Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review- AGE OF ULTRON

AGE OF ULTRON (Marvel, 2013; Hardcover)
Collects Avengers No. 12.1, Age Of Ultron Nos. 1-10, 10AI, Avengers Assemble Nos. 14AU, 15AU, Fantastic Four No. 5AU, Fearless Defenders No. 4AU, Superior Spider-Man No. 6AU, Ultron No. 1AU, Uncanny Avengers No. 8AU, and X-Men No. 27AU (cover dates June, 2011- August, 2013)
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis (Avengers No. 12.1, Age Of Ultron Nos. 1-10), Matt Fraction, Cristos Gage, Rick Remender, Mark Waid, and others.
Artists: Pencilers- Bryan Hitch (Avengers No. 12.1, Age Of Ultron Nos. 1-5, 10), Brandon Peterson (Age Of Ultron Nos. 6-10), Carlos Pacheo (Age Of Ultron Nos. 6-10), Butch Guice (Age Of Ultron No. 10, Avengers Assemble Nos. 14AU, 15AU), Paul Neary (Avengers No. 12.1, Age Of Ultron Nos. 1-5, 10), Roger Bonet (Age Of Ultron Nos. 6-10), Tom Palmer ( Age Of Ultron No. 10, Avengers Assemble Nos. 14AU, 15AU), Phil Jimenez, and others.
Colorists: Paul Mounts (Avengers No. 12.1, Age Of Ultron Nos. 1-10), Jose Villarrubia (Age Of Ultron Nos. 6-9), Richard Isanove, Antonio Fabela, and others.

2013's big crossover has been percolating for years, ever since the Free Comic Book Day 2011 giveaway Avengers #12.1 set up a most promising scenario. I have been a sucker for Ultron since I was a kid, and the lure of a big Ultron attack outweighed my disdain for crossovers and my reluctance at reading anything by Brian Michael Bendis. Things started out really strong here. In fact, for the first two issues, I was thinking Wow, this may well be Bendis' finest hour. This feeling didn't last very long.
The core series is filled with problems, including but not limited to the following scenes: Hawkeye casually killing The Owl's goons when he rescued Spider-Man, which was a bummer. I liked the olden days when nobody but the Punisher (and once in a great, great while, Wolverine) killed bad guys. Now everyone kills villains, and it makes me sad. It would be nice if I could share this Avengers with my 6 year old son, but I cannot. I know, the company line is that Marvel has an all-ages line for kids, but even my son knows that those are not the real Avengers.
Wolverine going back in time to change history is, of course, completely retarded. Haven't we all read enough time travel stories to know that this will only create a divergent timeline or something? Then we get the tired (not tried, tired) and true everything you know is a lie, this is reality Age of Apocalypse-esque altered present. These are usually just lazy mash-ups, with the most recent one being the Age of Apocalypse retread House Of M. So we have Colonel America, basically Captain America with an eye patch. Calling him Colonel makes about as much sense as calling Brother Voodoo Doctor Voodoo when he took over for Doctor Strange as the Sorcerer Supreme. Then again, it's Bendis! I guess that we should be thankful that half of the first issue wasn't a conversation between S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents.
This panel is where Bendis Tourette's kicks in. The Thing says “What the damn Hell!” First off, what does that even mean? Second, can anyone explain to me why this line makes the book a better read than if the Thing said “What the heck?”, “What in Sam Hill?”, “What in the name of Sweet Aunt Petunia?”, or any of the other more characteristic lines that the Thing is wont to say. Worse still, Age of Ultron is the title of the forthcoming Avengers sequel. Let's assume for a moment that the inevitable softcover of this book is on the shelves of a mainstream bookstore like a Barnes & Noble. Let's go a step farther and say that some 8-12 year old kid convinces his parents to buy him this book. Do you see the problem here? If the kid's parents don't outright confiscate this book then they will, at the very least, look down on the medium and discourage their child from becoming a potential lifelong reader. I am not a fan of censorship, but I am a fan of self censorship. Stop writing for middle aged basement dwellers, Bendis. Lines like “What the damn Hell!” make me embarrassed to read this stuff, and if anybody can't see why this line is stupid then you are part of the fanboy* problem. (*Term used in the original pejorative.)
The brightest spot in this book is Mark Waid reviving Henry Pym as Ant-Man. There has been way too much Pym hate going on for the past few years, and I am glad to see things coming full circle and Pym assuming the heroic mantle once again. I hope that we see more of the real Ant-Man in action.
The artwork and coloring are all really good throughout the book. Colorists never get much in terms of props from me, but that is not because I don't appreciate their work. Quite the opposite, a good colorist is like the electric company or cable- you don't notice it unless they're not working properly. 
Oh look...a character who was dead for five minutes makes a clever dead joke. Haven't seen one of those for a while, and they just get funnier every time.
The predictable Bendis fumble occurs toward the end of the mini-series. I've said this many times before but it bears repeating: Bendis has some good ideas but he always fumbles the ending. Why? If he can map out a long, structured story, why do his endings always come up short? It's even more maddening than some of his dialogue. Who is Angela, and why should we even care? This is not explained in the story, and it is assumed that you should know that she is a Neil Gaiman creation from Spawn. Come on!
This isn't the worst thing that you could read, but it certainly could have been much, much better. If a civilian asked me to recommend an Ultron story, I would steer them toward the Kurt Busiek and George Perez arc Ultron Unlimited from Avengers #0 and 19-22, originally published in 1999. That remains the gold standard for Ultron stories as far as I'm concerned. I wanted this to be the be all, end all of Ultron stories, I really did. It just wasn't.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3 out of 5.
The OCD zone- While I am thrilled that the digital code is longer on a piece of cardboard glued into the book block, it is now behind a sticker which you have to peel to access. This leaves the sticker looking bent once you are done, and, as such, is an OCD fail. The book comes shrinkwrapped, so there is no need to “hide” the code behind a sticker. I don't know, there might be more to the digital code process than I am aware of, I am just speaking as a consumer.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Age Of Ultron #1 Variant by Marko Djurdjevic
Age Of Ultron #1 Variant by J. Scott Campbell & Nei Ruffino
Age Of Ultron #1 Variant by Skottie Young
Age Of Ultron #1 Variant by Mike Deodato & Morry Hollowell
Age Of Ultron #1 Variant by Ed McGuiness & Marte Gracia
Age Of Ultron #2 Variant by Jung-Geun Yoon
Age Of Ultron #3 Variant by In-Hyuk Lee
Age Of Ultron #4 Variant by Fenghua Zhong
Age Of Ultron #5 Variant by Adi Granov
Age Of Ultron #6 Variant by Carlos Pacheco, Roger Martinez, Jose Villarrubia, John Buscema & George Roussos
Age Of Ultron #6 Variant by Greg Land & Gurihiru
Age Of Ultron #7 Variant by Leinil Francis Yu & Frank Martin
Age Of Ultron #8 Variant by 7th Orange
Age Of Ultron #9 Variant by Jorge Molina
Age Of Ultron #10 Variant by Mark Brooks
Age Of Ultron #10 Variant by Salvador Larroca & Laura Martin
Age Of Ultron #10 Variant by Joe Quesada, Klaus Janson, & Richard Isanove
Age Of Ultron #1-10 Variant by Rock-He Kim
Page of Marvel AR codes along with digital code.
Paper rating: 4.25 out of 5. Good weight coated stock paper. It has that shriveled effect which pisses me off, though. American paper mills tend to use really green trees and do not allow them to properly cure. The result is a book where the paper gets all shriveled and wavy once you crack the cellophane. My house is a 100% climate controlled environment. There are no humidity issues in it. My other collected editions not made in the United States or Canada do not have this problem, so stop it, US printers!
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Sewn binding on a US made hardcover? Yes please! Marvel had some problems with US made books with sewn binding 5-6 years ago, so I am thrilled to see the bugs all worked out. The book lays perfectly flat. The book block doesn't appear to flex within the squared casing, but I don't mind, so long as it lays flat!
Hardback cover coating rating: 3 out of 5. Gone are the foil stampings and faux leather grainy textures of the hardbacks of yore, in are the dull matte finish hardbacks with images printed on them. This wouldn't bother me if I didn't scuff it. I handle my books gingerly, and for it to scuff with reasonable handling sucks, especially on a book with a $75 MSRP. It might not even bother you, but it bothers me and anyone else who would bother reading this far down in The OCD zone.



2 comments:

  1. Speaking of self censorship...did you notice how they changed the art and text in the Avengers 12.1 issue so that Spider-Woman is now wearing clothes after the Intelligencia captures her? (Originally they removed her clothes after capturing her for some reason they never bothered to explain). I guess they decided that that scene was too pointlessly "racy" for them suddenly (not that anything graphic was shown of course)?

    I don't really get that. The usual painted on costume T&A and Avengers murdering people is ok, but not a few panels of non-nudity? Must be for the American book store market...

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    1. I was NOT aware of that. I did not read the single issues. Yes, the American double standard of murder/violence is a-ok but nudity is bad is, in a nutshell, why our culture is so screwed up. Sexuality is bad and evil but showing someone getting shot in the throat with an arrow is wholesome family entertainment.

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