Thursday, 20 June 2013

Review: Age of Ultron #10

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev, Bryan Hitch, Butch Guice, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco, David Marquez, Joe Quesada and others
Published by Marvel Comics

With Wolverine's plot to assassinate Hank Pym averted, the Marvel Universe is allowed to unfold unaltered. Unfortunately, there's still the matter of a killer robot to deal with and the consequences of abusing the timeline. In saving his own world, has Wolverine damned others?

I'd like to say this was a triumphant conclusion to both the Age of Ultron and Brian Michael Bendis' time with the Avengers, but I can't. At least not in good conscience. As sad as it is to report, the man who turned around the entire franchise with his New Avengers relaunch back in 2004, has turned in one of the worst event comics of all-time. Remember how jumbled, confusing and unsatisfying Grant Morrison's Final Crisis was? Well it's got nothing on Age of Ultron, which is lazily plotted, disappointingly resolved, schizophrenically-drawn and far more concerned with what comes next than what's happening in the present.

The issue opens with a brief sequence of Heroic Age Hank Pym working in his lab, being gifted with the knowledge to avert the Age of Ultron, literally delivered to his doorstep. Apparently, he'd developed the relevant programs to put down Ultron years earlier, during Wolverine and Sue Storm's visit, but had the information wiped from his memory so to allow the Marvel Universe to develop undisturbed. It's a wonderfully drawn sequence by Alex Maleev, who could draw two people sharing a cup of coffee and it'd hold my attention. However, it's hard to escape the fact he's had the story's Deus Ex Machina placed in his hands, ready for use. It robs the entire event of all tension and may as well have been a big red button reading "ULTRON ON/OFF SWITCH".

Sufficed to say, there's a prolonged fight scene between the Avengers and the reawakened Ultron, but knowing Pym has the answer stashed in his back pocket, I spent the majority of the issue screaming "GET ON WITH IT!". Bendis tries his best to make us believe that the virus won't work and Ultron will still end up taking over the Earth, but at issue 10 of a series, who is he trying to fool. Pym uploads the virus in the nick of time and the robot falls out of the sky like a tin can. This scene can only be described as going through the motions. Certain things are expected of an event finale and a giant battle is one of them. Taking down Ultron was a foregone conclusion, but the structure of comic books dictated we needed a few extra pages of Thor swinging his hammer to go home happy. If I had to guess, even Bendis himself was disinterested by this point of the story and wanted to move on to juicier subjects i.e. the cliffhangers.

With Ultron defeated and the world saved, Wolverine and Sue Storm are back in the present day, patting each other on the back for a job well done. Or at least they thought it well done. Just when it couldn't get worse, the entire time space continuum shatters panel by panel, causing everyone to convulse in pain. Despite time travel being a long-time trope of superhero comics, this was one time too many. Wolverine's abuse of the timeline has sent tears careening through the Multiverse, even being felt as far away as the Ultimate Universe (who now have 616 Galactus to deal with!). This was clearly Bendis' endgame for the series (and several others if All-New X-Men is anything to go by) and he couldn't get there fast enough. I'm all for wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey shenanigans (I'm a fan of Doctor Who after all), but I'll be damned if these hiccups have any rhyme or reason. It's far more akin to the writer throwing all his toys in the air and seeing where they land. Especially, the bizzare random addition to the Marvel Universe on the final page.

While time travel stories can be a lot of fun when done right, when done poorly they can be utterly disastrous. This genre is a double-edged sword and Bendis' Age of Ultron came down on the wrong side. No real lesson has been learned, no characters can remember it, hell, besides a few upcoming crossovers between realities, this may as well have never happened. That is the biggest sin a time travel story can ever commit - making the journey utterly pointless.

3 out of 10

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