The New 52 is dead. Long live the New 52 (sorta)!
Earlier today, DC Comics announced that following this spring’s Convergence event their entire line-up will be overhauled and a bold new direction for the comic company will begin, one focused on diversity, accessibility, and every other buzzword comic book companies use to describe major shake-ups such as this.
Still, when you look into the details it seems that DC might have some method to this madness. Fresh talent working with long time veterans. Bestselling fan-favorite series will be joined by a very interesting (and surprising) list of new titles. (more…)
Hey, this thing is actually getting interesting?
If you read the last three reviews I did of this event book (Hi, all two of you!) you’ll remember that I’ve been very skeptical of it from the start. The opening issue didn’t impress me, the second treaded water a bit, and the third only began to show something a little intriguing. I won’t say that issue four kicks Age of Ultron wide open, but at the very least it does present some of the greater story that I’ve been hoping for all this time, and even if I don’t end up liking where that goes, I can finally say I like where it is right now.
NOTE: Spoilers for the last three issues ahead.
So, last issue Luke Cage took She-Hulk to Ultron’s headquarters atop the ruins of Manhattan with the hope of “selling” her to the artificial intelligence and figuring out why Ultron was interested in buying superheroes in the first place when he could just, you know, kill them. Once there, Cage discovered that the being at the center of all that technology wasn’t Ultron, but a ripped-in-half Vision. From there, Cage and She-Hulk learn a secret that could change the whole face of this comic (which I won’t reveal here). Meanwhile, Captain America, Iron Man and the rest of the Manhattan superhero survivors make their way to the Savage Land, and Black Widow and Moon Knight plot their own escape from San Francisco.
This is my favorite issue of the event so far, not just because it shows our heroes being more proactive than reactive for the first time, but because it sheds light on the Ultron story in ways we hadn’t seen before. I was worried, especially after the “Look at all the carnage that’s already happened” vibe of the first issue, that this would be a very simple, single-layered Ultron tale. Ultron wants to destroy humanity, humanity fights back, one side wins and one side loses. But after the revelations of the last two issues it’s clear that something bigger is at work here, and that’s, if nothing else, comforting to me. It was easy for me to get excited about something like, say Avengers vs. X-Men or even Fear Itself (because the concept of the nemesis intrigued me more than most Marvel event books), but this one had me skeptical. Ultron is a great nemesis in the right hands, but it’s hard to make a killer robot (in any context) more interesting than “Hey, look out for that killer robot!” With this issue, Brian Michael Bendis seems to be proving that he’s capable of overcoming that.
Not that we’re out of the woods yet, mind you. We still have six more issues to get through, and at any time we could fall victim to deus ex machina or a surprising and completely ridiculous twist, neither of which are new to Marvel event books. Still, if you were waiting for things to really kick in with this comic, Book Four is the one that did it for me. Now I’m not just ready to be impressed, but I’m convinced that I can be.
Could this issue really be the turning point for me, your friendly neighborhood reviewer?
So yeah, if you’ve read the last two reviews, you’re aware that I wasn’t fully on board with Age of Ultron. I wasn’t sure about the pacing, or the way the vents unfolded, or where it was headed. It just felt…off. But, the thing about Brian Michael Bendis is that (and I’ve said this a hundred times) his pacing is unlike anyone else’s in comics. He doesn’t work on the same level that everyone else does, and that doesn’t always work in his favor. With Age of Ultron (so far) he’s been focused quite a bit on building up some big questions without necessarily providing the answers. Book Three is our first real attempt at answering those questions, but is it enough to keep me interested?
Well, the short answer is yes. Plot-wise, this issue followed the same thread that the other two have followed so far: Ultron has taken over, the few Marvel heroes left around are trying to come with a plan, and there are (somewhat inexplicably) a few supervillains still around who have managed to do business with Ultron. In the hopes that they can infiltrate Ultron’s operation, the heroes decided to send Luke Cage on a mission to “sell” She-Hulk to the enemy and possibly find out exactly what Ultron is up to. What he finds is a major twist in the book that could be intriguing, but could also wind up just plain ridiculous.
I won’t spoil it for you, but I was honestly rather impressed by the twist that came at the end of this issue. Big Shyamalan-style twists can turn into outright disasters in comics, but here it seems like something that was overdue. It digs deeper into the meat of the story and gives us something to think about for a week, and it broadens the implications of the story Bendis is telling here. I can’t go much further than that without spoiling things for you (more on that next week), but suffice it to say I may look back on this as the issue where things really took off. Then again, this could end up being the issue where things really went to shit.
Tune in next week to see if I was right.
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).
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?
(Welcome to Comics Rewind, a weekly column devoted to discovering – or re-discovering – great comics published some time in the past. Here you will find looks back at comics published in every era, from the Golden Age to the Modern Age, as well as retrospectives on the work of important comics writers, lists of “essential” comics, and evaluations of important works, as well as works worthy of a second look or a wider audience. Enjoy!)
I try to keep a sense of diversity in this column. Really I do. I want to present a mix of creator-owned and corporate comics, superhero comics and non-superhero comics, limited series and ongoing series, new writers and old. But being the completist-minded fanboy that I am, there are certain recurring themes that I won’t be able to shy away from until there’s nothing else there to talk about. Chief among them is the work of Warren Ellis, a comics writer I worship without apology. We’re coming up on a year of work with this column and I’ve already looked at his writing here several times. But guess what? It’s time to do it again, because I can’t wait any longer to talk about The Authority.
As usual we’re bombarded daily with tidbits of news about the biggest, brassiest super hero movies making their way to a theatre near you. How can you possibly keep track of all the goodies? No need to worry, Nerd Bastards is here to make sure any little detail about your favorite comic book flick doesn’t get lost through the cracks in the web.
In today’s round-up of super hero news we’ve got an interview with Michael Fassbender; Matthew Vaughn and Bryan Singer discussing X-Men: First Class sequels; some mild spoilers about The Avengers; more legal troubles for Warner Bros. over the ownership of Superman and Diane Lane had a chance to read the script, but only under intense supervision.
Just click the jump to enter the realm of spoilery goodness!