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Another View: Age of Ultron #10 Part 26

Brian Michael Bendis seems to follow the cue of many cable and HBO TV shows where the second-last episode of a season is where all of the big moments happen, while the finale is mostly clean-up with a few smaller moments of closure. It may not seem like it, but Age of Ultron #10 follows that pattern as well, leaving the big moral quandaries and events to the previous issue and wrapping things up in a fairly straight forward manner itself.

The big problem in Age of Ultron is how to stop Ultron through time travel without killing Hank Pym and it is solved in issue nine. Issue ten goes through the motions of the plan, offering a technically impressive display in the reuse of the Avengers #12.1, the defeat of Ultron, and the aftermath. It’s a little paint by numbers in the resolution of the plot. The execution is good in communicating the tension and the stakes are appropriately high enough after the previous nine issues. Except, there isn’t any real doubt in the outcome. The heavy lifting was already done and, when the issue begins with Hank Pym receiving a message from his past self, there’s that feeling like it’s already over. They figured out the plan to win, so they’ve won.

That means that this final issue needs more than simple resolution. It was so heavily implied in issue nine that it happening lacks the necessary oomph. After resolving the plot and providing some emotional closure for our main characters, he adds in the unexpected content that makes this issue worthwhile: time ‘breaking.’ Had Ultron been defeated and that was the end of the story, I can’t imagine a lot of readers satisfied given how inevitable it seemed going into this issue – the only real surprise about Ultron’s defeat was the reuse of Avengers #12.1/using that as the place where it happens.

It’s not a coincidence that the ‘timequake’ happens after 21 pages of story. The issue could have ended there. Logan and Sue Richards arrive in their own time, see everything is right again, they part ways, Logan leans on the ledge of the building, says “Gonna sleep for a millennium” and, then, we get a final splash page of his weary face with a hint of a grin, satisfied that he saved the world. That would have been 22 pages and I don’t think anyone would have been surprised or thrown for a loop had it gone down that way. The grumbling then might have been about the predictable nature of the story or that eight pages were reused, perhaps.

The ‘timequake’ breaks that mediocre finish. You can argue if that was the way to go to avoid the finale that I just mentioned as a possibility, but it serves a specific function: it adds that ‘big moment’ feeling to the issue and is genuinely surprising. What’s more, it makes sense given everything that had happened. The abuse of time leading to some sort of fracture/reaction is a logical consequence and adds another layer to the victory that just occurred by having it come with an unexpected cost. Now, it wasn’t a clean triumph for the heroes. It was a victory that also screwed up one of the basic components of reality.

It’s a last minute twist that lays the groundwork for what comes next and opens the door to a lot of unexpected possibilities. This was a thread picked up by a lot of comics after this issue’s release, while Bendis teased three stories that spun out of what happened, two of which are his. (Did Avengers AI begin as a Bendis idea? The upcoming Magneto series began with Bendis and was then opened up for another writer to step in. Was that the case here as well? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it mentioned… If so, then, in a way, all three teasers are for Bendis stories, he just didn’t write one of them.) That’s not different from a lot of finales. The problem seems to stem from people thinking that a story like this should be self-contained when that’s a fairly unrealistic expectation. The story ends, but the ideas and consequences keep going. Why would anyone expect any different? And how often do they get that anywhere?

Age of Ultron #10 was an end, but I see it more as a season finale than a series finale if that makes sense (although, I’ll argue later this week that it’s actually a series finale, too). Mainstream superhero comics don’t equate to television shows quite right, but that analogy makes enough sense to me. This was a season of the Marvel Universe story and, when it ends, it wraps up the main plots, but still leaves some stuff dangling and teases the next season a little.

The issue really ends with Stark, Pym, and McCoy standing around talking about time ‘breaking’ and giving a cryptic hint about the future. The three teasers that follow are just that: teasers. All that’s missing is a voiceover going “Next time in Marvel Comics!” before they start. Funny how this sort of thing is accepted in one medium, but not another.

7 Comments

I just thought I’d say I absolutely love what you’re doing here – I really enjoy reading these everytime you post them up and, although I already liked the series, you’ve made me like it just that little bit more. I also agree with the comment about this being the final issue, but the big stuff happened in #9 (aside from time breaking.)
AoU was not without it’s flaws, I think we probably spent a little too long in this alternative timeline – but that’s just me. I also might have liked to see the team who went to the future do a little more, just to explore that world a little. Out of the series’, I think the best issues were #6 and #9 just because they were the time-centric issues.

I have to disagree with you in regards Butch Guice, however, as I think his pages really did have the right amount of tension. As you said in this article, we already pretty much knew that Ultron was going to be defeated – and if it was just that, it would have been too predictable – so I think, no matter who drew it, the tension wouldn’t have been there…because we all knew what would happen. I think the panel where Thor destroys Ultron is just about right, because it gives the impression that to the heroes – this is an everyday thing. No Avenger in this scene knows the stakes if Ultron isn’t defeated here -not properly-, so the fact it’s such a quick ending and the tone is still there shows that it’s almost an everyday thing and there’s no real “big” win because it hasn’t happened yet. (if any of this makes sense)

A few questions:
What do you think in regards Vision? How is he still around when Ultron brought him back and now that timeline is erased? So how is Vision walking about currently? Is this just something we can blame on the timequakes?
Do you think the fact that Angela was coming to the Marvel U perhaps ruined the shock factor of the ending?

I’d love to see you analyse, in depth, The Dark Reign sage – specifically The Sentry/The Void. It’s still not exactly clear if The Void was a god figure and what The Void actually is. Please do something like this, I’d love to see what your thoughts on this are when closely analysed.

The Vision being brought back by Ultron was just a theory that Tony Stark had. It was never shown as the truth. The Vision could have woken up on his own and, then, been taken over by Ultron after that at some point.

That the final teaser was the Angela one and I’ve yet to find anyone who doesn’t work for Marvel that seems to care about Angela coming to the Marvel Universe does point towards that deflating the issue a little.

I plan to write about the Bendis Avengers run as a whole in greater depth at some point. It won’t be for a while, because I have another project that I’m working on that should take up my attention for the next year or two exclusively.

tom fitzpatrick

January 26, 2014 at 9:22 am

Sort of like watching Homeland at the end of season 3; and then looking forward to a new storyline (a reboot) of sorts in season 4.

My problem with Bendis events is that the big nothing-is-ever-the-same-again changes always happen right at the end and aren’t exactly well connected with the story. The worst example is probably Secret Invasion, where Osborn killing the Skrull queen and taking over SHIELD came out of virtually nowhere. The timequake of Age of Ultron isn’t quite that bad, but it still doesn’t feel earned.

I said it earlier, but I found it weird that the finale teaser only telegraphed three follow-on books: Cataclysm (written by Bendis), Avengers A.I. (written by Waid), and Guardians of the Galaxy (with Bendis again). Given that this is half storytelling and half product placement, it was odd that Marvel didn’t do additional teasing of the other “time is screwed” storylines in INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK, SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, and X-MEN: BATTLE OF THE ATOM. There’s probably others, but I’m not sure what those are.

I’m also surprised that we haven’t seen more multiversal chaos. It’s odd that the lead characters characterized it as “time is broken” when it’s really “time and REALITY” are broken. That’s the whole point of Galactus going to the Ultimate Universe and Angela coming from…wherever Image Comics is. We got some implied multiversal chaos with the timequake panel, but it’s not like we’ve had characters from Earth-X or Days of Future Past spilling into the Marvel Universe.

…granted, we do have Kang assembling a multiversal team over in UNCANNY AVENGERS, but that seems entirely disconnected from Age of Ultron. Am I wrong?

@Adam: my (blind) guess is that Bendis and others thought the effect would be enhanced if we were not told outright that other books are showing signs of the Timequake.

Another possibility is that it will eventually turn out that (say) the All-New X-Men situation involves something else when we are assuming the Timequake instead.

I’m not sure if it came up here before, or if it’s relevant to what’s being said right here, but when I just recently reread the first 6 issues of Hickman’s New Avengers, when the Illuminati tried using the Infinity Gauntlet to defeat the incursion, the only Gem that didn’t outright shatter (only disappeared) was the Time Gem. Not sure what that signifies, necessarily, but it seems to me the whole “time is broken” is the motif of New Avengers, with the explanations of why the incursions are happening imply that some Earth got destroyed and now there’s a domino effect where everything is breaking.

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