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But, but, but…! What about Tony Stark? If Age of Ultron #10 offers Hank Pym redemption (or doesn’t – U-Decide!), what does it offer Tony Stark, who, after Pym, is the most active character in the issue. While Wolverine and Sue Richards helped set up the plan, their roles are mostly over by this point, dropping off the iPad note, and, then, going into the future to ‘break’ time. It’s Stark who is Pym’s partner in taking down Ultron and Stark who, in Avengers #12.1 and the rest of Age of Ultron, reacts strongest to Ultron, representing the promise of technology in the face of Ultron’s tech-gone-extreme approach.
Hank Pym may have invented Ultron and be most closely associated with him, but Tony Stark is the character whose entire life is threatened most by what Ultron represents. Stark is continually pushing towards ‘the future,’ which he takes to mean a technological advancement. His work towards this goal usually emphasises the nice and friendly face of cold machinery with the abuse of technology to kill people something that he works hard to prevent. So, clearly, Ultron is his worst nightmare. The previous issues of Age of Ultron, though, showed that Stark has a surprisingly complex relationship with Pym and Ultron where their absence left him alone as the sole champion of technology against the forces of magic and mysticism. He fights for a sci-fi world and, without allies, was left fighting against the forces of fantasy. In a sense, he needs not just another technologically-based scientist like Hank Pym around, he also needs evil technology like Ultron to fight against and overcome, proving the merit of his good technology.
No other character seemed to feel the effect of Ultron’s victory as Stark. It was a corruption of everything he holds dear and he seemed, at times, like a man about two steps away from walking into a repulsor ray gleefully. Everyone else was fighting for survival; he was taking it personally. Technology had destroyed the world and his abilities were not enough to save it. In fact, he was a liability thanks to Ultron’s abilities.
In Age of Ultron #10, all of that is undone (not that he knows it) as Pym uses Stark to help take Ultron down. The part that calls Stark’s true import into question is that he doesn’t actually do much. He mostly takes forever to launch the code that Pym has provided (and nearly misses his chance) and, then, helps the Avengers stall Ultron while it takes effect, while questioning Pym. He is a tool for Pym to kill Ultron. He is a weapon. Now, if that isn’t his second-worst nightmare after the likes of Ultron, I don’t know what is. Stark is taken back to his roots as a munitions manufacturer and is turned into someone else’s weapon. Pym loads the ammo and uses Iron Man to fire a blast so big that it kills Ultron while Tony Stark stands by, mostly useless.
Throughout his run on Avengers, Bendis has had an odd take on Stark. He’s been a main character and one never absent from at least one of the titles he was writing (and even carried over to Guardians of the Galaxy) and, yet, it was often in a somewhat antagonistic role. Stark was the know-it-all who would take it upon himself to act because he knew it to be Right. Morality usually subsumed by necessity and practicality. In some ways, he’s a laudible character; in others, he’s detestable. And Bendis rarely missed an opportunity to take him down a peg. Age of Ultron is a story where Tony Stark is continually beaten down, emotionally and physically, as his dream of a technological wonderland is shown to be impossible. In the final issue, he’s reduced to his core idea: Iron Man as weapon where the user is interchangeable. Because it was the practical and necessary thing to do to save the world. Fitting, no?
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