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Another View: Age of Ultron #10 Part 16

Upon reflection, I think I was wrong. I argued that Age of Ultron takes place in the future and that it probably wasn’t an alternate present. That was wrong. It was an alternate past.

Originally scheduled to be the next Marvel event following Fear Itself, Age of Ultron was replaced by Avengers vs. X-Men and delayed. But, I think it was actually just replaced by Avengers vs. X-Men. With no Ultron invasion, that event was free to happen. What we saw in Age of Ultron was the story of how the previous year’s Marvel comics came to exist. The reason why I think this is because I was thinking about All-New X-Men and how none of the time-displaced original X-Men are in Age of Ultron. And, if they were killed here in the future, then the entire Marvel Universe would have been undone/changed. Therefore, Age of Ultron had to take place before they were brought to the future, which was almost immediately following Avengers vs. X-Men. So, that event didn’t happen. (Of course, that made replacing Charles Xavier in Age of Ultron somewhat pointless.)

That would also mean that the Sue Richards and Logan from Age of Ultron have been running around this entire time. We’ve seen that duplicates from alternate futures/presents/pasts can exist despite their timeline being wiped out. Hell, we saw that in Age of Ultron. I keep coming back to these two characters and wondering when they’ll return and for what purpose. What have they been doing all this time? (Wait, have they shown up in some comic that I haven’t read?) Now, they could have been wiped out when time ‘broke,’ but that seems unlikely for two reasons: 1. It was never explicitly stated (and, therefore, can be undone without any issues and, in comics, they undo shit that have clear problems); and 2. That’s far less interesting. Them showing up again is a story of some sort.

I’m still not easing off my guess that that Wolverine plays a role in the current ‘no more healing factor’ shit that the regular Wolverine is going through. But, that still makes me wonder about what they’ve been doing all of this time. In Age of Ultron #10, they fly to New York and see that it’s still there. That suggests that they went forward in time to some degree from Avengers #12.1, but not too far. When exactly? Before Avengers vs. X-Men, sure. Going by the Bendis Avengers timeline, is that sometime after Fear Itself, probably when it was the Avengers vs. Norman Osborn Round 2. What did they do during Avengers vs. X-Men? (What did regular Sue Richards do?) Trying to picture Wolverine hanging out during all of that is hard. I picture a story where he’s flipping out because this is the world he made. It’s not as bad as Ultron’s destructive rampage or the ‘world where Hank Pym got stabbed,’ but it’s still kind of shitty. He just can’t win. It’s almost surprising that Spider-Man wasn’t with him, because, then, it would seem fitting. Those two trying everything to save the world and it still kind of sucks even when they win. Isn’t that just the story of their lives?

Also, it couldn’t be post-Avengers vs. X-Men, because Captain America’s costume is different in Marvel NOW comics and that would explain Peter Parker as Spider-Man better than it being the future. So… yeah… I was wrong.

16 Comments

OH GOOD HEAVENS YOU’RE STILL DOING THIS….

Sorry. I’m astonished. I don’t think you’re going to get a clear answer from this within the story itself, because we have no cues from either the AoU “present” or even the final altered timeline as to when it takes place–just that it’s anywhere between Avengers #12.1 and last summer. The only meaningful cue you get is at the very end, when the breaking happens and you see the cumulative effect of all the time travel and alternate reality incursions that Marvel has suffered of late.

OUTSIDE the comic (which you’ve said you don’t want to do, but you *do* want to answer the question of where this fits in the Marvel timeline), you don’t see any impact from AoU until the month after this finished. (Which was what–August?) The following month, you’ve got the Hulk dealing with broken history, Spider-Man 2099 being drawn into a vortex to the past, Galactus showing up in the Ultimate U, and Angela showing up in Guardians of the Galaxy (which is written by Bendis). None of these things were present before AoU #10. None. It stands to reason, then, that the “break” happened the month before the post-AoU issues.

I assume, without knowing for sure, that Logan and Sue returned to the same point from which they’d left, just in a new timeline. In other words, if the break happens in August 2013, the unaltered timeline was ALSO August 2013, and so was the Age of LeFay. Yeah, Logan and Sue might have gone a few months forward or backwards in time, but I see no in-story reason for why they’d have done that.

Shades of Age of Apocalypse? Once upon a time only Bishop remembered the original timeline.

Maybe the current status quo will be reversed in a year or two (as part of a event crossover, obviously) due to the efforts of the timeline-displaced duo?

That would explain why the All-New X-Men can’t return yet, how Xavier will return to life (because of course he will) and even allow some of the most unpopular decisions of late to be reversed for free (say, if you want to bring Reptyl back to life or make Logan unkillable again).

…….it’s not April so this can’t be a joke. Is this some sort of performance art? How is it possible that you have 16 ideas on Age of Ultron? That’s 16 more than Bendis did and he wrote it. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

What’s next? 45 thoughts on Xorn?

1001 Random Thoughts

I still feel the urge to place it in Marvel NOW times because of the aforementioned issues with the tie-ins. You argued that you haven’t read those and don’t see the need to factor them in, yet you make your case using All New X-Men, which seems less relevant to me than those tie-ins. But it wouldn’t really be that far a stretch to see Ultron’s attack aimed at the Marvel NOW times now, would it? Cap’s costume – might be that it got damaged and he went back to an old one. Superior Spider-Man vs Bendis’ Peter Parker voice – furthest stretch, but Otto might still keep up the pretentions.

But as another commentor already pointed out a couple of ‘Another Views’ ago, all of those seeming conflicts are very much possible in an event where time is broken.

The timing of Cap changing his costume, ASM 700 happening, the FF going into space, the All New X-Men appearing – but even the timing of Fear Itself and AvX – it happened in the sequence we read it and it still does, only now it happened on a broken timeline. As I see it, the series actually achieved a means of getting away with minor chronology errors.

Other comics written by Bendis hold more sway for me than other comics not written by Bendis.

Other comics written by Bendis hold more sway for me than other comics not written by Bendis.

Not to keep harping on it, but I keep thinking the answer to a lot of these questions is that AoU is a Bendis story that exists in the form it does because a bunch of not-Bendis people get to write Avengers, Hank Pym, Spider-Man, and so on.

The animating tension in all of this effort to find the Bendisverse’s internal chronology or whatever is that Bendis only gets to both tell his own story *and* play with a bunch of toys that he didn’t create and doesn’t exclusively own is to “break time,” to essentially admit that he can’t have the shared universe and have his own idiosyncratic storytelling corner without something somewhere falling apart or failing to line up in a perfect, formalized fashion. And the thing is, Bendis is all about the Law of Unintended Consequences in his storytelling; if something doesn’t quite match in the timeline, that’s just the structure of the story reflecting the themes of Bendis’s work.

It’s not a mistake, it’s not sloppiness, it’s literally how Bendis argues that the universe works. Time isn’t an antiseptic puzzle; his characters, in this very story and its immediate antecedents, keep telling us that “time is an organism.” It’s messy, a living thing with all the frailties and imperfections and errata that implies. Just look at what happens to all those living organisms called “the Avengers” or “Norman Osborn” or whatever within his stories. Why should time itself be any better at self-management or personal stability?

Humility and a willingness to accept imperfections and ragged edges serve you a lot better in the Bendisverse than an insistence that you can make the big picture perfect; the characters who think otherwise are the characters for whom it all falls apart spectacularly. For Bendis, time and life are always gonna have loose ends and unforeseen events. You accept that, or you blow it and fall to pieces.

I’m beginning to think that’s supposed to be true for the readers, too.

I’m not a Bendis fan, but I must admit that this approach is more productive than the alternatives that I can think of.

16 parts is an awful lot of time to dedicate to dsperately trying to retroactively justify AoU…

It was a Bendis ego-trip. A story that was teased, should have been followed up on, and then when it wasn’t should have been dropped or perhaps held off even longer until they could find a way to make it actually fit.

Instead they shoehorned it in because Marvel HAD to have an event, and Bendis HAD to have it be HIS story. Even though it makes no sense and I think a large proportion of the readership would rather ignore it than try to apply some sort of desperate mental acrobatics to “justify” it.

Altogether it’s a clusterfuck that was done against all reason and logic, rushed through, ignored characterisation, was wiped away by a pointless deus ex machina, and STILL Marvel editorial keep trying to sell us this shit as gold.

Honestly, all the attempts to fit it into continuity, or explain away all the terrible inconsistencies in plotting, characters, and timing, just reflect the “headless chickens” response Marvel had when trying to get everyone to believe that it all made sense and was of course always meant to lead to bigger things.

And I’m a big Marvel fan, I’m loving a huge amount of what they’re doing now… but AoU was a watershed moment where it truly became apparent that ANY event would do, even if it didn’t make sense and fucked up everyone and everything else around it.

It’s not a mistake, it’s not sloppiness, it’s literally how Bendis argues that the universe works.

Yeah, which is what marvels me when I keep seeing silly posts that argue, in effect, that Bendis isn’t thinking things through. Bendis is clearly one of the MOST thoughtful creators out there. That doesn’t always mean that he’ll adhere to established continuity, as obviously he hasn’t on many occasions, but it is not a matter of him not THINKING about the established continuity, it’s just him choosing not to use it.

“it is not a matter of him not THINKING about the established continuity, it’s just him choosing not to use it”

That’s a huge problem I have with the current mindset at Marvel. There are changes to continuity that happen all the time and it lacks perspective. If current writers can go back and change whatever they want to fit their needs, then future writers will be doing the same to the things that are currently being written. That makes what’s currently being written almost pointless. Why should I get invested in a plot or character if in 5 – 10 years it’s going to be invalidated?

Andy, I’m not trying to justify anything; I’m just writing about a comic with no agenda except to write about a comic.

Why should I get invested in a plot or character if in 5 – 10 years it’s going to be invalidated?

Because it’s good. If it isn’t good, then sure, don’t get invested. But if it is good, then you’ve gotten your reward, whether someone “invalidates” it five years later or not.

Chad, you HAVE driven me to pull out my AoU hardcover and regularly flip to part 10 to figure out what you’re going to write about next. How much can you get out of a single issue where half the story is technically a reprint?

Anyway, I wouldn’t mind seeing you analyze the “shattered time” two-page spread. I’ve wondered if there’s any method to the particular scenes they showed, or if it was literally just “hey, let’s show clips from all the recent and upcoming time-travel and alternate universe comics.” You went looking for Infinity Gem clues in the two pages earlier, so I’m curious what you get from the “break” page.

The feeling that continuity matters is heartwarming, but also largely an illusion.

Even as far back as in the early 1960s, Captain America and Namor were hardly following their established continuity when they were reintroduced.

And that is arguably a good thing.

If a given story or character are good, what possible difference does it make whether it will be “invalidated” in 5, 10 or 50 years? I don’t understand why playing fast and loose with continuity is treated as such a big deal. I still enjoy reading “For The Man Who Has Everything” even though the current DC continuity completely “invalidated” it; I couldn’t care less if current continuity doesn’t “include” stories I love. What difference does it make to the enjoyment of a story or character? Azzarello and Corben’s “Banner” is my favorite Hulk story, and the fact that it’s not “in continuity” is meaningless to me. It’s a great story regardless of its “canonical” status. The “Fantastic Four: The End” and “The Nail” miniseries were both awesome regardless of being “in continuity” or not.

And let’s be honest, ANYTHING in comics can be “invalidated” by later writers. The ghost of Bucky Barnes can appear in one story, and then years later another writer can have a good idea for bringing back Bucky that invalidates the previous story, and that’s perfectly fine. Telling good stories is far more important than not contradicting 50 years of stories by hundreds of different creators.

I don’t get invested in stories because they are “validated” by continuity. There’s plenty of “in-continuity” stories that are complete crap, and countless great stories that were “invalidated” by later writers but remained vastly superior to the crappy “in-continuity” stories (I’ll take “Batman Year One” over “Court of Owls” every day of the week, thank you very much). Preserving continuity is not (and should not be) the creators’ priority. That way lies madness.

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