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Another View: Age of Ultron #10 Part 17

What bugs me about the end of Age of Ultron #10 is that the Beast is with Hank Pym and Tony Stark as they discuss time being ‘broken.’ I mean, there’s the fact that he’s drawn pre-Quitely, which makes no sense at all; but there’s also his action in All-New X-Men. No matter where you place that scene happening, he comes off poor: either he contributed to the problem by bringing the original X-Men into the future or he knew about the problem and still abused time travel. Given his association with the two men (while he’s a member of the Illuminati, he hasn’t associated with the Avengers really since Avengers vs. X-Men; but, he was with the group that rescued Spider-Woman), I’m sticking with my view that this scene takes place shortly after Avengers #12.1 and before Avengers vs. X-Men, meaning he still used time travel after time ‘broke’ because of too much time travel.

Part of the problem with trying to pinpoint events is that Brian Michael Bendis doesn’t always write stories or scenes consistent with other comics, including his own. While his characters argue that time is organic – a living being of some sort – that doesn’t really make sense with the way that he demonstrates that. What he seems to mean is that time is not something that one can affect like changing the channel on the TV. It’s not a switch that has no consequences or won’t react to provocation or abuse. At the same time, it’s not something that continually fluctuates. Yet, sometimes, he treats it like that. It makes sense to a degree given the way that these superhero universes are set up: decades of stories, which, up until the past, what, 20 years (maybe more depending on your view) that stories were really written with a longer view than the next couple of months by and large. These are not histories that were meant to stand the test of time nor were they necessarily concerned with anything outside of the specific story being told.

That latter point, actually, is something that prevalent today. With ‘runs’ and self-contained collections (that can span multiple volumes) more important than ever, a lot of stories are designed to work as a self-contained whole where a good idea trumps what it means in the long term. In a sense, time is in fluctuation, because there are ‘gods’ behind these universes that are constantly moving things around to suit their own needs.

In Age of Ultron #10, Bendis pulls off a retcon: Hank Pym knew that Ultron would turn evil, implanted programming that would allow him to kill the robot at a specific time, and purposefully forgot to ensure that the future’s history happens with as few changes as possible. That’s been the truth of the Marvel Universe since just before Ultron’s creation. It’s a retcon that services one specific story and serves almost no other function. Yet, it also has almost no other impact on the Marvel Universe. It’s actually one of the better retcons that a writer can pull off, because I’m not sure if anyone actually cares about it. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Age of Ultron #10, but the means of defeating Ultron doesn’t seem to be one ever.

Mostly, it’s ‘Superboy punch’ this and ‘What the fuck was that?’ that. Me, I like to find those weird little things that other people seem to not notice, like the Beast clearly understanding that time is not something to be trifled with and still choosing to go back in time and bring the original X-Men to the present. Is that a contradiction? I don’t think so. I think it’s a weird bit of subtle character development that demonstrates even more emphatically how much the events of Avengers vs. X-Men affected Hank McCoy. But, that’s the point I’ve been dancing around: one person’s contradiction is another person’s character development. If you like it, any crime against continuity can be ignored. The only time anyone complains about this sort of thing conceptually is when they don’t like the execution. Of course continuity is meant to be tweaked and changed and ignored when necessary and adhered to when convenient… and no one cares unless they just don’t like the story. It all counts; none of it counts; all that matters is enjoying the story. The rest is bullshit.

11 Comments

I’m curious about how, exactly, Pym “forgot” that he programmed in a shutdown code. Did he borrow a psychic from the X-Men to block off that knowledge? Did he build himself a one-shot memory-erasing ray? Just get really drunk? What?

I appreciate that you managed to find an explanation for the apparent inconsistency in Hank McCoy’s behavior, and while it won’t satisfy every reader, it satisfies you and that’s the most important thing. It’s sort of reader as co-author.

Hank McCoy is a character who seems to repeatedly need that kind of “smoothing over”. He leaves the X-Men because of Wolverine’s covert black-ops team (X-Force) and then joins Steve Rogers’ covert black-ops team (Secret Avengers). One could also argue about his issues with the secrecy of X-Force and then him being on the Illuminati and the Secret Avengers. He knows about time being “broken” but brings the young X-Men to the future to change time anyway.

Of course, it’s all just part of the reality serial fiction handled by multiple authors. Even when there are story bibles and supportive editorial guidelines – something neither Marvel nor DC seem to have at the moment – inconsistencies can emerge.

As you point out, if we enjoy the story, we’ll find a way to make it work. If we don’t, we’ll find a way to trash it. If we like it but really can’t find a way, that’s when things get tricky.

Late-breaking thought here: wasn’t Bendis’ 2011 Moon Knight series something of an Age of Ultron lead-in? I didn’t read it, but I understand that there were some pre-AoU cues in the story. If that story was a bridge between Avengers #12.1 and AoU, then does it have any other references as to when it takes place?

I do wonder, as a result of #12.1 being altered in AoU #10, if that Moon Knight series was eliminated. I ask only because Bendis killed off Echo in that series, which seemed odd (especially since he had Echo alive in his Daredevil: End of Days future).

@Derek
Regarding Beast and his hypocrisy about Cyclop’s Secret X-Force kill squad. He then went on to join Professor Logan’s schism team and when he found out Logan was ALSO running a secret X-Force kill squad, he couldn’t muster a shit.

I think we all need to conclude that Hank McCoy is the biggest douche in the entire Marvel U at this point. At least, until Profassor X turns up alive. At which point he will regain his position as douchemayor.

Late-breaking thought here: wasn’t Bendis’ 2011 Moon Knight series something of an Age of Ultron lead-in?

Only very loosely; Count Nefaria, the main villain, buys a black-market Ultron head for unknown purposes, and the story ends with the Avengers wondering fearfully what it’s doing on Earth and what Nefaria might’ve wanted with it.

tom fitzpatrick

January 18, 2014 at 7:59 am

@ Chad: 17 blogs about the Age of Ultron?

No offense, but isn’t there some other book that you might have an issue with that you can tear apart and dissect to your heart’s content?

Just how many more blogs can you write about AU? ;-)

Here’s an idea. If the time of change is immediately after Avengers 12.1, and while all scientists present understand that time is broken, I think the actual time quake manifests from the spot in time it originated–i.e., the time Wolverine and Sue originally traveled from. It’s why only now does Galactus vanish, why only now Thanos and Star-Lord feel the effects, why only now Angela appears in this universe, and why only now the Builders want Earth destroyed. The change happened in the past. The ramifications, the actual problem, didn’t manifest until now.

Let’s be real: these Age of Ultron retrospectives are all about the subtitle for Avengers 2 and SEO… but I’m still enjoying it.

On Bendis’ Moon Knight: I’m almost certain that it actually serves as an epilogue for AU since Ultron’s head gets knocked off in #10. Everything in that run happens after the end of AU. (I think…)

“On Bendis’ Moon Knight: I’m almost certain that it actually serves as an epilogue for AU since Ultron’s head gets knocked off in #10. Everything in that run happens after the end of AU. (I think…)”

Doesn’t Wolverine destroy Ultron’s head in AOU #10? I’m pretty sure that after his head is blown off, you can see Wolverine smashing something. I assumed it was the head. Plus, Moon Knight was published before AOU. It could very well be set after AOU, but again, I’m wondering if anything telegraphs that. Plus plus, I like the idea of Echo’s death being undone by the changes.

Here’s an idea. If the time of change is immediately after Avengers 12.1, and while all scientists present understand that time is broken, I think the actual time quake manifests from the spot in time it originated–i.e., the time Wolverine and Sue originally traveled from. It’s why only now does Galactus vanish, why only now Thanos and Star-Lord feel the effects, why only now Angela appears in this universe, and why only now the Builders want Earth destroyed. The change happened in the past. The ramifications, the actual problem, didn’t manifest until now.

I’m on board with this theory.

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