Jamil Scalese: The angle that Keatinge is working in this speculative series is starting to become clearer. It’s not so much “what if X dies”, it’s “what if X isn’taround to stop Y?” The Age of Ultron happens sooner because Pym doesn’t have Wasp to temper his madness; Without Tony Stark a lesser, but still very dangerous, tech genius runs the world.
The premise to the third issue of What If? Age of Ultron shows us what happens if Thor isn’t around to dam off Earth from the horrible monsters and evil curses of Asgard. It’s a more obvious path than the first two issues, and I credit the writer for not trying to get too cute with that core idea. The real fun of issue comes from our viewpoint, a team of Defenders who storm Castle Doom for its arsenal of weapons. In What If? Age of Ultron #1 we got a brief glimpse of this team in the Janet-less timeline, and I remember thinking “I want to read their story”. I’m pretty delighted that Keatinge obliged.
A team of Nick Fury, Black Widow, Silver Sable, Shang Chi, Falcon and Microchip, I’m sorry, Lieberman, are the last bastion of humanity, fighting Frost Giants and Jormungand in order to “end Thor’s myth”, and this issue is really well-structured, with high action and very good dialogue throughout. Thematically it’s pretty powerful, and it mixes elements of apocalypse and rebirth in impactful ways.
In the more static moments the art is good but it’s not so much in the plentiful battle scenes. I’m not too sure where Mico Suayan starts and Raffaele Ienco ends but they weren’t a great choice for an action intense issue. Lots of panels look awkward and I really had to peer hard to figure out who was shooting whom, etc. Beaulieu’s colors are too shadowy and somber to really help things.
Had the art been a little better I would have liked this a bunch more, but as is it still a damn strong issue. The most wonderful thing about these alternate reality stories is that you have no clue where it’s going and the ending of this one proves that emphatically.
Shawn: You know, I felt the art was pretty great, but the story was a little predictable. I’d give it the same rating, for those opposite reasons. A world without Thor could, of course, reasonably open us up to all manner of Asgardian baddies. We&
rsquo;ve seen that to an extent in both Thor movies; humans are just fragile little children next to gods and demons.
I still don’t quite buy the explanation, that Thor’s “myth” is ruined because (I guess?) of reverberations from Wolverine’s shattering of all timelines? By killing Hank pre-emptively, he screwed up a lot of parallel universes, kind of like tossing a bomb into a lake and killing all the fish? Thor falls to Jormungand for no other reason I can see other than a kind of electrical aftershock, and then that core Defenders-y group you mention is left to pick up the slack. Of which there is none, so it’s very doom and gloom from the start.
The action scenes may not be the best, but Suayan and Ienco are good with anatomy, so many of the more posed/poised moments look great. Our heroes both look and sound like themselves (not always the case in a What If?). The serpent and the Frost Giants are full of convincing detail, and really cool to see the OG Nick Fury in action again. Though I’m not sure how I feel about a perceived tendency to give the Black Widow a very Hollywood starlet familiarity, the character does get to shine in an unexpected way by story’s end. And the wrap up, with an elderly Fury wandering amidst memorial statues, provides a nice coda to a tale that tried as hard as it could to be epic in just one issue.