Age of Ultron #1 Review
By: Rob Gruszecki
New York has been decimated. A once proud city is now nothing but smouldering rubble and a mere shadow of what it once was. The statue of Liberty barely stands, limbless and defeated, heralding the genocidal destruction of its home. With every structure across the mass of land razed and in demolished stacks, the desolate remains lay hollow at the foot of a new age. Above the ruins of the crushed species hovers its successor, created from one of the Earth’s most brilliant minds. An artificial intelligence birthed from the brain of Hank Pym (Ant-Man/Yellowjacket/Giant-Man) has returned to our planet and is responsible for its violent submission and subsequent demise.
Submit or Perish
The first major event of the Marvel Now line of comics is upon us and it begins with a very bleak opening chapter. We are first given a glimpse of the current state of New York city after a very simple and clear description of its situation. “Hank Pym and the Avengers created the artificial intelligence known as Ultron. It hates humanity… And it has returned…” A perfect introduction to a book that so far runs parallel to current continuity in that these events have yet had an affect on all other Avengers or X-men titles. Aside from a few A.U. Tie ins in current Marvel Now books the status quo in this series takes place in an alternative time (that I’m sure will be explained) as we bear witness to an Earth that is fully under the thrawl of Ultron much like the Rotworld over in DC comics that just wrapped up or the Dimension Z where Captain America currently finds himself in his solo Marvel Now title. Later on in the series the story will of course flesh itself out more and manage to bear more relevance or consequence to the rest of their line but I personally hope that this runs like an elseworld story where the creative team can just tell an Avengers tale free from confusing and tedious impact in the 616 much like the recent Spider-Men or Daredevil: End of Days (both also by Brian Michael Bendis).
Scripting this behemoth of an event is the current reigning champion of content production over in the Marvel camp, Brian Michael Bendis. Alongside his bi-monthly Uncanny X-Men & All New X-Men, his take on the death of Daredevil in the aforementioned End of Days, his creator-owned Scarlet, Powers, Brilliant and of course his continuing run on Ultimate Spider-Man, Bendis takes on another task of writing a major event that is shipping as many as thrice monthly. The writer has never shied away from the responsibilities and the workload all of these tasks would require, managing to continue producing quality comics without sacrificing substance and enjoyable material. Now that being said the content in the first installment of Age of Ultron is very base as I described in the introduction and ultimately is a story without a particularly complex concept (so far) but it in no way is a crutch to the product. With A.U I expected a high adventure Avengers story and it was delivered precisely as advertised. Obviously in the decompression era of comics it means that it will be delivered over ten core issues, eight tie-ins and a core epilogue instead of a more concise format but obviously those days are long behind us. Later down the line as the story takes shape there will be far more extrapolation and expansion but as it stands in issue one we get a very straight forward action comic. Bendis can always be trusted to deliver incredibly entertaining books and in Age of Ultron issue one he absolutely wrote just that.
Brian Hitch (America’s Got Powers, The Ultimates) is responsible for pencils in this and the next four issues of the core series and his work is absolutely spectacular. The amount of time and detail put into just the first four pages, delivered in two page splash panoramic views of New York during the Ultron occupation, is truly amazing work. Not a single panel, environment, object or character design seems the remotest bit rushed and his work on interiors are some of the best work I have seen on an event book in the past few years. The urgency in character’s faces while trapped in this nightmare reality where Ultron has taken over is done with clarity and expertise. Most of the twenty-nine pages of story are full pages or double page spreads where Hitch is left completely unfettered by word balloons, which is very surprising simply because of the fact that if there was a single writer in comics I would have least expected to take it easy on word balloons it would be Bendis, and Hitch’s brilliance shines telling just as much story as any amount of exposition would have.
Without spoiling the last page for any reader (who would be doing themselves a favour by picking up the first installment and the subsequent issues) I will say that the image captured by Hitch in a full page is one of the most devastating pages I’ve seen in comics. The absolute hopelessness drawn to end the book is emotionally battering and conveys so much feeling and drama that I would have never expected out of the first issue of a super-hero event comic. It is honestly a page perfectly executed.
Age of Ultron issue number one by Brian Michael Bendis and Brian Hitch is the first big superhero event of 2013 and with an immediately interesting plot and tremendous work artistically you can be sure that this will be one of the more notable books of the year.
Rob Gruszecki is a writer, musician and Wednesday warrior
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