So, could the second issue of this massive Marvel movement (see what I did there?) impress me more than the first one did?
You might remember from last week that I was a little bummed that Brian Michael Bendis and company decided to begin Age of Ultron after Ultron had already unleashed his wrath on Earth. We saw superheroes hiding out, desperate, scared, vastly outnumbered by killer robots, but we didn’t see any real conquering on the part of everyone’s favorite evil AI. But you know what? That’s fair. After all, the title suggests that Ultron’s “age” has already begun, so maybe I shouldn’t have expected to see the devastation. My other gripe, though, was with the pacing. It just felt like the whole point of the issue was “look how desperate our heroes are,” which to me isn’t enough material for a full issue. That said, there was still enough about it that intrigued me as I picked up issue two, so Bendis at least succeeded on some level. But what about issue two? Could it improve on the shortcomings I saw last week?
The first page shifts locations from Manhattan to San Francisco, where Black Widow and Moon Knight are living pretty much the same existence that their New York counterparts are: they’re hiding out, they’re scrounging for anything they can find on the streets, they’re wounded, they’re certain they’ll die. But they’re determined to die fighting, which seems to be the big theme of the book so far (not that it’s a bad theme, mind you).
Meanwhile, in the tunnels beneath Central Park, Spider-Man is being interrogated by the other heroes left around (which include the likes of Iron Man, Doctor Strange, She-Hulk, Captain America and Hawkeye, and several others) after his recent rescue. The question is raised: Why were supervillains kidnapping heroes to sell them to Ultron? Why does Ultron need human help? Why does he want someone like Spider-Man?
It’s there that Age of Ultron stopped being a scenario and really became a story for me. Bendis has a way of doing that, particularly in his event books: he raises a single question that will ring through the whole series, and it sticks with you as a reader whether you like it or not. These questions have varying degrees of effectiveness (just look back over the nearly a decade’s worth of event books he’s written for proof), but in a universe where so many things (arguably all things ) are possible, it’s definitely a valid way to kick things off. Sometimes it’s a “what if?” question (like, for instance, Secret Invasion), and sometimes it’s a “why?” question, which is where Age of Ultron seems to be headed. We know Ultron hates humanity. We know he wants humanity gone, and we know he’s doing a pretty efficient job of achieving that this time. So why the bargaining with other supervillains?
There are a few easy guesses that could answer this question, but the point is we have a catalyst now. We have something that propels our heroes. We have movement. I acknowledged in the last review that Bendis’s unique sense of pace doesn’t always jive with me, and that’s one of the reasons why I felt the first issue was weak. The second issue takes a bit too long to get to this hinge point for my taste, but I like a speedy pace with big event books. You might totally dig the pace here. The point is, we’re moving now, and that’s what pleased me most about this issue.
So, now we’ve got a question that will move our heroes forward, and we’ve got a better sense of how Ultron is operating. That should meant that next week we’ll see a more brisk pace, a more action-heavy piece of storytelling, and a bit of the actual event that will define this “event comic.” I’m still not in love with what I’m reading, but I’m much more intrigued than I was last week (plus I already agreed to write reviews on all 10 issues of this thing, so I’m reading issue 3 whether I like it or not at this point).