“Ultron Unlimited” was one tremendously powerful Avengers story arc that I wondered just how Marvel writers would be able to top such an epic. Ultron had returned since then with somewhat less than impressive outings in the pages of “Mighty Avengers” and “Iron Man”. But Avengers fans knew that something was cooking since Kang revealed several unrealized futures concerning the murderous automaton. Busiek and Davis even hinted at a dread “Age of Ultron” during their run in the Avengers.
Tony Stark warned that if Ultron was to continue to evolve he would find a way to destroy humanity. Ultron has always been stopped before by the mighty Avengers. That is, until now.
After several months since the last time Ultron was somewhat seen in comic books in a .1 book that served as a prelude to “Age of Ultron”, writer Brian Michael Bendis (Avengers) and illustrator Bryan Hitch (The Ultimates) has finally come forth with the first chapter in this much anticipated epic. What I really found impressive with the first issue of “Age of Ultron” is the way the writing appeared to be able to generate a feeling dread, suspense and anticipation. The story begins with New York city in ruins, that it seemed to be the aftermath after a hard-fought war. Hawkeye is alone and is intent penetrating a stronghold with Hammerhead and the Owl (see that .1 issue) leading a group of heavily-armed humans as they gamble, get women and have a small sense of security, they mention Ultron in frightened whispers.
Hawkeye engages and he appears to be not holding anything back as he uses his skills not to disable but to kill. It is a clear sign that there is a war since Avengers kill only in such extreme situations. Bendis writes the dialogue in vague details, giving out something from the past as well as giving the reader that something terrible had indeed occurred (“Thor is not around anymore“ can send chills to the spine). It is a killer build up, as Hawkeye is revealed that he is on a rescue mission. Spider-man is the man he has come to rescue.
Bendis further goes into his build up, as Hawkeye engages a band of robots that looks like Ultron. The rescue completed, Hawkeye and Spider-man arrive in an area where the ruins of the Avengers heli-carrier have crashed. Once inside, they are met with fear, paranoia and hopelessness. “Age of Ultron” is now revealed as something not just limited to the Avengers, as members of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four seemed to have been forced into hiding, many are wounded, and many have the look of defeat on their faces. They react the way frightened people would usually do, as they doubt what the other is thinking or acting upon. Bendis hints that Ultron has taken over most of the world, and casualties were extremely high. Parts of the script were solid in expressing just how dire the situation really was.
The writing was spot-on in portraying the main characters of the book. Stark is his usual analytical self, and the one everyone depends on with the technical know-how. Luke Cage is his careful, yet ‘take control‘ self, while Hawkeye remains his strong, confident self. There is something about Spidey that always stood out, and this is the way he handles his own fears, he jokes and makes fun of himself (actually, this is Otto Octavius trying to play the part. See Superior Spider-Man for details). Book one is pretty simple, and yet it succeeds in the area where it is supposed to, capture the attention of its readers and generate suspense.
The artwork by Bryan Hitch and the inking by Paul Neary were fantastic. The way they captured the sheer emotions of each panel was powerful. The two certainly brought images of a war zone, the city is no doubt destroyed with the markings of a technological evil reigning supreme. The action was also very mature-oriented as Hitch did not hold back on the violence. He knew how to lay out each scene, each explosive detail and shadows were used to generate a rhythm of gritty appeal. Book one certainly had impressive art, with a cover that resembled one of those ’foils’ to replicate that feeling of ’metal’.
Close it up with a haunting image of Marvel’s tactical genius, Captain America, his shield broken and having that feeling of fear and hopelessness, Book One certainly met all my expectations in depicting the horror that is the murderous Ultron. Yet, we haven’t even seen him at his present form. Each first issue must be able to grab its reader and “Age of Ultron”-Book One met all these expectations. I was left with curiosity, anticipating the next issue of this epic series, that you are sure to expect me to cover it with such vigor and enthusiasm. I know this is only Book One, and this series can go anywhere, but my expectations are now high. I will cover this series issue per issue. Stay tuned for the “Age of Ultron”. Highly Recommended! [5 Out of 5 Stars]
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