By Brian Michael Bendis, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary and Paul Mounts
It is the near future. We are thrust into a nightmarish world where a nearly destroyed Manhattan is dwarfed by a strange mechanical megacity. A battle-weary and scarred Hawkeye breaks into a den of criminals run by The Owl and Hammerhead to break Spider-Man out of captivity. Using precise assault methods, he easily overcomes the opposition, but is nearly overcome by flying robotic sentries sent by the mad Ultron, the rule of the planet.
An evil power-mad robot created by the brilliant Hank Pym, Ultron is a major villain who traditionally brings the Avengers to the brink of absolute carnage and learns from each defeat. This time it seems that he has finally achieved his goal and overthrown the superheroes once and for all.
Crawling through the wreckage of a fallen SHIELD helicarrier, Hawkeye makes contact with a paranoid resistance consisting of a skeleton heroic crew; She-Hulk, Luke Cage, Iron Man, Beast, Sue Storm, Emma Frost and Wolverine. They are all patiently waiting for a call to action from their mentor who sits in stunned silence, Captain America.
The beginning of a ten part epic (with tie-ins spreading to the Superior Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Fearless Defenders and Avengers), this comic came as something of a surprise for me. I had seen the ads, but frankly there are so many major events happening right now at both Marvel and DC, it’s sense of urgency got lost in the noise. This comic falls right on the heels of House of M, Secret Invasion, Siege, and Avengers Vs. X-Men. It’s a massive two-fisted, balls-to-the-wall apocalyptic adventure featuring all of the heavy hitters and more in a fight for survival against impossible odds.
It’s exactly my kinda comic.
That’s not to say that I am not up for a more diverse story with subtly, humor and intelligence, but Age of Ultron hits that sweet spot for me that Claremont and Byrne’s X-Men: Days of Future Past did back in the day. It’s the end times, all bets are off and it’s not about who lives, it’s about how they die.
Bryan Hitch has been making a name for himself as the go-to guy for cinematic comics since his days with the Authority. He can knock the reader’s eyes right outta his head and against the wall in a two page spread. But what he really needs is the proper scope to work with and it’s all here in Age of Ultron. The characters that we know and love have been slightly redesigned in some cases (just what is up with She-Hulk’s hair???) which can be confusing but the result is that the tone is set; the familiar is unsettled and different.
Hitch will be drawing the first five issues until something significant happens and the art chores are taken up by Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco. Just what this means is all a mystery but Bendis has been working on this story for over two years.
Bendis spoke to Newsarama about where he was coming from emotionally with this set up and as a comic book fan as well…
Not to get weird, but when I wake up in the morning, my first thing is I check the Internet to make sure everything’s still where it was when I went to sleep. That’s really what post-9/11 America is like. You just kind of wake up and go, “OK, everything’s still standing,” and then you go about your day. I don’t know if everyone does that, but I do it.
I thought that’s kind of like what it must feel like to be Tony Stark or Captain America. There’s so much that could go wrong that’s not their fault, just these things that are out there. One of the things that they’re most worried about, as said in Avengers #12.1, is that eventually, [Ultron]’s going to evolve to a place where he’s able to accomplish his goal, and it will be too late. And that’s what happened. You woke up one morning and a giant artificially intelligent robot who decided we shouldn’t be here anymore made it so we’re not here anymore. I thought that was the most dramatic way to start. Not with a bang, but with the moment right after the bang. I thought that’s where the story gets more interesting. It doesn’t really matter how Ultron did it, it matters that he did.
That’s the promise of every Ultron story — that he will do something like this. Well, let’s make that promise happen.
The devastation is definitely there. I am up to the gills in stories of alternate dystopian futures, but this one really delivered the goods on making me worry if anything will ever be back to ‘normal’ again.
Just what is to come down the road is unclear. It’s not even revealed how Ultron took over or who the casualties are, but Bendis has hinted that the ending will be a huge shock and to date he has not eaten his words in that department. Marvel has embraced Age of Ultron so that the tie-ins are written by the respective creative teams and reflect the state of each hero or group, so Otto is Spider-Man, not Peter, etc.
Bendis has his detractors (myself included from time to time) but if anything his skill at writing big tales has sharpened over the years. If you like big explosive event comics, this is worth a read.