Well…that was weird. Reading the ending of an event book like this is always a bit of a dual experience. On the one hand, you’re trying to see how all the ends of this story tie up, how it satisfies (or fails to satisfy) your needs as a reader who’s followed this thing for 10 issues, how it serves the overall story with a strong conclusion. But we’re talking about comics, so that’s never all this is about. No, last issues (or last acts, for that matter) can never be just about endings. There’s always the next event, the next relaunch, the next incarnation of a decades-old universe. Both of these elements can be exciting when you read a final issue. They can simultaneously wrap up a story that engrossed you and point the way to new and fascinating chapters. Unfortunately for us, after going through a lot of trouble to get us to a very specific place with issues eight and nine, Age of Ultron #10 seems to be all about what’s next.
Issues eight and nine were fun enough. They were brisk, filled with energetic plot points and even a few amusing character moments, but they also felt sort of forced, less like a story and more like a setup. In some ways that’s to be expected, because we’re in the buildup to the final issue, but when Wolverine is traveling to and fro in time, “fixing” this and “breaking” that, it feels like we’re simply putting the pieces in place, like they’re parts of a machine (but hey, this is an Ultron book, so maybe the machine metaphor is…uh, never mind). Still, even at this point, the story has its moments, and I had some hope for the finale.
Then the finale came, and it felt even colder, even more like assembling something rather than expressing something. Some of that is because of the art. It’s not bad art. Some of it is fantastic art, in fact, but when you get 10 guys to do 30 or so pages of comics, and they’re all telling the same story and depicting the same characters, things can get a little disjointed, even a little gimmicky. It’s just too much.
The other big problem, for me, is how little this comic seemed to deal with what just happened to everyone. We basically got a giant reset button in which Ultron was quickly and efficiently dispatched, followed by a breaking of spacetime which resulted, apparently, in universes opening up into each other and Image Comics characters (Read: Angela) spilling through the cracks. This is strange and ambitious and loopy, and yet it just smacks of being a stunt. It doesn’t feel like part of a story. It feels like “Hey, be sure to buy the next comics we put out!” And hey, I realize that’s part of the point of every comic book Marvel puts out, and I happily buy quite a few of them knowing that, but how we get there really should matter more. What could have been a meditation on the sins and redemption of Henry Pym instead turned into a cliffhanger. What could have been a moment of clarity for all of Marvel’s heroes instead produced only more universe-ripping chaos. This book could have meant something. It could have left an impression. Instead it ended merely by setting up the next thing that Marvel will try to make an impression with. And I don’t even know that I can blame Brian Michael Bendis. His writing was solid. It was just leading somewhere that cheapened what he’d already done. Maybe that’s his fault. Maybe it’s his editors. I don’t know, but whoever it was thought too little about the story and too much about the Big Reveal.
Let’s hope it’s worth it, because right now this feels like a wasted 10-issue event.