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Another View: Age of Ultron #10 Part 30

Age of Ultron #10 felt familiar the first time I read it. My first instinct was that it was a conclusion to a story much like Secret War. When people called Age of Ultron an ‘event comic,’ I’d smile to myself and say, “Nah, it’s just another Secret War.” Secret War wasn’t an ‘event comic,’ it was this weird little mini-series that began before Brian Michael Bendis took over Avengers and killed the title. It’s the real beginning of his run on the Avengers franchise and Age of Ultron is the real end. Or, maybe prologue/epilogue?

Secret War was an almost ‘test run’ of Bendis on the Avengers titles, offering up a Nick Fury-run black ops team featuring Captain America, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Black Widow, and Daisy Johnson as they went to Latveria to take down the new ruler who happened to be funding American supervillains. If that team looks very, very similar to the one he’d put together in New Avengers, well, that’s because it’s almost identical. Delays with Secret War made it run concurrent with Bendis’s early work on the Avengers books, giving it a weird feeling of prologue/bridge between “Disassembled” and New Avengers (which is where I tend to place it in my reading order of his run, because it seems like a better fit there). Age of Ultron, alternatively, was originally scheduled to run concurrent with the end of Bendis’ Avengers run, but was pushed back to run months after he had left the titles. The prologue becomes intermingled with the opening of the run and the intermingled event at the end of the run becomes the epilogue. Weird (a)symmetry.

Despite their close relationship, I can’t help but think that Age of Ultron’s closest relative in the Bendis Avengers family is House of M, another reality-warping event that tends to work best if you stick with the main series and ignore everything else. The finales of each seem to have the same potential, albeit in different ways. In remaking (and un-remaking) the world, the Scarlet Witch screwed with the natural order, depowered mutants everywhere, brought at least one person back from the dead, and did so in an oddly secret way. The world at large didn’t really know what happened; only the heroes knew. Even less people knew about time ‘breaking’ in Age of Ultron #10. The impact is less obvious than “No more mutants,” but the same potential for longterm repercussions is there. Oh, and, like House of M, the world we were presented never really happened.

The two characters that fill similar roles (roles that were similarly underexamined) are Spider-Man in House of M and Wolverine in Age of Ultron. Both, in the world that never existed, experienced things that put them out of step with everyone else. Peter Parker’s experiences in House of M are particularly harsh as he basically lived the life he always wanted only to be returned to his usual pile of endless bullshit. Logan, conversely, experiences the end of the world and takes action to avoid it, leaving him in a position where he’s a redundant copy of the ‘real’ Wolverine, but with memories of the worst possible world. Neither character was followed up on to any satisfaction (Wolverine even less so, surprisingly).

That both stories are, basically, wiped out at the end is interesting. Secret War even has a similar bit with the memories of Nick Fury’s secret Latverian invasion wiped from all of the participants. It’s only when the memories come back and the bad guys return for vengeance that the true consequences are met. In House of M and Age of Ultron, the true consequences come from the resolution of the story: the story is erased, but the erasure leaves a scar on the world and lives of the characters. It’s fitting that Bendis’s final Avengers event recalls his pre-Avengers story and his first Avengers event in ways that none of the events that fell between did.

2 Comments

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these, Chad. Not every entry has appealed to my interests, but I’ve been back daily to see what you’d be talking about.

Hmmmm. Me personally, I saw Age of Ultron as half a retread of “Days of Futures Past” and half “Age of Apocalypse.”

The first half pretty much parallels DoFP identically, with the twist that instead of seeing characters from the future come to alter the present, it’s characters from the present come to alter the past. Both stories start with an evil robot (Sentinels/Ultron) who’s devastated the world. A hero (Wolverine/Hawkeye) has to rescue another hero (Kitty Pryde/Spider-Man) from the robot’s flunkies. The remaining heroes have to develop a plan to overthrow the robotic overlord(s). Eventually, it’s agreed that the heroes will confront the big bad, but a secondary plan of time travel to prevent the big bad event from ever happening will go into effect. The former team (the X-Men/Avengers) goes off to confront the villain and is wiped out. The latter goes back to a critical event and is successful in that mission, though Logan and Sue’s plan is a sick reversal of DoFP Kitty’s. Kitty had to save a life (Senator Kelly) to prevent the horror; Wolverine had to take one (Pym).

The second half pretty much tracks the Age of Apocalypse, although in a great deal smaller. A time-travel plan (kill Magneto/prevent Ultron) goes sour (Xavier/Pym dies) and history is dramatically altered from what we knew. A survivor from the original timeline (Bishop/Wolverine & Sue) is dumped into this awful world and discovers that another villain (Apocalypse/LeFay) has risen to power as a result of the change. Things get really bad, and the time-travel has to be done again to prevent the original disruption from happening. History is restored, though there’s some after-effects (four characters survive AoA/the Timequake).

The only problem I had with all this was in the execution versus how the original version of these stories were done. DoFP was a relatively short story by today’s standards–done in two issues. Bendis spent six issues dwelling on the AoU timeline (plus all the associated tie-ins) to get to the same result as DoFP: all the heroes get killed except the two heroes in the past. Meanwhile, “Age of Apocalypse” was a colossal world-building effort on Marvel’s part that dramatically re-envisioned the entire Marvel Universe across something like 40 books. The “Age of LeFay” was a very quick exposure where we had very, very limited notion of how we got from point A (Pym’s death) to Z (everybody’s a Defender and Morgana LeFay conquers the world). If anything, I wish that the issue division had been reversed–two issues in the Age of Ultron and six in the Age of LeFay.

I can’t say that Bendis intentionally followed the structures of Days of Futures Past or Age of Apocalypse, though I think a clearer case can be made for the former than the latter. Maybe time-travel stories unavoidably follow only a few formulas and Bendis just tapped into one or two of those.

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