Marvel: Age of Ultron Graphic Novel Review
Marvel’s Age of Ultron miniseries takes a look at an alternate reality (or rather, a few of them) in which the world’s superheroes are soundly defeated by Hank Pym’s android creation Ultron. With an artificial intelligence far outweighing that of humans, and unmatched physical power, Ultron seeks to eliminate all organic life from planet Earth. By the second issue of the Age of Ultron event, humanity has fallen, and the few remaining heroes are forced underground, quickly losing hope in this dire situation. Before long, it becomes apparent that the only way to defeat Ultron is to go back in time to before he was created, and through the butterfly effect multiple alternate realities are born. While Age of Ultron gives us an interesting look at “what-if” situations and alternate versions of fan-favorite heroes, it quickly loses focus as the time-travel narrative trips over its own feet, leading up to an underwhelming conclusion. But it’s certainly intriguing to see how the dystopian future changes when our heroes attempt to turn back the hands of time, and the consequences that come from hitting the reset button too many times.
After Ultron and his army of robotic minions completely decimate New York City, only a few superheroes remain – including Spider-Man, Iron Man, She-Hulk, Captain America, Hawkeye, Red Hulk, and Luke Cage. Eventually this ragtag group of heroes meets up with Nick Fury, and together they form a plan to use a time-travel device and tackle Ultron head-on in the future. Why this is a good idea is never explained – in the future, Ultron will have only had more time to evolve and build an even larger army, and now there are far less superheroes than when they first clashed. Don’t think too hard about it though – because Wolverine and Sue Storm have their own ideas about traveling to the past, and the Nick Fury-helmed group is never seen or heard from again. One would assume that they perished, but it would be nice to get some resolution to this plotline, which instead feels completely forgotten about in the overall context of the Age of Ultron story.
Instead, almost the entire remainder of Age of Ultron puts the spotlight on Wolverine and Sue Storm. Sue thinks that she can talk Hank Pym out of creating Ultron, while Wolverine has… other ideas. If Hank Pym was struck down in his prime the Avengers would have disbanded, and the Vision would never have been created – the book explores the various outcomes that would ensue from this. Sure, the menace of Ultron would be gone, but would something even more terrible spring up in its place? In Wolverine’s mind, any possible future is better than the one they left, but it will take a few trips back and forth before they manage to get things right. In the meantime, we get to see some crazy stuff – like a Steve Rogers/ Nick Fury hybrid named Colonel America, a Cable/ Cyclops hybrid, a tyrannical Iron Man ensnared in a battle with Morgana Le Fay, and even some great Wolverine Vs. Wolverine action. There’s also some nods to the past, as Nick Fury’s hidden base holds some of the earliest costumes for some of the heroes, as well as Cap’s energy shield. And after being tied up in a long legal battle with Image Comics, Neil Gaiman’s character Angela makes her Marvel debut in Age of Ultron as well.
The artwork in this book is rather uneven. While I liked the idea of having three different artists, each drawing a different time period, in practice it’s a bit distracting – especially when the timelines converge on the same page. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some fantastic artwork to be found within the pages of Age of Ultron – it just doesn’t feel as cohesive as it should.
Overall, Marvel’s Age of Ultron is a compelling read with a very anticlimactic ending. If you’re interested in seeing some of your favorite superheroes go all Back to the Future, you’ll likely get a kick out of this book. Each individual issue is entertaining, but when reading them back to back in a compendium like this the overarching story feels drawn out and muddled. It’s telling that we don’t even see the titular Ultron until the very last issue. Still, it’s a page-turner until the very end — I just wish that writer Brian Michael Bendis would have stuck the landing.