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What’s interesting about the end of Age of Ultron #10 and the fallout explored in Guardians of the Galaxy #5 is how it seems like it’s part of the build-up to Infinity. Yet, there’s a disconnect there, like Bendis’s set up for why the universe and Thanos would try to destroy Earth is one thing and Hickman’s explanation/story is a bit off. They’re in the same area, just out of step. However, it’s a case of a Marvel event directly leading into the next one in a way that we haven’t seen before. Ever since House of M, there has been a semi-organic flow to the main plot of the Marvel Universe (if only because Bendis seemed to be the writer behind the events), but not such a direct link between the end of one event and the beginning of the one that follows. There were always intermediary status quo bridges; that’s still here to a degree, lessened by the proximity between Age of Ultron and Infinity.
It’s hard to completely quantify the effect of Age of Ultron in plot terms, because all of the comics we had read post-Avengers #12.1 were a result of the events in Age of Ultron #10. As I’ve said before, Age of Ultron and Avengers vs. X-Men seem to occupy roughly the same time period, so there’s actually a disconnect between Age of Ultron and Infinity that isn’t reflected in the release schedule. The relationship between those two events makes the exact placement of Age of Ultron complicated on another level. You could explain it away by placing the events of Age of Ultron as happening roughly at the same time as when Avengers vs. X-Men happened, but the ‘timequake’ happened closer to Infinity. It’s rather awkward.
Some have complained about the ambiguity of the scene where time ‘breaks,’ because what exactly happens is unclear. That’s always seemed to be part of the point; Bendis views time as more fluid than many readers would like despite a fluid, not-strictly-linear time being the only way to make sense of the events of the Marvel Universe over the past 30 years or so. What’s unexpected is the way that Age of Ultron itself becomes a microcosm of that very idea. Events overlap and conflict, causing a confusing chronology. While much of Age of Ultron didn’t strictly happen as ‘counting’ for the Marvel Universe, it all happened for the readers. Or, to put it another way: what Wolverine stories ‘count’ and which ones don’t when he’s in eight books every month? In what order do they happen? How can you consider it the same character when the portrayal differs?
After countless rereads and 29 entries in this writing experiment, I’ve still yet to settle on one explanation, one specific reading of Age of Ultron #10 and its effect on everything around it – and where it situates itself. It’s an odd floating comic that covers a width breadth of time, both inside and outside of the Marvel Universe itself. It seeks to explain the Marvel Universe’s unique relationship with time while simultaneously being a metaphor for it.