Well, here we are again, boys and girls. It’s Marvel event book time, and this time we get the return of Ultron. So, is Age of Ultron worth your time?
First, I have to talk about the cover, because I dig what it meant to me when I saw it on the shelf. Yeah, that art you see up there is cool by itself. It’s a Bryan Hitch cover, after all. But what you don’t see in that image is that the cover itself is metallic. It shines at you, and it’s got more heft than a traditional comic book cover. I picked it up at the shop this morning and went “Holy hell, the ’90s are back,” and I meant it in a good way. We’re talking about a storyline that pits Marvel’s mightiest against the likes of the most dangerous artificial intelligence ever created. It’s big muscly people versus an evil robot. It’s very ’90s in that way. It should be shiny and bombastic and it made me smile is all.
So, on to the comic. We open on a New York City that’s already been devastated by Ultron’s might. Hawkeye is making his way through the wasteland to rescue Spider-Man, who’s been captured by Hammerhead, who’s apparently ready to sell off Spider-Man to Ultron so Ultron can do what Ultron does to dudes like Spider-Man. From there, we discover that the few Marvel Heroes who are still around (including Hawkeye, Spidey, She-Hulk, Luke Cage, Captain America and Iron Man) are hiding out and biding their time as they try to form a plan to take on Ultron, who seems to have already won. Everyone is paranoid, everyone is exhausted, and Captain America seems crushed under the weight of it all.
My biggest beef with this issue is that it feels more like the second issue of an event than the first issue to me, but that’s mostly because I feel a little annoyed that I didn’t actually get to see Ultron’s glorious arrival. Granted, that could be the sort of thing we see in flashbacks in the coming weeks, but I was looking forward to that and I didn’t get it. It feels like the sort of thing that would be perfect to kick off such an event, but somehow writer Brian Michael Bendis felt it would be best to pick up the action in medias res. While it’s an interesting choice, and it’s certainly a brave one, it also significantly weakened the power of the book.
The issue also just moved too slowly for me. I was hoping for a bit more bombast, a bit more power, a bit more action beyond a simple Hawkeye rescue mission. Again, this is all stuff that we can expect in coming issues, but what happened to starting strong? It’s worth noting that this is Bendis we’re talking about, and his pacing is unlike any other writer’s pacing in comics, so he could be more than ready to deliver the goods when issue 2 drops next week. But come on, this is track one, this is the opening kickoff, this is the first sip of Scotch. Shouldn’t it be more than this?
That said, as a stand-alone piece of writing it’s not bad (the trouble, of course, is that it’s not stand-alone), and Hitch’s art has all the bombastic awesomeness we’ve come to expect from a penciller like him. It’s a solid issue, it’s just not a solid first issue, and that’s where it fell apart for me. We’ll see if issue two can pick things up.