Um… so what?
Okay, I’ll be honest, I really don’t care all that much about Ultron one way or the other. Even though he’s been a somewhat important part of the Marvel Universe since Avengers #54 in 1968, he’s just one of a large number of potential “threats” to humanity and he doesn’t really come off as a particularly major one at that. He evolves himself, the Avengers take him out, he goes off to continue evolving. They always find some way to take him out.
The Age of Ultron is no different. It starts off all right, we begin in medias res, after Ultron has attacked and largely trashed the planet. Many of the strongest superheroes have been killed, such as Hulk and Thor and those that are left have gone into hiding, waiting for a chance to strike back. Ultron, for reasons never sufficiently explained, has been paying “mercenary” supervillains to capture remaining heroes and turn them over to him. Wait a minute, isn’t Ultron’s thing that he wants to eliminate humanity entirely? This is the best he’s ever done, why is he paying humans to capture other humans? It isn’t like he doesn’t have thousands, maybe millions of robotic mini-mes flying around, why does he need mercenaries? It makes no sense. Of course, it’s just a plot device, a way for Captain America and the remaining heroes to offer up one of their own and get them inside of Ultron’s stronghold. They send in She-Hulk, with the help of Luke Cage, in the hopes of getting close enough to Ultron to disrupt his plans. Unfortunately for them, it isn’t Ultron at the center of the city, but Vision. Ultron has taken him over from the future and is using him as a proxy. Meanwhile, a mutilated Black Widow and Moon Knight discover Nick Fury’s safe house and his contingency plans for every conceivable apocalyptic scenario. In case of Ultron attack, he has a base set up in the Savage Land and so everyone heads there, where they discover Nick Fury still alive and kicking and in possession of Doctor Doom’s Time Platform. The plan is to head into the future to defeat Ultron before he has a chance to attack the past. Wolverine suggests that they instead go back into the past and kill Henry Pym before he has a chance to build Ultron in the first place, but that’s quickly shot down. Valkyrie says maybe they can just ask Pym not to build Ultron, but according to Wolverine, that’s like daring him not to do it, he’ll do it anyhow. A group of heroes head to the future, leaving Wolverine and a sudden dissenter, Sue Storm, in the present. Of course, they jump on the platform and head back into the past to kill Pym. The subtitle for this book ought to have been “Wolverine does something stupid”. Wolverine and Sue end up killing Pym, sending shockwaves through time and space. Returning to the present, they are shocked to find that the Skrull-Kree War, which was stopped in space in their original timeline, actually made it to Earth and the planet is littered with remains of alien spaceships. They make it back to New York and are attacked by the Defenders, believing them to be Skrulls or agents of Morgan le Fey. It seems that after Pym’s death, the Avengers broke up, le Fey attacked and “magic overcame technology”. The actions of Wolverine and Sue Storm “broke the world”. At just that moment, le Fay attacks with a swarm of Doombots and in the chaos that follows, two of the Starkguard Helicarriers crash into New York, destroying the city and killing most of the heroes. A dying Stark tells Wolverine he can’t simply go back in time and change things, too much interference can permanently damage the space-time continuum. We flash back to the past where Wolverine is about to kill Pym and he is stopped by the future version of himself in a different costume. Pym promises he won’t build Ultron, but they tell him that he has to or history won’t play out the way it’s supposed to. Instead, they tell him to implant a virus into Ultron so that at some point in the future, if he gets out of control, they can activate the virus and shut him down. Pym has to forget all of this, lest it affect his future actions and Sue and the two Wolverines return to the future. The future Wolverine doesn’t want to remember any of the things he’s seen, so the original Wolverine kills him. Um… you can blow Wolverine down to a single cell and he’ll regenerate, exactly how do you kill him? Who knows, it happens off-camera. We then flash to a few months before the present, where Henry Pym is working in his lab and gets a tablet, delivered invisibly by Sue. It explains what he has to do. A few months later, when the event that re-activated Ultron occurs (in Avengers #12.1), Pym contacts Iron Man and tells him that they have to keep Ultron busy so he can activate his viral shut-down. Even though Ultron is confident nothing can defeat him, the virus manages to destroy him and everyone is happy, at least until they realize that Wolverine’s stupidity has caused tears in the fabric of the multiverse. We see Miles Morales, the Spider-Man of the Ultimate universe, coming face to… um… whatever with Galactus. Out in space, Angela, formerly of McFarlane’s Spawn series, appears, vowing vengeance on whoever pulled her out of her own universe.
Um, okay. Now the series started out fine, I suppose. It was designed as a self-contained apocalyptic mini-series, although it did bleed over a bit into Fantastic Four, but somewhere around issue 5 or 6, the whole thing went sideways. Marvel, at least in the last couple of years, seems to have a major problem with their “events”. About half-way through, they just stop caring about them. They start to look forward to what’s coming up next. They get bored, I guess. Finishing the event becomes an afterthought and plot threads are just forgotten. Remember how I said that a bunch of heroes went forward in time to deal with Ultron? We see very little of that. It just kind of goes away. The war with Morgan le Fey? That goes away too. In fact, all of the things in this “event” that might have actually been interesting just vanished, bringing us back around to the regular 616 universe and “Wolverine broke the time-space continuum”. It really seems like this was a 10-issue introduction to “anyone can meet anyone in the larger Marvel multiverse now!” So, Marvel Zombies can invade the Ultimate Universe. Marvel 2099 can find their way into the middle of modern-day Manhattan. Anyone can go anywhere and do anything.
This could have been an incredible series. For decades, Ultron has said he’ll continue to evolve until his plans can come to fruition. This was supposed to be that day. It could have been cool, it just wasn’t. In fact, nothing really mattered except “Wolverine screws up the Marvel Universe” bit, AoU is just a springboard for more short-lived Marvel angstyness that will stick around for a year or so and then be retconned out of existence like everything else they do. I think worst of all, this 10-issue “event” didn’t need 10 issues, or even 5. People spent $40 to read this thing and are left mouth agape wondering why they wasted their money. I have yet to see anyone say they actually liked the “event” or thought it was worthwhile. It was an excuse, not an “event”, a way to introduce future happenings in the Marvel Universe, not a well-plotted, self-contained story that people will enjoy reading. But that describes the majority of Marvel “events”, doesn’t it?
While I can see some potential in having characters separated by time and space meeting up, I have to judge this series on it’s own merits, not the consequences that can come from it. It failed as a story, it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t entertaining and none of the things that happened in it, especially the time-traveling nonsense that comes next, will have any long-term impact on the Marvel Universe as a whole. The first 9 books of AoU were wiped out in book 10 and somewhere down the line, when they retcon this entire series and go back to basics, even that won’t matter.
It was a bad idea, done badly, with a lot of wasted potential squandered at the last moment. Do not buy this series, even in a trade, do not download this series, even for free. It’s just not worth it.