21 Jun 2013

Cover To Cover: AGE OF ULTRON #10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Various
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Part of me wonders how I manage to get sucked into buying these event series, as they often pander relentlessly to the lowest common denominator, all carnage and thinly realised characters, the comics equivalent of junk food.  But then there’s another part of me, a potentially larger one,  that implicitly understands the appeal of high concept superhero stories played out on an epic scale, icons boiled down to their purest essence to generate the kind of thrills that remind you why you love the genre. That’s the angle I came at Age Of Ultron from, and for a while there it delivered, managing to craft some semblance of an engaging story, but as we hit this finale all that good faith that’s been built up disappears as we’re given a depressingly cynical damp squib of an ending.

For a book that afforded him a place in the title, there’s been very little Ultron in the series, and his extended appearance here simply comes across as a shallow rerun of countless other battles he’s been involved in, essentially providing padding until it becomes clear what this concluding issue is really all about: launching a number of ultimately pointless new series, and bridging the gap between the Marvel 616 Universe and the Ultimate Universe. Yes, various plot threads are ‘wrapped up’ (if that’s what you want to call it) but mostly in a perfunctory manner without much digging into the ethical questions raised over the last few instalments (a spin on the age old “Would you travel back in time and kill Hitler as a baby?” conundrum?). There are also the plot threads that aren’t even offered an attempt at resolution, primarily the one related to all those characters we followed in the first few chapters who went off into the future and were then promptly forgotten about. Yeah, so there was some meddling with the timeline after that point, essentially rewriting the future, but it did feel like a bit of cheat, like we were pretty much being led up the garden path.

Let’s get to the crux of this finale though, the reason it came polybagged, even though the surprise reveal was spoiled ages ago, to the point where I can’t imagine anyone with a passing interest in the Marvel Universe hasn’t got wind of it. If you’re really clueless and especially resistant to spoilers you probably want to stop reading right now, because this is really big news:

Angela has joined the Marvel Universe!

If, like me, you were made aware of this revelation when it got leaked a while ago at simply thought, “Who?” then rest assured that even though that’s not the intended reaction, it’s probably the more natural one. A character that first appeared in Spawn crosses over from one publisher to another (following a legal battle between Todd MacFarlane and Angela creator, Neil Gaiman), and the overriding question that springs to mind is, “Who cares?!”. I’m sure there are some Spawn fans out there still but was anyone really excited by this news? I mean, really?!? So Marvel are attempting to make this character IMPORTANT to help pave the way for Gaiman’s return to the publisher in a writing capacity, and all I can think of is the mysterious Pandora introduced during the launch of DC’s New 52. And look what happened there!

So Age Of Ultron started as one thing and ended up as something else, something that not only exhibited some of Marvel’s worst traits as place where business comes first, creativity second, but also demonstrated how it appears that while Bendis often comes up with some fanastic story ideas, the further into the plotting he gets, the more riddled with holes the narrative becomes. I can’t quite say the journey was worth the destination, as the destination is pretty poor, but there has been some good stuff along the way – some great stuff, even – and the art, while inconsistent at times, has been generally impressive (some ropey covers aside) although again, this finale is a case of too many cooks, including several pages that have previously been printed elsewhere!

A let down then, all told, and you may think I’ll have learnt my lesson, that this is the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as event books are concerned. You’d be wrong though, I don’t think I’ll ever learn, because although the hit rate may not be anywhere near as high as it should be for event books, there are those rare occasions where everything comes together in such a brilliantly exhilarating way that it makes wading through all the misses worthwhile. Age Of Ultron was most definitely not one of those occasions though. 4/10

1 comment:

Badger said...

Holy Crap Cakes Batman,I find myself whole heartedly agreeing with Matt here on this one folks.
Age of Ultron has not in any way lived up to the hype,and issue #10's ending is just one big cow turd [again],and just another excuse for more comics about universes crossing over [again],been there done that so many times before,in fact I'm finding myself getting more and more bored with the way superhero comics are going these days,it always seems to me to be the same old story lines just done at a different angle from time to time,will we ever get anything really fresh and mind blowing,I'm not holding my breath on that one.
Marvel and DC it would seem are no longer the company's I grew up with in the 70's,and yes I no things need to change and move on,but I loved the 70's comics so much and I suppose that's why I'm amassing the biggest collection of 70's comics I can on my budget and where as I used to not care about who wrote or drew the comics I read as I get older I find my tastes changing so that's why I think it's time I took a closer look at what Image are doing.
Great review Matt,happy reading.