Age of Ultron #10 A.I.
As I didn’t get around to doing comic book reviews last week (give me a break, I’m a busy man and I’m getting married in three months) so I’m going to use this space to review the conclusion to Age of Ultron as well as its epilogue, A.I., which debuted this week.
So… Age of Ultron. I now understand why people hate Marvel events so much… because they’re long and stupid and cost you $39.90 plus tax. Age of Ultron could have accomplished what it set out to accomplish in three issues but that wouldn’t have made as much money, so they dragged out what is actually a pretty simple story for three times as long as was needed. It also barely has anything to do with Ultron, who’s really only a presence in the first four issues or so before disappearing until the very end. I mean, yeah, he’s the linchpin of the narrative but the event isn’t really about him, it’s about how time travel is fucking up the Marvel universe.
This story had very clear cut beats it needed to hit: Ultron conquers and devastates the planet. Wolverine and Sue Storm go back in time and kill Hank Pym. This creates a worse alternate timeline. Wolverine and Sue Storm fix it. Ultron is defeated before he can take over the world. The timelines fracture.
If that’s all you need to tell the audience, then don’t drag it out. Why spend so much time with the surviving Avengers trying to scrape by in an Ultron-controlled post-apocalypse? Sure, it was cool to see Moon Knight and Black Widow as these badass soldiers but it didn’t matter, it didn’t mean anything. And why devote two issues to, what I’m told by Marvel aficionados is an extremely minor character (Morgana La Fey) when all you needed to get from that beat was that killing Hank Pym didn’t work and that if Wolverine keeps fuxin’ with da timeline it will totes break.
Because at the end of the day, I actually kinda liked the outcome. The scathing cynics at my local comic shop roll their ideas at the idea of Galactus invading the Ultimate Universe and Angela joining the ranks of Marvel, but I thought it was pretty cool. Marvel is actually following through on their promise that Age of Ultron will irrevocably alter the Marvel U and I’m really drawn to the idea of the various timelines and universes bleeding together.
But the guy at the comic book shop told me I was “over-thinking it.” You see, I think Marvel may be attempting to slowly copy DC and reboot their own universe, perhaps replacing Peter Parker permanently with Miles Morales and simplifying everything. But… nah… the cynical comic book guy is right. Speaking of which, that guy realizes he’s kinda like, being that Simpsons stereotype, right? Are you required to act like that if you work at a comic book shop?
Anyway, I think he’s probably right because Marvel are weird assholes. It may have been shallow, but DC’s New 52 reboot was actually a pretty gutsy move that I think they deserve respect for. There was such a huge potential for fan backlash there that no one really knew if it would pay off… but it did… it did. But Marvel doesn’t really take risks, and that’s immediately apparent in Age of Ultron. Sure, the universes are bleeding together, but does that really mean anything? Or is it just another cheap marketing gimmick? It’s hard not to get cynical about the publisher when they’re already gearing up for ANOTHER event in a scant THREE MONTHS, which is itself basically just a marketing tool for Avengers 2 (Thanos, Thanos, Thanos).
Still, the shot of the universes exploding into shards of glass that flew out at the reader was pretty sweet, and the inner geek in me can’t resist the idea that maybe, just maybe, there might start to be more cohesiveness in the Marvel U. Miles Morales vs. Galactus? I be down with dat. But if I had to give Age of Ultron #10 a score, it would probably be a straight 6.0.
Age of Ultron #10 A.I. however, is another story. After only a few pages I was struck by the writing and Hank Pym’s inner voice. “This doesn’t sound like shitty-ass Brian Bendis,” I thought. And that’s because it’s not. It’s Mark Waid, one of my favorite comic writers. Waid is a master of inner monologue narration, something that often turns me off from superhero comics, and whether he’s writing for Daredevil, the Hulk or even Green Hornet, each character always has a distinctive voice yet sounds totally Mark Waid.
This epilogue almost felt like an introduction to the character of Hank Pym for the uninitiated like me. I know he’s Ant-Man and a scientist, but outside of that I didn’t have much of a grasp on who he is as a person and that made it hard to really care what happened to him in the actual Age of Ultron event. Apparently Pym hasn’t been particularly relevant in the Marvel U recently, so this event and epilogue, which also acts as a prologue to the upcoming Avengers A.I. series, seeks to change that. It was a really nice, self-contained story, not amazing, but with a good emotional punch and enough characterization to keep the reader engaged. The only thing that bugged me about it is that it ends with Pym seemingly creating another artificial intelligence inside a Doctor Doom helmet (like Morgana La Fey’s Doombots, I guess?). Did he learn NOTHING?? Maybe the world would have been better off had Wolverine just killed the guy. Ah, hubris…
Jupiter’s Legacy #2
IGN complained in their review that they wish Mark Millar would stray away from the superhero genre in his creator-owned books. Since I’m not that familiar with the writer outside of his reputation and the film adaptation of Kick-Ass, it isn’t really bothering me that that’s the angle he’s decided to take with Jupiter’s Legacy. I said in my review of the first issue that this reads like Watchmen for the 21st Century and while that may sound kinda shallow in concept, it’s a story I think comics really need right now. Millar makes the premise his own, and of course makes the issues our heroes face extremely topical: the haggard world economy, social media, the cult of celebrity. Again, it may sound contrived, but somehow Millar makes it work.
Still, the issue isn’t without its flaws. I love all the world building Millar’s doing but I think this is a story that’s actually moving a bit too fast. We’ve barely met Walter, the Utopian, Brandon and Chloe, and already Brandon is plotting against his own father. I think we needed a little more time to get to know these people before they started to turn against one another, especially as we’re introduced to Chloe’s lover, a supposed super villain, for the first time this issue. There’s a lot of story packed in here and sometimes it seems a bit overstuffed. But there’s a lot to love and the central conflict is a great one.
Millar is asking the question, if DC hero-esque demigods did inhabit our world, how would they attempt to save it? In most superhero comics the heroes operate outside the law but generally avoid being embroiled in human politics. Superman doesn’t go to the president and tell him how to do his job, he merely protects Earth from threats its governments cannot handle. In Jupiter’s Legacy we have two super-powerful men with completely different ideologies. Walter sees the world slipping into the same pitfalls it did back when he first became a hero during the Great Depression and wants to intervene. He’s been blessed with super intelligence and feels it’s a waste to not put it to good use. Humanity is doomed to repeat the same mistakes in his eyes, and he wants to help. On the other side of the coin is the Utopian, this world’s Superman, who like Clark Kent feels intervention is immoral. If superheroes use their powers to change the world on a societal level, then they’re essentially robbing mankind of their free will, which is wrong. But is complete and under anarchy and global collapse really any better? It’s the age old freedom vs. totalitarian-safety that has become ever so prevalent in our post-9/11 pop culture world (and post-Snowden world, too).
That core idea really draws me in, as does the concept of drunk, drug-abusing 20-somethings with superpowers who are more of a danger to society than they are a boon. It would be nice to get a little bit more in depth with our main players and to get some flashbacks to just what went down on that mysterious island, but for now I’m confident Millar knows what he’s doing.
Justice League of America #5
So, Catwoman didn’t die. SURPRISE!!!! I mean really, I don’t think any of us actually thought she was dead. That would have been awesome, but this is a superhero comic and they don’t usually roll that way. So initially while reading this issue I was a little annoyed and disappointed, but there was enough crazy action and cryptic allusions to next month’s Trinity War event to keep me engaged. Who is the Secret Society’s main bad guy? Something prevents Martian Manhunter from reading his thoughts, but the pale-faced baddie does make a reference to the Joker, and he is dressed in a purple suit… and then in the final panels we realize he’s not even at the top; the Society has an even more mysterious benefactor we don’t get to see.
There’s also all the business with Dr. Light being turned into a literal Doctor of Light. What came through the boom tube that caused this to happen to him? Was the Secret Society responsible? Was it Darkseid? SO MANY QUESTIONS, WHY ISN’T THIS EVENT HAPPENING YET????
In a nutshell, this issue served to solidify the team (the new Green Lantern is finally inducted after months of being on the cover without actually being in the issue) and Steve Trevor convinces Amanda Waller to keep the team in its current incarnation. Even Stargirl got to do something other than be a plucky teenager.
But yeah, the comic was practically bursting at the seams with plot developments and cryptic hints, so it wasn’t perfect. I did really enjoy the Martian Manhunter backup. Usually I find backups kinda annoying but both the Manhunter ones in JLA and the Shazam ones in Justice League are great. I’m not overly familiar with Manhunter’s backstory so it’s been cool to get more insight into that.
Even though I had no idea who Chronos was, I loved the line about him traveling through time and space looking for Booster Gold. I thought that was hilarious because yeah, you ain’t gonna find him, guys. He’s palling around with Jonah Hex in the Old West. Good luck with that.
The Wake #2
Some of the initial awe the first issue of Scott Snyder’s creator-owned series inspired has been dulled, but this second issue delved deep into the core mystery and mythology, and Sean Murphy’s art is absolutely gorgeous, so fitting for a deep sea horror story such as this one. There’s also so many “holy shit” moments in every issue that I know I will always be blown away, on shock value alone. I mean (SPOILER ALERT) the friggin’ moon explodes in the final panel. THE MOON. EXPLODES. WHAAAAAAA????
But despite the awesome visuals (mermaid men vs. megalodon was particularly amazing), the issue is mostly exposition, with Agent Cruz explaining to Lee and the other scientists about how they came to discover the mermaid creature and why each of them was selected. This is an aspect of the story that may seem a bit too on the nose, particularly the amoral big game hunter… except now he’s a big fish hunter, I guess? It’s a little trope-ish, a little archetypal but it still works. As much as The Wake recalls things like The Abyss and Sphere Snyder is so adept at his craft that he makes it his own. He’s also very good at leaving bread crumbs for the mystery along the way- the stuff in the distant past and future act as bookends in this issue, and all we see in the future is the moon exploding from the POV of our mysterious dolphin-riding heroine.
I like how Snyder uses horror to build characterization by showing characters’ insecurities via sonar/telepathic-induced hallucinations. Again, a little derivative, particularly the bit where the wounded worker sees the mermaid man as his naked wife and releases it while under its spell, which reminded me heavily of Event Horizon. With a story like this, it’s hard to avoid similarities to deep space/deep ocean tales, but it has yet to get annoying.
I dunno, I think this might turn into my current favorite series. The mystery, the science fiction, the monsters, the horror, the deep sea setting, the strong female protagonist… all of these are story aspects I adore. I’m also very impressed with Snyder’s attention to detail; the man certainly seems to have done his research when it comes to marine biology and related sciences.
So… in true Marvel fashion this series assumes you have an encyclopedic knowledge of X-Men lore even though it’s only its SECOND ISSUE, but it’s a testament to Brian Wood’s skill that he manages to make the story accessible and easy to understand for newbs like me. There’s two ancient beings made up of primordial bacteria, one who can control organic material, the other can control technology. They hate each other, the technology one wants to take over the world. I get that. What was a little confusing was Arkea possessing some cybernetic mutant I’d never heard of who Beast has apparently been keeping n stasis for months or something. But again, don’t really need to know who this mutant is to understand what’s going on, you just need to know she’s one of the X-Men’s allies and that Kitty Pride really, really doesn’t want to kill her.
Great action, good premise, good dialogue but most importantly, great character moments. I really like this idea of Jubilee inadvertently being a teen mom and all the drama and emotion that comes with that. I’m actually glad they didn’t drag out the bit with Arkea smuggling herself inside the baby because it’s more touching to have Jubilee raise a child who isn’t secretly evil. It kinda removes it from the overarching arc and makes it into more of a subplot, but it’s better than the alternative.
Good art too, there’s really not too much criticism I can give this issue other than the fact that it doesn’t hold the hands of newbs but that’s kind of how Marvel rolls (and which is why I have no fucking clue what’s going on in Uncanny Avengers).
So, good work, Brian Wood. Now… how would you feel about reading the DMZ TV pilot adaptation I wrote? Just sayin’.