Cover to Ruins #1 - Men on Fire. Art by Terese Nielsen
|Publication date||August – September 1995|
|Number of issues||2|
Chris Moeller (issue 2, last seventeen pages only)
Chris Moeller (issue 2, last seventeen pages only)
Ruins is a two-issue comic book mini-series, written by Warren Ellis with painted artwork by Terese Nielsen, her husband Cliff Nielsen, and Chris Moeller, who took over for the last seventeen pages of the second issue.
The series, conceived by Ellis as a parody of the Marvels series by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross is set in a dystopian version of the Marvel Universe. Like Marvels, the comic features reporter Phil Sheldon as the main character and was published in prestige format, with fully painted artwork and acetate covers, further creating the impression that it is a more twisted companion piece.
In the Marvel Multiverse, Earth of the Ruins universe is listed as Earth-9591.
Ruins follows former Daily Bugle reporter Phil Sheldon as he explores a dystopian alternate Marvel Universe where, in his words, "everything that can go wrong will go wrong"; a world where the myriad experiments and accidents which led to the creation of superheroes in the mainstream Marvel Universe instead resulted in horrible deformities and painful deaths. Sheldon tours the country investigating the after-effects of these events, researching a book about the strange phenomena in order to prove that the world has taken a wrong turn somewhere.
In the first issue, after witnessing the destruction of the last Avengers Quinjet (in this reality, the Avengers are a radical secessionist rebel group rebelling against an oppressive American government led by 'President X'), which has killed Captain America, Giant-Man, and Iron Man, and encountering a decaying Wolverine - whose flesh is slowly falling off from the toxicity of his adamantium bone structure - Sheldon proceeds to a Kree internment camp in Nevada, situated on a nuclear test site, where the last survivors of a Kree invasion fleet are slowly dying of cancer. Sheldon interviews Captain Mar-Vell, one of the Kree prisoners, who tells him why their invasion failed. The Kree had encountered the Silver Surfer (who had gone mad and torn open his own chest in a futile attempt to experience respiration again) only to discover that the Power Cosmic emanating from the Surfer's body had been interfering with their scanners. This prevented the Kree fleet from detecting a nuclear barrage which subsequently destroyed ninety percent of the Kree warships. In Washington, D.C., Sheldon meets government agent Nick Fury, who attacks and almost shoots him, insisting that 'proved he was clean' and claiming that Captain America introduced him to cannibalism. They are interrupted by Jean Grey, here a prostitute, who offers herself to the two men for twenty dollars; but Fury shoots her dead and then kills himself. After his encounter with Fury, Sheldon visits Chicago and interviews Rick Jones, a morphine addict living with fellow addict Marlo Chandler, who tells the story of when Bruce Banner saved him from a gamma radiation blast - which did not turn Banner into the Hulk, but instead transformed him into a monstrous green mass of pulsating tumors. Leaving the apartment, Sheldon trips over the corpse of the Punisher in the snow, and the issue ends with him on his knees as he begs to be allowed to show the world how this state of affairs came to pass.
Issue two starts with Sheldon on a plane with Mystique, who begins to shapeshift uncontrollably, developing a multiple personality disorder brought on by her neglecting to take her prescribed pills, that results in her death. When the plane lands government agents come aboard to take her body away, while a protest against President X's government is underway. An agent bumps into Magneto, damaging a magnetic dampening device that Magneto carries to nullify his powers, which causes every metal object within radius to attach itself to him, killing him and several others. After this, Sheldon visits a special prison in Texas which houses many mutants, including Cyclops, Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler and Quicksilver, all of whom have been mutilated and deformed in an effort to control their powers. Sheldon is given a tour by the warden, Wilson Fisk who says that the only reason Sheldon was allowed to see the prison was because President X knew Sheldon was dying, and wanted to grant a dying man his wish. After witnessing a carnival show with Johnny Blaze, who commits suicide by setting his skull on fire, and interviewing Ben Grimm, who describes the painful deaths of the rest of those who would become the Fantastic Four and Victor Von Doom when their space ship flew through a cloud of radiation (as Grimm refused to pilot the ship due to safety concerns, Reed Richards hired Von Doom instead), Sheldon decides to begin writing his book, which he will title Marvels. However, he discovers that he has run out of the medication he has been taking; he has been infected with a virus passed on to him by Peter Parker (who had worked at the Daily Bugle alongside Sheldon), a virus caused by an irradiated spider that Parker himself experimented on that resulted in a highly infectious rash all over his body. The virus overcomes Sheldon and he dies. As he lies on the ground, ignored by the passersby, his notes scatter in the wind.
Throughout the story, there are breaks within scenes that briefly describe the lives of other would-be Marvels; such as a version of Dr. Donald Blake, a cult leader who believes he can channel the entity Thor through his body after becoming addicted to fly-agaric mushrooms (Thor's hammer is seen to be recovered at the site of the destroyed Quinjet at the start, hinting that the two are possibly different people), Angel, who serves President X in exchange to keep his mutant nature a secret, Bucky, Nomad, and Sabretooth, who are part of a fascist, cannibalistic militia from Oklahoma, Daredevil, who died as a child after a crashing truck caused radioactive material to strike him in the face, Doctor Strange, a founding member of the Avengers who is nowhere to be found, Emma Frost, the owner of the Church of the Next Generation where she legally adopts the children of her followers and has them undergo surgery to unlock their "psychic abilities", Princess Python, a circus performer who performs illegal acts with a python, the fate of the remaining Avengers: Hawkeye (executed), Black Panther (imprisoned), and Scarlet Witch who betray the team for government protection, and the death of Galactus, who is thought to have been a God by the media.
- Ruins to be collected, Warren Ellis official blog, 21 October 2008