AGE OF ULTRON is perhaps Marvel’s biggest event ever. Let’s talk about the rather intriguing history, because it’s been in the working for two years. After Siege, in 2010 Marvel relaunched quite a few of their titles under the banner ‘The Heroic Age.’ (Kind of like Marvel NOW.) Brian Michael Bendis would helm the main Avengers title. The first arc dealt with Kang the Conqueror, which if any longtime Marvel fans know, that leads to a time a travel story. Some of the Avengers were sent years into the future.
The most interesting part? Bendis used the characters and backdrop from the animated movie Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow. The story of that film follows the children of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the latter of which has been destroyed by the artificial intelligence known as Ultron. So all of a sudden this film was brought into continuity? It was pretty intriguing. Ultron himself did appear, where the Avengers convinced him that if he wasn’t destroyed, the entire timestream would collapse.
In the final issue of that arc, future Tony Stark gave the present one a device and said “Stop this from happening.” Fast forward about a year, we get a point one issue which served as the official prequel to this event. In it Spider Woman was captured and Ultron himself emerged. That event was nowhere to be seen afterward, until the Point One comic, where it got a section. But the event laid dormant for sometime. And then when Marvel NOW was unveiled, many thought it would be completely forgotten. But nope, it’s here. Ultron is finally back with an apocalyptic and atmospheric first issue.
Here’s the official description from Marvel:
For years the heroes of the Marvel Universe have lived in fear that the artificial intelligence known as Ultron would one day evolve to fulfill its desire to wipe out all organic life and take over the Earth — that day has arrived. This massive 10-part Marvel Universe-spanning event is brought to you by Eisner award-winning writer Brian Michael Bendis and comics legend Bryan Hitch.
It starts out with a haunting scene of a destroyed New York with Ultron’s huge ship looking above. The humans have been eradicated, save for a few pawns that the evil robot uses to capture heroes. Hawkeye is one such remaining hero, his mission? Infiltrate Hammerhead’s little base and rescue a battle ravaged Spider-Man. Unfortunately some Ultron-Bots, despite making a deal with Hammerhead, have come to eliminate everyone. Before going into the core of this review, on a personal note this has been one of my most anticipated comic events ever. Ultron is my favorite Marvel villain, (second to Venom, but these days he’s not counted as one) so I was looking forward to it more than the average comic reader.
Now, what I find interesting is that Bendis decided to go a more atmospheric approach for the opening issue. Ultron himself does not appear, aside from some of his golden robot minions. It’s an interesting approach to a first issue, and it succeeds. The opening splash page of a destroyed New York was pretty amazing and already establishes the destroyed world. More haunting images include a ravaged S.H.E.I.L.D. Hellicarrier where the remaining heroes are. Now for the meat of the story.
Interestingly, it follows Hawkeye. It reminds me of the Marvel Universe vs. The Avengers mini-series, in both tone and character portrayal. The humans have been seemingly destroyed, but with the few that’s left…nothing but corruption. The story follows the purple Avengers as he infiltrates Hammerhead’s household to rescue Spidey. I was never a big Hawkeye fan, but this issue has given me a new-found respect for him. It also begs the question of why he’s apparently the only one that seems to have a genuine care. A reader might question why Luke Cage and She Hulk are so cold to him for rescuing Spidey. Obviously it makes sense, because if they are found, they’re dead. At the same time, it’s Spider-Man and when has bleak situations stopped them from going on a rescue mission? Tony Stark seems slightly out of character in this regard. Of course, what’s amazing about the opening issue is that it already takes place in the future. It isn’t about Ultron taking over, it’s about the fact that he’s already won. We don’t know what he’s done for the Avengers to lose such moral support, especially with that last page. Remember that shocking moment in Fear Itself when Captain America said “We’re going to lose?” It’s something similar, but with no dialogue…the picture represents it well enough.
Bryan Hitch’s art successfully captures the atmospheric look and feeling. Nobody looks ‘clean,’ they all look battle ravaged and on the verge of defeat. It’s a very gritty world, which the art captures 100%. I’d even go as far to say it’s one of the best in Marvel currently. A highlight is when the Ultron-bots arrive, the house is struck by huge rumblings. The art gives the pages an earthquake look and feel, I had to adjust the page to make sure I wasn’t going blind, a really great effect. The main cover is quite fantastic, done in shiny foil. Probably the best cover this week. The variants deserve some mention. The first one is a highly detailed shot of Ultron holding a holographic Earth, easily the best variant. The second variant doesn’t feature the title character, rather it’s an incredible shot of Hawkeye walking away from a destroyed Manhattan, great for fans of the character. The third variant isn’t quite as exciting, but still a good shot of Ultron in his base. The Skottie Young variant takes a break from the grim side of things for some laughs, having Ultron beat up the heroes Superhero Squad style on the playground!
AGE OF ULTRON #1 is fantastic opening establishing an apocalyptic Marvel world. The writing is great, so is the art. While the title robot doesn’t technically appear, he has a very strong presence. It takes some top notch writing to accomplish that. I have a feeling this could be the Marvel event to surpass Civil War. Of course, Fear Itself also had an amazing start, but we saw where that went. I don’t have too much skepticism however, this is an Ultron story after all. Nine issues to go people, the fun is just getting started.
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My name is Daniel (@Destroyer_199), the main guy for comic reviews here at Unleash the Fanboy. I was born in 1995 in the Big Apple, spent my formative years in Staten Island, and currently reside in the awesome state that is New Jersey.