Artists: Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco
Issues: Age of Ultron #1-10, Avengers #12.1
Age of Ultron has a fun premise (that’s absolutely nothing to do with the 2015 film): let’s do Age of Apocalypse, but with Ultron! Instead of X-Men we’ll focus on Avengers in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by a supervillain.
Unfortunately Age of Ultron loses its footing almost immediately, with a main plot that focuses more on time-travel bullshit and alternate realities. Ultron himself doesn’t even show up until the last issue, and it’s practically an afterthought.
Confusingly Age of Ultron takes place “today.” The world is a ruined wasteland patrolled by Ultron-bots. Spider-Man is being beaten and tortured by a bunch of street thugs, and Hawkeye is able to rescue him. They make it to the remaining heroes left in New York City, including Luke Cage, She-Hulk, Storm, Iron Man, Sue Storm, Wolverine, and a depressed Captain America with a broken shield.
Shit is deliciously bleak. I was on board for this intriguing look at a dystopian world and the mystery for how things got like this – literally Spider-Man reveals that he just woke up one day to find the world in this state.
They formulate a plan based on Spider-Man’s capture. For some reason Ultron wants to trade for captured heroes, so Luke Cage and She-Hulk go to the enemy (I forget which one is turning in the other, it doesn’t really matter). They find out that Ultron isn’t even there – he’s apparently doing all this from the future and controlling everything through a half-destroyed Vision.
Meanwhile an injured Black Widow and Moon Knight stumble on one of Nick Fury’s hidden bases. They meet up with the rest of the heroes as more of them get brutally killed, including Cage, She-Hulk, Taskmaster, and Black Panther. But they find Nick Fury in the Savage Lands, and more importantly, a Doctor Doom time-travel platform hidden in one of his secret bases.
A new plan emerges – jump into the future to hunt down Ultron and destroy him. But Wolverine has a different plan after they leave: go back in time to take out Hank Pym (aka Yellowjacket, aka Giant-Man, aka Wasp, aka Go Away Pym) before he can create Ultron.
It’s a reverse-Terminator situation and could’ve made for a neat story – though it takes half the 10-issue event to even get to this point.
Wolverine travels back in time and Susan Storm tags along as the angel on his shoulder. They instantly make it to Pym and get into a fight. Sue freezes them before Logan can deliver the killing blow, but he convinces her this is the only way.
Keep in mind earlier in the comic several characters discussed that they could talk to to Pym and explain things, but Wolverine decided preemptively killing an Avenger was the only way.
Wolverine kills Pym. They travel back to the Present and find things are still fucked up, in an entirely different way. The world is under assault by Morgan Le Fey, and an alternate Avengers team called the Defenders battle her. The Kree-Skrull War was never repelled and Earth is just as screwed as before.
We spend several issues dealing with this completely other alt-reality which has nothing to do with Ultron. Logan and Susan Storm run from, battle, and eventually work with the Defenders team while alt-Tony Stark (who’s a cyborg built into his armor) works through the implications of the time-traveling, Pym-murdering event.
A giant battle ensues when Le Fey shows up and Wolverine with his healing is the only survivor. He returns to the time-travel platform, and goes back in time again to stop himself from murdering Pym.
Time-travel stories are already difficult to swallow and this is a very jagged pill. It’s especially irksome as it comes down to Logan realizing that “oh yeah, I guess we should’ve just sat down and talked with Pym,” which is what they do.
They have to convince past-Pym to do everything the same (and wipe knowledge of this meeting) in order to not fuck up the time stream that they just played jump-rope with. Alt-Tony Stark had mentioned to Logan that Pym should be able to introduce a special code that can lie dormant in Ultron, unleashing it when they need to.
And that’s what happens. The two Wolverines and Susan Storm leave to return to the present.
Now we can’t have two Wolverines so there’s a messed up scene where one agrees to murder the other (the one that saw the ruined alt-world agrees to be the murdered one). He and Sue return to the present and everything is fine again. A battle with Ultron is shown and Pym receives a letter – from himself, dun-dun-DUN!
Past-Pym tells Present-Pym everything in a video message, and Pym is able to upload a virus, Ultron falls for it, and is quickly defeated. The world is back to normal. Oh and meanwhile that future Avengers team that went to battle Ultron are all killed or something, it doesn’t matter.
Had they at least stuck to the Terminator plot it could’ve been salvageable. As overused as Logan is, pairing him with Susan Storm was at least a bit interesting. Instead it changes focus to an entirely new alt-reality and even more time-travel junk.
The one saving grace is that the art is pretty fantastic. The artist changes throughout the comic is irksome but each artist brings a glossy, cinematic style that I really enjoyed. Each issue has several 2-page spreads showing off destruction, armies, explosions, and ruined city-scapes.
An epilogue called Age of Ultron: AI (which is strangely not included in the TPB) is supposed to inform us that the whole event is designed to unravel and strengthen Hank Pym, one of Marvel’s least likable and least interesting characters. After this event he goes on to create a new team of AI and a new comic series called Avengers AI, suggesting that he learned nothing?
Age of Ultron is an event that has almost zero effect on anything else, and yet another story that stars Wolverine as the main protagonist. The dystopian world where heroes could be killed off left and right is always fun, but once the time-travel stuff started it completely lost me. It’s an easy read with no setup and barely any tie-ins, but also completely skippable.