The way ULTRANOVA plays out and the genres it skirts and bounces off and dances between make it a strange beast to endure and then quantify. But before then, before the words and the hyperbole and the refined brain kicks in, while your lizard brain is still reacting and rubbing your belly from where you just got hit hard, all you can think is how goddamn good this comic is.
Chris Peterson and Chris Ryzowski on art/colours over a Ryan Ferrier script deliver unto us, the weeping masses, a sci fi noir comic that you need to read more than once. And every time you imbibe it, it slams a meaty fist into another internal organ until there’s nothing left of you in your apartment but a black bag of mush holding a comic and the coroner has no idea what the hell happened.
The intro to this story is short and straight enough. A spaceship was out to kickstart a dying star and when they stopped and ceased contact a one-man ship went out to ascertain the problem and lend a hand. From there, it’s a trip down into the darkness by the light of a giant star.
The ship is littered with the bodies of the dead crew, all of them bludgeoned to death and left in pools of their own brain shards and blood. Our lead, Cale, walks through all this and yet doesn’t bail. That’s his first wrong move. You see a spaceship abandoned but for the dead bodies, you bounce. But he’s an upstanding man and watching someone fall because of their righteous and dutiful nature is just more heart-wrenching for us all.
Once his personal ship disengages, and he is stranded, the ship reaches out to him through one of the dead bodies and Cale is lead to the Throne Room where one of the research monkeys seemingly soaked up the star’s version of the Quickening and became an extension construct of the celestial body and now is looking to scatter itself into the cosmos with the demise of the star that will wipe out billions of lifeforms in its solar wake. Yup, heady goddamn stuff.
Cale is confronted with this megascience of warped light haunting and he performs an exorcism of violence without a second thought and it’s this instant reaction that is telling when the final pages are not. The creative team leave our narrative resolution ambiguous, or at least they definitely do not hold your hand through the final steps, as we are left on the images of Cale realising he’s struck down the chimpanzee too late, the shield generator is destroyed, and the ultranova is about to occur. So we close on Cale taking the throne in front of the star’s rays and then opening his eyes to reveal them afire with the light of the star.
Our intrepid hero takes the throne, he accepts the star into his brain/body/soul, he bonds, and with that connection he forces the star to live on. He doesn’t let it die and as such he saves billions of lives and he is heroic in his journey. But he is also left at the end of his road. He must remain bonded to the star. He makes the choice to sacrifice himself in a way that doesn’t end him for the greater good but rather sets himself up to struggle and strain for the rest of his unnatural existence for the greater good.
It’s a huge call and when Cale does this he is reaching up and dragging fingers through the dirt of his own grave as he breathes within it. Then he’s settling in to stare at the inside of his coffin for what will feel an eternity and will actually be one in some metrics of counting. It’s brutal, self-inflicted, and utterly gorgeous.
ULTRANOVA. Noir. Brilliant.