Thursday, July 17, 2014

'Age of Ultron' limited series overall review

Since ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT just revealed what the movie incarnation of Ultron looks like, it's time for me to talk about my favorite Avengers villain.

That's right; I make no apologies about it — I love me some Ultron. Dr. Henry Pym's greatest invention is also his most controversial and deadliest.

Ultron is made of indestructible adamantium. And beyond that, the robot with artificial intelligence finds a way to improve himself with each subsequent re-creation.

To top it all off, Ultron isn't just menacing — he's got a serious superiority complex paired with a full-on hatred for all humans. Ultron's the ultimate post-modern Frankenstein and certainly my favorite Avengers foe.

It's no wonder director Joss Whedon chose Ultron to be the villain in the next "Avengers" movie. Of course, that's something I'd proposed years ago, but I digress. …

Whedon has made it clear the subtitle of the "Avengers" sequel only borrows the title from writer Brian Michael Bendis' 10-part AGE OF ULTRON limited series from 2013.

Thank God because Bendis wrote one mostly depressing-ass story. For the first several issues — and well into parts 8 and 9 — I wasn't sure how he was going to write himself out of such a whopper of a creative corner.

Before I go any farther, let me tell you how this massive review (overall likely the longest one I've ever written) works.

It's a two-parter, with this first section containing my overall thoughts on Bendis' story (and of course, my grade). The second part is an issue-by-issue breakdown of no more than three sentences each. All the reviews features one quote from a character from that issue which I believe nicely encompasses the most pressing theme of that installment.

Overall synopsis: So you want to know how Marvel Comics reached its latest overall reboot, the "Marvel Now" concept? Check out the art in the last few pages of AGE OF ULTRON.

That doesn't spoil anything for you, but does give you what Bendis's end game is in this time-traveling, mind-bending epic.

As I said, AGE, for the most part, is just plain depressing. There's dystopia and then there's this unfortunate world where Ultron's army of doom-bots are more relentless than the Sentinels from the classic X-MEN titles and the film "X-Men: Days of Future Past." This is a world of little to no hope where Captain America doesn't care enough to shave, powerhouses such as Thor, She-Hulk and Luke Cage pay the ultimate price and every major city is in ruins.

My biggest complaint is penciler Bryan Hitch's design of Ultron's head. Hitch makes the robot's eyes so bulbous and creates such awkward looking antenna-ears that Ultron is almost unrecognizable except for his body. Luckily this is an Ultron that won't actually exist in the future of the Marvel Universe, thanks to Wolverine breaking the space-time continuum one time too many — although he saves the day in the end.

What's odd (actually pretty brilliant) about AGE is Ultron hardly makes an appearance. Sure, everyone talks about him all the time and his doom-bots are in the first handful of issues, but visually, the big baddie himself isn't shown too often. But the almost double-sized last issue delivers the classic Ultron I know and love.

I've always loved when Ultron's throwdowns with the Avengers came down to Thor and Ultron, so I was quite tickled to see the God of Thunder get the final lick in.

Back to the story. AGE OF ULTRON is tough to read — especially if you're like me whose favorite comics are dramatic yet fun to read. But I gotta credit the serious-minded Bendis with creating a clever finale, an even more brilliant plan to finally defeat Ultron and a story in which Wolverine and Pym — thanks to a combination of the always prepared Nick Fury and an insightful Tony Stark — shine. Grade: B

Check back here at CCC for the second part of my review of the AGE OF ULTRON limited series, my issue-by-issue breakdown. And be prepared for lots of spoilers (just in case you haven't read this limited series yet)!

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