Reportedly sharing only the title with Joss Whedon’s anticipated Avengers Assemble follow-up, it’s just as well, because superstar writer Brian Michael Bendis, accompanied by artists Bryan Hitch (on issues 1-5) and Brandon Peterson (6-10) have produced something that sits so effortlessly alongside the likes of Days Of Future Past that Bryan Singer would have stopped his game of Quicksilver one-upmanship to immediately cry foul.
Plunging straight into a world overrun by Ultron, where the surviving heroes languish underground Age Of Ultron echoes the Sentinel domination of Days Of Future Past, the mutant tyranny of Age Of Apocalypse and House Of M so fully that it’s all to easy to dismiss. Ultimates and Fantastic Four veteran Hitch is expert at widescreen, cinematic violence and action on a city-block scale, just as Bendis is the ultimate shepherd of the mega-event – having held the juddering crossover tiller through Secret Invasion, House Of M and Siege.
Those first impressions can be a bitch. Less than half-way in the survivors take a trip to the dinosaur infested Savage Land, the last redoubt of super-spy Nick Fury, a storeroom of their old weapons and equipment – longterm geeks will be delighted to see Captain America’s naff photonic energy shield from the mid-Ninties make a return – and a time machine.
Armed with a time machine, Age Of Ultron takes a swerve toward Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s Days Of Future Past with a helping of Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert’s capering Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine as odd-couple Wolverine and Sue ‘Invisible Woman’ Storm sneak back in time to murder Hank Pym and stop Ultron from every being constructed. Instead they create a timeline that’s arguably worse, and the pair have another go…
For a story that started with desperate collaborators, mankind’s genocide, and Captain America catatonic with grief in the ruins of New York, to suddenly come down to multiple Wolverines brawling through time is rare blast of pure fun against a downward trend of increasingly bleak event books. While in true Marvel fashion some of the stand-out moments occur on the periphery – outside of this volume – and the portentous ending squanders its positive credit by setting up the next serialised cataclysm to blight the Marvel Universe (and porting in Neil Gaiman’s Angela, to the demand of absolutely nobody), Brian Michael Bendis remains one of the best at this sort of thing.
Event books may have become a routine, but in the right hands they don’t have to be a chore.