Survive! #1

Posted by Donovan McComish 18 April 2014

Hello everybody and welcome to my review of Survive!, the epilogue to Cataclysm.

Synopsis:

The epilogue begins with a city-wide memorial for President Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, in Washington, D.C. The real funeral however, is taking place at Stark Tower in New York, with the surviving Ultimates, the X-Men, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Cloak & Dagger, Bombshell, the Falcon & Monica Chang among those present. Tony Stark begins a speech, saying how Cap inspired the hell out of them all just by walking, how he'd make them feel like they're not doing enough just by being there, noting that that was his favourite thing about him.

Flashing back four days ago, Franklin "Foggy" Nelson pays a visit to Chang, who is busy overseeing the clean-up of New Jersey. He informs her that the government (I assume that's who's doing this anyway?) are looking to press charges, effectively blaming her for all of the deaths that occurred. A rightly angry Chang points out that not only did they have no warning, not only did a giant purple cosmic guy from another universe show up and try to eat them, but they didn't even know that something like that existed or that what it did could actually be done. Foggy simply replies that "someone has to pay the check...and they decided it's going to be you".  He also tells her that the government are thinking of disbanding S.H.I.E.L.D entirely, citing their failure to protect the world from Galactus. Teary eyed, Monica asks if she'll at least get her day in court, adding that people will testify that she did the best she could. Foggy scoffs at this however and points out that they allowed a known terrorist (Reed Richards) full access to the Tricarrier, which is now in bits, saying she has to realise how that's going to look at a congressional hearing, regardless of Reed being the centrepiece of the plan that saved them (man, Foggy's kind of a dick). He gives her his card, saying they'll schedule some brainstorming sessions, while Monica wonders aloud what will be put in place of S.H.I.E.L.D.

We briefly cut back to the funeral, where Tony is saying that he was hoping Steve Rogers would come walking through the rooftop entrance and bark at them to get back to work, that he wants time and space to somehow bring Captain America back one more time, but he knows that that's not going to happen, though he acknowledges that, if anyone could do it, it would be Cap. After joking that he'll probably wind up re-forming himself and wake up in the year 3020, Stark suggests that perhaps Steve is like King Arthur, that maybe he comes back when people need him most.

Cue another flashback, this time three days ago. Reed Richards enters the ruins of the Baxter Building and looks through the wreckage, remembering the moment he was first introduced to Susan & Johnny Storm by their father (yep, we have a flashback within a flashback). His reminiscing is interrupted tho by Sue, who Reed had assumed was helping with the clean-up. Naturally, she thinks he is up to something, but she can't figure out the angle, to which Reed responds "neither can I". He starts to say that she's going to have to learn to trust him, but is interrupted by her erecting a forcefield. A still-suspicious Sue asks what happened to him in his visit to the parallel world with Spider-Man. Richards reiterates what he told her before, that he saw what could have been had he not callously thrown it away. He saw them married, as heroes, scientists and adventurers. He looked into their daughter's eyes and saw a full life. He also reveals that he hacked the files on the 616 FF's adventures, which annoys Sue as they weren't really his to take. She affirms to Reed that this doesn't mean they will be getting back together, noting that he tried to murder her in this very room with an alien spore, though Reed argues that there was more to it than that (really?). He tells Sue that he's seen their full potential and it haunts him, before answering her question of why he's at the Baxter, explaining that he was thinking about it's think tank and how the world might have been more prepared for Galactus if it was still around. He also correctly predicts that S.H.I.E.L.D will soon be disbanded, before finally adding "they are going to need something".

In present day, Stark remarks that, while it sounds defeatist and he could very well find his feet in the next few weeks, he can't imagine walking into the Ultimates HQ without Cap & Thor, saying that there are no Ultimates without them. He adds that hopefully some of the younger heroes present might rise to the occasion, and that he and Cap would hope that they do.

Cutting to another flashback, a couple of government agents are knocking on the door to the house of Devora Pryde, looking for her daughter, Kitty, who they've been led to believe is here. They assure her that Kitty is in no danger and that they have a phone call for her. Despite her mother's reservations, the men enter the house anyway and march upstairs to Pryde's bedroom, where she's enjoying a well-earned rest. Naturally a bit surprised by the sudden intrusion, she falls out of bed and takes the phone, discovering that the caller is the new President of the United States (okay, that was fast), who informs her that he wants her to come to White House tomorrow to accept the Medal of Freedom. He also says that they have a great deal in common, as he has been fighting to push a pro-mutant agenda through an incredibly stubborn Congress, sometimes all on his own, but now that she's shown the world that fear of mutants is a ridiculous concept, he wants her to join him and put that discrimination behind them once and for all. An obviously overwhelmed Kitty accepts the Presidents offer.

Back in the present, Stark tells everyone present that they need to be the best version of themselves right now, regardless of how much of an ask that is, since crime rates will be going up and people will need them to be the best that they can be. As Spider-Man contemplates this, Tony continues that for some of them, that will mean making big choices about what kind of hero they want to be, and how far they're willing to go in the name of what they believe.

Yet again, we flash back to the site of Galactus' world-devouring machine, which is being dismantled by S.H.I.E.L.D and demolition crews and delivered to Stark Tower. One of the workers, however, is arguing with a S.H.E.L.D agent, as he's concerned that handling the alien material will give him "space cancer of the gonads" (how charming). They're both so caught up in the argument that they don't notice a giant part of the machine come loose and fall toward them. Luckily for them, Miles is on hand to assist, preventing them from becoming pancakes by temporarily holding up the structure with his webbing, helping them out of the way before it collapses. Spider-Woman then arrives on the scene (commenting that she's thinking of changing that title), pulling Miles aside to tell him that she has an idea and she needs him to be a part of it.

Finally, in the present day, Spider-Woman apologetically interrupts Stark's speech to reveal that plan. That she, Miles, Kitty, Bombshell, Cloak & Dagger will be keeping the name of the Ultimates going as a way of honouring Thor & Cap, as the "All-New Ultimates". A teary-eyed Tony replies "Well ain't that exactly what he would have wanted. Well, then...to the new day..."

Thoughts:

Given the disappointing and abruptly ended final issue of Cataclysm, there was pressure on this one-shot to provide a more satisfying look at the fallout of the crossover event and give us an indication of what lies ahead for the Ultimate Universe. Does this issue accomplish these tasks? Kind of, but not really in some cases.

The biggest flaw in this issue is the lack of character moments that show us how these people are feeling after such a maddening ordeal . The biggest example of this is the funeral of Captain America. Tony Stark's eulogy works well enough as does the shot of America mourning their President, but the reaction from the superhero community is overall really stolid. Captain America is looked at with a great deal of respect within the Marvel Universe, and while this version is more flawed than his mainstream counterpart, that respect has remained intact, so not letting us see how all our heroes are feeling in light of his death completely undercuts the emotional weight of that death, it almost feels like America and the superheroes are mourning two different people. This could easily have been fixed with a flashback showing the discovery of the Captain's body, but as it stands this is a considerably weaker impact than when Ed Brubaker killed Steve Rogers off in the 616 universe. There's been rumours that Storm will actually succeed Rogers as Captain America since she was shown picking up and carrying the shield in the final issue of Cataclysm. There isn't an Ultimate X-Men book solicited as part of Ultimate Marvel NOW! so it's certainly a possibility, and the idea of a black, teenage, female Captain America (who is also a mutant) is without doubt an interesting idea as well as a great way of improving diversity in comics, not to mention that this Cap would actually have superpowers. If this turns out to be true then she'll likely join the All-New Ultimates team after the first story-arc or so.

The lack of emotional depth also extends to when Kitty Pryde & Miles Morales are spotlighted. Both contain some interesting material, as well as brief moments of levity that come naturally and brighten up an otherwise sombre issue, but they once again miss out on the small moments. For some reason Bendis completely skips over Kitty returning home and reuniting with her mother which, considering that she's been on the run for the last few months as well as what she's just been through, is kind of a cop-out. I'm guessing the newly elected pro-mutant President is going to eventually be revealed as a mutant himself, perhaps even an established X-Men character, but we'll just have to wait and see. Miles' section is pretty random. He's just saving people with no look at how he's feeling now that his dad has abandoned him and Spider-Woman's appearance, as well as her announcement of the new team, was pretty obligatory. We also don't get any explanation as to why Kitty is joining the All-New Ultimates. Sure, Miles saved her life, but that's a weak explanation considering she's just been invited to help the President campaign for mutant rights. Overall, the set-up for Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man & All-New Ultimates is pretty weak, but that in no way informs the series themselves, and hopefully their first issues will be considerably better.

Thankfully the scene between Reed Richards and Sue Storm is much stronger, not just that there are some actual emotional undertones to their words, but also the realism of the situation. It would be far too ridiculous to have Sue go from hating Reed to loving him again in the span of a few issues and the dialogue reminds us why she has reason to distrust her former teammate, but it keeps Reed sympathetic with his talk about what he saw in the other universe and his regrets about them not reaching their full potential. I also like how the exchange between them foreshadows the upcoming Ultimate FF series. The disbanding of S.H.I.E.L.D, which was an unexpected development, allowed the usually stern Monica Chang to have a small instance of vulnerability, which really humanised the former Director. By the end of that scene, I actually felt a bit sorry for her. I appreciated the appearance by Foggy, though it did serve as an annoying reminder that Daredevil is dead in this universe as a result of Ultimatum.

While the artwork by Joe Quinones is good, the cartoonish look makes it incompatible with the issue's mostly grim tone at times. That being said the characters are very expressive and the inks are sharp, lending a nice level of detail to the panels. The colours by Quinoses and Rainier Beredo are more in-keeping with the atmosphere of the book and help make the art feel less intrusive. While I do think the issue could have done a better job as an epilogue, as well as setting up Ultimate Marvel NOW!, it definitely could have been worse. I'm really looking forward to seeing what direction the new titles will take the Ultimate Universe next, most of all Spider-Man...

Score: 3.0/5.0

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