Brian Michael Bendis has received heaps of criticism for his talking head stories and “Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man” #1 adds kindling to that pyre. In his defense, however, this comic book contains just enough hints and vignettes into the powers and mindscapes of a handful of characters without committing to the “Cataclysm” event, save for the last page of this issue. One more positive point in the ledger for this issue is the fact that Dave Marquez fills this comic with meticulously beautiful artwork.
The first five pages of “Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man” #1 is devoted to Spider-Woman pleading her case to Director Chang and the Ultimates. Spider-Woman led the charge against Roxxon’s genetic experimentation and now expects to face a harsh punishment. Bendis fills this scene with humanity, despite the stunning powers collected around the table in this scene. This type of sample permeates this comic book, with similar scenes devoted to Miles Morales’ incarnation of Spider-Man, Lana Baumgartner catching hell for her actions as Bombshell and Cloak and Dagger fruitlessly trying to go back home.
Dave Marquez’s mastery of emotion is topnotch, perfect for a comic book as full of teen angst and adult reaction to that angst. Marquez and coloring duo supreme, Justin Ponsor and Paul Mounts, pack “Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man” #1 with stunning collaborative visuals, like Cloak’s inky, shadow tendrils wafting around the troubled teen, Bombshell’s power disintegrating a phone and the shadowy silhouette of Galactus off in the distance. Marquez even manages to make the Ultimate version of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier not look like a ridiculous rejected prop from a movie you’d find being roasted by “Mystery Science Theater.”
As a matter of fact, Bendis’ hypnotically conversational interactions and Marquez’s gorgeous artwork are enough to overshadow the complete lack of “Cataclysm” in this comic book, save for the final spread. Despite not really being a part of “Cataclysm,” this comic is truly enjoyable as an investigative, introductory romp through the Ultimate Marvel Universe. Spider-Woman, Bombshell, Spider-Man and Cloak and Dagger all feature prominently, which stems from them all having recently shared an adventure. Bendis is giving readers just enough to draw out emotional investments, with Galactus on the horizon and the future of this universe under suspicion. Once the heroes introduced to readers in “Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man” #1 get involved in the action, this series is going to transform from a “nice to read” comic to a “must-read comic,” so maybe it’s good that this issue is a relatively quiet chapter.