Event comics seemingly have two purposes. They need to tell a compelling story using lots of signature company characters and make sure the narrative universe where the event takes place is somehow changed. For example, at the end of Secret Invasion, Norman Osborne was thrust into a role of power over the heroes of the Marvel Universe, House of M saw “no more mutants,” and Fear Itself saw the exit of Bucky Barnes as Captain America. With the conclusion of Brain Michael Bendis’ long awaited event saga, Age of Ultron, Bendis succeeds in fundamentally altering the Marvel Universe and building an interesting roadmap for the future. Unfortunately, at most times, he did not tell a compelling enough story to justify ten issues of a very thin plot.Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy are two of the best books Marvel publishes. The writer’s X-Men titles are going in bold and daring directions, while Powers: Bureau continues to be an unpredictable delight. So there is no Bendis hate here…but Age of Ultron was a story that seemingly could have been told in four issues. It was a decompressed mess, full of characters that seemingly had no purpose other than to endure as much dystopian angst as possible. With a few laudable exceptions, the book never took time to catch its breath or to really show the ramifications of a world gone mad through the eyes of characters so familiar and beloved.Ultron is one of the most popular Avengers villains, and Bendis did an awesome job setting this event up, both in his final year or so on Avengers and in the much-missed Moon Knight, but for all the set-up, there was a great deal of talk about Ultron and very little actual Ultron. There were a few drones in the early issue, the early weird Dalek/minivac hybrid, and Ultron himself in the final battle with the present day Avengers. But for a titular robot, Ultron sure spent a great deal of time off-panel.Yes, the world of Age of Ultron was devastated; we know that because every other page of the first three issues was full page panels detailing devastated cityscapes. Bendis’ best work is when he meditates on character, motivation, and conflict. Every moment of Bryan Hitch-drawn rubble takes away from Bendis’ strengths. Yes, Hitch can draw some impressive devastation…every panel was awesome to behold. But for $3.99 a pop, there is need for more story and less “WOW, LOOK, RUBBLE!”Moving on from there, familiar Marvel characters enter and exit the narrative without real purpose. Where was Captain America after he finally stood up from the fetal position? What were the ramifications of Luke Cage’s sacrifice? Where the heck did Moon Knight and Black Widow bugger off to? They seemed to be pivotal to the story but were given the narrative brush-off. All these things could have made compelling story beats, but as soon as they were experienced the book moved on to a Terminator riff, as Wolverine and Sue Storm travel back in time to kill Henry Pym before he can create Ultron.The issues focusing on Logan and Sue’s temporal mission were the highlight of the series. Wolverine was cast as the one hero that would do what was necessary to save the future (“If I kill Pym, no more RUBBLE!”). If the series just started with this quest, it would have been stronger, because most of the stuff before it was just filler designed to get as many Marvel characters in torn uniforms on-panel as possible. The pairing with Sue was effectively executed, as she acted as Logan’s conscience. The moments with the two very different Marvel icons were the diamond in the mishmash of ideas that was Age of Ultron.Things did not get any clearer once Logan did the deed and snikt-ed Pym. Y’see, Pym was an important balance point and without him the Earth didn’t have enough technology to hold off an invasion from Arthurian sorceress and Avengers baddie, Morgan le Fay. At least we are told that’s what happens…we don’t actually get to see it, nor are we told who Morgan le Fay is or what she can do. Yes, she is an established Marvel villain, but we are not talking Loki or Dr. Doom here. It’s just another ingredient of a stew pot of continuity porn held loosely together by engaging Bendis dialogue and willpower. Sue and Logan realize they screwed up and now live in another rubble-strewn world caused by magic instead of technology and travel back in time to prevent Logan from killing Pym.Now the pair are armed with a virus that Pym can put into Ultron’s coding upon its creation which can be activated during the pivotal battle with the Avengers that will cause all the future rubble. That sounds like a really good plan, and the heroes seem like stumbling idiots for not using it the first time instead of gutting poor old Hank Pym. Ten issues culminate in a ten page fight with Ultron, where the modern day Avengers must take on Ultron with the fate of the world at stake. No mention of Morgan le Fay as she seemingly has joined Moon Knight and Black Widow on the island of Can’t Be Bothered. Ten issues, a bunch of crossovers, and forty dollars spent culminate in Pym activating his virus into Ultron and Thor braining the villain with a well-placed Mjolnir blow. Thanks for coming, see you in Infinity.Where Bendis did succeed, despite his quagmire of a plot, was to build interest in what happens next. Something readers have not experienced yet is when the events of a Marvel crossover trigger ramifications in other universes. It seems Sue and Logan broke time to go back the last time to prevent Pym’s death. Ultron was defeated, but the shockwaves of their time meddling reached other alternate realities. The book features a shock ending regarding Miles Morales and the Ultimate Universe, one I cannot wait to read, and it also brought about the arrival of Neil Gaiman’s Angela to the Marvel Universe. Now, if Marvel did not already announce the acquisition of Angela, this would have been a reveal for the ages, but clearly, Bendis did not know readers would know Angela was coming when he wrote the final page of Age of Ultron, and he, along with Joe Quesada, crafted a great reveal that would have blown reader’s minds.So the journey was a mess of characters, continuity, and a noticeable lack of Ultron, but the destination was an intriguing place to end. Age of Ultron leaves the Marvel Universe, (particularly Hank Pym, the Ultimate Universe characters, and the Guardians of the Galaxy) in a place ripe with future story potential. Let’s just hope that potential reaches higher than the Age of Ultron did.
Story: 5/10Art: 6/10 (except for all the one page guess spots in issue 10 that all kicked butt)Overall: 5/10
Age of Ultron #10
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Bryan Hitch, Carlos Pacheco, Alex Maleev, Paul Neary, Butch Guice, Brandon Peterson, Roger Bonet w/ Tom Palmer, David Marquez, Joe Quesada
Color Artists: Paul Mounts & Richard Isanove