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Comic Book / Ruins

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What if everything that couldíve gone wrong in the Marvel Universe did go wrong?

"Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."

Ruins is a 1995 limited series from Marvel Comics, a two-issue story set in an Alternate Universe inspired by Marvels. Whereas Marvels shows the history of the Marvel Universe through reporter Phil Sheldon's eyes, Ruins shows a world where everything went horribly wrong. It's written by Warren Ellis, with art by Cliff Nielsen and Terese Nielsen.

As in Marvels, the central character is Daily Bugle reporter Philip Sheldon, but this version of Sheldon is dying, and can't shake the feeling that everything in the world is wrong - so he tries to gather as much information as complete as many interviews as he can, hoping to release a book that'll explain it all to the world.

Although the world's endless tragedies and horrors are presented in a deadpan manner in-universe, Ellis has stated that he wrote Ruins as a Black Comedy.

Ruins contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: Several characters who were unambiguously on the side of good are portrayed in a much more sinister light in this continuity. The most jarring examples include Professor X being an unscrupulous President rather than the benevolent leader of the X-Men and Nomad being a Nazi sympathizer.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Ben Grimm implies in his interview that his refusal to pilot Reed's spaceship and therefore resulting in the Fantastic Four not existing is what led to this world's crappy state. However, Nick Fury states Captain America introduced him to cannibalism, which would mean this world's wrongness went back even further.
    • Professor X rubs his crotch and says "You came from this!" to the mutants in the prison. Considering how insane X is here, it's unclear if he actually is the source of the mutant race.
  • And I Must Scream: According to Rick Jones, Bruce Banner is still alive after being horribly mutated in the gamma ray test, having been locked away by the CIA in a test facility under a lake.
  • Autocannibalism: In the second issue, Nightcrawler is seen chewing on his own tail.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: While attending a carnival, Sheldon observes Princess Python do "something illegal with a python". This account is accompanied by a picture of her tongue-kissing the python.
  • Body Horror:
    • Instead of becoming a large muscular behemoth whenever he's enraged, exposure to gamma radiation causes this reality's version of Bruce Banner to become a barely living mass of tumors.
    • Wolverine appears, albeit addressed as "Canuck", with the toxicity of his adamantium skeleton causing his flesh to slowly decay off his bones.
    • Instead of spider powers, the radioactive spider bite gives Peter Parker a mutant virus that eventually covers his body with a nasty and red web-shaped rash; for good measure, in the flashforward to his final moments, the floor around him is covered in blood and he's apparently naked except for a blanket, suggesting that his skin is too irritated for clothing.
    • Johnny Blaze got it pretty bad; during a stunt gone horribly wrong, his face caught fire and he rode off into the desert, screaming in agony. The flames kept burning until all the flesh on his head was gone, leaving a burning skull. He's still riding through the desert, his skull still burning, and he's still screaming...
    • The cancerous deterioration of the Kree prisoners is illustrated in particularly ghastly fashion; Mar-Vell remarks that - had their visitor not been wearing a hazmat suit - Sheldon would be able to smell his bones decaying.
    • Mystique suffers a mental illness that causes her to shapeshift uncontrollably unless medicated. When she forgets to take her medication before getting on a plane, her powers go haywire and kill her.
    • When Magneto loses control of his powers at a protest against President X, several people are gruesomely maimed as a result of his powers attracting anything metallic - the Secret Service agent who removed Magneto's Power Limiter in the first place has the worst of it, initially having the metal implants in his legs ripped out until even the iron in his bloodstream is being sucked out of his body.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: As the book goes on, it becomes clear there's something fundamentally wrong about this universe. It should have been a world of Marvels, but something has gone terribly wrong and it's a world of horrors instead.
  • Covers Always Lie: The first issue's cover depicts Philip Sheldon surrounded by Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, and Jean Grey lying on the ground as they're dying, while the second issue's cover depicts an in-costume Magneto looking shocked as he uncontrollably attracts various metal objects to his body. Both covers are contradictory to the fact that most people in this version of the Marvel Universe never became costumed superhumans.
  • Crapsack World: It's called Ruins for a reason.
  • Darker and Edgier: The main premise of this comic is that many of the accidents that created the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe instead resulted in horrific deformities and painful deaths, with the few individuals who actually have super powers being very unscrupulous and/or quite messed up in the head.
  • Death by Adaptation: As mentioned under Darker and Edgier, a lot of Marvel characters in this reality were killed by the accidents that gave them super powers in the standard continuity. Many others are also shown being killed or as corpses, such as Hawkeye being shot and Philip Sheldon tripping over the Punisher's body.
  • Death World: Maybe death universe would be a more apt description. It honestly seems like the universe of Ruins is actively hostile to its inhabitants, with heroes and villains we knew and loved in the mainstream Marvel universe becoming horrifically sick and/or mutilated either because of the incidents that gave them their powers or because of the powers themselves.
  • Downer Ending: Sheldon is ready to publish everything he learned when the medication he's been taking to suppress a virus runs out. As he dies, all of his notes are scattered to the wind, possibly lost forever.
  • Driven to Suicide: Nick Fury blows his brains out after telling Sheldon how fucked up the world is.
  • Driving Question: This world was supposed to be full of Marvels. What went so wrong?
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: The Kree's attempt to invade Earth fails due to the corpse of the Silver Surfer screwing up their sensors with its leaking energy, allowing Earth's combined militaries to unload their nuclear arsenal on their fleet, wiping out almost the entire population and reducing the few survivors to prisoners of war dying of cancer in internment camps.
  • Eye Scream: Scott Summers's eyes have been burned out to remove his uncontrollable powers.
  • Fantastic Racism: Mar-Vell refers to humans as "retarded pink monkeys".
  • Finagle's Law: Warren Ellis cranks this into overdrive for the book.
  • For Want of a Nail: The entire story revolves around Phil Sheldon's investigation into this trope, as he feels something has gone terribly wrong in this world and wants to know what caused it.
    • Anthony Stark, "California's favorite son", didn't make it to Vietnam, as he went to California to try to mediate when the National Guard were sent in. He was wounded by shrapnel from a guard's grenade when things escalated, setting Iron Man on a very different course.
    • It's heavily implied that Ben Grimm's refusal to pilot Reed Richards' spaceship to study cosmic rays, the event that would've created the Fantastic Four (and thus the Marvel Universe as we know it), was the catalyst. This is contradicted by other details in the same story, however.
      Ben: I can't help but think it woulda been different if I'd flown her. Can't help it.
  • A God Am I: Donald Blake leads a cult while claiming to channel the thunder god Thor. Strangely, Thor is shown to exist in this universe as a member of the Avengers, as indicated by a soldier finding Mjolnir among the wreckage of the Quinjet.
  • God Is Dead: Deep-space photos have discovered the corpse of Galactus in orbit around Jupiter, having presumably starved to death. It's even on the cover of a news magazine.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: It's hinted that Nick Fury knows that this world was supposed to be so much better than what they got, but has been driven so far off the slippery slope that all that's left is a rambling madman who eventually decides to just end his own life.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Mystique is dragged away before we see the final results of her powers going haywire, but the seat she was sitting in is covered in blood and Sheldon is later told that her brain imploded.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Nick Fury claims to have been introduced to cannibalism by Captain America during World War II.
  • Infection Scene: The second issue concludes with a dying Phillip Sheldon finally flashing back to the cause of his terminal illness: Peter Parker's radioactive spider-bite merely infected him with a mutant virus, but before finally dying of the Body Horror that ensued, he happened to go to the Daily Bugle for work... and shake Sheldon's hand, complete with a close-up of the webbing-shaped rash on Peter's wrist.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: For some reason or another, Phil Sheldon finds himself theorizing that something has gone wrong in this universe and all the horrors and destruction he sees should've been more marvelous, leading to him searching for answers.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: One of President X's more bizarre habits is getting drunk and visiting the inmates of his prison, where he rubs his crotch and yells "you came from this". Whether he means that he's literally the source of mutants in this universe or not is anyone's guess.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The Kree, including Captain Marvel, have contracted cancer. Mar-Vell ended up succumbing to cancer in the regular continuity.
    • Black Panther was arrested alongside Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale after becoming involved with the Black Panther Party. This is presumably a reference to the period in the 70s where Marvel changed the character's codename to "Black Leopard" to avoid any association with the revolutionary group.
  • Ominous Hairloss:
    • Sheldon begins the story with a full head of hair; by the end of the second issue, he's rapidly going bald as his terminal illness reaches its final stages.
    • Peter Parker, the source of Sheldon's infection, ends up with an even worse case of it: in his final moments, on top of sporting blank white eyes and a hideous livid rash across most of his body, he retains only a few vague tufts of hair.
  • Power Incontinence: The vast majority of mutants seem to lack any sort of control over their powers, with disastrous consequnces. Cyclops and Quicksilver had to be crippled to bring them under control, Magneto is killed in an airport when the dampening device he's wearing is damaged, causing him to be crushed by tons of metal, and Mystique uncontrollably shapeshifts and has to be hauled away by police as her brain implodes.
  • President Evil: Charles Francis Xavier is President of the United States in this world and is ruthless and manipulative to the point of making his 616 counterpart's worst moments look downright saintly. He's even imprisoned several mutants and mutilated them in order to keep their powers in check.
  • Required Secondary Powers: An entire world where everyone is lacking the secondary powers to keep their powers from killing themselves and everyone else around them. This story is the logical extreme of every character having only their primary powers and nothing else to make those viable or safe.
  • The Reveal: The second issue reveals near the end that Philip Sheldon is dying because he got infected by a mutant virus that he caught from Peter Parker.
  • Sanity Slippage: The Kree theorize that the Silver Surfer's death was brought about by him finally snapping from Sense Loss Sadness and tearing apart his own chest in a vain attempt to experience breathing again.
  • Series Establishing Moment: The first page of the first issue shows Phillip Sheldon witnessing the Quinjet being obliterated by a patriot missile, killing everyone on board, with the following pages revealing that in this universe the Avengers were not defenders of Earth, but rather a group of terrorists intent on overthrowing the American government. This immediately sets the bleak tone for the series and shows that things are very much not right in this world.
  • Shapeshifter Identity Crisis: Mystique has a mental disorder that causes her to involuntarily assume the mashed-up appearance of everyone around her, believing she's absorbing their identities.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Mar-Vell helped lead the Kree's attempted invasion of Earth, but was under the impression that humanity had potential and didn't need Kree intervention to be great. Unfortunately, his people's treatment at the hands of Earth's militaries has made him extremely cynical and bitterly admit that he was wrong.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Sheldon pleads with God to let him live long enough to finish his book, but ends up dying as his photos and notes fly away in the wind.
  • Terminal Transformation:
    • Raven Darkholme is suffering from a Shapeshifter Identity Crisis that she has to be medicated for. Unfortunately, she fails to take her meds while she's on a plane with Philip Sheldon and loses control, ultimately suffering an extremely messy Superpower Meltdown. She's dragged away before we can see the results in their entirety, but Sheldon is told that her brain imploded; for good measure, the empty seat where she was sitting is soaked in blood.
    • In this version of Marvel canon, the space voyage that created the Fantastic Four went horribly wrong, apparently due to the ship being piloted by Victor Von Doom instead of Ben Grimm. As a result, the transformations that the characters undergo were undermined by a lack of Required Secondary Powers and resulted in the deaths of all four: Reed Richards' elastic powers made his bones stretch until they burst out of his flesh; Doom's internal organs ended up on the outside of his body; Johnny Storm's ability to become living fire caused him to burn to charcoal from the inside out. The one exception to this is Sue Storm, who survived her transformation - but as her invisibility left her blind, she stumbled into Johnny and was fatally burned.
  • Transformation Horror: Mystique's Shapeshifter Swan Song features her flesh warping out of shape, discoloring in a frankly disgusting fashion as a human mouth on a stalk begins wrenching herself out of her left eye - and all the while, Mystique is screaming in terror. We don't see the end result, but her empty seat is covered in blood, and Sheldon is informed that if she'd remembered to take her medication, her brain wouldn't have imploded.
  • The Un-Reveal: The reason why the world has gone wrong is not entirely revealed. However, Sheldon's interview with Ben Grimm implies that his refusal to take part in the space trip that would create the Fantastic Four was the cause. However, this is somewhat contradicted by Fury noting he was introduced to cannibalism by Captain America in World War II, meaning the darkness began long before Grimmís choice was made.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Wilson Fisk is the warden of the special superhuman prison, and regularly taunts and abuses the captive mutants.