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Another View: Age of Ultron #10 Part 20

In Age of Ultron #10, Brian Michael Bendis constructs a situation that justifies Hank Pym’s ego-driven mistakes and turns them into something heroic that happen for the greater good. He doesn’t have the option of not inventing Ultron. In a sense, Pym is put in a position where he knows that he has to invent a genocidal robot and be forever defined as the man who did that. He must make a tremendous sacrifice and never know that he’s doing it. It’s rather selfless in a way. It’s probably the most heroic thing that Pym has ever done.

The point of the action is not that he would do it anyway – or that he doesn’t find a way to avoid doing it and still prevent the world from descending into something worse. The point is that he tries to do what’s right as best he can. Pym is a flawed person, one that is often driven by ego, but he’s also someone who genuinely tries to be better. And allowing himself to be blamed for Ultron to maintain history is doing better, especially for someone as egotistical. Ultron is his greatest failure and he allows it to happen.

You might be able to argue that Ultron isn’t really Pym’s fault, because it is a sentient being capable of making its own choices. That it rebelled and turned evil almost immediately suggests that the failure is his rather than one of accumulated experience and a freedom to choose like exists in humans. However, that he’s presented with a choice and still goes forward, means that it is his fault. But, that also means that the Marvel Universe as we know it is his fault along with Wolverine and Sue Richards. Those three had the choice to undo everything in an effort to save the world and, instead, figured out a way to not destroy the world to save it. It’s a more nuanced and difficult decision than simply killing Pym. It’s not the best option, but it is a better option.

Pym is a character that always looks for the better option. He would have created Ultron no matter what, because he wants a better world no matter the cost. At the end of Age of Ultron #10, when he realises his mistakes and how to proceed with artificial lifeforms, it’s not simply an act of ego, it’s a decision to try to be better. How can he improve both himself and the world around him if he doesn’t allow his ego to push him a little? If he allowed the failure of Ultron to stop him, he would be a coward and a true failure.

Pym’s resilience is truly unique. You may think that Spider-Man and Batman can bounce back and they can. They’re not in the same league as Hank Pym. Pym is a man whose traumas are mostly self-inflicted. His failures are public and he’s done everything possible to make everyone who’s ever cared about him want him to disappear forever. Yet, he continually comes back with a new Avengers team, a new invention, a new plan to be the hero he desperately wants to be, despite not being an innately heroic person. While other heroes struggle to do the right thing despite external situations, Pym is one of the rare heroes who struggles to do the right thing despite his instinct to do something else. He’s a bad person constantly struggling to be better, to be good.

Age of Ultron #10 doesn’t provide Hank Pym’s redemption, because Pym will never find it. It would be the end of his journey. The final Hank Pym story is when he finally becomes the heroic man he wants to be, when he finally proves his worth, and, somehow, moves beyond his past mistakes. It will never happen. He will never be the hero. That he will never stop trying is heroic.


Pym a bad person? Really?

Other than that sad streak through the #220s of Avengers, I don’t think that has ever been true.

… unless we consider those awful AWC issues back in the 1990s when he accepted USAgent as a member of the team? But that was Roy Thomas’ doing. Blame him. I know I do, despite loving Roy’s work most of the time.

One could argue that it’s in fact due to Pym’s explicit desire to be a hero that dooms him to continually fail to achieve that goal since the desire itself is the inherent flaw preventing “true” heroism. Being a superhero, judging from the origins and history of most heroes in the Marvel and Dc universes, is something that is thrust upon an individual, not sought, or at least not sought so directly. Powers comes through accident or tragedy and are used by what is believed to be necessity, not want. Pym’s desire to be a hero then is at odds with most of those whose circle he wishes to join, at least as they came to be who they are, if not in what they do once they have found their powers and purpose.

I think the only way the Avengers (and the fans) will ever forgive Pym for the whole smacking Janet thing is for him to die in a heroic sacrifice to save Janet, effectively take a bullet for her.

To put this better, imagine putting the Avengers in a shonen manga, specifically the arc every one of these manga have where every member of the main cast (or in this case the Avengers team) has to individually battle a member of the big bad’s colorful honor-guard/lieutenants (to complete the comparison, we’ll say the latest iteration of the Master’s of Evil). Hank would have to arrive just as Janet’s about to get taken out by the villain she’s supposed to handle (let’s say Ultron, perhaps a weaker version Kang plucked from the past) and take the bad guy’s finisher right in the chest (and it also needs to be made clear to the reader that Hank knew when he came to the rescue that intervening in the battle would result in his demise, which shows her and the audience how much he really loves her). This gives Janet the opening and incentive to finally take Ultron out. It would take something along this line to finally take the whole Hank-can-never-atone-for-striking-Janet trope that Avengers writers keeping harping on and put it to rest.

Then a couple years down the road from this, Marvel launches a cross-over titled, “The Return of Ant-man” (because this is still comics we’re talking about, people…)

Also, I bring this up because I’d say this is the major stumbling block Hank has more than being the creator of Ultron (although, again, dying at Ultron’s hands to save Janet so that she can finally destroy him might help put the whole creator-of-one-of-the-Avenger’s-greatest-villains thing to rest as well…)

@Gus: I’m not sure I agree. Both in real life and in the Marvel Universe, something as taxing as a superhero career takes a lot of dedication. Besides, Hank had his fair share of tragedy, if that is a concern, from losing his wife on.

Nor is he even notable for particularly making a point of being a superhero. It is funny that I just mentioned USAgent, for instance. Take also Iron Man, Hawkeye, Captain (Monica) Marvel, many others.

Nice take.

Surely there’s a more efficient way to pummel a deceased equine…


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