There is a pendulum swinging in Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man, issue 1. As a short series of just three episodes, some of its flaws may seem larger than life. On the other end of the momentum, some great setups could give us a fast and furious run, with some talented artists at the helm.
Its story will jump in on the tail end of previous events, where Spider-Woman, along with Miles Morales and some other gifted characters, disrupt the evil Roxxon Corporation. This action doesn’t sit well with S.H.I.E.L.D., but as they also uncovered genetic experiments there, they’re left with a choice of what to do with the rogue squad. This action lines up a brief introduction for all the involved parties and there perspective on the unfolding events. All of them are troubled teens. Kids these days; can’t stay out of trouble. Intros are all that will be assessed in this issue, oddly, but it does give a thorough insight at people’s motivations, as well as giving everyone some attention before going into the action.
There are some high points in the solid writing from Marvel veteran Brian Michael Bendis, who’s also in charge for the plot in the Marvel Heroes massively multiplayer online game. For instance, Miles’ inexperience gets complimented by a scene with police that subverts expectation with more friendly interaction than usual. Tony Stark is his slightly lewd and snappy self, as always, tying together serious matter with a side of humor.
A rare flaw in character development is, at least currently, attributed to Thor’s dopier than normal outlook. His persona is made as more of dumb rather than naïve through comments, though the latter is still true for the Asgardian. Furthermore, Thor touches on a more prominent design quirk, which is the teenage theme taken to extremes. While he looks like a mix of rocker and indie pop hipster, Captain America’s baby blues make him look like he rejuvenated after his slumber, instead of aging whatsoever. Touches of youth are applied rather heavily on most characters, taking away some of their seniority they should hold over younger characters like Spider-Woman, who strangely enough does not look 16 in closer shots or with her full figure. It’s forgivable, due to the overall theme focusing on youth, but it is an unnecessary application.
Art panels themselves, however, are illustrated with great color schemes that add life to the background, while lighter characters take the forefront. Solid outlines blend with crisp coloring for a mixture of old and new styles of comics, leaving both preferences intact, instead of clashing. Heavily detailed frames make it a joy to linger within, such as illustrated panels in the back of the airship. A slight glimmer in Miles’ eyes signifies his interrupted slumber causing him to tear up. It may even urge some to read this otherwise brief lore again, to uncover some more hidden treasures.
Yet, priorities seesaw, as other frames periodically lose the touch of their praised counterparts. Some sloppy character models for background details could’ve used a work over. More importantly, a typing error in Bombshell’s speech is inexcusable, given the lack of text in the issue as a whole. This isn’t an artistic freedom, like onomatopoeia; it’s an oversight and a glaring one.
Views may differ on the prologue that is Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man, issue 1. It doesn’t cover a lot of ground, but does make up for it with interesting character development. Art is precise and varied, but forgets to follow through in several noticeable places. Its blemishes can be forgiven, due to the quality combination of story and art, but it is there and that may come to grate some with just two more issues to go. Its closing panel should be an omen that it’s about to cash in, however, hopefully.