An Avengers: Age Of Ultron primer

Feature James Hunt 22 Jul 2013 - 09:30

Ultron. Who is he? What is he? Where does he come from? James delves into the history behind the Avengers: Age Of Ultron title...

Warning: this article contains spoilers for the Age Of Ultron comics.

At SDCC this weekend, Marvel Studios announced the title of 2015's Avengers sequel, and in doing so upended what people thought they knew about the film. The sequel will be called Avengers: Age Of Ultron, and with that title, it's a safe bet that the villain isn't going to be Thanos the galactic warlord, as virtually everyone expected, but Ultron, the genocidal AI with daddy issues.

It now seems as though the appearance of Thanos during the end credits of last year's Avengers movie wasn't a tease for the Avengers sequel - rather it was more of a lead-in to Guardians Of The Galaxy. It's possible that Thanos may return in Avengers 2, or even Avengers 3 – but while we can only speculate about that, it's less likely now than it was last week.

But there is one character we now can expect to see in the Avengers sequel, and that's Ultron himself. A name familiar to any Avengers fan, Ultron is the creation of Henry Pym (aka Giant Man, aka the original Ant-Man). An artificial intelligence who, unfortunately, lacks the moral restraint and conscience of humans, wanting nothing more complex than to eradicate all biological life.

Ultron frequently finds himself in conflict with the Avengers and his 'father', Hank Pym, for whom he harbours a special grudge. However, he's able to improve himself after each defeat, making him historically difficult to kill. As well as constructing himself a body out of pure Adamantium, the character's plots have seen him accomplish such feats as slaughtering the entire European nation of Slorenia, and installing himself as the ruler of the techno-organic alien race, the Phalanx. As villains go, he's not exactly hands off. 

However, the Avengers sequel references one specific Ultron storyline: Age Of Ultron, an event comic that was published earlier this year. Indeed, it released its final issue mere weeks ago. Although the announcement of Ultron is a fan-pleaser, the reference to this storyline isn't quite so universally celebrated. To explain why, we'll need to discuss some plot points. If you're worried about spoilers, turn back now.

Age Of Ultron saw Ultron attacking Earth using the distant future as a staging ground. Marshalling his forces, Ultron was able to send back such overwhelming numbers of his robot troops that no hero had a chance of defeating him. With many of their number dead, a rogue group of Avengers attempts to defeat Ultron by erasing him from history, travelling back in time and planning to kill Henry Pym before he can create the first Ultron android. This screws up the timeline even more, prompting those Avengers to return to the past, stop themselves from killing Pym and instead convince him to insert a backdoor that'll allow them to shut Ultron down. This works, and Ultron is defeated before he can ever escape to the future.

As stories go, it's something of a mess, opening with two issues of characters standing around talking, and featuring a resolution that relies on an inconsistent and confusing take on time travel. But worse than that, despite the title, it barely even features Ultron. There's no climactic showdown between the Avengers and Ultron. They don't even get a chance to come face to face with him because he's hiding where they can't reach him. 

For this reason, it's likely that the title of the Avengers sequel isn't an indication that it'll adapt the story of the same name. Whatever you think of it as a comic, it's no insult to argue that its storyline doesn't easily translate into a movie. Title aside, we wouldn't be surprised to see that the story was almost completely unrelated.

But enough of what we probably won't see. What can we expect from an Avengers movie guest-starring Ultron?

Well, it's hard to do Ultron without using Hank Pym in some capacity. The fact that Marvel is making an Ant-Man movie can't be ignored at this point, given that Pym was the original Ant-Man, but it's unclear as yet whether he'll will feature at all in Edgar Wright's Ant-Man movie. Wright has, in the past, stated that the film will focus on Scott Lang (the second Ant-Man) and might only feature Pym as a supporting character. Even if that's the case, Pym and/or Lang could easily recur in Avengers 2 - maybe we'll get both Ant-Man and Giant Man! We think this weekend's news makes it more likely that we'll see Pym in the Ant-Man movie, and a near-certainty that he'll be in Avengers 2, whether super-powered or not.

Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel Studios, has scotched one train of thought, though: he's confirmed that Ultron will be introduced in Avengers 2 – so those of you who (like me) wondered if Ultron might first appear as the villain in Ant-Man before going onto bigger and better things, well, it looks like we're wrong. Unless, of course, Feige was lying… 

As for the story, as we've already said, we don't think that Age Of Ultron will prove a particularly suitable template for an Avengers movie, but here are a few Ultron stories that might get you started:

Avengers (Vol. 1) #54-58 & #66-68 – The first appearances of Ultron, revealing his origin and showing his first encounters with the Avengers. Sure to be a major influence on Avengers 2.

Avengers (Vol. 3) #19-22 – The Ultron Unlimited storyline in which he creates an army of duplicates and uses them to conquer an entire nation, coming closer than ever to victory.

Annihilation: Conquest Vols. 1 & 2 – A huge cosmic saga in which Ultron, exiled from Earth, assumes leadership of the Phalanx and engages in a war with the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Age Of Ultron #1-#10 – The storyline that shares the title of the new Avengers movie. Ultron conquers Earth prompting the Avengers to head back in time to stop him.

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Disqus - noscript

I did not see this coming at all. Will be really interesting to see where they take this as a story! Is it 2015 yet?

Please, I don't need another time travel film plot. "We've got to go back and stop him using this sketchy-at-best method of time travel. It's the only way!" Yeah, OK.

"Well, it's hard to do Ultron without using Hank Pym in some capacity."

Why? No, seriously, why? The Marvel Movie Universe has been very clear that they're going to take what they want from the comics and change things to suit the different requirements of films. The vast majority of the audience won't have a clue about the Pym/Ultron connection and we're not even sure which Ant Man that movie will star.

It's hardly a big leap to imagine Ultron as a Stark-inspired oopsie, especially with the teaser at Comic Con starting with an Iron Man helmet. Tony creates Ultron by accident to keep his promise to Pepper about staying out of the suit? Or if it's Age of Ultron why not keep the 'from the future' part and just have Ultron turn up without any real backstory / creation arc? Or... well, this could be the worlds longest paragraph so I'll just say there's a lot of options ;-)

I think it should be Stark who creates him or is at least involved in the creation of him in some way and then it all goes bad. They could possibly do something with Jarvis seeing as he's also an AI. It would also give a reason for Tony to get back in the suit seeing as he would be partly to blame.

Well, if Ant-Man is going to feature the second character to play the role, what's to say that Harry Pym won't be introduced in Avengers 2 as Ultron's creator, but then die before its end? That'd leave the road clear for Edgar Wright to do as he pleases.

I doubt they will use the time travel stuff given that Days Of Future Past already has one link with Avengers 2 (Quicksilver).

Hopefully it's just a title taken from the comic.

Doesn't Ultron create Vision? I think that's important.

Too right! But another important consideration is the wealth of characters in the comic book that Marvel have pimped out to other studios. Spiderman, Emma Frost, Wolverine, to name a few. No way are they going to sort out that contractual mess in two years.

As long as Thanos doesn't go the way of The Leader. As long as Marvel wasn't just The Leading us on. I skipped the part about the comic, but man, with the wealth of past comics, and the way IM3 turned out, it's hard to predict. My guess is hank helps Tony, in some capacity, create Ultron. Who will be voiced by vin diesel.

DoG seems unaware of the Avengers 2 dazzle reel at Comic-Con.

Nothing in it suggests Harry Pym or whatever his name is.

There is, however, another really big hint ... IRON MAN!

I'm not familiar with the Age of Ultron story, does Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver play a major role in it?

Fiege confirmed almost immediately after the announcement yesterday that the film's story won't be based on the Age of Ultron comic. Whedon's already confirmed that Ultron won't be related to Pym, who won't be in the film. So good reporting there guys.

Wow for real? That changes everything... Well I guess if folks don't panic about the one thing they'll just panic about the other. I'm cool with it myself. Maybe Pym makes Vision. If Tony made Ultron, it would fit this iteration of the characters a lot better. To the non comic book geek, casual movie goer.

I still have high hopes that when they do another Hulk film, The Leader will be the main villain.

I'm very pleased with this as Ultron is a villain who can take down the Avengers single-handedly. He's very different to Loki and it will be great to see what they do with him on the big screen.

Or one of 2, him and Red Hulk. And at the end banner's genius beats Red Hulk cuz Hulk is weaker... But then he turns back into Hulk and smashes the leader.

I'm thinking for the sake of the hollywood marvel-lite: Jarvis in a modified ironman suit infected with the phallanx or some other virus.

Kevin Fiege and Joss Whedon have already confirmed that they are not going to be using anything from the Age of Ultron story, the story is going to be a re-working of Ultron's origins. Joss just liked the title and felt it worked for his story (they've also said there won't be any Ant-Man either.)

I think this movie will prove once and for all that the MCU has a much better grasp of these characters than the comics have had for years. Age of Ultron was overblown, underwhelming dreck, just like most of Marvel's "events." I'm expecting Whedon, Downey and the rest to blow our minds. Again.

Ugh. Don't worry about it. NOBODY really played a major role in it, other than maybe Wolverine. I have no memory of Scarlet Witch or Quicksilver doing much of anything in the entire story.

I like that.

What is the point in naming your movie after a comic which is then NOT going to be followed. It's like making a Iron Man film without Iron Man in it!!!

Hope Marvel are not going to be lazy again as with IronMan 3. How long will people pay for such poor output. Just use a story that already has been written and is successful.

Well it's a good name, and from the sound of it, not a very good comic book. Maybe the avengers want to throw em a birthday party but they don't want to ruin the surprise so they don't ask anyone his...AGE. Do you really want a movie based on that?

Me too.

Right. Don't be "lazy" like with the original story for the fifth biggest movie of all time, which has one of the biggest twists ever in a summer blockbuster! Instead, use some half-baked old comic book story that is already written!


I'm just delighted that somebody decided that the title 'Age of Ultron' deserved to be linked to a story that, y'know, actually had Ultron in it!

It doesn't matter. The film will have absolutely nothing to do with the comic story.

I also heard that through Q&A as CCSD it was hinted quite regularly that Downey's Tony Stark is the one to blame for the creation of Ultron, a small change however I think it fits into the current string of movies.

I want a movie like that

Who doesn't, right?, who doesn't

It's gonna be good

Only maybe some extreme angry masturbator doesn't!

There are a lot of ways in which Tony Stark could have mistakenly created his biggest problem. Poetically appropriate for RDJ, too.


Tony Stark is already unequalled in superhero movies. I know there are DC fans that will argue that, and truly Iron Man stands alone vs those 2... But he doesn't. Not in the Avengers movies. They are instantly cooler by association. And Cap 2! Can't wait

Captain America 2 is the true lead-in to Avengers 2. Not Thor 2 or Iron Man 3.

No question that Tony Stark/Iron Man is the coolest superhero. Superman is some important things, but he's not cool. Batman is cool, but very, you know, "into darkness." (God, what an awful title for the new Star Trek movie.)

BTW, I think Don Cheadle has really gotten better as Rhodey. Actually, he was good by the end of Iron Man 2. Just a little stiff for a lot of the movie.

Maybe a combination of cap 2 and guardians, earth and space.

Ha!! Into darkness! I could just see the korn, slipknot kids from high school when I read that. Yes, Batman is their Iron Man, but in the comics cap is Tony's polar opposite, which he is in the movies, but has a commanding presence, which may be rectified in the movies. Too many heroes? Perish the thought! They can make him less hokey. The winter soldier will fix that, hopefully. More leadery. Him ordering the cops around is one of my favorite parts.

And Cheadle got it RIGHT.

Actually, I may have seen Kevin Feige saying that about Cap 2 as the lead-in to Avengers 2 somewhere.

I like Chris Evans as Cap, which I wasn't sure I would after seeing him in Fantastic Four.

First movie I remember him in was not another teen movie, and he was hilarious. Fantastic four was just dumb.

Fantastic Four was a big disappointment.

Red Hulk is weak! Hulk is the strongest there is!!!!!!!

Good point

I was thinking the same thing and just reading down the comments to see if anyones else had the same thought. Isn't much of jump if you look at the pictures above to think Stark developed a new suit with AI that goes mental

Just rewatched NATM the other day. Evans' take on Freddie Prinze Jnr was excellent.

Dude yes. "You're both on"

The last good parody. Sigh. Onara. Good parodies.

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