"Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand" #4 is a hot mess of a comic from Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley that takes a little too long to do anything and then rushes through what it set out to do: attack Galactus. After nearly a dozen "Cataclysm" related comic books, Galactus has not devoured the Earth, nor have the Ultimate characters chased away the last survivor of Taa.
In this issue, Bendis recruits Kitty Pryde into the last gasp effort against Galactus, but doesn't deploy her attack. Instead, the writer -- through the denizens of the Ultimate Universe -- buys time and pads the conclusion of this epic, drawing it out for another issue and the four bucks that go with it. This issue has a decent balance of standing and talking as well as fighting and drama, but the talking takes up much more space than the action. In short, ""Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand" #4 is the stereotypical decompressed comic book. That said, items of significance still happen in this issue: the plot to stop Galactus is shared with the reader; "team" dynamics are put on display and a pair of Ultimates apparently meet their ends. I say "apparently" as there are no bodies, no funerals, no oaths of vengeance. Aside from Galactus bellowing out "I hunger." A couple times, there's just a lot of white noise crackling through the pages where action and calamity should be.
Mark Bagley's art fills every panel of every page, but frequently the characters just fill space, rather than move through the pages. Bagley shakes things up with his choices of camera angle, panel orientation and background characters, but sometimes things appear to simply be filling space, adding busy-ness rather than enhancing the story. The strong emotional beats are where Bagley's art works best, but the flipside of that is that the loud action scenes aren't as jazzy. Despite the vibrant and consistent color provided by Jason Keith, the story lacks visual punch. The opening pages of "Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand" #4 are the best, most emotionally resonant, but also the most fleeting as the personal processing of the predicament has to be cast aside in favor of action, which doesn't really happen.
"Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand" #4 leaves a lot to be desired. This is the penultimate issue for the "Cataclysm" saga, but it simply feels like a benchwarmer. The cover is certain to catch the eyes of a few readers, but the story inside is just as sure to disappoint, as the emotional impact is simply missing. There's enough action and adventure to tease, but Bendis weighs the issue down with excessive exposition that could easily have been condensed. With one issue left in the saga, Bendis has set up a finale readers will not want to miss. I just hope that final issue doesn't suffer from trying to tie up too much that could have been more effectively chipped away in "Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand" #4.