There’s no denying that Brian Michael Bendis shaped the Ultimate Marvel Universe into what it is today. Despite writing two of the most popular canon X-Men titles and Guardians of the Galaxy, not to mention his solo projects, he somehow still finds a way to still have a hand in it and continue to push the story. With Bendis’ success in the 616 Universe rising, it comes as no surprise to me that I pick-up a tone of warning of farewell from the writer himself as well as a swan song for the heroes who died in Cataclysm: Ultimates’ Last Stand.
Survive #1 shows us most of the Ultimate cast, or what’s left of them. They have gathered to pay homage to their fallen leader and hero, Captain America. They also briefly mention Thor, who fell into the void known as the Negative Zone with Galactus in the final moments of the finale. It is a tad irksome that there is no real funeral service being held for Thor; not that I find myself a particularly ravenous Thor fan but I know he had a tight following for the Ultimate readers. It seems a disservice to be mentioned off-handedly, at best, by Tony Stark, but being this issue is meant to be a segue into the new titles – it seems less important to focus on the old guard and more important to zoom the lens in on the new.
The big players of the Ultimate Universe are retiring or dying off and a younger generation is rising to the call. It’s a nice changing of the guard and Bendis uses flashbacks to three days prior to the funeral to show us how the times are changing for the Ultimate Universe.
First is Maria Hill, who is apparently going to be held accountable for the attacks on Earth via Galactus. Foggy Nelson makes his grand appearance, finally, as a consulting attorney for Maria Hill. Bendis chooses not to reveal his hand a few times in this book and has characters get cut-off a couple times. What law firm Nelson works for is still a mystery, especially since Daredevil/lawyer-by-day-Matt Murdock supposedly died during the last original guard wipe-out event, Ultimatum. Foggy does offer us another mystery as well when he notes the rumor that S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to be shut down for their failure to do even their basic promise, protect Earth. If this is to be true, what will fill the void that the omni-presence known as S.H.I.E.L.D. will surely leave?
The unplayed card is a trick that Bendis practices much better than other writers. In Bendis’ comics, the loose end always returns, usually after the characters have stopped worrying about it and even long enough after the readers might stop looking for signs of it. By three pages after the revelation that Foggy is working for a mysterious law firm, the reader’s mind is already knee-deep in the second flashback and they are dealing with a whole new set of emotions.
The second flashback finds Sue Storm and Reed Richards amidst an awkward exchange inside the now destroyed Baxter Building. Once true-lovers, they now find themselves at opposite ends of the morality spectrum. The scene is depicted from Sue’s point of view, so it is a bit awkward when Reed tells her of meeting their alternate-dimension daughter (Valeria) and the issue never visualizes her reaction. Here there is a lack of emotional relatability missing in her perspective, with everything that’s transpired between the two, so it’s no wonder she keeps putting up force-fields to keep people away. Especially Reed.
Quinones, who is on pencils, does a great enough job with rendering the emotions of Kitty, Maria, and Spider-Man (even making his costume squint in the way that many fans hate, how does fabric squint?) but the art in the scene between Sue and Reed seems almost forgets that Sue has an emotional investment in the actions as well.
The two of them discuss Reed’s ambition to restart the original think tank Dr. Storm himself once invited him to and Sue’s obvious distrust of him doesn’t lead us into any sort of conclusion with that. We can now presume this necessary but unwanted union for the greater good is at least a sub-premise of the new Ultimate FF series.
Kitty’s flashback delivers the most emotional and visceral scene throughout Survive #1. It seems that after Cataclysm: Ultimates’ Last Stand she headed home to sleep off being the savior of humanity against Galactus. Kitty’s fight with Galactus was probably the most televised thing ever and as such, she is now the perfect spokesperson and representative for the good that mutants can achieve. It seems Bendis is setting her up to be a much more prominent figure than her 616 counterpart, at least in the grand scheme of this each Universe. Be it Bendis’ writing or Quinones, but Kitty comes off as the most grounded and real character in the entire book. Her speechlessness at being asked to represent mutantkind beside the President is the most realistic reaction you could get from a character in that situation and Bendis, as always, delivers us ordinary people in extraordinary situations.
It was very disappointing to see Miles get such a watered-down flashback. Bendis has worked so hard to develop his character in Ultimate Spider-Man (vol. 2) that it’s a curiosity as to why his part in Survive #1 seems to be the least personal of the batch. There is so much going on for his character beyond this singular issue or even in Cataclysm: Ultimates’ Last Stand. Instead of developing that, audiences are given a meandering lead into Jessica Drew’s epiphany about starting a new team. The question is, was this enough to get fenced or new readers to delve into the book?
Regardless, all these flashbacks lead into Jessica Drew’s interruption of Stark’s eulogy to announce that in honor of what Steve Rogers would have expected, they, Kitty, Spider-Man, Bombshell, Cloak & Dagger, have chosen to take on the mantle of the Young Ultimates. With that, Tony toasts with a teary eye and the die is cast, most of the hand is shown, and the segue into new Ultimate titles has begun.
Overall the issue stands out as a simple one-shot. It’s not necessary to read before readers delve into the new rebooted titles, but if they are coming in new it’s a very quick read that really places the reader in the proper position to be interested enough to keep reading and maybe curious enough to read older issues as well. Quinones’ art is decent enough though unpracticed with the characters. The local comic scene will really benefit from a one-shot like this because if a new reader says “where do I start?” this really is the best single comic to hand them before everything kicks off next month.