Jamil Scalese: I think I found the formula for each issue of Age of Ultron, guys.
Start with a real slow open, making sure to detail every speck of destruction across a choice major U.S. city in ruins, sprinkle bits of dialogue that only marginally cement the reader in what’s actually going on, then rehash, rehash, rehash just in case anyone was stupid enough to start reading an event comic in the middle instead of the beginning. Finally, just as you lull the audience to sleep, spring some good ideas and high action right in their faces, but just enough so they get to the end of said comic and go “That’s it? More. More!”
That’s been my reaction so far with AU, for the majority of the comic I’m looking at real pretty art and a hollow story, then there are a few morsels of greatness, but they’re so incomplete that I’m counting down the days until the next issue, eager as ever when I finally get it, only to have the same thing happen. A vicious cycle, indeed.
Three to four complete pages could be omitted from this comic and no one would care. Luke Cage carrying She-Hulk’s body through New York? Need less of it. The Central Park gang repeating a lot of what they discussed last issue? Don’t need it at all.
The lifesaver for issue #3 is that yummy Dave Red Hulk, Taskmaster and Black Panther team-up in Chicago. Those are three of my favorite characters and seeing them interact, albeit briefly, is a bit of a joy. And that “I refuse to call you Red Hulk” crack is one of the best things so far about Age of Ultron.
What did you two think? Akin to two weeks ago, it’s a very solid offering, but the pace is killing me. It seems we only get forward movement at the very end of each issue, and the other 18 pages are so decompressed the ratio for panel count per page is higher than word per page.
Shawn Hill: I think it’s Bendis 1.0. I knew what was I was signing on for when I jumped into this thing. His “last” Avengers story is going to be as completely early aughts as possible! I’m here for the Hitch realism-fests, and if we get to see Luke carry an injured Shulkie through the desolate canyons of NYC for ever and ever, I’m there. Especially as it turned out to be a ruse where she had to let him knock her out, because she’s the slightly more invulnerable one. Not the plan we expected, but one of despair and anger.
That said, I’ve been preparing a rant regarding this issue’s surprise reveal all week, and I just can’t muster the outrage I really need. It’s a character Bendis has never ever understood, it’s like he started the last ten years by destroying Scarlet Witch, now he’s going to finish by going on trashing all her partners, one by one. Simon was so much more interesting in the current Uncanny Avengers than he ever was while Bendis made him a terrorist; but there’s no saving Vision, as no one seems to care what Bendis does to him. He brought him back with the same disdain he reserved for bringing the Wasp back. Okay, finding her in the Microverse and having her be a plucky survivor was a pretty decent idea actually (much better than her fashion designing collaboration with the House of M), so I’m going to hope he has something in mind for Vision this time too. Not that anybody respects the Thomas/Englehart history relating to the character anymore, but as a surprise reveal, it was a pretty slick bait-and-switch, I’ll give him that. It’s a good feeling to be as shocked as the focal character is when the mask is pulled off.
Sean Gonzalez: I wish there were different words for different levels of surprise. Sure, I wasn’t expecting Vis to be the big baddie, but at least it fits. I’m just glad it wasn’t Machine Man.
I gotta say that the Chicago team-up not only saves this issue for me, but it’s also saved the whole series so far. Maybe it’s the subtle mix between snark and desperation that this ragtag group exudes that’s entertaining me so much. Maybe it’s because it illustrates the gigantic scope of the conquest in six pages faster than three issues worth of climbing through rubble and sitting in basements does. It could even be the fact that I’m actually watching heroes fight and try to win instead of complaining about how bad they’ve been beat. What I’m trying to say is, I want more of the Chi-Town three. I will say I’m upset over the fact that Black Panther, gymnast extraordinaire, was seemingly unable to stick a landing. Not just because it’s suggested that he didn’t survive the fall, but specifically because it was a fall. Laser-death, on the other hand, is fair game.
Jumping back again (Hey, if Bendis is allowed…) I was a bit disappointed that Cage was the one to discover Vision. Out of the New York survivors, there are seven Avengers that were not only the Vision’s teammates in the past, but actual friends. It pains me to consider the myriad of conversations and conflicts that could have been if only they’d sent Valkyrie and Hawkeye or Beast and Quicksilver. To top it off, I’d argue that the heroes’ arguments for sending Cage and Shulkie make no sense and don’t align with anyone’s character at all. What good is invulnerability against lasers? I would think that the likelihood of death is about the same no matter who they sent, and most everyone in that room would, at least under normal circumstances, have offered themselves to go. Have I just been reading these characters wrong all these years? I honestly think Age of Ultron is coming off like the Ultimate universe, not only in art, but in actions too. Please tell me we’ll get some more relief from whimpering and grimacing soon?
Jamil: In previous reviews we addressed that otherworldly feel, and I agree Sean, because of Hitch’s art this seems like an Ultimate Comics event. The inclusion of Red Hulk forced me to remember this is the 616, and that the main universe is torn to shreds. Since we didn’t see it happen it’s hard to make it stick. That’s not a criticism, just the nature of things.
I have some of the same questions you do, chiefly, how the hell do you knock a Hulk out? Shouldn’t Jen just get madder and more savage? The plan itself is a little thin, you’d think that if was enough to make Captain America stand up it’d be a little more complex. Our NYC heroes actually believe that Ultron hasn’t anticipated them t
rying to infiltrate his citadel? Seriously, Bendis? That’s why this whole “Heroes for Trade” idea needs to pay off. Ultron better have a real good reason for swapping amnesty for capes.
I don’t believe Vision is the big bad, I believe he’s Ultron’s middleman and servant. A couple reasons for that theory: one, he’s like ripped in half or something, and two, in the Superior Spider-Man tie-in (discussed below) Otto catches a glimpse of Vision and seems to think it’s the villain’s “central intelligence”.
I can’t disagree with you, Shawn. Bendis really hasn’t been nice to the Emerald Android at all. I’m wondering if “greater powers” concocted the Cage/She-Hulk duo so Vision can finally confront the fellow Avenger who took him out of the game for about eight years.
Shawn: Well, since she wasn’t in her right mind, either (having just as much as a hysterical fit as Wanda did in “Disassembled,” but for Hulk reasons), and the Vision is a logical being, I’m going to have to say he probably hasn’t thought about it. However, I’m going to disagree more about something else. I think he IS the Big Bad. Luke’s shocked reaction seems very genuine and Luke is often Bendis’ choice of focal character who lays down the law in a way the everyman can relate to. I’m starting to suspect we’re going to have another version of Vision trying to take over all reality to run things better, as he did way back in the Roger Stern days. Only, this time, he’s horribly broken and damaged and he’s going to ruin everything. In fact, we may even end up with an Ultron who needs help saving the world from his own mad creation!? Twist!
There’s another influence on this tale that come to mind besides just the Ultimates (which were Millar/Hitch) and Ultimatum (creators best forgotten). There’s also Ultimate Nightmare (Ellis/Hairsine), which I think found a similarly damaged Ultimate Vision eventually (the first and best part of his Ultimate Galaktus Trilogy, which was uneven but mostly enjoyable — except for how they made another bad Fantastic Four movie out of some of it); and really, if I want to go back to look for blame about Vision being viewed as a malfunctioning robot rather than an android who can cry, I probably have to go back to Avengers West Coast and John Byrne, who also made Wanda evil and ripped Vision to shreds to the point that Roy Thomas had to swoop back in and fix all the broken toys just to salvage the book.
Nobody thinks Bendis broke anything, and he was actually putting things back in order himself towards the finales of Avengers/New Avengers. Best case scenario for this new story direction: could he actually manage to write a Vision with a personality at last? Even if it’s an evil one, that would be progress. At least it will look good, with Peterson (who did Ultimate Extinction) on art.
Sean: Poor Vision… He’s just trapped in the cycle that is being a robot in the Marvel universe.
I’m going to have to side with Shawn on the lack of conflict between She-Hulk and Vision. He makes good points, and in addition, I’m pretty sure Vis already came to terms with his tear-down a while ago. On the flip side, I’m siding with Jamil on Vision probably not being the reason for all this destruction. Mostly based on the same points you made, Shawn. Vision has always been extremely logical, while leaning on the side of good. One of the most memorable times he’s gone cray was due to the fact that he didn’t think the Avengers were protecting the earth as well as they could be. I don’t really see a reason for the rampant destruction and extermination of human life. That’s definitely an Ultron trait.
I’m just glad that things finally seem to be moving forward. I’m intrigued to see what’s happened to the savage land (anyone up for Ka-Zar vs. robots?!) and I’ve already expressed my appreciation of the glimpse into another city. Do you guys have any folks you’d like to see dealing with the Age of Ultron?
Shawn: I would love it if the old magic tricks would work again. Thor, Dr. Strange, Wanda, heck, Magik or Margali Szardos would be welcome! Just not Morgan Le Fey, we already know what Bendis would do with her.
Jamil: ANGELA, of course. Maybe Batman.
I want to find out what’s going with the Ultron-bot head Taskmaster ran off with. I love that Bendis has focused on anti-hero types Moon Knight, Red Hulk, Tasky and the like. With that said, where is someone like Magneto? Where is Doom or Kang? No need to bombard us with the villain folk but it’d be cool to see a figure like Loki give the heroes a helping hand.
I want to see Ultron most of all. I think it’s safe to say he’s hiding in some way. Is he actually playing the mole himself, operating in plain sight? The faster we get to the titular antagonist the meatier the story, I’m guessing.
Sean: Well, I’d say that we’re finally getting close to some answers, but based on the series’ track record, I’ll keep my reservations. At the very least, we can all admit that this issue is setting up intriguing stuff for next time and I think we’ll have a good time seeing the culmination of the first quarter. I’m just glad we won’t have to wait a whole month!
Superior Spider-Man #6AU
(Christos Gage, Dexter Soy)
Jamil: With major events come the tie-ins, that much is comic law. Marvel decided to go all non-intrusive with Age of Ultron and made the tie-in issues mostly optional one-offs. This gives the comics a “What If?” feel, which really means it’s all about the creators ability to tell a good story in a truncated format.
A post-disaster scenario with Peter Parker would make for a powerfully emotional, but pretty predictable, piece. The same situation with Otto Octavius? That’s quality theater. After his greatest victory Spider-Ock faces the world’s great defeat, a crushing development until he’s presented with a mission from Iron Man. Taking place during the first half of AU #3, Superior Spidey teams up with Quicksilver to try and suck Ultron into the Negative Zone. Predictably, Otto goes off-mission, venturing to take on the machine himself, but gets hosed down quickly.
Our replacement hero learns he needs to work with his “peers” in order to set everything right. It serves as way to explain Spidey’s attitude over in the core title which falls more in line with Parker-ism. Christos Gage, who will be assisting on script duties in Superior Spider-Man in the coming months, has a good grasp on Otto’s voice, even if his actions sway a lot. Dexter Soy proves that the mostly maligned Captain Marvel stint was all about time and place. His style, from pencils to color, bring the tragic world to life. I guess a plus to Bryan Hitch’s art sitting on the shelf for so long is that others were able to use it as source material.
A non-essential issue, but if you’re a fan of the Superior Spider-Man and like what’s happening in AU then it’s worth a look. Otherwise, it’s a quality comic that will end up in the bargain bin one day.
Fantastic Four #5AU
(Matt Fraction, Andre Arajuo, Jose Villarrubia)
Sean: Whether you’ve been following Fantastic Four or just Age of Ultron, either way, this comic is going to feel a bit out of place. It derails from the FF family’s space trip and instead focuses completely on Ultron’s attack on earth. Of course, since Marvel’s supposedly doing readers the favor of not making any of the tie-ins integral to completing the plot of Age of Ultron, the issue comes off a bit bland.
Realistically, since most of the FF are missing from the event’s main title, this issue focuses on what exactly happened to the team while things first started going down. The four get a distress call from Earth, and rocket into the fray, leaving behind nothing but their children and some sub-par goodbye videos. There’s little reason to elaborate seeing as how things go pretty much as one would expect when someone’s trying to get some heroes out of the way. A fight sequence, followed by some platitudes by each fallen member of the team — some of which frankly, I can barely accept coming out of the mouths of the FF, especially Mr. Fantastic, who seemingly speaks to his children as if he just met them– and then we’re left at the beginning of Age of Ultron.
The issue stutters along trying to illicit a response from the reader, but more often than not, I was unphased. I will admit that Andre Arajuo has a unique style that made me linger on a few pages more than once. His depictions of a Manhattan bordering on destroyed and robotically redesigned remind me of Moebius-esque future cities, but his character work needs some improvement.
All in all, the issue is relatively forgettable and i’m betting that the subtle cliffhanger that it ends on will most likely resolve within the pages of AU. If not, you’ll probably stumble upon it in Wikipedia one day.
Follow along with Age of Ultron with our other Real Talk reviews:
- Age of Ultron #1
- Age of Ultron #2
- Age of Ultron #3 (w/ Superior Spider-Man #6AU and Fantastic Four #5AU)
- Age of Ultron #4
- Age of Ultron #5 (w/ Avengers Assemble #14AU and Ultron #1AU)
- Age of Ultron #6 (w/ Wolverine and the X-Men #27AU)
- Age of Ultron #7
- Age of Ultron #8 (w/ Avengers Assemble #15AU)
- Age of Ultron #9 (w/ Uncanny Avengers #8AU and Fearless Defenders #4AU)
- Age of Ultron #10