After last week’s post, I went through and read the entire Prime series (through number 26, the last Malibu issue and the last issue I have). And I remembered the things that the Ultraverse didn’t do so well.
The first set of Prime adventures revolved around Kevin Green discovering how to control his powers and being hunted down by Dr. Gross, the scientist who “invented” him. Once Prime got away from Dr. Gross, he was recruited by the government to look into a situation on the moon, which led to Break-Thru, Ultraverse’s first company-wide crossover event (yes, they had one in their very first year).
When Kevin returned, he ended up running afoul of the government dudes who’d sent him on the mission and was abducted and held prisoner, leading to a crossover with Firearm, with the cover pictured above. This was not the only crossover in the book; there had been a few before that, including one with Mantra immediately after the return from the moon that was actually resolved in her book, meaning the cliffhanger from issue #8 was completely resolved by the time issue #9 started.
Which was one of the more annoying things about the Ultraverse in general. When I mentioned last week that they had several characters who appeared to be analogues of DC and Marvel characters, that wasn’t a complaint, or a suggestion that their books felt stale or imitative. The superhero universes of DC and Marvel had by then grown into what felt sort of like an ecology, with several specific niches that were filled by particular types of characters. Ultraverse did the same thing, and I’m trying to do a sort of variant with Hero Go Home and the other Digger stories.
But Ultraverse also copied the big two in their marketing strategies, which would normally be a good idea. In the mid-90’s, though, those marketing strategies ultimately led to an implosion of the industry, and Prime is a good example. I don’t know if they did the variant cover gimmick on Prime, but he had issues which were flipbooks, he had crossover events, and he had random guest stars from other books wandering in and out.
Back to Firearm. The Firearm crossover had such an effect on young Kevin that Prime’s appearance actually changed. Since Prime was a protoplasmic body that was basically built from Kevin’s imagination, suddenly Prime was now a rockin’ bad boy in leather and chains, with a facial scar that imitated Firearm’s.
The storyline changed, too. Prime became a rebellious teenager, trying to prove to everyone that he was his own man, getting angrier and angrier every time something he did turned sour, and that was pretty much everything. He was a really big brat with five o’ clock shadow.
This part of the storyline was a necessary part of Kevin’s growth as a character, I guess, but it got old really fast. Looking back, it only lasted about six months, but it felt a lot longer. Mainly because every issue consisted of a lot of this:
This was also the period where they started up the revolving guest artists, which didn’t make the book any more appealing. Plus, members of the cast became almost unrecognizable month-to-month. Prime, not so much, because he was already a caricature, so as long as you kept the main features–the ridiculous musculature, the costume, the hair and beard and scar–it was easy to recognize him.
But young Kelly, for instance, Kevin’s crush, had been drawn in a consistent manner by Norm Breyfogle. She had long straight hair and a young, innocent look. Some artists did a pretty good job with her, but others had a bit more trouble. For instance, in issue 16, Joel Thomas and Jason Martin give Kelly this swooping hairdo and sometimes make her look like an elf…
While in issue #20, Greg Luzniak and Dennis Jensen made Kevin’s mom a tight miniskirt-wearing ultraMILF and turned Kelly into a half-dressed sexpot.
That issue also saw an assassin do a drive-by on Prime with an arrow, which he doesn’t notice at first (because Kevin’s real head is in Prime’s chest)…
Which was yet another example of the way the storytelling became more and more fragmented as they kept trying to tie books into each other. In this case, Rafferty, a character from Firearm, appeared on page 22 without explanation or introduction, shot an exploding arrow through Prime’s head while flying by in a gondola of some sort maybe (?), and was never heard from again. It led to an interesting series of events after, but it came from out of nowhere.
Which is why I think I had no patience with the Marvel transition. It was hard enough keeping track of the Ultraverse when it was only their own books they were interacting with. I could only imagine the truly epic clusterfuck awaiting when they tried to integrate these characters with the vastly larger Marvel universe, with all its contorted continuity. So I ditched Ultraverse and Prime and so missed out on this.
I do not regret that decision one bit.