Something a little different with this review, with both Shawn and Sean throwing their hats in the ring to have a loser look…
After ten issues of anticipation and hope for a mind blowing climax that would forever change the Marvel Universe, what I have just read is without a doubt the most disappointing event finale in Marvel history. Age of Ultron is nothing more than a sales pitch to sell more books based on this pointless anti-event – it is a proverbial snake eating its own tail. As disheartening as this issue is, it is not completely without merit – the opening pages reunite Bendis with his frequent collaborator Alex Maleev for one of the highlights but the mish mash of artists on this book destroy any sense of cohesion. All of the art is top-notch by some of the industry’s best but the way they are all thrown together give the book the feel of an ill-conceived jam.
I lost count of the sub-plots that once began were left to wither and die unresolved, like Nick Fury and his team of Avengers that were sent into the future to stop Ultron. So many plot points were touched on, only to ultimately amount to nothing or be rendered moot by the events of issue ten. The majority of the issue takes place in the past as Hank Pym reacts to a warning sent to himself pertaining to Ultron. This adds to the increasing sense of tension as the final conflict with Ultron looms ever closer. However, the disillusionment begins and once it does it never lets up. From here the encounter with Ultron takes place during the time of the Age of Ultron prologue which literally reprints Bryan Hitch’s artwork, only varying the dialogue to reflect changes that occurred during Wolverine and Sue Storm’s time travel mission and Hank Pym’s own interfering with Ultron’s brain.
The final battle with Ultron is summed up with one mighty blow from Thor. While the other Avengers stand around in what appears to be a ceremonial circle, Thor takes the initiative and shatters Ultron to bits with one swing of Mjollnir. Ten issues of posturing and false promises come to an end – but wait, there are more Age of Ultron tie-ins to hype in the remaining pages. In fact once all is said and done, the Marvel Universe we lovingly refer to as the 616 is virtually untouched by the Age of Ultron. As the final pages flip by, the highly- touted introduction of some mystery character (everyone knew who this was going to be) felt more like a last minute afterthought than an event with a nine issue build up. Anti-climactic does not begin to describe the feelings I had to contend with after reading this book. For nine issues I reserved judgment because I love so much of what Age of Ultron consisted of; it had a great writer with freedom to explore any plot he could come up with more or less, it had illustrious artists, it had a remarkable cast of characters that spanned time and space, how could it fail to amaze? For nine issues I disputed my friends and colleagues who discounted the premise without reading the first word. Now after the tenth issue I am completely disillusioned. Of course over the span of ten issues there were some inspired moments, but without a pay-off they amount to spinning wheels, they go nowhere. As lovely as many of the pages were to look at they were merely window dressing.
I am still looking forward to reading Infinity. I have not soured on Marvel or on event books as a whole, (I even liked AVX) but this just felt like a massive waste of time and at $3.99 an issue there is no excuse for an ending like this. By the last page Ultron as a threat or even as a character is forgotten. I can see no lasting ramifications that could conceivably come from the events of this book. The only real result of this fiasco seems to be that now the Ultimate Universe (which is dead already for all intents and purposes) is now slated to be victim of the ill-fated premise that is The Age of Ultron.
Age of Ultron as a whole had glimmers of genuine brilliance but they were quickly abandoned or left to die on the vine. Plot threads that would have led to a much more exciting and satisfying climax were left unexplored in favor of hackneyed and convoluted plot devices that ended in a sales pitch for more Ultronless Age of Ultron books instead of a real resolution. Visually Age of Ultron is stunning – even in the inconsistent conglomeration of fantastic artists that graced issue ten with their work, there is definitely virtuosity. For me Age of Ultron ended up being nine issues of titillating set up with the most dissatisfying culmination. As much as I love comic books, it pains me to have so little to praise in this finale but also as a fan of comics I believe the creators that are entrusted with these beloved characters owe it to us to put out their very best work.
I don’t believe for a second that this is the best Bendis can do.
And so Age of Ultron ends, in potentially the most anti-climactic way possible. Brian Michael Bendis – and the many artists he brought along for the ride – were definitely on to something. Who would have thought that a post-apocalyptic, time travel story, involving some of the biggest names in the Marvel Universe, with no telling who would live – or die – could turn out so badly? With its drawn out story, erratic use of artists, and little closure for many events that preceded it, Age of Ultron #10 flounders what could have been a truly interesting story.
Where Age of Ultron really suffers is its apparent disregard for many events it set up. Remember Captain America’s assault on Ultron’s future headquarters? The writers seem to have forgotten, as this future where Ultron is in control is never mentioned again. The four chapter build up to that moment feels wasted, and this entire arc could have easily been cut back in those issues. Echoing Shawn’s sentiment about the high price per issue, I feel like Marvel pushed for more issue to pull more money from the readers. Bendis seems to struggle with the ten issues he was given with injecting some plot points that go nowhere, seeming to exist only as filler rather than a fully-fledged storyline.
The entire issue feels like a half-baked mix of many different ingredients. The use of many different artists is difficult to follow, and while each in their own right does look good, the overwhelming mix makes the issue feel disjointed. There is a reason why they usually stick to one artist per issue, and this is a complete embodiment of too many cooks spoiling the broth.
Joe Quesada’s mysterious final pages (which were spoiled for me many months ago) do look great. It’s nice to see him drawing again, but I can’t help but feel that this mysterious and exciting reveal didn’t really need to be here. It didn’t have to be a part of this event and it makes me wonder if this reveal was shoe-horned in at the last minute, as it could have been put in almost any other title.
That’s not to say everything in this issue is bad. Like Marvel’s AvX last year, the set-up to what is to come is much more interesting that the actual event itself. The cross-over to the Ultimate Universe is exciting, and reminds me of the fantastic Spider-Men event last year. Plus the entire Wolverine/Sue Storm relationship was great, and I’d love to see Marvel pick up this again in other avenues.
None of this set up could really save this series. Age of Ultron seems to be an event for events sake. It doesn’t help that before the final issue landed, Marvel began promoting their new Thanos-led event Infinity, not inspiring confidence in their current one. The choices made through this event were odd, and plotlines were fairly quickly dropped. Age of Ultron made so many weird choices that didn’t really inspire interest, just confusion. The only question that came out of my mouth when this finished was just one word.