Mighty Marvel March: Enter the Age of Ultron

ultron1Ultron hates the Avengers, and he hates mankind. Beyond destroying the Avengers once and for all, he wants to bring about a machine age and rule this planet. He’s been trying for decades, and now, in Age of Ultron Book One by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Bryan Hitch, he gets what he’s after. Ultron wins. It’s Marvel Comics’ big event of 2013, so get ready, to enter the Age of Ultron, after the jump…

The Nineties Are Back

Before we go any further, we have to talk about this cover. There’s been a lot of talk about the 1990s being back because of several elements returning to the comics world. Just at Marvel, Cable, X-Force, and Onslaught are back. Jim Lee and Rob Liefield are making comics again, Dynamite, among other companies is turning multiple covers into an artform, and hey, we’re digging Valiant Comics again.

And just when you think you need to check the calendar for the year… we have the cover of Age of Ultron. Yeah, that’s right, it’s a cardstock chromium cover, front and back, and just to make sure you know what year it truly is, it’s also AR. Ultron is raised off the cover with his hellish eyes and mouth a vibrantly different color as he rampages through a handful of Bendis’ favorite Avengers.

ultron2Continuity Issues

Pages two and three, and pages four and five are the curse of collaboration between Bendis and Hitch. Bendis is quite fond of full page and two-page spreads and of course Hitch is best known for his widescreen techniques when he developed the Ultimates with Mark Millar. Mix the two together, and you will find a lot of big pictures in this book, and I’m sure in the next few to come until Hitch leaves. The result however is that I think we got about half as many pages of story as we would have had in say a Silver Age story.

ultron3Speaking of story, Hawkeye, in his movie costume, which is fairly close to Ultimate Hawkeye’s costume, rescues Spider-Man from human collaborators. Ultron has already won, mankind is in hiding, the Avengers even more so. The sky is patrolled by Ultron duplicates called Sentries that attack with sound. Curious, why not encephalo-rays?

This Spider-Man is decidedly Peter Parker, and not Otto Octavius. I had to question the continuity of the story. Are we in the Ultimate Universe in the past? Or in the 616 continuity in the past? Cuz, no matter how you slice it – Peter Parker ain’t Spider-Man any more.

Yes, I do realize that Bendis and Hitch have been working on this story for quite some time, but come on, is that really an excuse? If any fourteen-year-old fanboy can keep track of Marvel Comics continuity, why can’t the two editors, two assistant editors and one editor-in-chief do it? At least make an old fashioned editor’s note for those of us who are keeping track.

And my Hawkeye is not a killer, Ultimate is, and this guy kills quite a few folks here. Sadly, it was like watching “Arrow.” Whatever happened to the good guys who could incapacitate without fatality? I could have seriously done without that.

ultron4The X-Men Obsession

You know, it’s funny. Now that BMB is actually writing an X-title, and writing the hell out of it (serious plug – Bendis is absolutely rocking All-New X-Men), it occurs to me that maybe Avengers was just a gig to do until he could write the X-Men. Think about it. What is the first thing Bendis did once he rebuilt the Avengers? He added Wolverine, they went to the Savage Land, and fought Sauron – added X-member, went to X-hangout, fought X-villain. He’s been jonesing for this for over a decade.

Now, even here, as the Avengers face their greatest foe, not only are Emma Frost and the X-Men here, but the entire scenario is sooo close to the first “Days of Future Past” story. Instead of Sentinels, we have Ultron’s Sentries. As we have seen in future solicitations, Age of Ultron will also involve time travel. The Avengers are again in an X-Men story.

What does Bendis have against the traditional classic Avengers? Not only are our protagonists here principally his original New Avengers (plus the X-Men), but even his choice of secondary villains is suspect. Hammerhead and the Owl? Why not villains more associated with the Avengers?

ultron5The Odds

The synopsis of what has gone before on page one has only two sentences. “Hank Pym of the Avengers created the artificial intelligence known as Ultron. It hates humanity… and it has returned… Bendis wants to make sure you know whose fault this is. Bendis has similarly made no secret of his hatred for Henry Pym. If this is the writer’s swan song on Avengers, his magnum opus, his final word on all things Avengers… I fear the worst…

I don’t think Hank Pym is going to make it out of this maxi-series alive. For that matter, I doubt that Ultron’s son, the Vision, will either. I don’t think Bendis has ever understood the Vision, and based on his first writing act on the character – literally tearing the Vision in half – I don’t think he likes him much either.

ultron6Reboot and Rating

The big rumor is of course that this series will reboot, soft or hard, the Marvel Universe into a new clearer continuity. As mentioned, soon we will have heroes (notably non-classic Avengers Wolverine and Invisible Woman) traveling into the past to change the present. This frightens me. I think someone might erase those characters close to Ultron’s origin, like Pym and the Vision. And does the 616 really need a reboot? I don’t think so.

On the whole, as a stand-alone comic, Age of Ultron is, while short, quite impressive. Bendis conveys the desperation of the situation, and Hitch does a wonderful job of showing the world post-Ultron. It’s not bad if you take it completely out of continuity. All in all, I give it three stars out of a possible five. I’m looking forward to the next issues, and finally seeing the real Avengers, as well as actually seeing Ultron.

12 Replies to “Mighty Marvel March: Enter the Age of Ultron”

  1. Great review! I haven’t read The Avengers in several years, as I stopped reading comics a few years ago, due to being out of work & unable to afford their ever-increasing costs, but I am frequently yearning for the “good old days” of buying, reading, collecting, and storing comics! And The Avengers was always my favorite, since #137, when The Beast joined (circa 1974-75)!

    From your review, I too, am concerned about Pym & The Vision making it out (not just alive – The Marvel Universe has established that death is very much a temporary thing, but retroactive non-existence sounds a lot harder to come back from)! Some day I hope to be able to go back, and find all the issues I’ve missed (it’s been 5 years now), and hopefully be able to reclaim that missing gap in my life (I mean, The Avengers’ lives, LOL)!

  2. Great review as always Glenn. Sad to see Bendis has not improved over the years, which is a shame, as I’m a huge Ultron fan and won’t be reading this title. Your review indicates he is still writing Avengers out of character (Hawkeye), still poking holes in continuity (Spider-Man’ general placement of the story), still laying it on thick with the large panels and two-page spreads that water down and lengthen the issue count of all his stories (this issue), and still just really doesn’t get some of the key things that make the Avengers the Avengers (Hank Pym, Vision). All in all, it makes me incredibly enthusiastic that Hickman has taken over Avengers and New Avengers and is, for the most part, knocking it out of the park in the opening stories of those two titles. As far as I’m concerend, X-Men can keep Bendis.

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