Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Cliff Nielsen, Terese Nielsen
Published: August 1995
Marvel Ruins explores the question, "what if" the marvels never came to be. The marvels being the heroes of the Marvel Universe, such as the Avengers, Spider-Man, et cetera, and the "what if" being: "what if" the marvels were diseased, dead, or in the grips of death. In many ways this fatalistic take makes for an interesting concept, but only if pulled off right. Sadly, Marvel Ruins fails miserably.
Marvel Comics have been putting out "what if" stories for quite some time, so they have developed a predictable method of storytelling. The "what if" method is to deliver a familiar but different take on a Marvel hero in 32 pages or more. This "what if" method follows these steps:
1. Define the original act in the heroes history.
2. Change some small detail of the original act.
3. Trace the effect of that small change.
4. Follow through on the small change and destroy (or alter dramatically) everything in the Marvel Universe.
5. Conclude and wrap up the story.
Now, Marvel Ruins is not strictly a "what if" story. First, it has no "what if" in its title. Secondly, the story never delivers steps 1, 2, 3, or 5 of the "what if" method. Instead, the entire story is concentrated on step 4: Just fuck everything up. Wolverine has some sort of bone disease, Galactus is found dead in space, the Hulk is mutated to all hell, the Avengers are blown to bits, and so on. Each horrifyingly different future of the Marvel heroes is presented, but never the 'how' or 'why' this change has happened is explored. It's for this reason alone that this comic fails. No real Marvel fan wants to read about the death or diseased life of a Marvel character without knowing the events leading to that outcome. By not knowing the event that changed the Marvel Universe, it's impossible to care about the changed Marvel Universe.
I guess the only 2 things that do succeed are: the dreary, dark, death-obsessed artwork, and the title, Marvel Ruins. Marvel Ruins is aptly titled for this type of story. It conveys a world trapped in the past, full of questions with no answers, rife with death, and we in the present are left curious but unconcerned.