Welcome back to Rotten Ink, friends and readers, and welcome to another trip down memory lane with Malibu Comics and the Ultraverse line of heroes. For this one we will be taking a look at Hardcase! Growing up Malibu Comics characters were on my radar as I found them to be very cool modern heroes. Cool looking characters like Prime, Sludge, Prototype and Mantra were all ones I felt I had to read and others I was lukewarm on as their looks didn’t get my attention like the Ultra Hero that we will be covering here, the powerhouse known as Hardcase who just looked like a generic hero and a knock off of Wonder Man from Marvel Comics. But over the years I have come to really enjoy the heroic adventures of Hardcase and am looking forward to this update, so with that, let’s check out the Ultraverse world and the join Hardcase in it.
Tom Hawke was a down on his lucky actor in Hollywood who was looking for a big break with a big role, and after the “Jumpstart Effect” was unleashed by the aliens to bring out the Ultra Powers of some people, he gained some abilities that included super strength, durability and decides to team with fellow Ultra Heroes and so with Starburst, D.J. Blast and Forsa they formed the team The Squad! And Hardcase and his friends became heroes who helped stop crime as well as did what they could for charity events. But after a fight with an entity called the NM-E, his superhero life was changed forever. And after returning to Hollywood he would become an action star actor and as well would once more be forced back into being a superhero, and would become a mainstay in the world of Ultras and be involved in many of the big events. His super powers include being super strong, can leap over a mile, is able to shrug off almost all battle damage, extreme temperature change does not effect him he also can hear and see long distances away. He would later team up with a female Ultra Hero called Choice who has the power to fly, fire beams from her eyes and is super strong. So as you can see Hardcase is one of Malibu Comics big Ultraverse heroes and some would say he is the leader when it comes to all the heroes having to come together to stop world shattering threats.
If the characters of the Ultraverse ended up in the Marvel Universe in modern times and I was writing it, this is what I would do with Hardcase! I would first start out Hardcase as a three issue mini series and set it in California and have Tom Hawke getting a gig starring as the lead in a big budget action sci-fi movie that is much in the style of films like Mars Attack and Independence Day and soon he finds out that the Alien Invasion is real and that the director of the film is using the production of the film as a contact spot to bring the aliens who are from another dimension to Earth with the goal of taking over! Hardcase would also be dating Choice and in the end he feels good about being a hero again and alerts his lady that he is returning to be a superhero and will be joining The West Coast Avengers! And from here on I would place Hardcase and Choice into The West Coast Avengers and the team members would be Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Moon Knight, Tigra, War Machine, Doctor Druid and Wonder Man, and I would play up a big rivalry with Hardcase and Wonder Man as both are Hollywood actors and at some point Wonder Man gets a crush on Choice and this would be like the Jean Grey, Cyclops and Wolverine story arch but this will end up with Hardcase and Wonder Man having a massive fight that takes the team to break them apart! And from there I would have Hardcase out of the team and being embarrassed he leaves the group as well as Choice and becomes a loner as he goes missing and I would have him end up going to the Philippines and fighting super villains, pirates as well as drug runners in his own on going series and at some point would have Choice tracking him down and trying to get him to come back to The Avengers. I really do think that Hardcase could fit into the modern Marvel Comics Universe and let’s cross our fingers that someday Disney the owners of Marvel will get the guts to bring all the Malibu Ultraverse characters back to the world of comic books.
Hardcase was one of the heroes that appeared in the short lived Ultraverse cartoon along side Prime, Prototype, Topaz, Nightman and The Ghoul and this cartoon spawned a short lived action figure line from Galoob. And because I am a fan of Malibu Comics I of course have the Hardcase figure that while cool that it was made it is a little cheesy as he comes with a glider as his accessory. The figure has the characters look down with gold shoulder pads as well as his trademark pony tail and for some reason his eyes are a little crossed and he looks like he is trying to stare into your soul. Glad I have this figure and while he is not my favorite in the series he still is a cool one that looks great alongside the others in my collection. Oh and on a side note does anyone remember the old six-minute music video made by Malibu Comics and Wizard Magazine that featured kickboxer and actor Gary Daniels as Hardcase? If you want to watch it look it up on YouTube as it’s a fun and weird watch.
So now that we have chatted about Hardcase and who the character is and what I think Marvel Comics could have done with the character if they did not fail the fans of Malibu Comics like they did, it’s time for us to dive into the review of his comic series! Some of these issues will be a re-read for me while others will be a first time read and I am very much looking forward to diving in as I have really loved doing these updates that allows me to talk about these Ultra Heroes as well as revisit the comic series. I want to thank Bell Book And Comic, Lone Star Comics and Game Swap Kettering for having these comics in stock and making this update possible. I want to also remind all you readers that I grade these comics on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comics stay to the source material, it’s entertainment value and it’s art and story. So if you are ready lets go on an epic Ultra adventure with Hardcase and see how he holds up all these years later.
Hardcase # 1 ***
Released in 1993 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 1 of 26
Hardcase is hurt bad he is bleeding and his arm is dislocated and he is watching as one of his fellow The Guard member Forsa is being killed by a strange looking alien robot, his other friends D.J. Blast and Starburst are on the ground and are in very bad shape, as D.J. tells Hardcase to grab Starburst and get away as fast as he can and our hero does so just as D.J. forces himself to explode taking down the Alien thing. And Hardcase gets even more bad news as it looks like Starburst may never wake up as the fight left her with server brain damage. A year after this event and Hardcase is now a full time actor making action films based around himself and his co-star in all these films is a one time washed up teen actor named Justin Kuttner who is a royal jerk and still has an ego. While waiting for the next shot to be set up Hardcase is in his trailer when a cop stops by and asks him to sign a poster and tells him he wishes he was still a superhero as what he and The Squad did was very helpful to them, Hardcase tells him that his hero days are over…just as a call goes out about a bank robbery and the cop rushes off. At the bank a Ultra powered villain named Head Knocker is killing the cops who have came to stop his robbery and even their bullets seem to not affect him. When Hardcase still on set hears the gun fire he leaves the movie to help and finds the massacre, in a rage he fights Head Knocker and beats him with a car and swears he will never loose again and then tells the media that is on hand that he is back as a Ultra Hero! Meanwhile in a underground base a naked man named Rex Mundi is watching this news and is very mad to see him return to being a hero, and it’s clear he is responsible for sending the Alien Robot now named NM-E out to kill Ultras and looks like he might just do it again.
This first issue of Hardcase is lots of fun and is a great way to kick off a series as it drops you smack in the middle of a fight that has our Ultra Powered heroes loosing with them being ripped apart and blood everywhere! And out first look at the books title hero has him bleeding, broken and beaten by a very sinister looking robot alien thing. And from there the comic is about Hardcase finding his way back to being a Hero and trying to overcome the fear of loosing and letting his friends down. Hardcase is a pretty interesting character as he is super strong, has super hearing and can leap for miles but also has issues like all of us as when he was beaten up and two of his friends killed before his eyes and another beaten so bad she has yet to wake up it effects his mind and causes him to step away from who he wants to be and instead he plays the hero he wants to be in movies. I also like that when he sees that other Ultras are running around and doing very bad things he steps back up and smacks them down and finds that spark to be the hero that he knows he is. And at this point I am not sure who all will be main characters in our story but I am sure we will see more of NM-E as well as Rex Mundi who lives underground and hates Ultras and I also think maybe Justin Kuttner that weasel will also come into play and will probably be a trader and do something to screw over Hardcase. This comic is also way more bloody then I would have thought as limbs are ripped off and skulls are crushed! The cover is a little puzzling and while it showcases Hardcase it also looks very generic and not as flashy as other first issue releases in the Ultraverse. The interior art is really good and is done by Jim Callahan and his work has the classic early 90’s look. Over all a great first issue that drew me into the story of Hardcase and is making me wanting to see what the next issue has in store for him now that he has returned as a hero.
Hardcase # 2 ***
Released in 1993 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 2 of 26
Choice is on the run as she is being hunted down as a company wants her back as they use her as a spokes person for products, and she hates her life with them and wants to find Hardcase in order to get help. Meanwhile Hardcase himself is at the funeral of the cop he meet at the film set that was killed by Head Knocker and meets his brother who is also a cop and the two seem to build a friendship. Once back home Hardcase gets a visitor in Choice who tells him that the company she works for has messed with her mind and body and she needs his help, he agrees just as her attackers appear with orders now to kill Hardcase and bring Choice back to the company. They even blow up Hardcases home and this sets him off and he and Choice take out the attackers with one being killed as he was run over by a semi truck. It looks like Mr. Dixon of the Choice Cooperation is the one who sent them and now Hardcase and Choice are heading to his headquarters to get answers.
This second issue is good and introduces us to new characters as well as shows that Hardcase is a hero who feels lots of guilt if he feels that people have died that he could have prevented if he would have arrived quicker. The plot has a runaway Ultra being hunted down by a big company and having to find Hardcase in order to get help. Choice is the new Ultra we meet and she is very cool and has some great powers like she can fly, shoot laser beams from her eyes and also shrug off attacks…but only for an hour and when she is wearing a special suit. The raise the question that she is not really an Ultra, that she might not even be a human and also that she is crazy and only future issues will answer these questions. Hardcase is willing to help Choice as its clear he finds her attractive and he is still trying to show the world he is back as a hero and what better way to showcase his return then helping a beautiful product spokes woman! I also like that he has built two new friendships in this issue with one being Choice and the other being Officer Chuck Brown who I hope comes back into play in a future issue. Mr. Dixon and the Choice Corporation who are into making profits and as well trying their best to out do UltraCorp who has Prototype as their mascot of sorts. And while at this point they are not super threatening they do have armored suit assassins on their payroll who have no issues killing people. This issue also has a little bit of blood as one of the metal assassins is ran over by a truck and his blood is splattered all over the street! The cover for this issue is good and eye catching and has Hardcase standing looking mad and ready to fight with fire in the background. The interior art is a mixed bag as a group of artists known as Cranial Implant Studio worked on the issue with some art looking great others is 100% not my style of art. Over all a good issue that takes our hero into his first mission back as a Ultra Hero and does a great job of expanding his world and cast of characters.
Hardcase # 3 **1/2
Released in 1993 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 3 of 26
Mr. Dixon is holding a meeting as things have gotten out of hand as Choice has beat his forces and he fears that she and Hardcase are on their way, but we soon find that Rex Mundi who lives under ground has offered to help him stop the two Ultra Heroes and lends them a new team he has made called Omega Team (Gun Nut, The Needler & Trouble) to get Choice back as well as kill Hardcase. Meanwhile Officer Brown arrives at the destroyed house of Hardcase and warns him that the Choice Cooperation is very powerful, and Brown stays at the destroyed house and tries to get the press out of the home as Hardcase and Choice head to the beach as Choice is acting weird and saying things that contradict what she has said before and this causes Hardcase to question if she is sane, and they are attacked by Omega Team who start off by trying to blow our hero up with a missile. Omega Team strikes hard and end up taking Choice down and its Hardcase that ends up beating the three up and he and Choice talk to the press about the attack were part of Choice’s brainwashing kicks in and has here take up for the Choice Cooperation. In the end Hardcase and Choice head to another of his homes only to find the Ultra Hero team The Strangers are waiting for them.
This third issue has the story of what is the deal with Choice thicken as we learn fully that they have messed with her mind that limits what she can say about the company in public as well as they really want her back as they think she is a investment as she sells products for them and that’s all that really matters. Poor Hardcase is confused as she says lots of things that makes him question her sanity and sense meeting her has to fight Ultras as well as lost his home all for trying to help her. I like the character of Choice she is powerful and yet also flawed and not due to her own will and this makes her more interesting. Hardcase is clearly falling for Choice but is also a little shaky on her as he is not 100% sure if he can trust her as he knows that clearly something is off about her. Mr. Dixon and his company at this point are shown that while they are bad, they need help from truly bad people in order to do the bad stuff they do as Rex Mundi and his created Ultras are clearly the true evildoers as they only at this point want one thing and that’s to kill Hardcase as they have something against him. This is a good issue that keeps the story going and keeps in interesting as it shows us readers that Hardcase has found his groove and is really ready to be a hero again as he totally kicks the butts of Omega Team. The downside is I am not to happy that they already have a crossover set up as the story and issue could have done without The Strangers. The cover for this issue is ok and has Hardcase being shocked and the interior art is once more done by Jim Callahan and is good stuff and again really is the style I think of when looking back at the Ultraverse. So with that lets see what issue four has in store for us.
Hardcase # 4 *1/2
Released in 1993 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 4 of 26
Hardcase and Choice are ready to fight The Strangers as they do not know them, but when tempers get in check Hardcase meets his new guests by his pool as they are new to the Ultra Hero business and are asking him for advice. The Strangers start by introducing themselves as well as their powers, next Hardcase tells them about how he got his Ultra powers during a film audition and how he meet those in his original hero group The Guard and they decided to use their powers to be heroes and stop crimes in California. Hardcase then tells them about the battle against NM-E that left almost all of his friends dead and gave him mental scares of having to witness it all. Hardcase then starts to think that maybe the Aladdin Company is who sent NM-E to kill them all those years ago and along with Choice and The Strangers they head to Groom Lake in order to find the answers but are meet by Ultra Villains he attack and get all our heroes as prisoners.
This issue is just a set up for the reader to but an issue of The Strangers and that really stinks as the Hardcase story really suffers from this. While in the issue we do get to see that Choice and Hardcase are getting closer and that maybe just maybe someone form the Aladdin Company is who wanted him and his old team killed! Other wise it’s mostly filled with flashback moments to the early days of Hardcase. Really disappointed in this issue and I honestly don’t have much to even say about it. Choice in the issue is very protective of Hardcase, as she gets a little jealous of the attention he is getting from one of the female members of The Strangers. Hardcase himself is stull trying to be a hero and tries to give advice as well as takes the rookie team on a mission with him, that ends up getting them all beat up! The cover is a pull out one and is pretty cool and showcases Hardcase as well as The Strangers and Choice and is eye catching. The interior art is done by James Hudnall and is well done. The reason this issue is getting such a low star rating is that it just feels like a comic that Malibu released in order to get Hardcase readers to buy the next issue of The Strangers, and I am not a fan of that tactic that comic companies use to do. Over all the Hardcase stuff that furthers his storyline is good the cheap add on stuff of The Strangers is not. Lets just move on and see what issue five has in store for us.
Hardcase # 5 **1/2
Released in 1993 Cover Price $2.50 Malibu # 5 of 26
Hardcase and Choice go and visit Officer Brown at the station and he informs them that he has never been to Hardcase’s home and that means someone acting like him showed up and watched the home after the attack, and this puzzles them all. But before the dive to deep into that Hardcase heads to the office of Mr. Dixon as well and tells him to leave Choice alone…the meeting does not go well. And while all this is going on a Ultra killer is murdering drug sellers as he is called Hardwire and is a killer for hire, and he has now been hired by Rex Mundi to kill Hardcase! A woman shows up and warns Hardcase and Choice about Rex and his hatred for them, but our heroes ignore the warning and go on a date for the night. Hardcase and Choice go dancing and have a late dinner and on the way back home they stop at a gas station and while Choice uses the restroom Hardcase is attacked by Hardwire who’s razor like nails cuts the skin of Hardcase and this shocks our hero as his skin is tough, but things get worse when Hardwire stabs Hardcase with his nails and our hero starts to bleed to death. As Choice rushes to his side unknown what has happened Hardwire is sneaking up behind her. And worse on a beach two friends find the head of NM-E and it takes over one of their bodies and wants to rebuild it’s self and finish its job of killing Hardcase it’s self.
In this issue we have zero clue on what happened at Groom Lake with The Strangers and our story picks back up with Hardcase and Choice wanting to get Mr. Dixon off her case and the meeting does not go well as its clear that he still has control over Choice. We also learn that a shape shifting Ultra is acting like Officer Chuck Brown and is keeping an eye on Hardcase and we also find out that a killer that has Ultra Powers has been hired by that scumbag Rex Mundi to kill our hero. And crazy enough we also now see that NM-3 is back and is wanting a rematch to finish the job of killing Ultra Heroes and all Hardcase wanted to do in this issue is stand up for his lady and have a nice night out with her. The issue also is a little bloody as when NM-3 takes over one of the teens he uses his powers and blows the guts out of the other with a blast! It also stinks that Mr. Dixon has a grip on Choice and can even make it so that she cannot speak at all, and that she really is living in fear as she has no control of herself when she is around him. Also Hardwire is a snuff film watching razor nailed slashing nut job that really does love killing anyone he is asked to slaughter. And another big question that I cannot wait to see how it plays out is who is the fake Officer Brown and are they friend or foe? I also wondering how Hardcase is going to survive the attack as he has been cut and stabbed pretty bad and he is bleeding out in a parking lot late at night, makes me wonder if Choice will have to go full power on Hardwire to save them both from being killed. The cover for this issue is eye-catching cause it has Hardcase bleeding and it’s more rare to show the comics hero bleeding that bad. The interior art is done by Scott Benefiel and is pretty good and while a little too sketchy for my taste I can see how some comic readers would enjoy it. I am glad this comic series is back on track and the focus is on Hardcase and Choice as they are what is making this series very good.
Hardcase # 6 **1/2
Released in 1993 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 6 of 26
Hardcase is in the street dying and Choice activates her shields as well as ability to fly and dodges Hardwire and gets Hardcase to a hospital and he is lucky as he is able to heal fast and bounce back. Meanwhile Rex Mundi sees the news that he is not dead and then goes into a room that is filled with tons of Ultra Villains and they are told that they have all been hired by Rex as he wants to steal and take over The Moon! Hardware gets another visit from the mystery woman Regina who tells Choice and him that she can help them get the answers they are seeking and also tells them the location of Hardwire who is on another mission to kill. So not fully healed Hardcase and Choice head to a street that is the home of several gang members and find Hardwire there killing the crime members, but this time our heroes are prepared and they beat up the razor nailed bad guy and Hardcase even dislocates Hardwire’s shoulders to make it impossible to hurt the cops who show up to arrest him. In the end Hardcase goes home to sleep and thinks back to when he was dying and how he seen the spirit of Starburst who told him it was not his time to die.
This was another good issue in the Hardcase comic series as it starts with Hardcase at deaths gate and leaving his own body and encounters the spirit of his friend who is in a coma, and we also follow Hardcase as he heels up and gets his revenge on Hardwire they man who almost killed him! And while Hardcase and Choice are able to get their revenge on Hardwire who is brought to justice for not only the attack on them, but also all the murders he has done. But lots of new plot twists are thrown in including Regina still going out of her way in order to try and “help” our heroes, though I am not sure if I trust her as she seems to be promising lots. We also learn that while Hardcase has tough skin he can be cut by Ultra’s and can in fact die, even though he does heal fast. And the biggest new plot is why does Rex Mundi want to go to the moon and what is his end game plan for his Ultra Villains when they get there? This issue does also a great job of showing that Hardcase can be super tough and even slightly mean spirited as he uses his super strength to rip both of Hardwire’s arms out of their sockets and leaves him in pain! And due to all this other drama we still are not closer to finding anything out about Choices past and what has been done to her, and I am hoping that in the coming issues more of her backstory will start to unfold. The cover for this issue is ok and while not my taste, it does reek of 90’s Indie Superhero comic. The interior art is good and done by Scott Benefiel and looks a little less sloppy sketchy then the last issue. So another good issue that has new bait on the plot hooks to reel readers in.
Hardcase # 7 **1/2
Released in 1993 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 7 of 26
Hardcase and Choice stop a pair of carjackers and head to the business office of Hardcase as she meets his employees who are working on trying to figure out a way for her to get out of the contract with the Choice Cooperation. Meanwhile NM-E has created a new twisted body and is looking for more Ultra Heroes as he wants to kill them all. Later that night Hardcase and Choice meet up with Regina for a late dinner and she tells them about how Ultra’s are born and it all comes from waves from The Moon! She tells them they need to get to the Moon before Rex and his crew do as there is an object up there that needs to be rescued from their grips, and Hardcase soon finds out she is making him team with the Ultra Team called The Solution. Once back home Hardcase and Choice notice an explosion on a near by island that triggers a tsunami and our heroes do they best they can to save lives before it its, they save some but sadly many die. Before our heroes have a moment to think Regina shows up and takes them to a massive space ship and alerts them its time to get to the moon.
This issue of Hardcase is pretty interesting as we now know that an object on the moon is what has give some people on Earth their Ultra powers and that included Hardcase. We learn that Rex hates Ultras and is the one who wants them dead, and is using them in order to get a power source from the moon. Regina has some answers and gives a little and is also hiding some to keep Choice and Hardcase in line to help her. And poor Hardcase feels like a pinball as he is being attacked and tricked as well as is doing what he can to help his new girlfriend to break free and discover her dark past. And this issue while not action packed is used to further the plot of the item on the moon as well as adds a little more drama with Regina knowing lots about our hero’s pasts. Plus lets not forget that we have added the team The Solution to this mission and a few members clearly do not think highly of Hardcase as they see him as an armature hero. The stuff with the tsunami is sad stuff as our heroes have to watch as many people die, and I wish they would have played out this part as their sadness is way to short due to Regina’s appearance to summon them to get to the ship. The cover is good and has Hardcase and Choice about to be hit by the tsunami, and the interior art is once more done by Scott Benefiel and is good for the most part with some panels I feel very much lacking. Over all a good issue and I cannot wait to see Hardcase on the moon!
Hardcase # 8 *1/2
Released in 1994 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 8 of 26
Omega Team and the other Ultra villains have failed on the moon and are heading back to their ship only to watch it take off as Hardcase and the heroes have taken it to return to Earth leaving them stuck on the moon. They call Rex for help who tells them that he will not send a rescue ship as they have failed and if they make it back to Earth alive he will allow them to keep the money he has given them. Meanwhile back on the ship Hardcase and The Solution are starting to wonder what Regina’s real connection is to Rex as its clear that the two know each other and have the same goals, but before they can find the answers the ship is blown up by Rex still in space! Meanwhile Omega Team and the other Ultra Villains are able to get back to Earth but land in a desert when one member uses all his power to bring them home. Meanwhile in space Hardcase, Choice and The Solution survived the explosion and all head back to Earth. Once back home Choice alerts Hardcase that she has little bits of memory of her past and they find a note and some money left by Regina that tells them to head back to Groom Lake for more answers about Choice. Meanwhile Rex thinks he has killed Hardcase and is even more happy with NM-E arrives home as he now has his ultimate Ultra killing machine back.
Man Malibu Comics is really bad for these cross over series that start in one series and makes you buy another to finish the story, and with this one we miss all the moon stuff and you would have to buy Break-Thru in order to see the battle on the moon and I say that is B.S. and one reason Malibu frustrates me. The plot of this issue has our heroes coming back to Earth from the moon and wondering what Rex and Regina are all about before having the ship blown up and them having to drift their way back home. And we also see that Rex leaves his bad Ultras stuck in space and they have to use there wits and powers to as well return home. And the biggest things we get from this issue is that NM-E has returned to Rex and that Groom Lake really is the place that has the answers to Choices past. Cover is cool but miss leading as Hardcase fights no one let alone a creature in this issue and the interior art by Scott Benefiel is ok but he also uses lots of big panels to film out this rice paper thin plot of this issue. Over all just a fill in issue with some new plot elements sprinkled in.
Hardcase # 9 **1/2
Released in 1994 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 9 of 26
Hardcase is at the hospital talking to Starburst who has been in a coma for over a year, and he is telling her he is sorry as she was his girlfriend and he fills her in on events that just happened that is the following. While on the set of his new movie Choice visits him and is upset that he has a love scene with an actress, as she wonders why he has never made the move on her yet, he explains he feels odd doing so over Starburst and the fact he does not want to take advantage of her. The next day they have a run in with a monster Ultra named Turf that has been killing celebrities and now wants to crush the life out of Hardcase, you see Turf is an Ultra who uses the soil around him to become the monster and who is a psychopath who is obsessed with famous people and is mad when they do not write back to his weird fan letters. When Choice shows up the heroes defeat him, as like always Aladdin shows up to take Turf away. Once home Hardcase and Choice finally fully fall in love and that brings us back to the hospital were Hardcase tells Starburst that he is in love with Choice and that he is sorry. As he leaves Starburst sheds a tear.
This is a good issue as it pushes the fact that Hardcase and Choice are now a couple and that they love each other, it is also lets Hardcase finally be able to not live in the past and dwell on his failures and opens his heart to his one time lady. While you feel good for Hardcase, you have to feel a little bad for Starburst who clearly has her heartbroken as the one she loved is now walking away from her when she needs him the most. The villain Turf in this issue is very much inspired by the Greek Mythology giant named Antaeus as they both get their powers from touching the land. But Turf is crazy as he brutally murders famous people that he feels disrespected him by not responding to his crazy letters, and while as the mud looking monster he is creepy as a person he is really just a chubby dude with no confidence. While the only major thing that happens in this issue being that Hardcase and Choice start dating, it still was a very good issue that was a way to move past the old and bring in the new plot elements. The cover is action packed and shows Turf beating up our heroes and the interior art by Brent Anderson is good and I like the way he draws the monster version of Turf. Lets see if our next issue gets us on track to once more crash into Groom Lake to find out the truth about Choice.
Hardcase # 10 **1/2
Released in 1994 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 10 of 26
The Aladdin Company has been watching and listening to Hardcase for weeks unknown to him and Choice, as they are thinking he is a threat to them and know that Regina has left him a note to head back to the Groom Lake base to find out about Choices past as well as her powers. Right before our heroes are set to go to the base Choice shares some memories that are conflicting like having loving parents in America as well as being orphaned in Vietnam and having to hide on a cramped boat with others to travel to America to find freedom. And after hearing these details Hardcase gets super mad and says that they Aladdin will pay for all this, as its clear he is hiding something more that is making him very mad. Agent Malik is one the case of killing Hardcase once he arrives at Groom Lake and he is allowed to release two captured Ultra Baddies in order to help his team of Ultra Heroes Dirt Devil, Foxfire and War Eagle bring down the actor turned hero, and he chooses Head Knocker and Hardwire to join the cause as each of those two hate Hardcase. And as Hardcase and Choice are driving to Groom Lake a helicopter appears and the Bad Ultras start jumping out.
Well we know that The Aladdin Company has been watching Hardcase as they do not like this Ultra Hero and want him dead now that he is trying to once more get into their base. Agent Malik is the man who has been given the duty of watching Hardcase as well as be the one who leads the task force to try and kill him. While he is clearly loyal to Aladdin his mission is clearly making him nervous. The return of Hardwire and Head Knocker is a nice touch as both of these Ultra baddies clearly want revenge of Hardcase the hero that beat them both and allowed them to be captured and placed in this situation via Aladdin, but it does make me wonder if these two will work well together as well as along with the other Ultras that have been sent to stop and eliminate Hardcase. Speaking of Hardcase his rage over Aladdin is clearly deeper then what he is sharing and he kind of rages and seems to almost forget that the mission is to help Choice and not his own grudge. This is a pretty cool issue as I like the idea that a company is spying on a Superhero as they find him to be a threat to their plans and are willing to kill him in order to have zero interruptions. And with only two Ultras against five it makes you wonder how Hardcase and Choice will survive. The cover is ok for this issue and the interior art by Kelly Krantz and is pretty good. Over all a good issue that builds up to the next issue that I am very much looking forward to reading, as I want to see how our heroes get out of this mess.
Hardcase # 11 **1/2
Released in 1994 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 11 of 26
Hardcase and Choice are ready for a fight and after their car is blown up our heroes go on the attack! As Hardcase takes down Dirt Devil and Choice brings down Foxfire things turn bad for War Eagle who is also taken down. Choice tells their fallen foes that they better not see them at Groom Lake or next time they will not be so nice. Meanwhile Hardwire and Head Knocker have already headed back to the Aladdin base and are waiting for the heroes to arrive so they can attack and get their revenge on Hardcase. Our heroes decide to take a rest before attacking the base to find the answers as Choice needs to have her powers recharge but their rest is cut short, as Head Knocker and Hardwire have found them.
This issue is packed with action and has our heroes dealing with other Ultra powered heroes and this time the good guys are fighting hard as they have been pushed to far, and Hardcase is mad that all of his cars keep getting destroyed! Choice as well is more aggressive and that is because she is so close to getting the answers to her past. The team of Dirt Devil, Foxfire and War Eagle are just over powered and are defeated fast, and even Foxfire is forced to spill the beans on who sent them as well as how Aladdin has been keeping tabs on Hardcase and Choice. I have to say the team of Hardwire and Head Knocker are the smart ones as they do not rush into the fight and instead wait for the heroes to already have had a fight and need a rest before they go in for the kill, and leaving us on that cliffhanger was a great way to make readers look forward to the next issue. The cover is ok and has Choice crawling on the ground and the interior art by Scott Benefiel is good and has the classic Malibu look. Over all a good action packed issue that felt like a really quick read and with that lets see how our heroes deal with Head Knocker and Hardwire.
Hardcase # 12 **1/2
Released in 1994 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 12 of 26
Head Knocker attacks Hardcase as Hardwire goes after Choice as the agents of Aladdin watch the battle via radar. Head Knocker is just as strong as Hardcase and lands some big punches and keeps our hero on defense and makes him worried for Choice who is being slashed at by Hardwire who has killing on his mind. And with the odds against them Hardcase makes the decision to grab Choice and retreat as he knows that they might not win this fight and they leap away. And with that Head Knocker and Hardwire decide that they are not going back to Aladdin as they are free and head towards a highway to try and steal a car to escape in. Meanwhile Hardcase tells Choice that they are going about this all wrong and when FireFox, War Eagle and Dirt Devil show up at their location they make a deal with Aladdin that they will both just leave each other alone…and the deal is accepted. Hardcase then tells Choice that he has another idea to get the answers about her past that is not them attacking the base at Groom Lake and they head to a hotel in Las Vegas and put a call to Tech from the group The Solution who will arrive in a few days, but while they wait they decide to have fun around town. Tech shows up and they raid the files of Aladdin and are all shaken badly when they find out that part of Choices brain is that of Starburst the ex-girlfriend of Hardcase that is in a coma.
This is another action packed issue that has our heroes going against two of the biggest Ultra Baddies they have fought this far, and worse this time around our heroes are both weakened from a previous battle and the odds are not in their favor to win. Hardcase who in the last two issues let his anger get the better of him shows that he can also use his mind to get the results he seeks and needs. While poor Choice finds that her mind is not her own and that she has part of another woman’s mind in hers and that very bad things have happened to her all to create a spokeswoman for a big corporation. And the people of Aladdin are clearly cold blooded and do not care who’s lives they ruin as long as their secrets do not leak out to the world. And Aladdin is also now responsible for letting two very dangerous Ultra Villains loose with Hardwire and Head Knocker who rival Hardcase in power once more in society to hurt innocent lives. The end of this issue leaves Hardcase and Choice heartbroken and crying and makes you wonder what will be in store for the Choice Corporation and Aladdin now that our heroes know the terrible backstory that lead to Choice and her powers. I really like that this issue as well shows that while Hardcase is strong he does have some major foes in Head Knocker and Hardwire who equal him in powers. The cover is pretty cool and showcases the heroes and villains fighting and the interior art by Scott Benefiel is good like before. The plot really has thickened for Choice and I like this new plot element that her brain has part of another’s and I for one am looking forward to reading the next issue.
Hardcase # 13 **
Released in 1994 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 13 of 26
Choice and Hardcase calm down and try and get their rage and heartbreak in check and sit down and start reading the files that Tech got from Aladdin. Meanwhile unknown beings are watching the two and are chatting that they need Choice in order to defeat their enemies. Choice learns that she was an orphaned child from Vietnam who was taken in by Aladdin once she arrived in America and was brainwashed and had her mind worked on by them and her memories erased when they choose her to be a test subject for make a Ultra that can be controlled. They use part of the brains of Starburts and other falling Ultras to give her powers, and even the boss of Choice Corporation used her and abused her. And when she started to regain memories of her own as well as that of Starblast they set her to be reprogramed in Brazil and that is when she escaped and ended up finding Hardcase for help. Choice takes a moment and then lets Hardcase and Tech know that a weight feels like it has been lifted from her, as she now knows her past and that with this information she will bring down both Aladdin and the Choice Corporation by releasing it all to the public. But just like that Choice is zapped away and finds herself face to face with the beings that welcome her to her new home.
We finally get the backstory to Choice who was a young woman who has had a very hard life from the start as her mother died, her father is an unknown American, when coming to USA she is brainwashed and experimented on and has parts of other peoples brains implanted in her own! When she is first forced with these facts she seems very upset and yet very shortly later seems to learn to be ok with it, and real quick I already dislike these alien being things that kidnap her…can we please leave aliens out of this, but to be fair they could also be demons. Hardcase is raged that Aladdin has removed part of Starburst’s brain and this will make sure she never will awake from her coma, and you know that he will not allow this to slide. This was a cool issue because they finally 12 issues in really do show the backstory of Choice, but I feel they do so poorly in presentation as its mostly done in text over splash pages of basic art and just kind of lacks the impact it should. And even more odd the shocking emotions that the characters have in the last page of issue 12 seems to disappear and they kind of all act normal and just more like “superheroes”. The cover is good and showcases Choice and the interior art this time is done by Kelly Krantz is ok but sometimes the screamy expressions on the characters faces is laughable. Over all an ok issue that does answers many lingering questions as well as moves stories along.
Hardcase # 14 *1/2
Released in 1994 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 14 of 26
Hardcase is filled with anger and confusion and the burning desire to kill who ever has kidnapped Choice, but he is calmed down by Tech who calls Shadowmage an alien magician who is a member of the Solution and she shows up and says that is was alien magic like from her home world that made the portal that took Choice away. Hardware gets the two ladies to follow him home and as Tech destroys all the bugs in his home placed by Aladdin while Shadowmage tries to see if any magic has been in his home to also spy and she comes up empty handed. After the two ladies leave the home Hardcase pouts for a bit before heading out in order to alert the police of Choices abduction and he as well as swings by the hospital to visit Starburst. Meanwhile Rex Mundi has used his demonic forces to use little creatures to spy on Hardcase so that the newly rebuilt NM-E can watch and learn the heroes every move. And to top it all off Hardwire shows up at the home of Hardcase and is waiting for him to get home so that he can attack and kill him.
This issue is 100% filler and for the most part really boring as all it really does is set up that Rex is priming NM-E to learn all it can about Hardcase to kill him in their next fight, that Hardwire is waiting for his time for a rematch, magic is what took Choice away and that Hardcase goes to the police to report a missing person…this issue has zero action and has plot points that are dragged out way to long. Hardcase comes off like a child throwing a temper tantrum and then goes to the cops for help to find his missing girlfriend who has been taking away to another world, and the cops are even looking at him like he is dumb as what can they do about that. This is really a bad issue and it’s a shame that Malibu released it and did not add these elements of plot around at least some sort of action or even better drama. The cover is cool and eye catching and the interior art by Steve Carr are ok and is your standard indie 90s comic style. Over all a bland issue that I don’t want to spend any more time on so lets move onto the next issue.
Hardcase # 15 **1/2
Released in 1994 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 15 of 26
Hardcase shows back up home and finds that not only his front door being destroyed but so is all the stuff inside all by the hands of Hardwire. And this pushes Hardcase to far who finds Hardwire in his house and the two start to fight, both want to do nothing more then destroy each other! Hardcase is really rough in his fighting style and beats the hell out of Hardwire who is still able to use his razor like nails to slice the skin and injury our hero. But Hardcase knocks Hardwire out when he rams his head through a wall and leaves him bloody on the floor. The whole fight Rex Mundi has been watching and as Hardcase wins and is injured he sends in NM-E to finish and kill Hardcase!
This is another action packed issue that has Hardcase very mad and ready to finish a feud that has been going on way to long and because of his crazy life for the past months and all the fights he has been in his fighting skill has gotten way better and he uses not only his powers but also plans out the fights better. Hardwire who is a deadly villain who has nails that slice and dice is a little to cocky and thinks the fight will be an easy win and soon finds out that he needed a better plan of action as he gets bloody and beatdown. Rex Mundi and NM-E meanwhile are enjoying the fight and will be going in for the kill when the fight is over as they both want to see Hardcase dead! The issue goes back to being bloody a trait that was missing from many issues and the fight between the two is really well done and both sides get some great hits off. This issue gives us nothing on what is going on with Choice and we focus on Hardcase and we add the new threat of the rebuilt and bigger and badder NM-E who has entered the battlefield on the last page and really makes me look forward to the next issue that I hope is as action packed as this one. The cover for this issue is great and eye catching and is pure 90’s superhero stuff! The interior art is done by two artist and one is good and the other is not my taste as the two’s style clashes and even at times they are drawing the character different! The good artist is Greg Luzniak and his style is fantastic and the not my cup of tea artist is Tim Hamilton. Over all this is a great issue and his action packed and delivers an ending that makes me really looking forward to the next issue.
Hardcase # 16 **1/2
Released in 1994 Cover Price $3.50 Malibu # 16 of 26
Hardcase has fear as he sees NM-E and knows that he must fight for his life, but like before he is no match for this monster who uses a blast that knocks Hardcase out of his home and burns his skin and even singes his hair off! NM-E also finds Hardwire and blasts him to keep him down and out of this final fight. Rex Mundi loves what he is seeing as NM-E keeps up the attack on Hardcase and keeps blasting, burning and punching him till he is near death. The media and the police show up and NM-E even takes down a media helicopter killing everyone on board. As NM-E goes in for the kill on Hardcase with orders from Rex to blow off the hero’s head he is stopped when Prime shows up and is ready to fight and protect his friend.
This is another action packed issue and has Hardcase getting his butt kicked by his worst enemy NM-E who was the thing responsible for killing his old team The Squad. And its clear from the start the Hardcase is our powered as well as his own fear is causing him to be on the loosing side of this fight, I mean his skin us burnt and his hair is gone and he looks like he just walked out of a massive explosion and he is the only survivor. Rex Mundi is loving every second of this one sided fight as he wants nothing more then to have Hardcase dead and if not for Prime I think his wish would have came true. And lets be honest seeing Prime enter this fight is great and lets hope he kicks some butt in the next issue! I like that we also went from an issue that had Hardcase being a badass to one that he looks weak and is tossed around like a ragdoll. The cover for this issue is great and showcases NM-E and really reminds me of a Dark Horse Comics cover for one of their Aliens comics. The interior art is done by Tim Hamilton again, but this time its not bad and I like the way he draws the injured Hardcase as he looks painful! Over all a great issue that now adds Prime into the action and this continues the trend of making me look forward to the next issue!
Hardcase # 17 **1/2
Released in 1994 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 17 of 26
NM-E does not get the chance to kill Hardcase as Prime starts a fight with the creature and he as well finds that the NM-E can cause even him hard but the strongest Ultra pushes forward in the battle as he wants to avenge his friend Hardcase as well as The Squad. Meanwhile Regina shows up as well and takes Hardcase into the ocean and tells him to drink the water as it will help heal him and she as well tells him some tips about his true Ultra powers. Meanwhile Prime is doing what he can to battle NM-E, but the Ultra hero is not doing well as NM-E is just too strong and this causes Prime to turn back into teenager Kevin Green and just as NM-E goes for the kill he is stopped by the semi-healed yet still very burnt up Hardcase who gives Kevin enough time to run away and Hardcase himself keeps getting blasted but swears that this time NM-E will be the one who dies.
Another battle filled issue of Hardcase that sees him almost arrive at deaths door and if not for the help from Prime and Regina he surly would have been killed. Hardcase who’s really in bad shape truly learns that drinking water helps him heal and that he must put his fear aside if he wants to be able to truly fight NM-E who is a creature machine who clearly has no fear and only has a mission and that’s to kill. Rex Mundi is loving the fact that his assassin is able to beat up and almost kill two Ultra heroes and in time he thinks that this battle will lead to them both dying. And I think Rex now has figured out that Regina is working against his mission to kill Hardcase as well as other Ultras. The shocking thing about this issue is that Prime who is kind of like the Superman of Malibu Comics cannot seem to hurt NM-E and is almost killed by it showing just how much of a major threat this thing really is. Plus this also makes me wonder just who much this battle will change Hardcase and Prime when it comes to their attitudes of being heroes as now they have to think about how close they came to death. The cover is pretty cool and showcases Prime, Hardcase and NM-E and this makes it eye catching and the interior art by Tim Hamilton is good and once more I like they way he draws the injured Hardcase. Over all another good issue and like a broken record it makes me look forward to the next issue.
Hardcase # 18 **1/2
Released in 1994 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 18 of 26
Hardcase is in a rage and goes on the attack of NM-E and while he himself is getting blasted and burned he keeps pushing the fight and this is draining NM-E who is finally starting show slowing down and showing signs of injuries as Rex Mundi is frustrated as he watches as he just wants to see Hardcase die by the hands of one of his creations. While Hardcase and NM-E are fighting the home of Hardcase is on fire and an unknown person enters the flames and saves the life of Hardwire and beams them out of danger. Finally Hardcase uses gasoline to catch NM-E on fire and then quickly tackles him into the ocean hoping that the extreme heat change from hot to cold will cause it to explode, and as NM-E sinks deeper into the water Hardcase comes ashore and is injured as the media swarms him asking silly questions. Big mistake to them as NM-E rises from the water and is firing his weapons wildly and some of the reporters are hit, Hardcase has seen enough and wants his redemption and uses all of his energy to destroy NM-E and the battle ends with the thing in pieces. After the fight is over Prime reappears and the two heroes check on each other when just like Choice our injured hero Hardcase vanishes as Prime screams out his friends name in anger.
Hardcase has finally done it as he defeats NM-E the creature machine that had killed his friends and been the source of his nightmares for years, and while Hardcase was injured bad as he is burnt horribly he still pushes himself to avenge his fallen teammates and his rage and anger no longer plays against him as it helps fuel him to victory. NM-E while super powerful and deadly shows that this creature machine even has its limits and when pushed beyond those limits it falls in battle, and this you know is the worst case scenario for Rex Mundi who’s plans keep failing when it comes to the killing of his Ultra arch nemesis. I also like how Kevin Green turns back into Prime as the battle is over and Hardcase questions him why he did not call in the other members of the Ultraforce. Another plot turn now is who is the person who saved Hardwire from burning to death and will he be coming for Hardcase again soon? I am not liking all this being zapped away to other worlds or dimensions as I feel it takes away from the true base hero stories of Hardcase and back then and even now I am sick of the alien, space and magic world adduction story lines that filled comic series for way to long. While I was not keen on the Hardcase vanishing in thin air ending I will say I do like the final fight between NM-E and Hardcase as it was a pretty brutal matchup. The cover is pretty cool and shows the twisted with anger burnt face of Hardcase and the interior art by Tim Hamilton is good and shows that Tim can do great work. Over all this is a good issue and a nice end to the nightmare of NM-E and with that lets see what the next issue has in store for us.
Hardcase # 19 *1/2
Released in 1995 Cover Price $1.95 Malibu # 19 of 26
Regina is on the beach as Prime stands over the broken parts of NM-E and the police are starting to show up as their investigation in this this battle is now underway, she wants to get her hands on the broken pieces of NM-E as she has a plan for them and tricks Prime into letting her take them by making herself look like Ultraforce member Mantra! Meanwhile Rex Mundi is mad about the loss of his # 1 assassin as well as the fact that Regina has its body parts, but his main concern is that the Ultras of the Earth need to be destroyed and Hardcase is the main one he wants to be brought down. While The Operator is mad as she has a mole in her crime group and she brings in Ultra Trauma who kills the mole for her and is now on her payroll. Meanwhile we also see Choice in another dimension and she is following some strange looking bugs and wonders if this will lead her back home.
This is another filler issue that has no Hardcase as Malibu wants you to buy their “God Wheel” mini series to find out what the title hero is up to, and things like this is why Malibu started to loose their grip on readers and would slip from being the third biggest comic company going in the 90’s. The only major plot element we get from this issue is that Regina has the parts of NM-E and has an idea for them and that The Operator who knows Rex and is the one who hired Hardwire for him now has an Ultra on her payroll with Trauma. The cover is bland and boring and the issue has several artist working on each character segment and some are good and some are ok and I don’t have much to say about this issue as it really is just a bad filler that once more I have to stress does not feature the title character as they want you to buy another mini series to see him…lets move on and hope the next issue is not bland filler.
Hardcase # 20 **
Released in 1995 Cover Price $2.50 Malibu # 20 of 26
Hardcase is on a floating city that is above the God Wheel and is talking to a hologram named Ogma who is going to send him back to Earth, but our hero asks to be sent to Choice so he can bring her home as well…Ogma sends him to her but alerts him its for a short time and that he will not be sending her back with him! Hardcase finds himself with Choice who alerts him that she has been fighting for the freedom of the people of this world against these evil god like beings and that she really can not leave until she wins! And then Choice tells Hardcase that she is pregnant with his baby, the to celebrate before Hardcase is whisked away back to Earth and at his burnt down home. Our hero knows that his lady love will return to him soon and he heads to his office were his staff at first do not recognize him due to his mask, but are soon very happy to see him back and alive. But others are not so happy to see him return like Turf, Rex Mundi and Omega Team.
This issue takes place after the events of the God Wheel mini series and has Hardcase returning to Earth after helping as well as seeing hi lady Choice and finding out he is going to be a father. We also see his new look that is a mask and a gold and black body suit. Choice seems to have found her new calling as she seems to love being a hero to the helpless on the God Wheel and she also clearly is in love with Hardcase who she is looking forward to getting back to once her work is done. We also are teased that some of his enemies are coming back around with Turf and Omega Team looking to even the score and Rex Mundi is still trying to figure out a plan that will kill off the hero for good. And while this brings Hardcase back to his own comic series as well as back to Earth the comics big revel is the fact that he and Choice are going to have a child together. The downside to the comic is if to did not read the God Wheel series you would be lost and I think the writers did a bad job of explaining to readers on what has happened with our hero as they just drop us all in like we know. The cover is good and showcases Hardcase putting on his new mask…that reminds me of a generic Deadpool clone. The interior art by Ken Bivins is ok and while some panels look great others seem a little rushed. Over all a good issue but nothing special and seems like just a way to get our hero back to Earth.
Hardcase # 21 **1/2
Released in 1995 Cover Price $2.50 Malibu # 21 of 26
Hardcase at his office finds that his life has really changed after his battle with NM-E and the few days he vanished. Not only is his face not fully healed and he is forced to wear a mask to hide the scars, Hollywood does not want to hire him due to fear of Ultra Villains showing up to set and causing death and damage and worse he has no place to stay and all his friends are afraid to have him crash at their places! Hardcase gets an idea that he will buy a Hollywood prop RV and will live in it for a short time as well as set a course to find Rex Mundi and end this cat and mouse game once and for all. Meanwhile a man named The Genius is the one who saved Hardwire from the fire and has been treating him as well as giving him injections that he claims will make him as strong as his foe. And even odder a man who is phasing in and out is tracking Hardcase and acts as if the Ultra Hero is his dad!
This is back on track and this issue is pretty entertaining and I really like that they show that being a superhero is not that glamour’s as our heroes own friends and business partners are afraid of what trouble could be following him. And this shows another layer of Hardcase as clearly his feelings are hurt but he just keeps moving forward in order to try and make his life work the best he can. We also see that he gets along with his mom while his dad is another story as they both attempt to call to check in on him. And this weird costumed phasing man is he really Hardcases son trying to contact him for the future? I guess we will have to see in further issues if this is the case. And The Genius is a character that seems like he could be a heel that will be making a play for one of the series top villains as he has the means to make Ultra Villains even stronger! Also I am thinking that Hardcases secretary has a crush on him and he knows it as he rejects the offer to stay with her as he thinks of Choice. The cover is pretty great and has Hardcase look like he is hitchhiking and this is eye catching for the time. The interior art by Tim Hamilton is good for the most part, but does seem a little rushed in spots. Over all a good issue that adds in new elements to our story as well as picks up on old ones in the Hardcase and Rex blood feud. Lets see what the next issue has in store for us.
Hardcase # 22 **1/2
Released in 1995 Cover Price $2.50 Malibu # 22 of 26
Trauma sneaks around the mansion of a Russian crime lord and uses her power to kill him and his right hand man. Meanwhile Hardware visits Officer Brown and informs him that he has found Choice on another planet and that he as well was away doing a mission on another planet. As Officer Brown listens he is shocked when Hardcase asks about info on Rex Mundi who the cops think is really just an urban legend and together they start putting together attacks that could be put together! And with that information Hardcase starts digging deep and contacts Trouble of Omega Team for a meeting at a hole in the wall bar. Trouble tells Hardcase a little about what he knows about Rex and will tell him everything as well as how to find him if Hardcase promises to kill Rex once he finds him, but our hero can not take that deal as he will not murder someone. As Trouble and Hardcase are about to leave the bar we see that Trauma and Rex Mundi are there and Trauma uses her Ultra powers to snap the neck of Trouble killing him and everyone in the bar thinks that Hardcase is the one who killed him.
Hardcase is in deep trouble now as he is being looked at for murder that of course he didn’t do and was a set up by his arch nemesis Rex Mundi! Hardcase has finally figured out that Rex is the man who has caused him all this pain over the years as he is even the one who sent NM-E and killed all of Hardcases friends! And poor Officer Brown is so out of his league when it is coming to all these Ultra issues and battles, its as if the police can do nothing but sit back and watch and try to come in at the end to arrest the bad guy if he is on the loosing end. And when being told about Gods and new worlds you can tell Officer Brown is taken back by it all, but not shocked. I also like that Hardcase is driving around now in a RV and his basically homeless and broke and has nothing but bringing down Rex who is wise to the Ultras quest and is one step ahead of him. Also it looks like Trauma is working for Rex now and with her powers being able to kill some one brutally with the wave of her hands she could be the most dangerous villain in this series! And poor old Trouble of Omega Team is a bad dude who tries to help Hardcase on his quest as he as well hates Rex Mundi but his price tag of murder makes the two at odds is also the victim of Trauma and her powers that leaves his neck snapped and him dead on the floor of a nasty bar. The cover for this issue is pretty cool and has Trouble sneaking up and leaping on Hardcase, the interior art by Tim Hamilton is good and is fitting for this era of Malibu Comics. This was a fun issue to read and really is a countdown for a big fight that is surly to take place between Hardcase and Rex Mundi.
Hardcase # 23 **
Released in 1995 Cover Price $2.50 Malibu # 23 of 26
Loki looses a time gem that falls to Earth from space and Hardcase finds it while blowing off steam in the desert, you see Hardcase had just left the police station and is being accused of killing Trouble in that bar and he knows once more that Rex has set him up and that with Choice being gone he has no one to talk to. And when he finds out that he can travel back in time he wants to save The Squad from death at the hands of NM-E and he makes the mistake of doing so and warns his old group and even helps in the fight against NM-E allowing them to win this time around and saves all their lives as well as changes the course of history. Once back in modern times Hardcase finds that his face has returned to normal and when talking to his sectary he soon finds that The Squad still died and that he now has no connection to Choice at all as she is now the spokes woman still for the Choice Company and is helping them sell soda. Hardcase rushes to the Choice Corparation and tries to speak to Choice who has no clue who he is now, and just then Loki appears and tells Hardcase to give him the gem so that he can set the world back…this of course is a trick and once the stone is in his hands he disappears and tells Hardcase to deal with this new reality he created. Rex Mundi watched this happen and is now ready for another attack on Hardcase who has confused and destroyed his own fate out of self-pity.
What has Hardcase done to his life as because of his doing he has now lost Choice in his life and this also means they are not having a child together, his friends he wanted to save still died and that now all his battles and friendships are all gone in a blink of an eye. And while an interesting turn of events I also kind of really dislike this major change as it makes the past 22 issues mean nothing as they have all been wiped out thanks to time travel…and again I really am sick of this trope in comics as time travel, other world and space have been so over done and most of these plots do not leave our character in a better place then before said event. And the appearance from Loki really feels shoehorned in and was clearly done by Marvel Comic who at this time owned Malibu Comics and wanted to use their character to try and boost sales. And it looks also like that the only person who remembers the past of Hardcase is Rex Mundi and maybe after the two fight he can force Rex if he has the power to restore things back to normal. And another kind of bad element to this time change is that Choice is once more being abused and used by the Choice Corporation and man this makes the reader mad as we know what she has been through and Hardcases dumb plan makes her stuck in this part of her life. The cover is ok and showcases Loki and the interior art by Tim Hamilton is good, so lets see what happens in the next issue as maybe this terrible plot change will be fixed.
Hardcase # 24 **1/2
Released in 1995 Cover Price $2.50 Malibu # 24 of 26
Hardcase goes to the office of J.D. Hunt and forces him to tell all he knows about Rex Mundi, and at first Hunt refuses to share any information that is until Hardcase threatens to expose Hunt’s dark dealings to the government. Hunt tells Hardcase about a building that has an American Flag painted on it that sometimes he meets Mundi at, and with that Hardcase heads to the location. Once inside the building Hardcase is greeted by Rex Mundi who is not there but is speaking to him via a intercom box and taunts the hero about never finding him, he then blows up the building with Hardcase in it and of course the police show up and blame him for the arson, and now he is facing two charges! Hardcase once out on bail contacts Shadowmage and Tech as he needs help finding some of the Ultra Villains that Mundi sent to the moon and they are able to locate Meathook and Death Dance who at first attack Hardcase until they find he came in peace, and after telling the hero about how Mundi left them for dead on the moon and that he also stole all their money they share the location of a entrance to a secret base of Mundi’s and of course Mundi is watching this happen. Meanwhile at Choice busts into the office demanding to speak to Hardcase just as the real Choice appears back on Earth at the site of our heroes burnt down house.
Hardcase’s quest to find and stop Rex Mundi continues and this time Rex blows up a building and blames our hero for it and also his own associates turn on him as Rex Mundi us truly an evil being who loves to ruin lives. Hardcase is really turning into a detective in this issue as he follows leads and asks questions to people that he might not be able to trust in order to get answers that inch him closer to his goal of capturing the man who has killed his friends and has by all accounts ruined the Ultra Heroes life! Rex Mundi as well is really playing a game as he is baiting Hardcase along and is very much enjoying doing so. And the biggest plot element shown in this issue is that there are now two versions of Choice on Earth with one being the one who is having a child with Hardcase and the other is under control of the Choice Corporation and it will be cool when these two ladies clash! Also I like that the law thinks Hardcase is turning bad as he has charges now for murder and arson and while they are trying to believe his stories of Rex Mundi being the real one responsible the lack of proof is giving them doubt. The cover is very fun and is based on the classic Amazing Fantasy # 15 and the interior art by Hugh Haynes is great and over all this really is a good solid issue and is getting the series back on track after the weird and kind of lame Loki crossover.
Hardcase # 25 **1/2
Released in 1995 Cover Price $2.50 Malibu # 25 of 26
Hardcase is driving his RV to the location that was given to him by Meathook as he takes a phone call from Choice who is mad at him for showing up at he work talking weird and calling her “Amy” as well as acting as if her bosses are treating her wrong, and thinking fast Hardcase tries to defuse what he caused and Choice storms out of the office just as the real Choice shows up at the office looking for Hardcase herself. Once Choice hears about another Choice she heads to talk to this woman that she feels is just a clone, and when the two meet the Clone Choice attacks the real one who must be super aggressive to stop her attack and make sure innocent people do not get hurt. Meanwhile Hardcase arrives at the entrance location and is attacked by massive rock people who are acting as bodyguard for Rex Mundi and as the fight goes on Hardcase finds out that he has more Ultra Powers then he expected as he freezes the rock men and wins the fight and in the end enters the hidden base of Rex Mundi.
Hardcase has turned his Ultra Powers to 11 as he is now really close to having the final fight against his arch-nemesis Rex Mundi and while Rex has set traps along the way I feel as if this has been the plan all along and that Rex wants him to arrive at his base as he has a trap set for him! And it’s clear that this fight that is coming will be epic as both men clearly hate each other and we know that Mundi wants death for Hardcase it’s unclear just how far Hardcase wants to push the fight. The real Choice being back is awesome and I am glad she is back on Earth and out of the God Wheel nonsense, and the “Clone” version of Choice is crazy and is very aggressive. The story is getting good as we approach the final issue in the series and its crazy to think that this journey has built to this moment of Hardcase and Rex Mundi and we have seen the sad life that actor turned hero has had all because a evil being has it out for him, and now we are at the verge of payback! The cover for this issue is ok and has Hardcase fighting the rock men and the interior art by Hugh Haynes is good and his style brings me back to mid 90’s comics. I am looking forward to reading the final issue in the Hardcase series and I can not wait to see how the Mundi and Hardcase feud ends as well as what will come of the Choice vs. Choice battle…and more important will Hardcase and Choice be able to live happily together.
Hardcase # 26 **1/2
Released in 1995 Cover Price $2.95 Malibu # 26 of 26
Hardcase makes it to the base of Rex Mundi and finds himself easily captured and both are now very much confused when the Time Stone is brought up and Loki as neither man seems to know who or why he was there and Mundi is impressed by the power that Loki seems to have and wonders what has changed due to the gem. Rex Mundi then tells Hardcase about who he is as we find out Mundi is the original Ultra who was a caveman who was infected by the alien ship and that over the centuries he broke the ships hold on him and had even found a mate and love in Regina, but the two found that they did not see eye to eye on how to deal with Ultras and humans on Earth and Regina left their home base to teach mankind while Mundi created NM-E to kill Ultras and his enemies. Mundi then tells him that he is really the worlds good guy as he is trying to keep is safe from Aliens as well as the raw power of Ultras and with that he starts to drain the energy from Hardcase who uses some of his new power to time jump and stops the masked version of himself from saving The Squad and when he returns to present time Rex Mundi is ready to end this struggle once and for all that is until Regina who is inside the newly rebuilt NM-E busts in and knocks Hardcase out of the base and goes after Mundi! Meanwhile the two Choice are fighting and each hit each other with a kill blow, but things can change now that Hardcase once more changed time, Hardcase forces himself to forget how to time travel and returns home to find the real Choice waiting for him and the two lovers are back together and happy. But Loki is watching this reunion and has plans of his own now that he has the gem stones.
The Hardcase comic series came to an end with this issue and while the character would float around in a few Marvel/Malibu comic series for a short time he would be gone around 1997 as Marvel walked away from the Ultraverse and the Malibu Characters as a whole. The final battle between Rex Mundi and Hardcase is a little of a letdown as most of the issue has our hero captured and the baddie Mundi explaining his history on Earth and why he does what he does, its weird as they almost try and make you feel that he is doing what is right as he wants to save the world from the harm that Ultras and Aliens cause! And while Mundi does have a fight it’s with Regina in her NM-E mech-suit and not Hardcase and the battle is not even really shown. And the lack of a fight between Hardcase and Mundi is a letdown as is the fact that this issue has to spend time just to re-change the events of the terrible Loki Time Gem crossover that was a waste of time and was just Marvel being Marvel and that was to ruin the story being created by the folks at Malibu Comics. And even the Choice vs. Choice story goes no place as we have them fighting to the death and both die…only for it to be changed thanks to time travel again. And what the heck was the masked phasing cloaked guy that appeared issues back who claimed he was the son of Hardcase that never shows back up, that was the main issue with the Hardcase comic series is that story and characters have no payouts, plot elements go in circle and I do feel that once Marvel bought Malibu you can tell that the characters attitudes change and not for the good. And while I will say that the Hardcase series is not the best we have looked at here on Rotten Ink re-reading and in some issues cases reading for the first time really did make me become a fan of his as I think the character could be used still to this day and could be a big part of the Marvel Universe in comics, shows and films if they would just give him the chance. The cover for this final issue is ok and had Hardcase and Rex Mundi facing off and the interior art by Hugh Haynes is good and as I have said before its pure 90’s stuff. While the Hardcase comic series has some really bad issues it also had many above average ones and even a few really great ones and was an enjoyable read that really does make me miss the characters that made up the Ultraverse. And if you are a comic reader who likes the 90’s Superhero boom, give Hardcase a chance and check out some of his issues. Checkout the artwork bellow to see the styles used in this comics series.
I have been having lots of fun looking back at the Malibu Comic characters and it seems that you readers have been as well. And if you have not checked out my other updates on the likes of Prototype, Exiles, Sleepstalker and Bones make sure to do so. I can not stress just how disappointed I am in Disney and Marvel Comics for not using the character of Malibu comics anymore as they really should be just added into the regular Marvel Universe as should the characters of CrossGen another company that they bought and have buried. And Hardcase in my opinion should have been a member of The Avengers and hell the Ultraforce team should be still around. But we can not change what is when it comes to the House Of Mouse and The House Of Ideas and with that I would like to tell you that our next update will continue our 10 Year Celebration and will take us to the world of Horror Hosting as we chat about the host of Monsterpiece Theater the one and only Alistair Cookie who lives of Sesame Street! Until then make sure to read a Malibu Comic or three, watch a superhero movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host. Oh remember to bring some cookies to the next update, as Mr. Cookie loves them.