about brutal! I haven’t been this pained since I watched DC’s Steel movie starring Shaq! Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad….the beating wasn’t anyway.)

RCO025-1.jpgLater, Vengeance meets up with others of the Ghost Rider extended family to bury the hero the traditional way. It turns out that the skull and jacket been in the care of a loved one, not quite ready to let go. When the rider is final laid to rest, Vengeance watches from a short distance and makes a silent vow. He would protect the innocent like Ghost Rider before him. He would be the new Spirit of Vengeance!

RCO032But wait, there’s more! Our next issue begins with a highly decorated police officer being thrown from a tall building! He lands many stories below only to be vaporized by a blast from the sword of his killer who’s standing high above! (It’s now that I feel that I have to share a picture of this assassin. Why? Because of his amazing purple jammies, of course! Nothing says hired killer more than a skin-tight purple one-piece after all! We’re dealing with a real pro here!)

RCO004_w-1Anyway, we return to the murder scene where Lt. Michael Badilino has just arrived. He examines what remains of the corpse, stating that he knew the other officer well and that whoever did this is going to pay. Just then, the killer is spotted above by Badilino! He hasn’t left the scene after all! Running at top speed, he rushes after the perp! But when he reaches the correct floor, he finds himself facing not only his friend’s murderer, but his deadly blade! It turns out that the killer, called Dread, has been awaiting him in particular and that a Mr. Hellgate sends his regards! Dread then pulls the same “energy blasting sword routine” on Badilino! Badilino is faster then his friend before him, however, and manages a dodge down some nearby stairs! It is at the bottom of said stairs that Michael Badilino ceases to exist, and Vengeance is reborn!

RCO008Wasting little time, Vengeance races back up the stairs to confront a very confused assassin! Very few words are spoken between them before Dread attacks, slashing his blade through our hero’s midsection! Vengeance counters with a thrown fist but misses as the villain flips over him, onto the roof. It’s there that both combatants unleash energy blasts at one another! But, before the battle can continue, police finally arrive on the scene. Dread executes a backflip and disappears, leaving Vengeance to take an onslaught of bullets from the cops! Not wanting to hurt other defenders of justice, Vengeance falls from the roof and disappears himself.

RCO015-1.jpgWe are then transported to a scene below the Cypress Hill Police Headquarters where Badilino and his special task force plot the destruction of this “new” Ghost Rider as they did the one before. Well, all but Badilino that is. He shows little interest in taking down this fire-headed vigilante. (Gee, I wonder why! This just reeks of irony! I mean, wouldn’t this fall under suicide if he were into the conversation?) Badilino calls it an early night, surprising his police pals, and exits. But he’s not out for the night. Oh no. The night has only just begun for his alter-ego!

RCO020_w-1And what a night it is! Vengeance uses all of Lt. Michael Badilino’s police knowledge to track down, invade, and generally scare the piss out of every criminal lowlife possible! And all the while, he questions those conscious about Hellgate. He continues to come up empty until, feeling defeated, he finally decides to call it quits and head home. Later, while sitting in his apartment, Badilino considers his options until suddenly, his very own task force bursts in his door, weapons at the ready! As it turns out, Dread is in Badilino’s apartment complex, searching for him! Transforming when he’s free of his mens’ prying eyes, Vengeance finds Dread and the battle begins!

The fight starts with Vengeance charging Dread like a damn football player on gamma-steroids (Which seems to be a trend with the guy, admittedly. I mean, geez, his opponent has obviously shown he’s quite the nimble little minx! Think, man! Think!) This is easily dodged with a forward somersault and kick to the spine. (See?!) Dread then comes at the hero with his sword. This time, though, Vengeance is ready and dodges the attack! He then kicks the purple-clad assassin (Snicker!) under the chin, throwing him off balance. Before he can recover, Vengeance then delivers blow after blow until the villain can no longer stand! As the police arrive on the scene to arrest Dread, Vengeance takes his leave, but not before Dread can have the final word. He threatens that when Mr. Hellgate gets him out of jail, he will remember this night and come searching for our hero!

To be concluded….

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(Dedicated to my amazing sweetheart, Renee Grill, for giving me the awesome title for this article and listening to my pointless comic theories and trivia for over ten years! She’s the true superhero for not going crazy! Lol! Love you, baby!)

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Dream Come True (Part 3)

MidsummersNightmare

Greetings and salutations, fans of the Unspoken! Tis I, your loyal Symbifan, back as promised to deliver the third and final part of my look back at the “Justice League: A Midsummer’s Nightmare” storyline! Well, it didn’t take me nearly as long to get this part out to you as part 2, but I do apologize for the wait. I know how beloved I am by all of you out there on the net. (You may roll you eyes sarcastically starting….now!) Anyway, shall we finish this puppy? Let us begin.

RCO004_w_1467649128-1.jpgLast time, despite the odds, the Justice League found each other in a universe gone mad and banded together! The final issue begins with the soon-to-be-JLA fighting a group of everyday people granted with superpowers. The metahumans are being schooled by our heroes, but time grows short. They must discover if Dr. Destiny is in fact behind this or if a new threat has emerged. The metas may have no chance of winning this battle but they do have the numbers. To be blunt, this is taking forever to beat a bunch of cannon fodder. (Hey, Superman called them that, not me! I know, right?! And he’s usually such a goody-two-shoes!)

So, what does Martian Manhunter do? Only the most awesome Martian mind trick ever! He performs a mass telepathic assault that causes all assembled, except the good guys, to suffer seizures and pass out! (Don’t tick off a Martian! Well, unless you have a Zippo lighter. Lol! Ah, I amuse myself!) Moving on, after this display of mental might, the group discusses whether or not they even have the right to stop the world from gaining super-powers. I mean, they have tons themselves. Hardly seems fair. But it’s finally agreed that letting everyone on Earth posses godlike powers just might be a bad idea in the long run. So to stop this, they need to discover the root of the problem. But how to locate the villain in a world of powered-up peeps?

RCO012_1467649128-1That’s when Martian Manhunter comes to the realization that only one man knows Dr. Destiny’s location….Kyle Rayner AKA Green Lantern! After all, wasn’t he drawing this in a comic book all the way back in issue one? Manhunter then invades Kyle’s personal space and does his whole Martian “laying-of-hands” trick with poor Green Lantern’s head and enters his mind! He does find out exactly what he wants to know, and faster than the Flash does dishes, they’re off! It doesn’t take long for them to reach their destination.

Superman wants to rush right in swinging, but Batman reminds him that no one on this Earth knows who they are or that they are, in fact, good guys. He talks them all into staying put while he does his thing, and in no time they have access to the installation. (Never ceases to amaze, does he? Except when keeping the inmates of Arkham off the streets! Ooooooh! Burn!) The team is faced with several illusions along the many corridors but soon make it to the most secured room. Smashing their way in, they discover Dr. Destiny, held captive and being drained of his power! With little effort,  he is freed and starts to spill the beans on who has been using him to make the world the way it is when….the villain arrives!

RCO022_1467649128The being calls himself Know Man! (I know! Sounds like what Sheldon Cooper from “Big Bang Theory” would call himself  if he became an evil mastermind!) But I digress. The heroes begin their assault, but to no avail. Even Supes is knocked into the ionosphere by the guy! That’s when Batman comes up with a risky plan. He removes the mind-reaching equipment from Dr. Destiny and slaps it onto Martian Manhunter and Aquaman with the hopes of mentally reversing it’s evil effects! (That’s right! Aquaman has telepathic powers that can be used on more than just fish! He’s a total badass! That said, I expect an autographed picture any day of Jason Momoa for my girlfriend for typing that sentence.) As the two heroes reach out with their minds to an entire planet, the others are getting seriously kicked around by the villain!

RCO027_w_1467649128-1That’s when Know Man performs his most heinous act….he monologues his origin story! It turns out that the guy used to be an honest-to-Flintstone caveman! You heard me right! Long ago, a race called the Controllers decided that the universe was such a dangerous place that an anti-war deterrent was needed in every sector of space to keep everyone safe. One of these Controllers crash landed on the Earth and was discovered by the being that would become Know Man! The caveman was chosen to continue this mission, as the Controller was dying. He soon gained entrance into the spaceship and began to evolve, both mentally and physically. He was even gifted with immortality! Know Man witnessed many horrors throughout his long life. And when superbeings started surfacing, he decided it was his time to act. He would me remake the Earth into an entire world of super-powered humans. He would make the heroes and villains of old obsolete! (Whew! Long-winded fella, huh?)

RCO029_1467649128The group listens to all of this in near silence until they decide they’ve heard enough. Superman leads the charge! But before an attack can be made, the heroes suddenly find themselves transported into their own personal Hells, based on their own fears about themselves! All seems lost until Martian Manhunter frees himself with the surprising help of….Dr. Destiny! And, just like that, the people of Earth begin to return to normal! Mission accomplished, but he still needs to free his friends. That’s when he spies Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth! Using its power, combined with his mental willpower, he reaches out to each hero and makes them see the truth about themselves. They are heroes. Superheroes.

RCO042_1467649128-1Returned to their senses, the heroes attack! But Know Man no longer wishes to fight! Even though they have thwarted his plans, they have only succeeded in dooming the human race to a future threat he has forseen! (Yeah! Like that’ll ever happen! It’s not like comic writers lie in bed at night and dream up new and more powerful villains all of the time! Right?) Anyway, Know Man then disappears, leaving the big question: Where do they go from here? It is decided that if bigger threats do in fact exist out there, they are way stronger together than they ever were apart. And so, The Justice League of America is born! Yes, to us comic fans, it truly was a dream come true.

RCO047_1467649128(Dedicated to my bestfriend, Tim Osborn, for showing me the wonder of the traditional superhero.)

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