Thursday, 18 April 2013

Review: Age of Ultron #6

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Now the survivors have split into their respective teams, with their own unique ideas as to how to stop Ultron, it's backwards and forwards, as we travel to the far-flung future and back to the early days of the Marvel Universe itself. Continuity is officially swiss-cheese!

As mentioned in my last review, the far more linear side of things is handled by Captain America's team, who've elected to travel to the far future and attack Ultron at the source. But that's frustratingly narrow thinking for a team that includes a futurist like Tony Stark. They shouldn't be thinking about avenging the havoc already wrought, they should instead be focusing their efforts on making sure it never happened in the first place. But more on that later. The future team don't really have a lot to do, truth be told. They arrive at their destination, make a bolt for what's left of New York, are promptly attacked and most likely killed. Ultron isn't known for his mercy and he shows none here. Captain America takes an especially nasty hit, which may have outright vaporised his head, but that could just be awkward art, as it was a little unclear. I did however enjoy the Iron Man beats that came before the attack. As someone who deals in technology day in, day out, Tony Stark has a unique perspective on what Ultron has done with the world in their absence. It's beautiful. Completely devoid of life, but damn does the robot do machines justice.

While I'm loathe to agree with another of Wolverine's infamous "let's murder the threat, even if it's innocent" plans, the tiny Canuck definitely has a point with his plan to eliminate Hank Pym and it's this begrudging acceptance that leaves his time-travel partner, Sue Storm, conflicted for the whole of the issue. The Invisible Woman has just suffered the loss of her entire family at the hands of Ultron and despite initially being drafted to the future team, inexplicably finds herself drawn towards the assassination side of things. This is a Sue Storm unlike any one we've met before, as she's clearly stricken with grief and willing to entertain any notion that brings her loved ones back. There are shades of the moral woman we've been reading about for the past fifty years, but like all human beings, we're oh so flawed and that leads to our favourite heroine looking the other way at a vital juncture.

The consequences of Wolverine's murderous act are likely to be far-reaching, creating a Marvel Universe entirely unlike the one we've come to know and love. What does the world look like minus one Hank Pym? Numerous adventures over the course of five decades have hinged upon the quick thinking of this man. While Logan and Sue may have put an end to the Ultron threat for the moment, they've opened a whole new can of worms, which may be impossible to put back the way they were. Just in recent memory alone, the entire Skrull invasion hinged on his involvement, he deftly led the Mighty Avengers into battle multiple times and even mentored the next generation at Avengers Academy. There's no telling which one of those situations would have proved lethal to the world without Hank at the helm. For all the evil the man unleashed upon the world, he did just as much good trying to redeem himself.

The story itself remains consistent with the previous five issues, keeping the same decompressed pace that Bendis' Avengers comics are renowned for. However, with Bryan Hitch leaving the series with last week's issue 5, all visual continuity is out the window. Peterson and Pacheco are wonderful artists in their own right, but struggle to match the realism of Hitch's issues. To look at it, it feels less like an event and more like filler. Certainly not carrying the weight that the events involved deserved. If they had been the art team from the beginning, things probably would've been different, with the story coming together as a coherent whole. But in it's current form, it's as though three series were meshed as one. Comic book publishers are becoming far too concerned with the scheduling of their series, meaning the end product gets rushed in a effort to meet a certain date. It's clearly taken Hitch several years to complete the first five issues, yet Peterson and Pacheco could've knocked this one out in the past month. It's a change of pace that's difficult to ignore.

Don't get me wrong though, I enjoyed this issue far more than the others, simply due to the increased plot progression. The heroes have felt remarkably static for the past five issues, not truly taking any action against their mechanical menace. The actions they do take here, while flawed and sure to end badly, at least they're up off their asses and doing something. The time for wallowing in self-pity is over, now it's time to kick some ass!

7 out of 10

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