Real Talk: 'Age of Ultron' #8: Didn't This Comic Used to Be About Robots?
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Shawn: The mild dystopia of Stark-World gets slightly worse when we realize it’s Le Fey World instead, or at least the European part is. I sort of love how paranoid everyone is about Le Fey’s attacks; last issue we were all about Skrulls, but apparently they had nothing on Morgana once she made her strike. I’m trying to remember what Pym might have done to keep her contained, but it’s sort of cool that it’s Iron Man’s worst nightmare come home to roost: magic vs. science, and magic killed Thor. The possibility of Ultron is something this scarred, jumpy Tony sounds almost wistful about, which is a very chilling moment.

Oh, and yet again, Bendis hits completely the wrong note with Emma, and makes me glad Xavier is dead.

Jamil: I sometimes wonder if Bendis possesses so much clout at Marvel that editors are reluctant to send things back to him for reworking. His Emma Frost is unlike any other I’ve ever read to the point where I almost need to turn away. I did however like seeing Xavier again. Kinda miss the ol’ cue ball.

Shawn, I can help but bring this bad boy all the around to our review of issue three. Sean With Four Letters asked us what we like to see and you said magic, but specifically not Morgana Le Fey. Just about every time we’ve discussed Brian Michael Bendis you’ve shown distaste for his prior use of her. I could think of no one but you when the sorceress launched her impressive attack on Stark, his makeshift SHIELD operation and the feisty Defenders. I love that she’s a heavy hitter in this version of the MU, possibly usurping the power of Victor Von Doom. She definitely nabbed up his personal army as her own. Ram Horns Not Included.

I’m going to be real, guys. I’m really not sure how I feel about this issue. Peterson takes the reigns and whips up a spectacular 20 pages all set in what I think of as 616b, but I’m left unfulfilled by a digressive, transitional issue. Is this the Age of Ultron?

Shawn: I was worried in #3 about the way Bendis handled Morgana in Dark Avengers, which was just very convoluted (but stupid) time travel spells and ripping off her head. But this fierce Valkyrie leader of hordes of flying demons is kind of fun. And her line about Tony making no sense was funny, since he wasn’t making any sense to anyone else, either.

Sean: Yup, very little of this makes sense. This is not the Age of Ultron. This is far from what we were promised and as much as I’m enjoying these alternate character revamps and fantastically drawn aerial combat scenes (I mean, they’re riding DRAGONS) I can’t help mirror that unfulfilled sentiment you’re talking about, Jamil.

Though, I feel I need to clarify before I go on… I hate to say that we were “promised” anything, because these are stories and the writers don’t owe fans anything — regardless of what Tumblr and the message boards say — but to be fair, this was built up as an ULTRON event. I continue to find it difficult to understand why Bendis decided the best way to progress the story was to make the antagonist, of which the title of the series is named after, a non-issue.

But maybe I’m kvetching.

Shawn: You aren’t, but I guess since Ultron can be so one note, and Bendis previous idea of how to sex him up was to literally sex him up, I’m sorta enjoying the delay of the inevitable. I can’t really tell what is editorial pressure and what is Bendis being crafted, but he seems to have done a lot of planning for this thing, as lurchy as some of the developments have been.

Jamil: I’ve always loved Ultron, from concept, to look and origin. The mad robot, excuse me, artifical intelligence, appeared for the first time in his fifth incarnation, under disguise as the Crimson Cowl. Roy Thomas, arguably the godfather of Marvel continuity, put together a layered tale that revealed itself to be one of the most lasting Avengers stories of all time. You’re right, Ultron hasn’t amounted to much since, and that why I’m let down by this major crossover dedicated to him.

Random thing I just noticed: We’ve had an appearance by a dragon in three straight events.

OK, let’s switch gears and talk a little about the two holdovers from the original 616.

It’s extremely fair to say that Bendis has mimicked the premise to the House of M by putting Wolverine in a strange world only he knows is wrong. There are attempts to differentiate between the two stories but it’s tough to deny the similarities. Although not a direct counterpart, Logan is basically Marvel’s Batman, a character that has worldwide appeal, and functions in many different tones (especially recently. Thanks, Jason Aaron, et al). Making him a hub of emotion and action for the line isn’t a terrible idea. Wolverine has broad shoulders for a tiny man.

To set this apart from previous stories Bendis placed Invisible Woman in the metaphorical sidecar. I’m a fan. Of the Fantastic Four Sue has the least significant role across the brand. Reed is the go-to genius, Ben is the loveable bruiser, Johnny the flashy upstart. Sue is the mother, which is a sweet and all, but hardly badass. Can anyone point to any type of Invisible Woman/Girl miniseries?

Even here we find her in a bit role, with a heavy focus on Wolvie and Iron Man. I think I’m still reeling from the wholesale change of replacing the physical ruins with temporal ruination, but the central thread is lost on me. Age of Ultron #8 houses a lot of “cool” yet fails to add anything significant to the overall story of winning the day.

Shawn: I don’t think you can rank the significance of the members of the FF, since they are an elemental team. They all count equally. Sue is the air, the
life they all breathe. She can make it hard or soft. And while Wolvie does the heavy lifting, as always, it was Sue who gave him permission (which she could have easily denied) last issue. She’s the most powerful of the Four.

Solo stories, let’s see, she did some Spider-Man team-ups while Claremont was writing, but her most meaningful FF stories have been very traditional: marriage, motherhood, endangered babies. When not being wife and mother, she’s got the potential for adultress (Namor) and femme fatale (Malice, her crazy alter ego). As a good mother, however, she serves as a source of wisdom and experience.

Sean: I definitely remember Johnny being my favorite as a kid, and then Sue becoming my favorite as an adult. She’s grown over the years and I’m always surprised when people underestimate her. Back in the beginning of the FF I can totally understand, but nowadays? She’s the Marvel equivalent of Jackie O, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Oprah mixed into a blender. What’s not to love?

I’m actually not the happiest with Bendis’ use of her so far… I don’t see her as someone who would secretly follow Wolvie into a time machine rather than call him out on it in public. In addition, I don’t understand her uneasiness about making a decision. Sue’s always been decisive and obstinate. I mean, she can literally make walls. Pretty sure that’s a parallel or something. Do we remember the time she left her whole family to join the rebels during the Civil War?

But in an attempt to avoid getting sidetracked with my adoration for the Invisible Woman, I would definitely have to agree with the similarities between A of U and H of M. The biggest difference being that the first thing Wolvie did in House of M was look for help. I think this is primarily because Wolverine isn’t the world-saving hero some might think he is. If we’re going to be bringing up miniseries and such, I’d like to point out that Wolvie tends to drive around on motorcycles and get drunk in Japan in his comics and only really gets involved in major throw-downs when he’s tagging along with the X-Men or Avengers. I’m thinking that this will drop the responsibility of bringing in the End Game on Sue — which I’d have no problem with cause I’m sure she could handle it- or one of these Earth-616b heroes. Maybe even a Deus Ex Angela?

Jamil: I certainly hope Sue is given more to do, otherwise there was no point to funnel the focus to a small handful of characters.

As a whole, this is a satisfactory issue. Brandon Peterson provides some sinister looking visuals, using shadow and realism to portray a filthy, unsavory 616b that will stick with me as a Marvel fan. Is it worse than a world of crumbled buildings and hiding in fear? No, but after seeing how vulnerable and unprepared the Defenders and friends are I can accept why the cast will inevitably try to switch back to the status quo.

To wrap this up I’ll bring things around once again. We have two more issues left so I’m wondering what you two are looking for in the last portion of this event. For me, I’m anticipating more Wolverine vs Wolverine (as the cover of #9 implies), and some significant development regarding Pym and Ultron. The dimension slashing will come but I’m hoping the 35 pages or so between take chances instead preparing for the next event. A huge part of AU has been it’s stage-setting.

Sean: I just miss the dynamics of surviving heroes in a world gone mad. I know a lot of the tie-ins are covering that stuff, but I’d be pleased if the main series had the camera shifted back to the folks left behind in Fury’s bunker. I don’t completely understand the time travel rules but I’m sure they could get away with some paradox that leaves it up to Hawkeye and the others to save the day.

Shawn: I admit we aren’t where we thought we’d be at this point, but where we are is more interesting to me than I expected. I don’t really care about Wolvie vs. Wolvie, but I’d like to see this alternate world play out a little further.


Avengers Assemble #15AU

(Al Ewing, Butch Guice, Tom Palmer, Rick Magyar; Marvel)

Shawn: So, last month’s creative team takes us from the west coast of America to Western Europe, where things aren’t going so hot in London, either. Captain Britain and whatever the current iteration of Excalibur is have holed up at the British Museum, which has enough magic artifacts to keep Ultron temporarily at bay. Guice and Palmer keep the relatively small-scale story real, as a healer works on the injured, and the Captains British and Marvel-ous try to work out a plan of attack.

There’s a Dr. Who/Harry Potter awkward nerd type who actually has limited computer control powers (that worked better in the early days of digital, frankly) whom they enlist to give them an edge, which allows for a few black humor Dalek references. But overall, it’s just as hopeless as things were for Black Widow and Moon Knight in San Francisco, and Brian knows it. So he passes his helm on to the healer, and makes his brave last stand at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Which seems to have limited success, possibly preserving England as a place as free of dire Ultron as it is of the dreaded Euro. Whether that means the rest of the world have allies in turning Ultron’s tide remains to be seen, as the main title is caught up in its distracting tangent.

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