Filed under: Exquisite Reviews, Uncategorized | Tags: Age of Ultron, Alasdair Stuart, Brandon Peterson, Brian Michael Bendis, Carlos Pacheco, Hank Pym, Jose Villarubia, Marvel, Paul Mounts, Roger Bonet, Sue Richards, Ultron, VC's Cory Petit, Wolverine
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils (Present) by Brandon Peterson
Art (Present) by Brandon Peterson
Colour Art (Past) by Paul Mounts
Pencils by Carlos Pacheco
Inks by Roger Bonet
Colour art by Jose Villarubia
Lettering by VC’s Cory Petit
Cover by Carlos Pacheco & Jose Villarubia
£2.85 (£1.99 with SuperCard Go!)
The first six pages of this issue gave me the fear. They’re near-silent, splash heavy and deal with the aftermath of the Morgana Le Fey/Lokibot assault from the last couple of issues. What terrified me was they gave every impression of yet more of the glacial, decompressed pacing that’s frustrated me since the book began. Even worse, this is the penultimate issue of the series. With two parts to go, grandstanding, especially in a present we met two issues ago, feels suspiciously like filler.
Then, two things happen and the first is so subtle I missed it on the first read through. Wolverine, of course, survives the devastation but has all the flesh from his left knee down burnt off. He screams in pain and…then its five days later and, it’s implied, he’s only just healed. There have been rumours for a while now that his travels through time will have a serious effect on him and this may be the first indication of that. It’s a tiny, arguably too subtle, beat but it’s an interesting one nonetheless.
What follows is better, with what’s left of Tony Stark dropping two bombshells in quick succession. The first is that he’s figured out that it’s not just the murder of Hank Pym that’s caused this hideous present but damage to time itself, caused every time people travel through it. The second is that Tony, who let’s face it has had nothing to do for five days but slowly bleed to death, has figured out that time is an organism, one connected to every living thing. Too much travel through it, too many wounds inflicted and time will die. He begs Wolverine not to go back and correct his mistake, again, but of course it has no effect. This feels like a vitally important scene not just for the rest of the series but the Marvel universe as a whole. Something fundamental may be about to change and the only person that’s worked it out is the dying remains of Tony Stark in a dystopian, walled off timeline. It’s a really gutsy plot, throwing this in right at the end of the story and only time will tell whether this really is as important as it seems to be.
Then, of course, we’re back in the past, at the Wolverine/Pym fight. The sight of James Logan debating temporal theory with himself is entertaining all by itself (And who is Charlene Baumgartner? And where was Logan in 1928?) but what makes this scene is the contrasting rhythms of the three characters in it. The two Logans are dutiful, solemn, stolid figures who realize they’ve screwed up so badly they may not be able to fix it. In contrast, Pym is, as ever, obsessed with the idea of Ultron. One of the most brilliant minds of the Marvel universe, he’s completely unfettered by moral concerns whilst still remaining tremendously idealistic. He’s Robert Oppenheimer, a man entranced by his own idea without any of Reed Richards’ morality or Tony Stark’s exuberance.
It’s the burden that he’s put under here, and the effect it has on established continuity that’s fascinating. The idea of Pym knowing about these events for years is horrifying and provides context for his decades of erratic behaviour. Bendis provides context but not justification, a vital choice given Pym’s history of domestic abuse. Instead he shows us a brilliant, brittle, amoral man who craves recognition being given the most important job in history to do, knowing full well that he’ll never be recognized for it. That’s a heroic weight to bear for anybody. It also changes the tone of the final issue completely, with the big question no longer ‘Can the future be saved?’ but ‘Will Pym hold it together enough to save it?’
With that cloud hanging over them, Logan & Logan (Surely the name of the most violent solicitor’s firm in history) and Sue Richards return to the Savage Land where, one last time, Wolverine does what needs to be done. For all its weird pacing and empty spectacle, Age of Ultron has excelled at quiet little moments between two characters and this is one of the best. The Wolverine who saw the Starkguard future’s simple reason for wanting to be the one who dies (‘We don’t wanna live with it.’) is only topped by the surviving Wolverine’s pragmatic, flat ‘This is going to haunt me.’ Again, Bendis takes a character where every single wrinkle looked to have been exploited years ago and finds something new. Wolverine’s mistake is so vast it may not be correctable and even if it is, the memory of murdering his other self will be with him for the rest of his life. Nothing’s easy, nothing’s certain but it has to be done anyway.
The book closes with a return to the left-handed splash pages of earlier issues. It’s a neat, pulpy image but it’s not an emotional climax. That comes in the final scene between the two Wolverines and the quiet admission of just how bad things have got and it’s that that will stay with you all the way to the final issue.
Age of Ultron has shifted gear and focus so many times in nine issues it’s difficult not to feel dizzy. The pace has never been consistent, the book’s profound love of dialogue-free splash pages got old back in act one and at times the gears have audibly creaked. That being said, the final issue looks set to be much more interesting than it initially appeared to be. The Age of Ultron is drawing to a close, and, thankfully, it looks like it might finish as strongly as it began.
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