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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Challengers of the Unknown #75 - Ultivac Is Loose

This issue reprints the second Challengers try-out story from SHOWCASE #7 (1957). The recent hardcover reprint of the story credits the story to Dave Wood and the inks to Roz Kirby and Marvin Stein.

Following an origin recap, we see the Challs settling down to check their mail for new adventures. In walks Hesse, a former Nazi who comes in with a story about an out of control robot he created. Suddenly...



A great looking panel of Ultivac's hand bursting in through the window. Very nice detail, you can definitely see the same kind of visual themes from the many other giant robot hands that Kirby would use. Anyway, Hesse is taken, and the Challs contact a robot expert, leading to their first meeting with later honorary fifth Challenger June Robbins (oddly with dark hair here. Later she'd be blonde and named June Walker, before finally settling in as blonde June Robbins. Of course, Prof's name changes at least three times in Kirby's run, so obviously continuity wasn't a bit thing back then). Her computer predicts that Ultivac can only be defeated after a Challenger dies. That doesn't slow down the Challs of course, and they leap into danger for the rest of the story. A lot of twists in the story, with a King Kong riff in the middle, the giant robot taking June and being attacked by planes, and then the Ultivac trying to live in peace with humanity only to be destroyed by his creator. And while Rocky does die in the climactic battle, but is saved by revolutionary life-saving techniques.

A very strange story, but with some gorgeous artwork. The Ultivac panels are particular highlights, as are the detailed underwater scenes in one segment in the middle. Very nice, and wonderful inking. The later Wally Wood stuff tends to get more attention, but the inking on the early issues is just as good, I think.

The entire 24 page story is reprinted, with some minor modifications for page layout and such things (like substituting the then-current COTU logo, but oddly not fixing at least one spelling mistake I noticed), plus one page of the then-current Challs was added as an introduction in the beginning. The cover is a slightly modified version of the splash page with a figure of Ace in the then current costume introducing.

Published 1970

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