Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev, Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary, Butch Guice, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco & Roger Benet with Tom Palmer, David Marquez and Joe Quesada
Colour by Paul Mounts & Richard Isanove
Letters by VC’s Cory Petit
Cover by Brandon Peterson
Published by Marvel
£2.85 (Or £1.99 with SuperCard Go!)
Previously, On Age of Ultron!
(I’ve always wanted to do that!)
Nine issues ago Ultron won, and the world ended. Four issues later, after a lot of talking in a variety of locations, a group of Avengers travelled to the future and tried, and failed, to kill Ultron. At the same time, Wolverine and the Invisible Woman travelled back in time and confronted Pym, who Wolverine killed before he could invent Ultron. The resulting present was even worse so he travelled back, again, to persuade himself not to kill Pym. The two Logans (And Sue) persuaded Pym to let everything play out but build a kill-code into Ultron that would be activated at the crucial moment.
Now, the story concludes!
Except it doesn’t. And that’s the problem.
There’s a trend Marvel have used in their crossovers for a while now where one year’s crossover leads into the next and done right, as it was with the likes of Civil War, it can be really effective. Shared universes are a ridiculous, wonderful concept when you look at them; teams of highly trained creatives making things up in tight formation, and when they work they work really well. You can take the concepts at the centre of a crossover and explode them, explore them over time and really play with the changes they wrought. The ground between Civil War and Siege for example, with Fear Itself as an epilogue of sorts, was some of the most impressive long form storytelling Marvel have done in a long time.
I really, really hope that’s what happens with Age of Ultron. Because, whilst this isn’t the disappointment nuke that many people have decried it as, it’s not a strong ending at all or, perhaps more accurately, not a unified one.
Take the core plot. We get a do over of a moment from an earlier Avengers issue which we now know is where Age of Ultron started. This is nicely handled, with everyone in their old costumes and the scene resolved with a satisfying amount of ‘Punch the evil metal bastard until he’s dead and then a few more times just o be certain.’ However, this is the only time Ultron has appeared directly in ten issues of a story called Age of Ultron. Oh certainly we’ve seen plenty of Ultron drones but this just seems a little…odd.
Anyway, he’s dead now (I give it 3-4 years) so hurray, right? Then we get Sue Richards and Logan returning to a completely unharmed New York. They hug and Sue has a nice line about taking back some of the things she’s said about him, Logan has a nice line about how long he’s going to sleep and then…the page shatters.
The world breaks.
We see multiple versions of Logan, of Tony, the Guardians of the Galaxy cast (Welcome to the big leagues, kids!), Hank Pym, Spiderman (But which one?), the Squadron Supreme, the Thing, Bishop and then…
The universe breaks.
A beautiful two page splash literally shatters to the point where you can see the page underneath it. It’s a nice effect and people will be scouring this spread for clues for months. Kang holding two babies doesn’t exactly look reassuring for example and there does seem to be an awful lot of Hulk in there. But which one? Also Spiderman 2099, very much present and correct which made me punch the air with fansquee. It’s a really fun pair of splashes, there’s some nice call backs on it and at no point does it feel like anything other than arranging the deckchairs for the next big event or in fact, the next several big events. And that’s the real problem.
Infinity, the next big space-based crossover, is hinted at by Beast, Pym and Tony standing around talking about the effects the break in time will have on the universe. Hunger, the possibly Ultimate universe-ending Galactus story is trailed by Miles Morales running headlong into the mighty-hatted one. Avengers AI is trailed by the frankly terrifying sight of Hank Pym working out what he needs to do to make it right and it isn’t ‘Sit in a room very still and invent nothing for the rest of my life’. Finally, Guardians of the Galaxy is trailed by three pages of Joe Quesada art featuring Angela. That would be Angela from the Spawn comics published by Image. She's now stepped across to the Marvel universe due to a combination of universe breaking and copyright law, which are far closer than you might think. She’s not happy either and looks set to track down and kill Logan. Let’s face it that can’t possibly go well for either of them.
Oh and all bar Infinity are advertised, with full page ads, immediately after their prologue. I know this is a business and I know Marvel are very good at it but after the glacial pace of Age of Ultron, being told to go and pick up other books to get the rest of the story (To say nothing of Age of Ultron 10A.I., also advertised) feels like being served three quarters of a pizza and given a coupon for the remaining piece. It’s fun, certainly, but for the first time, Marvel’s ‘truth and consequences’ format to crossovers feels too nebulous for you to really get a grip on it.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s some interesting ideas here and I’m sufficiently invested to at least take a look at the follow-on titles but…I’m invested not gripped or, honestly, especially enthusiastic. Age of Ultron’s pace continually sucked the life out of the story and it’s difficult not to feel like it should have been six issues rather than ten plus. Did we really need four issues of the Helicarrier club standing around feeling mopey? Did the Suckverse future (For that is its name now, at least for me) really deserve two whole issues of space? And what the hell is going to happen now there’s a Sue Richards on Earth and, presumably, another in space? There are an awful lot of loose ends and I’d be a lot happier if more of them were wrapped up this issue.
The art’s also a problem. Don’t get me wrong, every artist on the book is massively talented but the style changes really jar. The Ultron fight starts with Hitch & Neary, switches to someone else in the middle then back to them for example. Likewise, the Alex Maleev pages, whilst lovely, are stylistically so different from the rest of the book it feels like he was only drafted in because he can draw people having a conversation with the same energy other artists bring to fight scenes. Finally, Quesada turns in three lovely pages, and it’s always a pleasure to see him work but the sting in the tail of the book just isn’t there. Too many issues, too many artists and, honestly, not enough story.
So, that was the Age of Ultron, so far. It was never less than entertaining, but it was rarely more than just good enough. I’ll be checking out the spin off books (Avengers A.I. appears to feature either Doom or a Doombot on the team and I for one welcome our metal masked Latverian overlords) but can’t help but feel a little sorry for them. Instead of exploding out of the starting gates, they’re having to make up ground their launch story lost. I hope they’re up to it. They need to be.