Age of Ultron Review: Issues 1-3

Andrew Houldcroft ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff

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Age of Ultron is an ongoing series under the Marvel title that is set in an alternate apocalyptic universe.
Another Bendis Marvel title comes out on shelves from now until sometime in late May or early June. The talented author of titles like Ultimate Spider-Man and the recent Avengers vs X-Men keeps continues to produce a significant amount of work; Age of Ultron may be evidence he’s spreading a bit too thin. With three volumes already out, the comic series looks like it’s shaping up to be a mediocre mess mishandling some of the best characters the universe has to offer.
For those of you aspiring to become “true believers” (aka well-versed Marvel fans) you’ll want to know a few things about this particular title. Of course, the average reader is familiar with the likes of Spider-Man, Hawkeye (thanks to 2012’s The Avengers), Captain America, Iron Man, etc., but it’s clear that not everyone is familiar with the sentient Ultron. His popularity isn’t on par with a Doctor Doom or Magneto, but he certainly deserves a bit of the spotlight nonetheless.
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Ultron is the worst decision Hank Pym, aka Ant Man, has made since that time he raised his hand in violence against his wife Janet, aka The Wasp. Ultron was originally designed by Pym with the intention of experimenting with artificial intelligence. To facilitate the progress of his metallic baby, Pym copied his brain patterns into Ultron allowing a great deal of intelligence to mix with emotional instability.
This led to one of the Avengers’ deadliest villains: a killer robot using the brain waves of one of the universe’s smartest men. He was defeated by heroes every time, thus forcing himself to upgrade from Ultron- 5 to Ultron- 12, where beat down every force in the Marvel universe. No, you didn’t read that wrong; he got everyone.
Age of Ultron traces the path of this seemingly perfect “what if” scenario. The storyline takes one of the greatest villains in Avengers history, throws him in a position of supreme power, and idealizes Luke Cage (bound to happen in a Bendis title). Seriously though, there are some major questions here. How did Ultron take on Hulk and win? Thor? If a robot can kill a God, then the reader is going to want some answers.
Yet these answers don’t come in the first issue. The story follows a rescue of Spider-Man by Hawkeye and disorients the reader almost instantaneously. There’s no backdrop given, there’s a rough idea of what’s going on, and there’s an understanding that we’re dealing with the real Peter Parker (which is not the case in mainstream continuity’s 616). For a ten issue run, the series is already asking more questions than it may be able to deliver.
The answers we do get to revel in take place in dialogue or in the rare flashback, as provided by Spidey. His version of the story may not get the reader up to speed with everything, but it’s an interesting path when dealing with storytelling. The problem is that it could come a bit earlier instead of popping up halfway through the second issue. Plot points are thus buried for the sake of action and with all of this bouncing around without solid explanation (especially by the third issue), it’s hard to get a sense of depth of attachment to the situation.
In terms of art, done by Bryan Hitch (The Ultimates), I take the position of Doug Zawisza (Comic Book Resources) in agreeing that nothing pops in this. As he says, there is a great deal “of sameness” floating about every character’s appearance. Eyes will wander across the page looking for something to pop out really usher in a wow! once in a while, but the most interesting art in this has to be the backdrop.
Every issue so far has put New York City on display to the viewer and presented an interesting altered geography as a result of Ultron’s reign. Dilapidated buildings clutter once vibrant streets and the apocalypse vibe is enforced through blue and black colors. These same themes are recaptured once the West Coast Avengers are introduced to the story: warmer colors, such as an offset green and a bit of yellow, still give the sense that something is very, very wrong.
Seeing old heroes in new gear or torn costumes is interesting, but they could stand to benefit from a bit more work. For example, I’m still trying to figure this posture out:
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The writing of the comic isn’t anything special either. As a fan of the Ultimate Spider-Man comics and an even bigger fan of Powers, I was really hoping for the Bendis I know and love to come out in full shine here. It has what he needs. Well, it has a talkative and perfect Luke Cage. Maybe the problem here is this is the commercial dream of a lifetime. It’s a story in which Marvel can throw every heavy hitter it has together in a crossover without any repercussions on the increasingly demented 616. But maybe we don’t want that.
Maybe we like seeing heroes lose, but we don’t want to see the commercial aspect of it all. Maybe we want to see a team-up like the Infinity Gauntlet where there’s depth, explanation, and a good deal of action. Ultron is a character born from the dramatic magic of the original Avengers titles brought into an age where Marvel caters to the offbeat reader. Readers today are looking for a spectacle or idea over a good story. As long as the team-up is cool, then the rest can be fairly mediocre. Overall, Bendis gets characters’ personalities to a nine, but there isn’t any particular dialogue that will have you thinking about life late at night.
Age of Ultron is a fairly average title. It’s an okay read for anyone interested in Ultron and even more caught up in “what if”s. For now though, one like myself can only hope that this attention to such a marvelous villain is a wink towards a potential antagonist in the phase three of Marvel Studio’s film brainchildren.

Rating: 6 out of 10

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