Shawn Hill: Now this is more like it! I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of this weird after-echo of Age of Ultron. Each one-shot is a look into a world that survives without one significant Avenger (or doesn’t so much). I’d argue that such a question is the wrong What If? to base such a sequel on (after all, the crux of the matter wasn’t “What if we lost an Avenger too soon?” It was “What if Wolverine killed Hitler?” So shouldn’t Keatinge be instead thinking of different targets for Wolverine to kill, and reasons to kill them?). But I’m willing to play along for a nice little done in one story like this one.
Last issue Wasp’s death left Hank even crazier than usual (and trapped in an overly derivative hell). This issue is also familiar, but the missing Avenger is Tony, and apparently there was an endless Armor War. Iron Man readers might know what that references, I’ve too seldom been one. I’m actually thinking more of previous Iron Man-themed What Ifs, where all the Avengers got armored up and cool hijinks like that. This time, with the Stane family in control of most things, Wolverine decides to get the old gang together for one last all-out assault — wait for it — on the Savage Land! He may be older, but dude still has style!
Jamil Scalese: Style is what this issue has in spades. The first one was bare and drawn out and #2 works because so much is stuffed into a 20-pager. Up until now the Age of Ultron had an ominous overtone, a story filled with dilapidated cities and the hanging scent of death, but this second installment has a buoyancy that shows Joe Keatinge’s versatility.
Paying homage to the 90’s “New Fantastic Four” the story teams up slightly altered versions of Logan, Hulk, Spider-Man and Ghost Rider to avenge the memory of Tony Stark, fallen comrade of a previous age. These iterations of these classic characters are a delight. Zen Hulk and Busy Dad Spidey are a blast and I’m loving Wolverine in the New X-Men-era uniform and a captain’s hat.
Speaking of New X-Men the art assignment has a true Frank Quitely tone to it. The slight squiggle of Ramon Villalobos’ style adds a defining element to the story, setting it apart from the steady parade of superhero comics I read every week. Along with Ruth Redmond’s softer-than-expect colors it’s a funky piece of art that works in its contrast to the subject matter. There are some patches where the panel flow is a slightly rough but this is a packed story that goes many places is a short span so it’s understandable.
What If? Age of Ultron #2 is a great single issue. Though not groundbreaking in anyway it shows what might have happened if Stark wasn’t around to strike down one his greatest rivals. I expected all of these stories to be Ultron-centric so I’m intrigued by the direction Keatinge decided on.
Shawn: I agree with you completely on the art! Very Quitely-esque, without being a pastiche. And the story, too, creatively picks up on New X-men, with references to the Master Mold and the Trask family. Iron Sentinels is not something you’d want, if you think about it. There’s a funky sort of indie feeling to this story, which is the last thing you’d expect from this particular high concept. And that New Fantastic Four/Avengers vibe is exactly right. Wolverine’s Irregulars, wading in one last time!