First Impressions – AGE OF ULTRON #1

Age-Of-Ultron-No-01-cover

In a potential future or very real new present (not sure which), long-time Avengers villain Ultron reigns supreme. AGE OF ULTRON #1 begins what will most likely be Marvel’s next huge, overblown crossover event. How did the evil automaton gain mastery of the Earth? And what remains of the Avengers who would fight him? Is there any hope when even the Earth’s mightiest heroes are forced to hide like rats?

And most importantly, do I even care?

The answer to the last one is probably no, but I’ll do my best anyway. Seriously, I do not have the patience or the energy for another crossover event so soon after the last one.

For those (like myself until I googled it) who don’t know, Ultron is an old, old Avengers villains first appearing in the Silver Age. It is a powerful robot created by Hank Pym whose greatest desire is to kill everyone and take over the world. Every time it fell to the Avengers, something or someone rebuilds it (usually from Adamantium just to pour salt in the wounds), and refuses to just die.

In this way Ultron is kind of like both Amazo and the Cyborg Superman from the DC universe, except has only nominal ability to replicate superhero powers and no ultimate desire to kill itself.

Apparently he’s been built up as some incredible threat, as more recently Tony Stark gave ominous warnings about it if Ultron ever returned. I don’t know so much about that. Aside from those bits, that’s everything I know about Ultron from taking five minutes to read Wikipedia. Not that AGE OF ULTRON #1 bothers to get any new readers up to speed, since we begin in medias res.

We see New York city blow to hell and dominated by a floating mass of technology that blots out the sky. Hawkeye stalks the streets until he finds a hidden batch of human thugs lead by minor villain Hammerhead and his erstwhile partner The Owl. Hawkeye’s mission: save the captured Spiderman from the clutches of the gang.

It all goes swimmingly enough, that is until Ultron drones show up and nuke the place, in spite of the Owl’s protests that they and Ultron have a deal. You know, giving Avengers to the robotic overlord in return for being able to run about freely. Too bad Ultron apparently doesn’t negotiate with squishy humans anymore.

Or something, we’re given little direct information and thus must infer extensively.

And all throughout this business I have the greatest feeling I’ve seen all this before. Turns out, I had, quite a while ago in fact. Way back in 2011, Marvel released the Marvel Point One Special (best summarized in this review by the Last Angry Geek), which contained short previews for future storylines. A number of these have already happened by now, and the last of them took pages directly from AGE OF ULTRON. This of course means Marvel was planning it at least a year and a half in advance, which is not that strange all things considered.

Although this does make me seriously question one aspect of the story thus far: is the Spiderman depicted here Peter Parker? Or is it Otto Octavius in Peter’s body? The comic itself doesn’t say, although he certainly doesn’t act like Doc Ock acting like Peter. The previously linked Wikipedia article on Ultron referred to his as the Superior Spiderman, but I simply cannot take that as true given how long this story was in development. Plus, I doubt it’d be helpful to readers, especially way down the line, to have the added element of Ottoman to the doubtlessly complex narrative of AGE OF ULTRON.

I did like the bits with Hawkeye kicking ass, even though the people he’s fighting don’t factor into the overall narrative aside from setting up that the world has gone to crap. And we could see that perfectly fine just looking up.

The art was nice, although a few of the character expressions made me wince, like She-Hulk’s face when she’s grappling with Spiderman. The environments are gorgeous and detailed, showing the desolation mixed with advancing Ultron science. The book starts off with a beautiful set of city pans. There was a brief sequence where the environment shakes like with an Earthquake (in actuality a sonic attack), that very neatly conveys the effect of heavy vibration.

Then again, it was kind of hard to look at because it achieves the effect by making it look like an anaglyph 3D comic, just without the red and blue.

So if I’m not going to sit around for yet another crossover event, why did I even bother buying AGE OF ULTRON #1? Mostly I was sold on the holofoil cover. One of the better comic gimmicks from the early nineties, holofoil covers since fell out of popularity, to the point where you couldn’t ever find a comic with the shiny effect. But since Invincible #100 brought the thing back, more publishers started dusting it off and giving it a whirl again. Personally I’m fine with them, so long as they are used in moderation. And if there’s anything a good cover gimmick is appropriate for, it’s on an event comic.

I’ll even be putting a bag and board on my copy, although that’s more because I already had a set available.

Just because I’m stopping here doesn’t mean you ought to. I liked AGE OF ULTRON #1 just fine, for what it is. Not enough to spend the money reading all of it, but enough to recommend it to people with a greater taste for classic Avengers action. The book has the atmosphere of desperation and dejected hopelessness, with many of the proud heroes resigned to destruction. As such, more of the intrigue will follow seeing how the world came such a state, and how hope can be restored.

And heaven knows it’s a breath of post-apocalyptic fresh air to see a superhero event comic where the heroes fight actual villains. Instead of each other, a state that characterized basically every Marvel event from the last five years.

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