On a recent episode of our podcast, we gave a list of the Top 10 Worst Events in Comic history. So as a counterbalance to that I thought I’d write my review of what I can say was clearly one of the most satisfying “event” reads I’ve had in past 10 years, Bendis’ 10 issue “Age of Ultron” mini series. Second only to Hickman’s Secret Wars run, this was one of my favorite events Marvel has done in the past 10 years and now that I’ve reread it recently several years after it’s initial release, I’m still singing it’s praises.
Ultron has always been not only my favorite Avengers villain, but one of my favorite villains in general. That’s mainly because unlike some villains that have a fair deal of lack luster entries, pretty much most of the Ultron stories have been extremely good, such as Vision’s first Appearance and subsequent origin explanation, Kurt Busik’s Ultron war issues during his run on Avengers, and the “birth” of Jocosta written by Jim Shooter. So I had pretty high expectations that this series would be good.
Now I have to again say that this review contains pretty massive spoilers about what happens in Age of Ultron, so if you haven’t read it and want to, please go stick a potato in your ear for the duration of this post.
So the first thing about this entire story is I had no idea whether what I was reading was occurring in the main Marvel continuity or some alternate universe like the series “Age of Apocolypse”. I guess that was done on purpose, to subconsciously tie in with that old series keep the reader uncertain about exactly what they were seeing.
I gotta say it worked great, because although it didn’t detract from the events and the gravity of them, I also took everything with a grain of salt which allowed for the story to unfold without me calling “foul” on the events or throwing the book down in huff.
That is a problem when dealing with the subject matter that this series did, lots of people are emotionally invested in the characters so if you start doing wacked out things to them, you are viable to piss people off. That is unless you have a bag of tricks up your sleeve for deflecting that.
So basically the story begins with the world has gone to shit. Ultron robots are killing every living thing on the planet, save for a handful of survivors, which happen to be some pretty well known heroes and villains. Spider man for example is about to be sold to Ultron as some sort of deal that was struck between him and the Owl for some sleazy reason. Hawkeye saves the web swinger and takes him to the superheroes underground sewer base. Bendis then uses Spider man to then unload a whole junk load of exposition.
Basically, Ultron has killed off a lot of the heavy hitters (Hulk, Thor, Thing) as well as most of the big brains, like Reed, save for Iron Man. Captain America is a broken man over all the death that he’s had to witness and for the most part, the remainder of the superheroes are nothing more than a squabbling mess of jerks.
However after Spiderman relates to them about the Owl selling him to Ultron, Cap uses that as a reason to rally the troops. They will send Luke Cage and She Hulk under the guise that Cage is selling She Hulk to Ultron in one last ditch assassination attempt. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, it looks like once they get into Ultron’s headquarters, Ultron isn’t even there. He’s actually hundreds of years in the future, ruling the “present” Kang style, using The Vision as a conduit.
After Ultron’s ruse is revealed, She Hulk proceeds to huck Cage out of a nearby window so he can warn the others. Ultron then detonates a massive nuclear explosion that levels the rest of New York just to kill Cage before he can. This whole exchange is really where things start going off the rails as it were, but in a good way, as it begins to be something special instead of your typical “post apocalyptic horror show”.
The detonation doesn’t deter Cage though who still manages to steal the Quinjet and pilot to the the remains of the Savage Land, which was the agreed upon rendezvous point for the heroes. Its there that the heroes decide that Ultron’s been dicking around with them for too long. They need to get to the future and shut down Ultron for good.
Luckily for plot’s sake, Nick Fury has a secret base in the Savage land and has moved a lot of his “trophies” there including Doctor Doom’s time platform. Yeah there’s a lot of moments in this that are well “convenient” for plot purposes, but we’ll just gloss over this one as this whole time travel concept is key to the entire rest of the series.
As the heroes formulate a plan to attack Ultron in the future, Wolverine steps up and says “Hell no, bitches.” He knows that plan is gonna fail as Ultron will see them coming from a mile away, and says a better plan is to go back in time and kill Hank “Ant Man/Giant Man/YellowJacket” Pym before he can build Ultron in the first place.
The Supes balk at this idea as unthinkable and proceed with this future strike force which does in essence get slaughtered for all the reasons Wolvey mentioned.That leaves Wolverine and the Invisible Woman to carry out “Plan B”.
Sue goes in hopes she can talk Hank out of building Ultron, but Wolverine knows that ain’t gonna fly. He knows like Reed and Tony Stark, all the scientists in the Marvel Universe are really just douche bags at heart and do things because they can resist showing how smart they are. Ultimately once Sue realizes that, she lets Logan slaughter Dr. Pym in cold blood.
It was at that moment, I really said this has to be some sort of alternate universe thing or Bendis is just screwing with us royal, because one time wife beater or not, Hank Pym is a major player within the Marvel universe, and you can’t just kill him in a throw away issue. And I was kind of half right.
Logan and Sue take their Back to the Future trip to find the world is just as bad but in a different way. There are no Avengers as they broke up in the wake of Pym’s death, and Dr. Strange’s Defenders are the main super hero group. Together with an significantly beat up looking Tony Stark, they are waging a defensive war against the armies of Morgan Le Fay, who then just happens to make one final all out push which crushes any remaining superhero resistance.
With the world still being the ass end of an ass albeit a different kind of one, Wolvey decides to go back and stop himself from killing Pym, but not before a dying Iron Man does his best Doc Brown impression warning him that they are mucking around with the time stream too much.
Despite that, Wolverine does stop himself from killing Pym, but still don’t have a solution to the Age of Ultron problem. It’s then that Pym comes up with a scheme in which he will program a virus deep down in Ultron’s programming, leave himself a message about it, and then make Ultron attack him leaving him with no memory of the event. In that way, time will march along normally until the day Age of Ultron should start, so there will be a way to defuse it. So in essence all the mental problems, Pym has in those middle years based on the fact that Ultron messed with his mind, they were actually on purpose. I really like Hank Pym as a character and have always thought the Marvel writers crapped on him so I’m liking this explanation.
And it works, Pym’s virus stops Ultron from taking over the world and things seem to be back to the status quo. That is until really the single best thing about the whole series happens.
It seems Iron man wasn’t kidding that all this mucking around in the time line would cause problems as simply put, Wolverine breaks time itself. No Wibbly Wobbly, Timey Whimy, Time is busted. It’s collapsed on itself with far reach consequences, such as the Marvel Universe proper Galactus showing up in the Ultimates universe, and introduced Angela from Image’s Spawn comics appearing in outer space with the Guardians of the Galaxy, as we would later find out she was another daughter of Odin, and Thor’s half sister.
As my buddy Chad said at the time, we hoped this didn’t end up combining the multi universe like in DC, as one of the best parts of Marvel is the whole notion of parallel dimensions where all kinds of crazy other stuff can happen. But in the end, I think this series really set the table for where Hickman would go with the Secret Wars series a couple years later, as perhaps the screwing around with the time line thing caused the Beyonders to force their hands and decide to destroy the multiverse. I’m still hazy to be honest on their motivations in that book so maybe I’ll reread that next.
Regardless, if it at all did contribute to the great series that was the second Secret Wars, then again, this series not only did its job in giving me a fantastic crossover book worthy of several read-overs, but paved the way for even bigger ideas down the road.
Kudos to Bendis for this series. Seriously, it almost made up for him f*cking over Scarlet Witch and Vision in Disassembled and House of M…
…Nah…that stuff is never forgiven.