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Another View: Age of Ultron #10 Part 01

As an ending, Age of Ultron #10 couldn’t help but be a little disappointing. At first, I thought it was a fault of expectations and expecting something too big, too momentous when, really, the ending that we got was the only one that we could get. Age of Ultron was such a departure from other events that I usually shied away from referring to it as such when discussing it. It always reminded me more of Secret War, the non-event mini-series that Brian Michael Bendis began before he took over Avengers. The two act as bookends to a degree: each a mini-series that was hyped to a degree, changed the status quo of the Marvel Universe in various ways, and was much better than most people tended to let on.

The Ultron plot in Age of Ultron had to end as we saw in issue 10. You can’t begin a story where Ultron has won, decimated the world, killed tons of heroes, left the rest scarred and beaten, and not unmake the whole thing somehow. Turns out, by the time we read it, the whole thing had been taken care of months previously. Age of Ultron was pushed back by Avengers vs. X-Men, but still took place before it. Hell, it took place before Fear Itself as far as I can tell (or, didn’t take place as it were). It was unmade before the previous two Marvel events and that made sense. That was elegant and smart. Bendis through us into the deep end, took a weird journey through time, and, ultimately, made it so the story never happened.

Forgive me if I find a large amount of joy in the idea of an event comic (aka a Comic That Matters) ending by never actually happening (aka a Comic That Doesn’t Matter At All). Fuck you, comic fans. You deserve it, by the way.

But, that’s not the ending that I’m talking about. Where the unsettling feeling that it doesn’t work comes into play is in the trio of teasers at the end that feel wholly unnecessary and tacked on. It always seemed like the comic should end with the big brains talking about how time was briefly broken and everyone else in the universe might be pissed off about it. Instead, we then get teasers for Cataclysm, Avengers AI, and Angela appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy. All three stem from what happens in Age of Ultron #10, but that doesn’t mean that they belong in the comic. They’re tacky ads masquerading as story that could be lost and no one would notice. Or care. It was disappointing and I’ve tried to separate them from an otherwise entertaining comic ever since it came out. It’s like trying to forget the epilogue of Crime and Punishment or the final third of I Am Legend after Will Smith goes crazy on some zombies, seemingly rushing towards his death; you can do it, but the memory of the other lingers.

It’s a flaw in Age of Ultron #10 that’s easy to understand and one that’s followed Bendis throughout his time at Marvel: the inability to end a story in a way that isn’t simply an ad for what comes next. It’s a source of frustration, but also a strength that helps explain in some small way Bendis’s success. He makes you want to get what’s next by giving you a taste at the end of the story. He never forgets that there is no end. There’s always next month and something new to get excited about. Mostly because he’s excited about what’s coming. There’s an urgency there; an inability to stop, because he wants to get to the next thing already. It’s frustrating and endearing.

14 Comments

Yeah, it is very fair to say that the recent trend of the epilogues of event comics being “Check out these new stories coming out soon!” is a bit of a pain from a narrative sense, although obviously it makes a lot of sense, commercially.

In addition, while I agree with you that it was a cool idea for Age of Ultron to technically take place BEFORE all of the other Marvel events (and thereby making good use of the time travel plot point), I didn’t like the way that they then violated that very idea in an attempt at what I could only presume was misdirection to making people think “Maybe this IS happening in modern continuity.” For instance, Superior Spider-Man should not have been involved in Age of Ultron’s time line. Nor should Fraction’s Fantastic Four have been involved in the Age of Ultron time line. And yet they both were.

I didn’t consider those tie-ins when thinking about this. I didn’t read anything but the mini-series since Bendis only wrote the mini-series. I guess that’s on Marvel, which impacts the story (especially since they’re all included in that hardcover edition of Age of Ultron, I believe), but not my view/involvement with the story.

On one hand, yay! Chad is back to writing something here! (Yes, I saw the Godland thing, but I sadly am not up to date on that book.)

On the other hand, it’s about a book from, what, May?, and I heard much the same arguments at the time that the ads as epilogue/epilogue as ads were frustrating (making the “another view” title of the post untrue). Although it is a good point that Bendis’s success probably came in large part from being able to use the non-ending as a way to get people excited for what’s next.

On the other other hand (3?), I like the “01″ in this post title, implying that more are coming. Yay for more Chad goodness! We need that piss and vinegar back!

Fuck yeah. Write more.

I’d never considered the advert-like epilogues of Marvel events in terms of the writer’s/writers’ excitement about the next story. I only ever saw the commercial drive. Now I can imagine, based on his tone in interviews, that Bendis is excited and therefore wants to tease the new stories he’s going to tell.

That said, it has to be handled well to not be frustrating and I agree that was not the case in “Age of Ultron”. I want to feel like the story is complete and even if some new status quo emerges from it, that I don’t necessarily have to read something else to understand it.

“Secret War” ended and felt complete – even though it created a new status quo for Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., the story we had read was told and complete and the implications of the final pages were all very clear – we could imagine what the next story would be but we didn’t actually need to read it. “Age of Ultron” felt open ended because the implications of the ‘epilogues’ were unclear and there’s a sense of needing to read more.

It’s commercially sensible, but it weakens the narrative.

I admit that it’s partly me imposing my own view of Bendis on the endings of his stories since I have rarely seen a writer who is more openly excited about everything he has coming up all of the time. And it’s such a common thing to see in his comics that I’d rather attribute it to that excitement than any other motive.

What everyone else said; that is,more Chad please!

“tacky ads masquerading as story”

EXACTLY

After reading the final When Words Collide column earlier in the week, I now read what appears to be the first of possibly many more posts by Chad Nevett. Lose 1; Win 1.

Thanks Internet.

Fuck you, comic fans. You deserve it, by the way.

That about says it all.

What says that it took place before the other crossovers?

Age of Ultron #10 changes the events of Avengers #12.1 (and takes place at the same time), undoing Age of Ultron’s story, and Avengers #12.1 took place before Fear Itself. While the events seen in Age of Ultron happened after those events, since none of that actually happened, the story that’s finalised as actually happened in Age of Ultron #10 happens before Fear Itself.

Oh, okay, that makes sense. I thought you were saying that the “Ultron successfully invades from the future” part was taking place earlier, but now I get your meaning…

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