The term “Big Larry” is defined on Urban Dictionary (grammar and spelling mistakes included) thusly: Big Larry (n.) someone who always has to run to the passes gas; or someone who uses your restroom and then proceeds to crap uncontrollably all over the floors, tub, sink, hand towels, etc. Ex., “After the party, i noticed someone had big larryid in my bathroom.” Firstly, that example reads very calmly for such a turn of events; and secondly, a big larry is exactly what Brian Michael Bendis has done in Age of Ultron. Okay, not “exactly.” That would be weird. Figuratively speaking, however, it could be said that he has come into our houses and crapped all over the hand towels. I don’t even know where to begin with this story, which is okay, because neither, apparently, did Brian Michael Bendis.
You know, I’ve just skimmed the entire mini-series one more time and I have to say, in fairness, that this didn’t begin as a bad book. Until about issue six, with a few glaring continuity flaws, we got a mostly harmless, glorified “What If...” glimpse into the struggle for the not too distant future where Ultron reigns supreme. And that’s cool. I’m down with that. But then issue six had to come along, and at a crucial moment, completely drops the bottom out of itself.
Issue six was the one which plunged us (for the better part of three issues, mind you) into yet another, Ultron/Vision-less timeline, the only point of which was to prove that screwing with the time stream always ends in tears. Got it. By the time this thing got itself back on track, it was its final issue, and by then, there was way too much ground to cover. Talk about big larrys, this thing was one big diarrhetic dialectic.
Back in what I’m guessing is the 616 universe, before the Age of Ultron, Hank Pym finally gets a message from himself to activate a dormant program within their artificial son, Ultron, which would slay the beast and prevent the events of Age of Ultron from ever occurring; a sort of deus in machina, if you will.
In so doing, the universe is spared from the rule of its would-be mechanical overlord, but it also brings to light that the time/space continuum has been damaged by all this gallivanting about in its guts. That’s when we get a sort of cosmic prolapse (a big bang larry?), which rubs the Marvel multiverse the wrong way, fracturing its barriers. This, of course, leads to the two big (and completely foreseen) “surprises” in AU that we are meant to discuss for years to come: A.) that Angela is now in the mainstream (616) Marvel Universe, and B.) that our Galactus has broken on through to the Ultimate Universe, forcing some pucker out of Miles Morales in the process.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m down with parallel universes as much as the next guy, and it was great to see some of the old 2099 characters, amongst others, rocking around in the background. Also, the prospect of what Galactus’ incursion into the Ultimate Universe means titillates me in a most arousing way, though I could give a fuck about Angela AND the head she rode in on. Still, because this was so painfully forced to fit into main Marvel continuity, it felt far too jerry-rigged to provide the grounds for a stable finish.
I actually do appreciate that this story explored the periphery of an event, rather than the main conflagration itself. I mean, the real Ultron was only seen in The Age of Ultron twice (not counting his droids): once at his birth at the end of issue nine, and again, this time dying, in issue 10. And of course we never see the War of Ultron, only hearing tale of it in its aftermath. That’s an interesting perspective, but it also proves here to be self-consuming. Okay, it could be argued that, thematically, that could fit into the upcoming Infinity event, but that’s a tenuous argument.
The fact is, there was no nucleus of this event, just a void of something which, now, never happened anyway. In that sense, literally nothing of consequence went on in Age of Ultron, other than to take two completely unrelated characters and angrily hammer them into new territory. I mean, that’s a lot to go through just to rearrange some deck chairs. Unfortunately, this also shone through in the narrative.
Particularly in this issue, because it was so rushed to find itself again, Bendis was forced to tug half-heartedly at loose ends, so that when the big save-the-day moment came, it felt both drawn out (after what felt like pages of “Almost theres”) and deeply unsatisfying. Because it was so late and because it was jammed into a continuity that had passed it by, this also felt like Bendis was trying to catch up with himself, so while it was labored, it also felt rushed. Wait, is this what meth feels like? Shit.
Artistically, Age of Ultron has been pretty solid work, but I have to admit that, like the story, this one felt like there were too many cooks in the kitchen. Marvel was proud of the fact that not even the art team (except Quesada) knew the ending of this book, but the problem is, it showed. Overall, though, this was visually innocuous.
That’s how I feel about the story as a whole. As a device to deliver some new status quo, this was simply an aimless, pointless exercise in driving circles around itself. I don’t think I’d give Age of Ultroneither a pass or a fail. It’s more of an incomplete.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Alex Maleev; Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary; Butch Guice; Brandon Peterson; Carlos Pacheco & Roger Bonet; Tom Palmer; David Marquez; Joe Quesada
Colorist(s): Paul Mounts & Richard Isanove
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release date: 6/19/13