REVIEW: Age Of Ultron #2 (of 10)

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Or – “#1 Didn’t Quite Capture My Imagination…”

After reading Age Of Ultron #1, I found myself convinced that there was little more to the concept than “Days Of Future Past” for the Avengers.  Will #2 be able to change that cynical assessment?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

AgeOfUltron2CoverAGE OF ULTRON #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Bryan Hitch
Inker: Paul Neary
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Editor(s): Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Age Of Ultron:  In a future world gone wrong, avatars of the nefarious artificial intelligence Ultron have enslaved the human race and thrown the remaining superheroes into hiding.  Hawkeye struck out on his own to save Spider-Man from cyber-conversion, only to return back to the remaining Avengers unwilling to allow him back in for fear of Ultron contamination.  What has brought the heroes to this low point?  And can they find a way to undo the damage that Ultron has caused?

IRREVOCABLY CHANGED (UNTIL THEY FIX IT.)

After the events of issue #1 of AoU, I was bothered by two overarching problems:  First and foremost, Bryan Hitch drew all of the characters looking remarkably like his renditions of the Ultimate Universe versions of the characters.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind visual consistency, but to have two sets of characters who vary so much in their actions look exactly alike made this feel somehow less authentic, less “real” than previous crossover stories, as my mind wanted to process it as part of the Ultimate line rather than as a story happening in the core 616 universe.  Secondly (and more damning), the plot drew heavily on the first 8 pages of X-Men #141, showing us familiar characters in a semi-futuristic setting of devastation, with robots of villainous intent driving those heroes they couldn’t kill outright into hiding.  The revelation at the end of last issue, where a clearly demoralized Captain America sat silently, his unbreakable shield shattered beside him, was a powerful image, and one that I felt could have catapulted this issue into a whole new realm.  (Of course, pointing the fact that Captain America was likewise demoralized and weaponless during the LAST big crossover is probably a step too far.)  Sadly, instead of building on this, the first half of this issue switches focus to San Francisco, as the Black Widow makes her way across the shattered cityscape…

GIANT CHAOTIC EMERGENCY?  WE SHOULD SIT AND YAMMER ABOUT IT FOR EIGHT PAGES…

We quickly find how bad things have gotten, as a desperate scavenger finds her and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t give him all her resources.  I’ll admit it, I like the street-level view of the sequence, showing us that humanity has entirely collapsed, but things go too far when the man is shot in the head by Moon Knight, murdered outright rather than either of the heroes doing anything, y’know, heroic.  There’s a fascinating train of thought involving a S.H.I.E.L.D. safehouse (Nick Fury never writes anything down, that’s how Ultron doesn’t know about it, even though the power is on and the mechanical barber chair has to be using SOME form of energy, which is theoretically traceable.)  Still, it’s a nice take on post-apocalyptic survivors, which is undermined somewhat by the Black Widow’s intention to, quote, “shove a nuclear warhead up that robot’s ass.”  Back in New York, Spider-Man is being debriefed by the Avengers, explaining what he learned about the new Age of Ultron, specifically about the villains trying to trade him to the robot in their own self-interest.  It’s unclear how much time has passed since Ultron’s (unseen) attack on the world, but Spider-Man’s point-of-view makes it feel like only a day or two since things went out of control.  The few remaining heroes try to make sense of this report, and the talking only ends when Captain America suddenly gets up, and declares out of the blue that now they have a plan!

THE BOTTOM LINE: THE SECOND REEL OF A SLOW AND TALKY FLICK…

On the one hand, I like that the creators are playing with some different forms of storytelling.  Rather than give us the all-out attack sequence (as they did in Fear Itself and Secret Invasion), we’re shown the aftermath of that battle, with our heroes already having lost the first skirmish.  It’s a decent attempt, I’ll grant you, but one that ends up falling flat due to pacing issues.  The characters seem physically altered (Luke Cage has grown hair, She-Hulk has shaved hers, Iron Man has a new armor) which implies the passage of time, but there are also strong implications that this is something that JUST happened, and happened fast at that.  The big two-page spread of hero-faces that made such a splash in its pencilled form turns out to be nothing more than a set-piece for Nick Fury’s safehouse, which is a shame, and the photograph that said “ROM” in the pencilled sneak peek now says “Ikon,” the name of the new Spaceknight who succeeded him.  I want to give this series the benefit of the doubt, knowing that Bendis is notorious for ‘writing for the trade,’ but I’m overly frustrated with this book only two issues in.  There are literally infinite ways that this could go, but I just keep thinking that we’re going to see a time-travel gimmick and more bits that do nothing to differentiate it from ‘Days Of Future Past.’  Age Of Ultron #2 gave me issues with plotting, with dialogue, with pacing and with art, and feels not only similar to the recent giant uber-crossovers, but to one of the most iconic story arcs in comic book history, leaving a taste like flat orange soda in my metaphorical mouth, and earning 1.5 out of 5 stars overall.  There are some interesting threads here, but 20 percent of the way through the crossover, I’m just not feeling it…

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

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