Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Spotlight: Age of Ultron #10

(w) Brian Michael Bendis
(a) Alex Maleev; Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary; Butch Guice; Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco & Roger Bonet with Tom Palmer; David Marquez, Joe Quesada

This is what disappointment truly feels like.

I defended Age of Ultron in nearly every review I wrote about the series. And while it has indeed been a fun and generally enjoyable ride, Age of Ultron #10 simply fizzles out where it should have been explosive. And one vague, surreal explosion doesn't count after nine issues of build-up.


Why do I not like Age of Ultron #10? Let me count the ways. One: there are far too many artists on this issue. Two: introducing Angela in the final pages is such an obvious grab for money that I nearly slammed by laptop's screen shut in frustration. Three: this issue is the epitome of anticlimactic.

There are ten different artists credited to Age of Ultron #10 with no guide as to who has drawn what. Sure, I've got some idea based on what I've seen in other books, but overall, it's extremely jarring to see one issue go through so many different styles. Now, Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson, and Carlos Pacheco were featured throughout issues one through nine, but that was for a reason. Hitch drew the original timeline, Peterson drew the 'Age of Iron Man' segments, and Carlos Pacheco tackled the sequences set in the past of the Marvel universe. There were three distinct styles for three distinct parts of the story, and generally, it worked well. The only reason that I can imagine Marvel had for employing so many artists was the nature of the story's conclusion. And even if they did -- which is highly unlikely -- the experiment was not worth it because it looks bad.

Angela, Angela, Angela. Everyone is so excited about Angela, and it turns out her presence in the issue amounts to little more than a cameo. Now it makes sense how Bendis was able to "write" a special new part for the character. I phrased it like that not because I believe Bendis can't write, but because it's not a real sequence. Angela's appearance is just her inner monologue with a two-page spread by Joe Quesada as the backdrop. That's not enough. That's just pandering. And I'm sure there are those out there who loved seeing Angela on those final pages. But if you're unfamiliar with the character, this 'epic conclusion' is just confusing.

Which brings us to the fact that Age of Ultron #10 is the most anticlimactic ending to an event Marvel has produced since...well at least before House of M. The biggest revelation we get is that the multiverse is now bleeding into itself, meaning various universes will cross over with relative ease. While this is a big change in status quo, there's only one single splash page that's interesting. The rest is panning images of space and bright lights. It might be menacing and mysterious, yes, but these are the final pages of Age of Ultron

The big battle we get is basically a reprint of Avengers #12.1 from two years ago, and though it ends differently here than it did before, it's just a big letdown. Alright, sure; the Avengers defeated Ultron before he ever started his apocalyptic invasion of Earth. But we knew that was going to happen. What we needed here was something bigger to keep the momentum going now that the event is over. Unfortunately, Marvel thought giving us one glimpse of Galactus and a spread of Angela would do the trick. And even though the crossover nerd in me did summersaults when I saw Miles Morales facing down Galactus 616, it was a fleeting emotion because the only real reason it was included was for that specific reaction, not because it had anything to do with Age of Ultron.

Age of Ultron wasn't a huge failure. Bryan Hitch's artwork for the first five issues was fantastic, Carlos Pacheco's style fit the 1960s sequences perfectly, and the goal of the entire narrative was achieved by the end of Age of Ultron #10. Brian Michael Bendis set out to create an grand story about the dangers of abusing technology we don't understand. Unfortunately, this sentiment becomes hollow when the lesson isn't learned. Wolverine isn't punished for basically unraveling all of time and space, while Hank Pym believes he can correct the errors in Ultron's programming instead of understanding that creating and manipulating consciousness -- biological or artificial -- isn't right. So what was the point? 

Bendis threw the biggest players in the Marvel universe through the ringer for no reason. The characters don't truly grow because they haven't learned from their mistakes, which makes it all the more obvious that the true endgame of Age of Ultron was to allow Marvel to dig into it's plethora of fan-favorite characters with far more ease. This might sound harmless at first, but it means the characters were simply props throughout this event. All the tie-ins, all the deaths; none of it technically matters. And that's a problem. As an event, Age of Ultron was mediocre. As the final issue Age of Ultron #10 was completely lackluster.


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