After getting tangled up in decompression and universe hopping, Cataclysm #5 shows the final battle between the heroes of the Ultimate Universe and a very hungry and angry Galactus. This issue is mostly a big slugfest between various heroes, but Brian Michael Bendis finds time to explore different character relationships, which has been a main aspect of his work in the Ultimate Universe. Penciller Mark Bagley for the most part captures the epic scope of the fight against Galactus even if Galactus’ size occasionally fluctuates. The issue might seem a little rushed and anti-climactic, but there are some great moments, including a two page spread where Bendis and Bagley capture the essence of what makes the Ultimate Universe so great. It is a universe where death isn’t a revolving, where heavy hitters like Peter Parker and Wolverine can stay dead and inspire a new generation of heroes, and one where hope might still exist even if in the face of a planet devouring menace.
Between the punches, Bendis puts in little moments of character development and interaction. These small scenes give Cataclysm #5 emotional weight even if some of the plot points to take out and fight Galactus seemed forced or too much like a deus ex machina. Cataclysm #5 shows Miles Morales progress a little further on his hero’s journey as he watches (and helps) Kitty Pryde take on Galactus all by herself in a brutal battle. The most compelling subplot is Reed Richards’ unexpected quest for redemption as he tries to save the world he once ruled. Richards may lack the warmth of Kitty, Miles, or Invisible Woman, but he has had the most interesting character arc of anyone in Cataclysm. This issue is also full of emotion and probably set a record for most hugs in a superhero comic. The depth of feeling that Bendis brings to characters like Kitty, Miles, and some of the other heroes sets Cataclysm apart from other “blow up the world, throw the bad guy into the portal thingy” type comic events and makes up for some plot holes, like not showing what happened to a missing, presumed dead Captain America in the last issue.
Mark Bagley depicts some gorgeous and emotional moments in Cataclysm #5. A two page spread of Kitty Pryde punching Galactus. ‘Nuff said. His biggest strength are the little panels that show character reactions to the carnage around, like a scene where Tony Stark is smiling at Miles Morales going into action in the faces of unbeatable odds. However, his art showing the fight against Galactus can be sometimes be uneven as he changes size from panel to panel. Blocking issues aside, colorist Jason Keith makes Bagley’s explosions pop with a mixture of red, orange, and yellow. His work is also a big part of a third act twist. Bagley’s art enhances Bendis’ characterization, and his closing pages set the tone for the future of the Ultimate Universe. In Cataclysm #5, Bendis and Bagley right some of the wrongs of Ultimatum while giving readers an enjoyable battle royale against one of Marvel’s most epic villains and setting the stage for future stories in the Ultimate Universe with a new batch of battle tested characters.