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Another View: Age of Ultron #10 Part 12

Bryan Hitch coming aboard for this issue is a smart move. Hitch’s role as an artist who comes aboard for special project suits him. He’s the perfect artist for big comics featuring a ton of characters with a strong ability at drawing a crowd without it seeming crowded. What impressed me most was how he made Noh-Varr’s costume actually look good, something that artists like John Romita, Jr. and Chris Bachalo haven’t been able to pull off.

—Chad Nevett’s complete discussion of the art of Bryan Hitch, CBR review of Avengers #12.1

Eight pages of Hitch’s art from Avengers #12.1 (later renamed Age of Ultron #0.1 for Free Comic Book Day) are reused in Age of Ultron #10 with all of the original dialogue and some new dialogue and captions added to show how history has been altered by Wolverine and Sue Richards as Hank Pym communicates with Tony Stark to stop Ultron forever. These pages are some of the more impressive ones that I’ve seen in a mainstream superhero comic in the past few years. Everyone involved does a great job of producing pages that work both in the original comic and here, altered. Letterer Cory Petit does an amazing job at adding these new word balloons and caption boxes without shifting the existing ones or making them looked cramped or squished in. Now, that’s partly down to Bendis gearing the new text for the available space, but Petit does the heavy lifting and it’s phenomenal work. The sort of work that, if done poorly, could have made those eight pages look very, very bad, and ruined the climax of this series.

What’s oddly more impressive is how Hitch’s art seems designed to allow for these additions. It’s part function of the scene where there are several action beats where no dialogue is present originally, but a lot of that is Hitch’s natural style and approach to pages. His panels are not designed with a lot of empty space (his hyper-detail style actually goes against this), but they’re also filled with a lot of nonessential visual information centred around one or two focal points. Taken alone, they look crammed with detailed line work (and they are) and like there’s no room for word balloons at all. Looking at the pages from the two comics that they appeared in side by side, you see that Petit cleverly picked up on the way that Hitch builds a visual ‘wall of sound’ approach similar to George Perez where it looks like there’s no room for anything but the art, but, really, there’s only one or two essential figures with a lot of background art that doesn’t need to be seen. Horrible way to put it, I know.

There’s a two-page, three-panel layout where the first panel has Thor smashing his hammer into Ultron (left to right…) with the Avengers watching from behind Thor. In Avengers #12.1, the panel is wordless; in Age of Ultron #10, it features three linked word balloons of Pym communicating with Stark, overlaid over Iron Man’s leg and the speed/motion line of Thor’s hammer swing. It’s weird to see how effortlessly the dialogue fits on the panel – and how much more room there is. But, also how well it works that it’s overlaid on Stark’s leg while also connecting with Thor’s physical assault on Ultron as the words have Pym prompting Stark to engage in the technological assault that Past-Pym has prepared and clued Present-Pym in on.

Hitch drew the first half of Age of Ultron and his return in this final issue, using art that laid the groundwork for the story well before its release, is so smart. His entire approach to page layouts affected not just the art of Butch Guice in this issue (as Guice picks up where the original Hitch work left off) but every other artist in this issue – and the series on the whole. I’ll see if I can pick up on that thread tomorrow.

3 Comments

Agreed. I think I picked up on this when I first read AoU #10, although you’ve articulated it very well. Hitch’s original story continues uninterrupted even with the new dialogue. Even though history is altered at the point where Hank is contacted by IW and Wolverine, the original scenes from Avengers #12.1 are really “intact” up until Ultron fails to teleport out. I appreciate that the original story is effectively still “canon” except for the last 2 or 3 pages.

Mini-rant: the fort that Ultron and the Intelligencia are in is patently Fort Jefferson National Park in the Dry Tortugas islands in the Gulf of Mexico, which I’d visited a few months before AoU started publication. Seeing the park as somebody’s base of operations was weird for me, because it’s teeming with tourists and park rangers. Somebody should have noticed when a bunch of super villains took it over. (Realistically, Hitch probably just found a picture of the park on Google, thought it looked neat, and borrowed the design. For me personally, it’s weird to see it.)

The first thing I did upon finishing AoU #12 was go find my FCBD issue to compare the pages. It really was a wonderful trick on the part of the creative team.

I’m ashamed to admit, however, that it took me WAY too long to realize that all the different artists throughout the series weren’t just a question of lazy or slow drawing, but a specific choice to help make the different timelines easier to distinguish. Yep, I’m awfully dumb sometimes…

I’m curious, do you think Bendis wrote the “altered” version of the pages and let Hitch know what would be done back when Avengers 12.1 first came out, so that the page designs were made with the new text in mind from the start? I find it hard to believe that if Bendis originally intended AoU to start a few years prior to when it actually came out, that he hadn’t written the “altered” version early on so that Hitch could tailor the pages to allow for the additions.

I find your “visual wall of sound” analogy interesting, and I’ll have to dig out my FCBD copy of this book to take a look. I’m sure I can eventually find AoU in a cheapo bin ;) and compare and contrast.

And most importantly, did Hitch get paid twice for the same pages? Did Petit? Did Bendis? We wants ta know!

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