After being rescued by Hawkeye, he and a battered and unmasked Spiderman join the group of surviving heroes in the burned out remains of a helicarrier in Central Park. A pervasive sense of gloom permeates the meeting as individual members convey their grief over the loss of those closest to them. Emotions run high and tempers flare. When Tony Stark opines that the Ultron problem is not Hank Pym’s fault Hawkeye becomes irate. Captain America intervenes and points out that it is time to formulate a plan. He suggests that since Ultron is bartering for heroes that they offer one of their own. Once inside Ultron’s world this Trojan horse of sorts would wreak havoc from within. There is no shortage of volunteers but we see at the beginning of the book that the mission is given to She-Hulk and Luke Cage. After slugging her and knocking her out Cage approaches the Ultron stronghold with an unconscious She-Hulk over his shoulder.
At this point we see a devastated Chicago skyline where atop a badly damaged building we find the unlikely trio of The Red Hulk, Black Panther and Task Master. They are monitoring the activities of Ultron. It seems they are out to retrieve an Ultron head and spinal column. The Red Hulk successfully acquires this, tearing it from the robot’s body and tossing it to Black Panther. He continues to throttle the robots, pulling them apart limb from limb. Black Panther and Task Master flee with the head, however an explosion sends them flying. Black Panther appears to break his neck. When Task Master finds him unresponsive he takes the Ultron head and continues on his way.
Back in New York, Luke Cage is permitted entrance into the Ultron stronghold. He is led deeper into the structure through corridors lined with golden red-eyed sentries, into the inner sanctum where he is confronted not by Ultron as expected but instead by the floating upper body of Vision. Bendis uses this entire issue to set up the last page. Short on action, this is a dialogue heavy issue but that’s not a bad thing.
The interaction of the characters as they devise the plan to infiltrate Ultron is quite enjoyable. The verbal sparring between Tony and Clint, the father like guidance and wisdom of a world-weary Steve Rogers as he proceeds to dissuade an all too willing Wolverine from jumping into certain doom – through all of this we see the human side of these heroes. The personalities and qualities that have endeared these characters to us come shining through. They are the definition of grace under fire. Bendis is concise but not overly simple, instead he lets each character’s words build upon the others, driving the plot forward through conversation. Even though there is a minimum of fisticuffs in this issue it is extremely fast paced. Bendis doesn’t bog us down with flowery prose and inane rambling – each word is essential, thus the dialogue rings incredibly true. You feel like you are listening to people speak more than reading scripted lines.
The pace is so fast that the book feels much shorter than it actually is. Bendis accelerates toward a shocking reveal and one heck of a cliff hanger.
Bryan Hitch is a master at drawing devastation. His attention to detail is obsessive. It is evident in each twisted girder and exposed beam. The same detail is employed to convey an expansive spectrum of emotions in the facial expressions of the characters. For example the confusion turning to rage on Clint’s face as he argues with Tony comes across very clearly in Hitch’s lines. His lines are sharp and clean but not sterile. There is an urgency to his work that vibrates off the page.
Paul Neary’s inks and Paul Mounts’ colors are equally impressive. Neary is a consummate professional and his work is always meticulous. Paul Mounts’ colors give this book a cinematic look. There are pages that literally glow, appearing almost illuminated in contrast to the darker moodier scenes inside the burned out blackened husk of the S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier.
Visually, Age of Ultron is vibrant and exciting. The story is engrossing, complex and multi-faceted. It’s solid work from both Bendis and Hitch but by no means is it their best. It poses some very interesting questions pertaining to continuity as well as certain characters, especially Superior Spiderman. The return of Vision is in and of itself enough to get me to pick up the rest of the series.
So until next week, see you at the comic book store.