Real Talk: 'Age of Ultron' #2 Features a Well-Placed Scene of Characters Standing Around and TalkingA comic review article by: Shawn Hill, Jamil Scalese, Sean Gonzalez
Some comics are too big, hypeworthy or insane for one reviewer to cover. Which is why we have Real Talk, an outlet for a group of reviewers to tackle a comic together and either come to a consensus or verbally arm wrestle until there's nothing left to say.
Shawn Hill: Back for Round 2, and we get deeper into the desolation that America (and the wider world? No one knows yet) has become. This time we begin on the alternate coast, with the Black Widow making her way stealthily through the rubble of San Francisco. We don't get a lot more answers about how Ultron accomplished what he did, but we do get the sense that it went beyond "shock and awe." Those who woke up did so to a devastated world.
Jamil Scalese: Historically, Hawkeye and Widow have been one Marvel's go-to team-ups. A pairing that works so well that it even manifested itself on the big screen this past summer. So, in a way, it's appropriate that the second issue of Age of Ultron opens with a very similar atmosphere compared to the first one. Our heroine wanders the devastated landscape -- not on a rescue mission like Clint, but on a scavenger and reconnaissance endeavor. Her partner on the left coast is Moon Knight, and they're determined to get even with "the machine," even if it means sacrificing themselves.
I enjoyed the slow pace of #1, but here it irritated me a little. Bryan Hitch's art is still a spectacle, and the imagery here is so much more brutal, with San Fran streetcars stocked full of corpses and Ultron's "Ultbots" obliterating people with face lasers, but I could have used a lot more plot momentum.
Sean Gonzalez: Once again, I'm worried we'll be seeing Bendis make the same mistakes he always does during the big events. As much as I loved the tie-ins and actual concept in Secret Invasion, I felt like the actual event's issues didn't move forward fast enough. In about eight issues, he managed to tell about six hours worth of story. With only about an hours worth of time passing between Age of Ultron #1 and #2, It's pretty evident Bendis is facing the same problem.
Also, I hate to bring it up again, but the aforementioned "massaging" that was done to fit this series in with the rest of the Marvel continuity keeps rubbing me the wrong way. In my opinion, Spider-Man still doesn't sound like Otto and I wonder if anyone would have cared if this story was displaced. I'm sure we all remember Secret War, which was not only set earlier in the Marvel timeline, but also took ages to come out. Besides missing out on the tie-in opportunities, do you guys think it would've been such a bad decision to just give Bendis the era he was planning for? (Minded, I'm asking without knowing anything related to sales figures of these or any past books...)
Shawn: No, I think it'd probably be better to just tell the whole thing out of continuity. But then we wouldn't be subjected to all those "The Marvel Universe will never be the same again!" threats that are already in the pipeline. It's also a weird example of how Ultimate Marvel has bled completely into mainstream 616 Marvel. When Widow and Knight were in Nick Fury's old digs, I couldn't figure out if it was version 1 or 2.0 they were worried about. Both have been seen to use that (or a similar) locale after all. And Moonie at least was familiar from how Bendis wrote him in his solo title.
The most disturbing moment of all was seeing Cap pick up his broken fragment of shield. But, hey, last issue he was curled into a fetal ball, this issue he stands up, raring to go! Next issue, watch him walk across the room with determination!
Jamil: The feeble Rogers remains the foremost imagery in my mind for the first two installments of Age of Ultron. A ruined Captain America means shit went real, real bad, and though I'm not sure sure we'll ever find out the exact method of the world's devastation we did get more of an idea of how the individual heroes ended up where they are. Who knows, maybe everything will be pieced together by the end. That'd be cool.
Sean, your question concerning the event's release schedule is legit. I'm going to guess Bryan Hitch's departure from Marvel had something to do with it, as I recall him citing how he felt he was misled on the actual length of this series. Shawn alluded to the inherent need to make the events have lasting effects, and I'd guess the particulars of the plot changed a lot from draft to draft.
Bendis does a decent job navigating the tough continuity issues with bits of dialogue. It's definitely Old Nick's secret hideout, as Black Widow mentions he used it during Secret Invasion (which also conveniently explains the dated pictures on the wall). I do agree this Spider-Man carries itself more like Peter, but let's be real, guys, to fix the mess they're in the heroes are going to need to use magic or big time science to reshape things, so this little askew pocket universe does not need to be perfect.
I like the last four or so pages of Age of Ultron #2 a lot. For once a Bendis sit and talk scene made complete sense. With Hawkeye, Cage, Stark and the gang at their lowest level they must regroup and piece together any discernible info. Although I didn't mention it last week I also wondered why the hell Ultron would need C-list villains to do his bidding. Now that the question has been raised I'm super eager to discover the answer.
Sean: It's fair to say that Bendis is trying his best with the continuity stuff. I'm glad Shawn brought up the Nick Fury confusion too, but I actually don't think Marvel did a bad job bringing in the new Nick Fury. It was probably one of the least confusing movie matches they've done yet. At least I haven't seen the two Furys stand in a room together yet...
To go back to Cap; I find his air of defeat so strange because absolutely no one else seems to be phased by the situation. From the group we've seen so far, I would have expected a whole lot more freaking out. Spider-Man, for instance, is taking the destruction of his hometown and his recent torture surprisingly well. In fact, his non-freaking-out could be argued as the only clue that it's not really Peter.
Anyway, the rest of the Cage family seems to be missing and I'm pretty sure Luke would be tearing through robots until he found his family or was lasered to death. The same could be said for Sue Storm and perhaps even Storm; a person who has grieved and gotten haircuts over the loss of one life let alone an entire state's worth. It's these lack of emotions that I see coming from the survivors that makes me question Captain America's response.
A guy that's been to war and seen the deaths of friends would be handling things better, and though he may have been frozen in ice for Hiroshima, he's had time to get used to civilian casualties. (He didn't seem to have anything to say about Genosha for instance.) This isn't even the first time he's busted his shield. All of this brings me to believe that he's seen something that the others haven't. Any of you guys have a guess? Did Sharon Carter get Ultronned right before his eyes?
Jamil: That's a damn good point, Sean, I hadn't really considered his sulk compared to the others. I think it might nod to the utter tactical defeat, rather than a personal loss.
Sean: And I'll toss in another question too: Any guesses on the battle plan that's finally got him out of his funk? I have an idea, and I'm wondering if I'm coming outta left field or if it was foreshadowed as much as I thought it was.
Shawn: I don't have a guess as to his plan, but I do think he had a hard time even standing upright. He's physically and mentally broken in this reality.The sign that Peter is suffering (and that he's Peter, at least to me) is that his quips are hardly fast and furious, more wan and infrequent. He's a shadow of himself, and still in shock I think. The Widow is disfigured, Moon Knight is barely holding it together, Cage and the bunker crowd are ready to kill anyone who gets out of their sight perimeter … I'd say they're postponing grieving, to the extent that we've focused on the actual heroes and not just the loners still surveying the extent of the damage. These are desperate times, and the heroes barely survived.
Jamil: Given the structure of this series (with each issue seemingly focused on a different set of cast members) I think that it's not so much that the other heroes are handling the disaster well, it's just that Bendis hasn't put the spotlight on them yet. Everyone is still in shock, a foggy feeling that everything is gone, a sensation they've never collectively experienced before. No one can get too melancholy because the comrade on the right has had it just as bad. They're holding up because they have to. By contrast look at the scenes we get with civilians so far: they work for villains, try to hold up innocent shawl-clad women or immediately sell out their friends to spare their lives.
I'm interested in hearing about your plan theory, Sean. I think they're going to masquerade as supervillains and try to infiltrate Ultron's... huge mega-base? No clue really, but let's be glad there is a plan!
The accelerated release schedule allows me to enjoy the slow burn a little more. However, I fear this won't get too interesting until about the mid point, much like Avengers vs. X-Men did.
Shawn: You're ready for some mystical world building, Jamil! Let's just hope it doesn't involve The Sentry biting off Morgan Le Fay's head!
Sean: I don't think I would mind the slow progression as much if the characters we were peeking in on were up to more than skulking and brooding. Is it too much to ask for constant explosions?
But back to the theorizing, as much as I would agree that a mystical approach would be the best bet ('cause Dr. Strange is totally chilling underground with the others), I have a feeling that Cap is going to end up using the brand new information he has to find out what Ultron's up to. Meaning that a low-key, perhaps sneaky member of the resistance is going to be bait. Who would be offered could be an interesting debate (feel free to go hog wild in the comments) but seeing as I'm only about 60% positive, I'm not about to be putting any money down on it just yet...
Jamil: If magic comes in and saves the day I'll be a disappointed little comic book nerd. Both the last two Marvel events (Fear Itself, AvX) ended on a "weird, mystic energies we can't begin to understand" notes, so if there isn't some semblance of hard science in the Ultron solution I might eat my hat. Then again, this is superhero comics, everything is basically magic. What goes good with a trilby?
I'm picking up the general vibe that, for the most part, the three of us enjoy Age of Ultron. I'm certainly digging the stage and gravity of the storyline, and both main creators are delivering the goods. We all still have questions about the nature of this story, and I'm starting to believe that since we haven't even seen Ultron yet we're in for a couple surprises down the road. Will that be soon? We'll see in about two weeks.
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
- Age of Ultron #7
- Age of Ultron #8 (w/ Avengers Assemble #15AU)