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Comic Book / The Pitt

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"Pittsburgh is gone. Completely. This fact must be understood absolutely. The city was within a sphere of earth and atmosphere measuring fifty miles in diameter which was completely converted into the strange, inert material now at the bottom of the crater — the Pitt, as I've heard it ghoulishly referred to."
MacIntyre Browning

The Pitt is a 1988 one-shot comic book published by the New Universe imprint of Marvel Comics. It's co-written by John Byrne and Mark Gruenwald, and illustrated by Sal Buscema and Stan Drake. Color art is by Janet Jackson.

Set in shared superhero setting The New Universe, it explores the consequences of a Wham Episode story in another New Universe comic, Star Brand, showing the total destruction of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the first twelve hours of the aftermath.

The New Universe was unrelated to the existing Marvel Universe and initially billed as “the world outside your window”, only diverging from the real world when a single Mass Empowering Event granted some people superpowers. The Pitt and its associated Star Brand story marked a new approach to the line, triggering changes in the other New Universe titles and starting a chain of events that continued to send the shared world in a darker direction.

The story of The Pitt is told via three different protagonists.

  • Nelson Kohler (The Witness) is a ghostly figure who's permanently intangible and invisible. He's also drawn to superhumans - referred to as "paranormals" - at the moment when their powers first manifest. His abilities mean he's summoned to Pittsburgh in time to see the event that annihilates the city.

  • Colonel Mac Browning is the Defence Intelligence Agency officer placed in charge of the initial containment and disaster response after the event.

  • Professor Jenny Swensen (previously the lead of Codename: Spitfire, a cancelled New Universe series) is a CIA operative in a suit of powered armor. Her M.A.X. armor's environmentally sealed and can fly, so Jenny's the first person sent into the crater to investigate.

It was released December 8, 1987, using a double-length 'prestige format' unlike any of the other New Universe books.

The same prestige format approach was later used for another one-off special with an impact on the whole line, The Draft, and again for the grand finale of the New Universe, a miniseries entitled The War.

The comic has no connection to Dale Keown's Image Comics series Pitt, the Judge Dredd storyline, the Dirk Pitt Adventures or the expansion pack for Fallout 3.

The Pitt includes the following tropes:

  • All There in the Manual: The story follows on from Star Brand #12, but doesn't fully explain the context. The Star Brand is a transferable tattoo-style glyph which grants immense power. Ken Connell, its current wielder, has been repeatedly attacked by enemies trying to steal it.
    • The last attack killed hundreds of innocent people in Pittsburgh, convincing Ken that he should dispose of the Brand entirely.
    • He decides to fly to the moon and transfer the Brand to an inanimate object, hopefully destroying it, and leaving him just a small fraction of its original power. He'll then fly home with that residual power.
    • Ken later second-guesses this plan, fearing that he won't have enough power left to safely return from the moon. He decides that transferring the Brand ten miles up above Pittsburgh should be safe enough. He's horribly, tragically wrong.
  • Apocalypse How: Pittsburgh is entirely annihilated. And outside of the fifty mile crater there's a wider zone of destruction. It's still technically Class 0 on the scale, but only due to the limited area.
  • Big "NO!": The Witness shouts this when he sees a paranormal (Ken Connell) flying over Pittburgh and about to transfer his power to an inanimate lump of metal. He somehow knows it's going to go horribly wrong a second before it does. But nobody hears him shout.
  • Bullying a Dragon: When Jenny quits, taking the M.A.X. armor with her, Browning pulls a gun and shoots her as she flies off. Which is basically Shooting Superman, as the armor can easily ignore handgun shots - but it's just as well for him that she doesn't retaliate.
  • Comic-Book Time: Notably averted. As with many other New Universe stories, it's given a specific date.
  • Deadline News: The news helicopter that flies into security controlled airspace tells the USAF patrol intercepting them to do their worst, as they can't be bluffed into turning back. After three rounds of ignored warnings, the Air Force shoots them down.
  • Everything Sensor: Somehow a radar operator can instantly tell without independent verification when a city has turned into a crater.
    Technician: If I'm readin' this right... Pittsburgh just turned into a crater — fifty miles across!
    Officer: What?!? Great Godamighty! He's right!! That's the only way to interpret that image!
  • Fantastic Nuke: The Star Brand, as shown when its uncontrolled power hits (and obliterates) Pittsburgh. Several characters directly wonder if it was a nuclear strike.
  • Forbidden Zone: The Pitt becomes this after the end of the comic.
  • Framing Device: The comic starts and ends with monologue text pages. The first one is from The Witness, introducing himself, his powers and the White Event. The closing page is from Colonel Browning, summarising what's happened to Pittsburgh and talking about what that means for the wider world.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The Witness ultimately realizes the ghosts of the Pittsburgh citizens is him slipping into insanity from what had happened. He gets his head on straight.
  • Hollywood Acid: Played with. The polluted water at the bottom of the crater can easily eat through the armored M.A.X. suit's environmental seals, but doesn't directly hurt Jenny after it does. And the Volkswagen she rescues still has its structural integrity, with no obvious harm to the family inside. Later stories reveal this as Foreshadowing for its Mutagenic Goo effects on survivors.
  • I See Dead People: The Witness is a ghost and then sees ghosts. They are the first beings to notice him since the White Event - unfortunately, they aren't happy.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Browning gives the order to shoot down a news helicopter when they refuse to leave the security-controlled airspace around the Pitt.
  • Madness Mantra: The dead citizens of Pittsburgh. "YOU. GUILTY. FAULT."
  • Magic Pants: Ken Connell's only wearing underwear when he flies high above Pittsburgh to attempt to get rid of the Star Brand. Everything within 25 miles of him is annihilated, but he's still wearing underwear when the storm winds after the blast carries his unconscious body away.
  • Mass Super-Empowering Event: The prologue talks about the White Event, which was a result of Star Brand getting rid of the star brand itself.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Just the stylised logo itself. There are no characters on the cover.
  • Mistaken for Bad Vision: The Witness and Jenny glimpse each other in the crater, but both assume they’re seeing things. The Witness has encountered many paranormals, but never seen Powered Armor before, and has just escaped a traumatic hallucination. Jenny assumes her eyes are playing tricks on her due to stress.
  • Mr. Exposition: Jenny and the Witness both fall into this role. They're each alone as they explore the devastation, so the book uses their thoughts as a running commentary on whatever the reader's seeing in those scenes.
  • No Antagonist: Browning pulls a gun on Jenny at one point, but this is primarily a story about the aftermath of a disaster, not a conflict. It doesn't even follow the usual disaster movie script, as (apart from the intangible Witness) the protagonists arrive afterwards to investigate. Jenny is in danger at one point, and the Witness seems to be as well - but that's not the focus of the story.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: The unnamed flying man (Ken Connell) whose power obliterates Pittsburgh.
  • Polluted Wasteland: The Pitt crater becomes a polluted hellhole once water floods in to mix with the storm debris and whatever's left of the obliterated city. The liquid isn't immediately harmful to humans, but can eat through sealed suits. The area around the edge of the crater is less polluted but more like a traditional wasteland.
  • Powered Armor: Jenny's M.A.X. suit is an environmentally sealed suit of powered armor, with super-strength and flight capacity.
  • Punny Name: There's not much humor in the book, but even so - of all the towns to be reduced to a giant pit, of course it's Pittsburgh.
  • Revenge: The Witness vows that he'll find the man who destroyed Pittsburgh, make sure he's dead, or - if he isn't - somehow make him pay for what he's done.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: When Browning orders Jenny to prioritise scientific data over saving survivors, she takes the M.A.X. suit and deserts the military. Browning responds by trying to shoot her.
  • Shooting Superman: When Jenny effectively deserts the military effort, choosing to help survivors rather than gather scientific data, Browning repeatedly shoots her as the M.A.X. suit flies off. It doesn't achieve much.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Ken Connell is seen on just three pages of The Pitt (one of them as an unconscious body carried away by the hurricane winds, another as a tiny silhouette against the bright light of the blast), he gets no dialogue and he's not named in the book. He also accidentally kills everyone in Pittsburgh.
  • Trapped in a Sinking Car: The family we initially see outside Pittsburgh are just outside the annihilation zone, and the winds pick up their Volkswagen and carry it into the pit, submerging the car in the watery "Pitt juice" at the bottom. They survive long enough for Jenny to rescue them. Although later New Universe stories reveal that it might have been better if they didn't.
  • Wham Episode: For the New Universe setting as a whole.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: There's no explanation as to how Jenny saw the Witness, who's normally invisible.