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Another View: Age of Ultron #10 Part 24

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?

8 Comments

Very nice observation. I never thought I’d say this but I think I’m going to re-read AoU because of you.

It’s ridiculous how a badly written (if we can call it writing) event is analyzed to such extent. You treat it like it was some Shakespeare. Shame on you. I ignored it for most time, but I wonder how many more parts left? 30? 100?

Plenty has been written about Shakespeare. Not too much about Age of Ultron #10.

Having finally gotten around to reading AGE OF ULTRON in full via my Marvel Comics Unlimited app (having skimmed through the issues in the shop when they arrived and followed the gist of it via the comics news media), I’m liking this experiment of long-term piecemeal analyses spinning out of one issue — like your old themed Blogathons but over a month(?) instead of a day, leading to further-out thoughts like this week’s work as the main points to be discussed have been exhausted and critiqued.

Having also read about eight years’ worth of IRON MAN on the same app (seriously, best app subscription ever — who needs Netflix?) of late while snowed in, I got to thinking of Tony Stark the addict as a man who’s sublimated his old boozing to an addiction to ‘The Future,’ one that his teammates and coworkers codepend on him with and one that he always thinks “just one more suit, I can quit anytime I want!” This matches well, I think, with the wake-up call of Ultron that he has to keep contending with, like a Singularity Cirrhosis of sorts.

Stark, Pym, Richards, McCoy; they make for an interesting set when each contends their scientific genius & obsessions with their own issues, whether mental or addictive, or contending with self- or family identity. The fact that we so often see Science Gone Mad would stop most folks, but not the Marvel Geniuses (it strikes me that Spider-Man is a good example of one who COULD be a top scientist in that world, but sees the madness that results from playing that game — Peter that is; Otto revels in the Great Game’s effect on the world and The Future). Ultron is a personification of this futureshock and techno-tension in a way, because the rules of that universe require that science-adventurers have *someone* to punch.

As I ramble, I start to wonder when the “Age of Ultron” isn’t really the aborted conquest seen here at all, but rather the age of superscience-cum-spandex that has transformed the Marvel Universe in many ways but has an obvious tension with those outside of the (pun quite intended) scientific illuminati. Notice that the heroes & villains are the only survivors we meet in the initial issues — what better example do we need of who this world of sci-fi gone mad belongs to? Sure, one could make a point about the rest of the world being out there off the page, but these columns have focused on the Text As Author for a reason… ;)

Hmmm, interesting. You might add that Stark was a prominent player in the “Age of LeFay” issues (#7-9) and was equally–what’s the word I’m looking for–inept? If Ultron’s conquest showed Stark overcome by technology, then the AoLF showed him overcome by magic, which I guess was the consequence of a world without Hank Pym. For whatever reason, Pym’s death led to a world where there wasn’t enough science to overcome magic (and impliedly, science united through a union between LeFay and Doctor Doom). Stark was torn asunder, overcompensated by becoming a techno-fascist, and still lost.

It’s a shame Bendis didn’t explore the AoLF more. Bendis did release his unofficial outline of how badly the Marvel Universe changed with Hank dying at that point in time (no Ultron, no Vision, many heroes negated), but we never got a full explanation of how we got from A to Z. Even the two tie-in issues (Uncanny Avengers and Fearless Defenders) just gave us the barest glimpses beyond what Bendis showed.

While I haven’t read AoU yet (waiting for my copies to arrive from ebay), I’m thoroughly enjoying this analysis, Chad. And if I may (and if you have the interest, of course), I’m curious about your process. Do you write these analyses one per day? Are you rereading AoU #10 as you write each day’s entry? Did you plan these out (even in rough fashion) from the beginning, or do you just start the day’s work and go where the mood takes you?

Also, @Adam, was Bendis’s unofficial outline something he talked about online? I’d be curious to see that after I’ve read AoU…

@Dave,

Here’s a CBR article on the subject. The “outline” formatting in the article isn’t great, but I think there’s a cleaner version somewhere, perhaps on Bendis’ message board.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=45304

Dave.

Each one written that day (usually in the half-hour or so before it is posted) with no real plan whatsoever beyond some rough plans/ideas sketched out in my Random Thoughts post during this — or if I’ve begun a topic and want to continue to (like the series of posts about the Butch Guice art pages). But, mostly, it’s whatever catches my eye/interest that day.

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