Yup, we’re doing two issues at once this time, because when Book Six came out I was out of the country and didn’t have the time or the energy to buy, read and review a comic. Turns out it was kind of a shame, because Book Six was the most important issue of the run so far.
NOTE: There will be BIG spoilers from issue six and some smaller spoilers for issue seven in this review, so if you’re somehow further behind than I was you might want to hold off reading this.
In Book Six, the band of heroes assigned to jump into the future and battle Ultron where he lives arrive, but it’s not about them. It’s about Wolverine’s self-imposed mission to journey to the past and murder Hank Pym, the man responsible for Ultron’s creation. For reasons of her own, Sue Storm stows away on the time platform with him, and the two spend most of the issue engaging in a journey/moral debate that ultimately results in Pym’s death at Wolverine’s hands. In Book Seven, Wolverine and Sue journey to the present to see if their cold-blooded murder made any difference, and find a surprising group of heroes (and a strangely altered world) waiting for them.
Not surprisingly, the biggest focus of fan debate around these issues over the last couple of weeks (which also stems from book five, where the concept was first introduced) is the use of time travel to move this story forward. There are a lot of fans who aren’t too happy about it (just go browse the fan questions on Brian Michael Bendis’ Tubmlr account and you’ll see what I mean). Readers have complained that time travel and superheroes shouldn’t mix, that it’s too easy to rewrite history or retcon a story or just make a death not happen. There’s also the same concern that we always have with any time travel tale: Why don’t you just use time travel to fix everything? If Nick Fury had this time platform in his Savage Land bunker for years, why hasn’t he just gone back and saved Jean Grey? Why didn’t he go back and prevent the Secret Invasion? Why didn’t he go take down Ultron at a vulnerable moment a long time? Why everything?
Well, the simple answer is none of that would be very interesting. At least, not after a while. It’s also worth noting that at no point does anyone in the story but Wolverine advocate going back to prevent the devastating Ultron invasion. Fury and Cap and Iron Man are simply advocating going to the future to take the fight directly to Ultron’s door. It’s about stopping further destruction, not changing the past. And while that may sound like a bad idea to some readers, it does help the argument that in the Marvel universe, those who control time travel know better than to try and change the past (more on that later, I’m quite sure). But despite my defense of the time travel device, I have to say I honestly didn’t like it much either. Not because I think it’s a cheap ploy or because I hate time travel, but because it feels like we’re still stretching a story that didn’t really need stretching. Issue six is a powerful issue, but it suffers a bit from a lot of dialogue that never really says anything (I never felt like Sue and Logan were really debating anything, they were just talking to fill page space), while issue seven just seems like a confused extended fight scene with no real plot development at all (except to say “Hey, here’s a vague representation of the altered present that I will present more clearly next issue, so buy that one.”). It seems to me that all of the plot development of issue seven could have easily been folded into issue six, but that would have spoiled the big Hank Pym death scene (which seemed oddly rushed to me anyway) at the end. Either way, the pacing for both issues seemed off, and though I’ve been pretty patient with stuff like that so far, this time it just bugged me. We should be barreling forward at this point, and it seems like too many pages are treading water.
And lastly, something I started to fear a while ago now seems more likely: the possibility that this will all end with more time travel shenanigans that restore everything to the way it was and brings everyone back to life. Bendis has sworn the whole time that this is all happening in the main Marvel continuity, and yet he’s killed at least 80% of the heroes. We have to be heading for some sort of restoration, and my biggest worry is that this will all end with barely any consequences for anyone. Sometimes a little side adventure that doesn’t really impact things can be fun, but there’s too much potential in this story to see it end like that.