Cataclysm #1 is like the beginning of the third act of a blockbuster action film, and it is only the first issue of a six issue miniseries. Basically, because of the events of Age of Ultron, Galactus has found his way into the Ultimate Universe and wants to devour all of it. The plot of this story is mostly Galactus wrecking New York and New Jersey, but Brian Michael Bendis throws in some of his trademark witty banter and characterization, especially with Miles Morales. But this is Mark Bagley’s comic, first and foremost. He shows his range as an artist, drawing everything from a two page spread of Galactus landing in New York to Miles and his friend Ganke chatting in the streets of Brooklyn. Cataclysm #1 is a quick read filled with explosions and action sequences, but it is a pretty good start to a literal universe shattering event.
In Cataclysm #1, Bendis focuses on Miles Morales, the new Spider-Man of the Ultimate Universe. Miles has matured since his first appearance back in 2011 and has realized that wearing a mask and being a superhero can have negative effects on one’s personal life. However, instead of brooding on this, he goes right into action when Galactus appears. Bendis opens the comic with a lengthy conversation between Miles and his best friend Ganke which grounds him as a character and gives this event a much needed human element. He also puts in some jokes to relieve some of the tension of an entire fictional universe possibly ending and show how this universe’s heroes cope with forces beyond their understanding.
Cataclysm is an event tailor made for Mark Bagley. He co-created the Ultimate Universe with Bendis, and he should be the one to (maybe) end it. Bagley’s greatest strength in this issue is understanding the sense of scale between Galactus and other humans and heroes. He uses small, skinny panels to show Miles, Ganke, the Ultimates, and bystanders in comparison with Galactus, who is from another universe and can’t be constrained by mere comics panels. Inker Andrew Hennessy embellishes on Bagley’s pencils and differentiates the huge cast of characters from each other while colorist Jason Keith uses mixes of reds, blues, and purples to contrast Galactus’ cosmic power with the denizens of New York. And in the midst of the mayhem, Bagley makes sure to insert plenty of reaction shots from the various heroes as they futilely try to take Galactus down.
If Infinity can be compared to the original Star Wars films, Cataclysm is more like Pacific Rim. It doesn’t dwell on philosophical questions or have epic battles, it is just a bunch of beleaguered, down and out heroes trying to avert the destruction of their world. Instead of talking for multiple issues and waiting for Galactus to arrive, Bendis cuts straight to the action and shows the remaining heroes of the Ultimate Universe rallying against a threat that is far beyond any of them. The plot is straightforward and predictable, but Bagley’s art and Bendis’ character work with Miles Morales make Cataclysm #1 a comic worth reading for fans of the Ultimate Universe or action-packed superhero comics in general.