In the latest Marvel event, Galactus appears around the globe and Cataclysm: Ultimate X-Men, Issue 1 is no exception to the giant’s wrath. Unlike a previous appearance in the Spider-man version of the trial, this comic loses no time on introduction and chooses to cut into the fold directly. Its payoff is therefore swifter, yet lacking in artistic expertise to really put on the finishing touches.
Starting off in the, now desolated, mutant sky world of Tian, Rogue and a set of others find themselves trying to pick up the pieces of a previous struggle. As the pivotal character, the power-stealing mutant receives a touching focus, detailing her necessity to wield forces and draining others in the process. Other characters are mainly serving side purposes to fill precise roles during the story. Prioritizing this way allows the episode to cover the slew of new information in quick one-liners, which effectively services the pace of the very limited three issue run. It does, however, leave a few characters to become shallow, certainly as some represent nearly identical qualities to heroes like Wolverine and Magneto. Still, there’s plenty of time to draw the distinction between those in the following slides.
Now is the time for action and that’s where fans of it will find the best elements in this installment. Already inside a war zone, things turn ugly real quick at the first signs of Galactus in the skyline. From there, situations go from bad to worse, which results in even more dire circumstances for a lot of heroes. Going further on the sense of loss Rogue feels, the comic pulls vicious blows towards its cast, for immediate big hits in the squad’s numbers. Even with just brief intros, some more vulnerable personas can feel aggrandized in their victim role. They are the lamb, the swarming enemies are the wolves, and the stronger defenders are the shepherds. It’s a submissive role to fulfill to be puny, only to be outdone by more potent emotional gain. There are a lot of heads to go around here, so at its least, the comic tries its darndest to capitalize on many as soon as possible. It’s going to leave a mark.
Luckily for us, story and action are linked into one, which are probably the most important traits to centralize. Art design retains a serviceable quality to qualify this as a fully successful run, but its impact is lesser than it should be. Instead, the sloppy work merely rides the coattails of some stellar storyboarding. In full truth, it may rely on the rough cut a little too much. Characters have spindly, linear figures and coloring schemes follow up with clean and simple palettes, but its overall lacks detail. Moreover, many panels simplify too greatly and omit additional effects on top of that. For instance, some scenes have a boring, single-color background and others have moving characters, but without any movement indication on the page. Life on the paper stays flat.
It makes the overall look extremely rushed and that’s without noting many rough edges and incomplete coloring, when inspected closely. It shouldn’t be noticeable to the naked eye, fortunately, but the signs of a haphazard effort are well embedded in this run. Marvel can’t afford an amateurish look, not with its stature. If it was a web comic, sure, splash it on, but this is a bite-size show reel; it should pull out all the stops. As a redeeming factor, more detail does creep in on later panels, oddly enough.
Further minor blemishes can be seen in awkward character poses, though it again rectifies itself in others. There were two people at the pencil board for this episode, so perhaps it’s the reason for its inconsistency. Similar notions are true for employing both crayon filling and inked styles. Both are fine, but scenes don’t appeal to the eye as much by being doubtful about which is the format to use primarily. At least the difference rarely clashes, beyond its generally produced flaws, though that may be more by chance than anything.
Aesthetics in Cataclysm: Ultimate X-Men, Issue 1 are below average and that’s deplorable, but its stronger points elsewhere are powerful enough to overcome in the grand scheme of things. With plenty of material to get stuck on, some interesting points presented and future occurrences looming on the horizon, the follow-up to this remains an interesting prospect. If it can rectify its laziness by then, it would be even better, if not mandatory.