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Another View: Age of Ultron #10 Part 02

Blurb: Marvel’s first event of 2013 comes to an end by… never actually happening? Say what, Mr. Bendis?!?

ageofultron10Title: Age of Ultron #10
Story by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, Butch Guice, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco, Roger Bonet, Tom Palmer, David Marquez, Joe Quesada
Colors by: Paul Mounts, Richard Isanove
Letters by: Cory Petit
Cover by: Brandon Peterson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover price: $3.99 (USD)
Release Date: June 19th, 2013
Rating: ****

Age of Ultron is the fifth event for Marvel that Brian Michael Bendis has (co-) written and it is, by far, the most unorthodox. Beginning as something of a post-apocalyptic disaster story and morphing into a time travel morality play with a detour into an alternate reality, it has subverted expectations and, generally, frustrated fans. It’s hard to blame them when Bendis has been a major architect of what an event comic from a big superhero comic publisher is supposed to look like. Personally, I have found it refreshing to see something so willing to take chances and, for better or worse, the final issue of the series continues on the path set out by the first nine issues.

Wolverine and Susan Richards have discovered that simply murdering Hank Pym before he creates Ultron may end the ‘Age of Ultron,’ but doesn’t save the world. Faced with the problem of stopping Ultron before he can conquer the world and kill almost everyone they love, they come up with a plan to stop him at exactly the right moment: Avengers #12.1. It’s fitting to have the series return to an earlier Avengers issue drawn by Bryan Hitch, who handled the first five issues of Age of Ultron, giving the series a sense of visual continuity as it returns not to the beginning but before the beginning. Hitch drew Ultron’s return well before his ‘Age’ began and, now, Bendis reexplores that crucial scene with some added dialogue that fits in surprisingly smoothly.

The best trick that Bendis pulls in this finale is how a series that seemed to be about one thing turns out to be about something entirely different and how that will affect the Marvel Universe going forward. It flows entirely naturally out of the complete story of Age of Ultron, but couldn’t have been predicted when the series began. Unfortunately, the issue doesn’t end with a subtle tease of what’s to come next, it forces the issue with a series of teases (including the not-so-secret one that seems to have landed this issue Polybagged) that add nothing and actively detract from what could be a stronger finish.

Ignoring the three teasers at the end, this issue still jumps through five art teams, including the three that have drawn the series to this point plus two more, including Butch Guice picking up where Bryan Hitch left off in Avengers #12.1 and doing an able job. Normally, an artistic jam issue like this would be annoying, but given that the entire series has been in that vein, it seems fitting somewhat. This has been a story of jarring shifts in perspective and reality and it’s only natural that that would be amped up in the finale. The only unfortunate part is that, while Guice does a great job illustrating the Avengers’ fight with Ultron, it would have been more fitting for Hitch to return and complete what he began given that that fight continues right from Avengers #12.1. Otherwise, the work on display by all is strong and I’m sure the disappointment at Hitch’s pages being reused ones won’t be too glaring for many.

Age of Ultron has been divisive over its first nine issues and I expect nothing less of its final issue where Bendis and a legion of artists subvert the modern event even more than they have to date. Given that it’s Bendis’s fifth Marvel event, you would forgive him if he simply fell into a pattern by this point and delivered something a little more by the numbers. Instead, he’s written a challenging and wildly entertaining story that constantly surprises, right up until the final page.

One Comment

Age of Ultron isn’t that bad as an actual story, and I actually enjoyed the second half as a Wolverine story (with Logan being the main character, trying to save the future and only making it worse. But the finale of the story falls into one of the worst habits of Bendis super-team comics, the tendency to rely on one-dimensional deus-ex-machinas to move the plot forward. At first is was Scarlet Witch, whose reality warping powers were used to explain every single thing that happened in Avengers Disassembled, and after that House of M, even if it wasn’t thematically connected and only needed to make a status quo changes (see: Tony Stark losing the Secretary of Defense job, Wolverine regaining his memories, etc.) Then it was the Sentry, who either instantly solved every conflict he entered or proved conveniently useless when the plot demanded it. Now we have the timestream being messed up, with the ripple effects of Age of Ultron arbitrarily explaining everything from Galactus eating the Ultimate Universe to Angela for some reason appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy. And in the X-Books the Phoenix has been used similarly, messing up the Uncanny team’s powers in exactly the ways the plot demands. Even for fantasy, the explanations are flimsy; the best we get is “your power/timestream/psyche is broken”. And even that exact word “broken” is reused in Bendis scripts, to the point where you’d want to send him a thesaurus.

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