The Age of Ultron has been a fascinating look at the way a story can change over the course of ten issues. The series started as a post-apocalyptic look at what would happen if the evil A.I. Ultron finally won the day and conquered the human race.
This tale was a bleak, Days of Future Past-like glance at the future of Earth’s mightiest heroes. Then somewhere around the midpoint the narrative switched gears, and became a time travel story in which Wolverine and Susan Storm travel back in time to stop the robot menace from ever being created.
Now, diversity in a story is not necessarily a bad thing, but the problem with such a wildly changing approach is that it has prevented Age of Ultron from ever really establishing an identity. This all comes to a head in Age of Ultron #10, which under the weight of erratic storytelling ultimately fails to satisfy.
The individual scenes that writer Brian Michael Bendis crafts are all effective, but when they are put together side-by-side they don’t add up to a fulfilling closing chapter. The Avengers’ big battle with Ultron is well staged, but with all the time travel machinations happening it also feels like an afterthought. This kind of epic, event-ending throwdown should come with a sense of catharsis, but it ends up falling flat because for the last five issues or so the big bad has been on the back burner. On a positive note, Bendis continues to write Henry Pym beautifully. The character’s awkward yet kind personality and severe intelligence are often lost in lesser depictions, but here Bendis gets it just right.
Marvel employed seven art teams in order to get the book out on time, so the look of Age of Ultron #10 is too varied in style to feel like a cohesive package. That isn’t to say that each of the individual pencillers isn’t doing fine work, but it’s hard to stay connected to a character when they change their look. Not just between books of an event, but within the issue itself. There are two pages however that, despite their resemblance to pages from DC’s Infinite Crisis, are breathtaking in detail and incredibly powerful in their imagery.
The main problem with the way Age of Ultron wraps itself up is that it fails to deliver on the expectations it has created for itself. We were promised all or nothing stakes in an everything-is-going-to-change-type conclusion and yet what we received was an event without any real consequence. Yes, there is now a fundamental disturbance in the overall Marvel multiverse, but Bendis merely hints at what this could mean. So, without any hard answers as to what comes next, what we are left with is something that is a setup for future events rather than a great ending to this one.