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Another View: Age of Ultron #10 Part 23

Something that’s always felt unsatisfying about Age of Ultron #10 is how Ultron’s defeat, while clever, doesn’t feel big enough. After the robot killed so many people, decimated the planet so much, his defeat has always seemed less than monumental and heroic. ‘Heroic’ is probably the wrong word; it simply does not feel like the Avengers and the other heroes somehow triumphed over evil. Thinking about it, it actually falls in line with how Bendis events end.

In Secret War, it all comes down to Daisy Johnson killing the bad guy and saving the day. In House of M, the Scarlet Witch freaks out, says “No more mutants” and the world goes back to normal. In Secret Invasion, Norman Osborn kills the Skrull queen. In Siege, Bob Reynolds overcomes the Sentry and sacrifices himself. In Avengers vs. X-Men, Hope gives up the power of the Phoenix and helps restore the mutant race. I could actually go beyond Bendis and it always seems to be endings like these: one or two people manage to save the day, while everyone else mostly stands around, no longer providing cover fire or support or, shit, simple distraction from the fact that their actions were utterly meaningless.

How many events or big stories have actually ended with a satisfying win on a large scale? It seems that, at best, we can get a satisfying finish for one character. They get a win and everyone else gets to breathe a sigh of relief that they’re still alive. With Bendis, there’s also almost always a downside. It’s partly his desire to set the stage for what comes next; it’s also that he can’t seem to avoid a win that comes with a price of some kind. There is no victory without a cost. It’s an essential part of his writing and, I would argue, an essential part of the Marvel Universe (and most heroic fiction worth anything).

In Secret War, Nick Fury is exposed as less-than-heroic and goes into hiding. In House of M, mutants are reduced to under 200 in number. In Secret Invasion, Norman Osborn is the new Nick Fury. In Siege, Asgard lies in ruins and the Sentry is dead. In Avengers vs. X-Men, Cyclops and his X-Men are criminals and Professor X is dead. In Age of Ultron, Ultron is defeated and time is ‘broken.’ Where Age of Ultron differs is its subtle way of influencing the comics that came after. In the other events, the way that Bendis helped change and shape the status quo of the Marvel Universe is very obvious. In Age of Ultron, there are obvious consequences, but it’s not something as big as a “Dark Reign” or “Decimation” or anything. There’s some stories about time being ‘broken’ and an influence that actually extended back before the story even began. It’s very nature meant that it had to be a bit more low key. The biggest consequence is Cataclysm over in the Ultimate books and that’s not the Marvel universe.

Despite the unsatisfying nature of Ultron’s defeat, I still like Age of Ultron #10 best out of any Bendis event finale (except for maybe Secret War #5). It’s the smartest for sure. And it’s the one that feels most like an end. Bendis is a great serial writer, because his eye is almost always on what happens next. It makes a big read of his work on a largescale very, very satisfying. When an event is just another storyarc in the middle of a giant run, that it doesn’t end in a definitive way doesn’t matter. But, Age of Ultron #10 is the end of Bendis’s Avengers run. It may have little epilogue teasers and even the time being ‘broken’ bit, but it’s a hard finish. The teasers for what happens next seems divorced from the finish in a way that none of the introductions of the new status quo in other events never did. Those were organic cause and effect. Here, you could stop after Ultron’s defeat and not really miss anything. In that way, Age of Ultron #10 is clumsier than other Bendis finales. It’s not as smooth. But, it’s hard to accomplish that when you’re walking away.

5 Comments

“And it’s the one that feels most like an end. ”

I felt the complete opposite. It would have been nice if AoU had a clear ending point, but it doesn’t. It’s a series of resolutions, each leading into the next. The first is Ultron’s defeat and Pym’s collapse into his hands, Tony asking “Has something happened that I’m not aware of?” That segues into resolution #2: Wolverine and Invisible Woman finding time altered to their liking. That doesn’t end, though–we get the timequake. That leads into the three science heroes talking, which leads into Miles Morales finding Galactus. THEN we get the two additional “epilogues” with Pym’s “aha!” moment (which is really resolved in Mark Waid’s non-Bendis epilogue issue) and the Angela teaser. None of those really felt like a clear “end” moment to me, but just a series of event after event after event. Which has really been Marvel’s marketing plan for the last several years.

For a NON-Bendis example, I like how “Fear Itself” ended. (I liked Fear Itself as a self-contained series, in spite of the dozens of tie-in issues.) The clear “end” to that story is the two civilians with the lawnmower. Boom. The story is DONE there. This is reflected well in the collected edition–the story stops at that moment, and the resolution feels correct. The single issue edition had the four epilogues which did naturally flow from the main story, but they really were teasers for the four post-Fear Itself comics. They were clearly done by the creative teams for those comics. Even though they’re included in the original issue, they’re incorporated into their respective collected editions and not the main Fear Itself collection. That makes sense to me from a marketing perspective: they wanted buyers of the original print comic to get a coming attraction of the follow-on series (and to continue buying them, of course).

I get that there’s a balance between marketing and storytelling–Marvel needs readers to keep reading after the big event is done. We should expect these big events to have “teaser” previews in the back of the book. I just don’t think Bendis did it well here–there is no clean break between when AoU ends and the teasers begin. (It’s also weird that they could have teased what was coming in Hulk and Superior Spider-Man, which had clear timequake effects, and didn’t.)

Laurence J Sinclair

January 24, 2014 at 3:31 am

” After the robot killed so many people, decimated the planet so much, his defeat has always seemed less than monumental and heroic.”

Decimated does not mean what you seem to think it means. ‘Devastated’ may be the word you were looking for.

First, it annoyed me very much that none of the Bendis-written minis or big stories had a clear ending. The last issue never felt as an ending but an advertisement for another story that ended in a big event that never finished but went straight into another story that led into a big event that…. and this is the Marvel universe since Civil War. Now I could not care less…I skip the big events that I don’t like and stick with the books I like. By me, Marvel’s attempt to lure me into reading as many of their books as possible completely backfired. I am fed up with these event-oriented books.

Laurence, the word is accurate, but my use of the word ‘planet’ is not. Better to have put “the Earth’s population” or something similar.

Are you trapped in Bendis’ basement with nothing but a computer, Age of Ultron #10, and a nearly empty jar of peanut butter?

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