Thursday, November 7, 2013

Scanned Thoughts: Cataclysm - The Ultimates' Last Stand #1

Break out the barf bags and camp out at the nearest toilet because I’m about to review another Ultimate book. I know it has been a while since I’ve even mentioned anything related to Ultimate comics and for good reason. The Ultimate comics have been such a clusterfuck over the past few years that if it were actual garbage, it would be hazardous to hold near an open flame. It has basically consisted of Miles bitching about being Spider-Man, the Ultimates acting like assholes, and the X-men basically telling the same fucking story about Utopia that was told only a few fucking years ago. Even if all the toilet paper on the planet ran out, I wouldn’t use this crap because I have too much respect for my ass and the shit that comes out of it. But now Marvel is promising more upheavals with Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand. It picks up right from where Age of Ultron ended with Galactus entering the Ultimate universe. And he’s got the munchies like a motherfucker and he’s going to gorge on Ultimate Earth. Given how fucked Ultimate Earth has been in recent years, it’s an act of mercy. Never-the-less, I have a sincere hope that this will somehow lead to an overhaul of the Ultimate comics that will make it so I can think about them without becoming violently ill. So here I go with my review of Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #1 and if at some point anyone experiences explosive diarrhea, don’t worry. That’s normal with Ultimate.

In addition to explosive diarrhea, it’s also painfully common in the world of Ultimate that Spider-Man sucks at keeping his identity secret. Peter Parker may be dead, but Miles Morales has adopted his tendency to be way too careless with who he shows is under the mask. His friend, Genke, already knows and it’s not clear whether he’s even whispering when he’s talking to Miles about being Spider-Man. That’s like my weed dealer singing out the names and addresses of his customers on a crowded street. It can’t end well. But beyond Miles’s knack for having friends who are very bad at keeping their voices down, they discuss one of the scenes that took place in Age of Ultron #10. When time broke, Miles saw Galactus appear briefly in the Ultimate universe. For whatever reason, he didn’t stick around and his journey was later captured in the mini-series Hunger, which was almost as forgettable as the Star Wars prequels. But since this Miles is still as confused as a baby in a topless bar at what he saw.

In that sense, he shouldn’t be nearly as surprised/horrified as everyone else when Galactus returns and starts laying waste to everything around him. Not only that, he does it with a casual look on his face that reminds me of how I look when I’m fixing a sandwich. Shit starts blowing up. People start running and screaming in horror. Genke then urges Miles to get into costume and attack the giant skyscraper-sized man in the funny hat that’s currently destroying everything around him. Either Genke has way too much confidence in Miles or he’s just trying to make a clean getaway.

Miles still successfully suits up and goes after Galactus, who is basically asking the same questions. How the fuck do Spider-Man powers stack up against a guy this big and this powerful? Never mind the fact that he doesn’t know that this is fucking Galactus, the devourer of worlds from 616. This guy dines on planets in the same way I dine on Doritos after several bong hits. At the very least, Brian Michael Bendis provides some solid inner monologue to give insight into the mentality of a kid going up against Galactus. It adds a kind of personal element that the Ultimate books have been allergic too for way too fucking long. The problem is that Miles doesn’t even get a chance to finish his thought before Galactus unleashes his first attack and since he’s motherfucking Galactus, it’s pretty damn intense and pretty damn awesome.

If this sort of attack was going on in 616, it would be much more epic. And the beautiful artwork of Mark Bagely certainly gives it a very epic feel and Brian Michael Bendis gives Miles a solid voice. However, this isn’t 616. This is fucking Ultimate. This is a world where this kind of destruction is so routine and so frequent that I wouldn’t be surprised if people just started yawning instead of screaming. This isn’t the first time I’ve pointed this out in reviewing an Ultimate comic, but there’s just no emotional weight with these books anymore. Ultimate has overused plots about destruction and death so much that it might as well be as threatening as a feather. In a series where Nightcrawler, a fucking teleporter, died from drowning, there’s just no way to any kind of destruction will have any kind of impact anymore.

While the destruction may make for a boring plot, it doesn’t go unnoticed by SHIELD. Apparently, Galactus’s first attack was to wipe out all of New Jersey. I’m guessing the guys at Marvel aren’t fans of the New Jersey Devils, Kevin Smith movies, and the Jersey Shore. That or I guess they just want to show off Galactus’s power by destroying the one state that contains the largest per capita of annoying douche-bags. I’m honestly trying not to root for Galactus, but this is making it really hard.

Again, the artwork and epic scale of the battle here is awesome. But nobody is going to be on the edge of their seat. SHIELD launches an attack against Galactus and Galactus still looks like he’s just making a sandwich. It’s not a fair fight in the slightest. SHIELD might as well be throwing cotton balls at Galactus. They don’t make a single dent and like Ellen DeGeneres at a male strip club, there’s nothing too arousing or surprising. It just looks awesome. But depending on how many joints have been smoked, that may be more than enough.

The destruction keeps getting worse and worse, yet the impact still falls flatter than Al Gore’s voice at an economics lecture. But the focus isn’t only on the destruction. If SHIELD can’t even scratch Galactus and Spider-Man has no hope of contributing, he still does what Peter Parker would have done and tries to save the people. It’s a nice touch in what could have otherwise been developed as hardcore disaster porn. Since Ultimate began, Spider-Man has been one of the least douchebag heroes around and to his credit, Miles has kept that tradition going. But if Galactus is going to devour the entire fucking world, saving these people is no different than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Then again, neither he nor anyone else in Ultimate know what they’re dealing with so they don’t know how fucked they are.

It may have taken the loss of an entire fucking state, but the Ultimates finally do arrive on the scene. It’s Ultimate so I can only assume they were too busy being assholes to get there fast enough. And unlike 616, they’re not nearly as stacked with powerful talent as 616. They have three quarters of the Fantastic Four, Thor, Spider-Woman, Iron Man, Hawkeye, and Captain America. They might as well be an NFL team without any offensive playmakers, like the Jasonville Jaguars. It’s not a fair fight to say the least. Then again, I don’t think it’s supposed to be a fair fight. I get the sense that the appeal of this battle is the same appeal of a battle between a puppy and a grizzly bear. It’s so horrific, yet it’s impossible to look away.

The battle intensifies and once again, we’re blessed with some incredible imagery and well-crafted action sequences. It’s the kind of Bendis/Bagley magic that once made Ultimate something that was actually more appealing than a giant a rectal wart. The Ultimates put up a much better fight than SHIELD. And for the first time in the whole issue, Galactus actually flinches. Granted, Galactus still looks like a guy stuck in traffic on a hot summer day, but it’s a much more compelling battle than just watching SHIELD throw expensive jet fighters at him.

And it’s not all just shooting and shit blowing up. While this battle is unfolding, Tony Stark is trying actually trying to figure out just what the fuck they’re up against. It’s actually somewhat fitting because 616 Tony Stark played such a major role in the events of Age of Ultron. Now his Ultimate counterpart, who is still basically an overly happy drunk, is picking up on his mess. The Ultimates have faced Gah Lak Tus, but that was basically a warm of cosmic bugs. This is the motherfucking he’ll-eat-your-whole-fucking-planet Galactus so it’s a much more daunting challenge to say the least.

As fitting as it may be, it’s not entirely clear how Stark figures out that Galactus is from another version of Earth. I’m sure there’s some sort of elaborate explanation of technobabble to go along with it, but then again that would take away from Bagley’s pretty artwork and we can’t have that. However he figured it out, it doesn’t do any of the Ultimates good. Once Galactus is sufficiently annoyed, he blasts them the fuck away while Tony Stark informs SHIELD that this Galactus is from another Earth. Not only that, this Galactus isn’t just out to destroy New Jersey. He’s out to destroy everything. And just like that, the whole Ultimate universe knows how fucked they are.

Reading a story like Cataclysm is like watching the 10th Friday the 13th movie. At this point most people are so familiar with the setup and so desensitized to the destruction that like Elton John at the Playboy Mansion, it’s hard to feel anything. The impact is really muted. The issue consists largely of the remaining Ultimate characters that haven’t been maimed, turned evil, or been fucked up beyond the point of being useful shitting themselves at the prospect of facing a threat like Galactus. But I do admit I take a perverse pleasure in seeing the most powerful entity from 616 fuck up the world of Ultimate after it has spent the past few years taking a massive steaming shit on everything that once made it great. It’s like tracking down that asshole bully from high school that everyone hated and kicking his ass while waiting in line for his herpes medication. That and the visuals with Bendis and Bagley, the Bert and Ernie of Marvel Comics, were a sight to behold. So for those who have a sadistic side or just the unapologetic Ultimate fans who for some reason haven’t been utterly disgusted by this series, there’s plenty to enjoy here. Overall, I give Cataclysm #1 a 6 out of 10. It’s fun to see the fallout from Age of Ultron continue and to see the Ultimate world collectively shit itself. And it’s done in a way that’s fairly entertaining without having to waste too many barf bags. Nuff said!

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