Today’s Super Comics — Age of Ultron #1-10 (2013)

Age_of_Ultron_Vol_1_1I finally got around to reading the miniseries from which the last Avengers movie took its name, and yeah, other than the title and threat of Ultron, not much in the way of similarities.

Age of Ultron the comic begins as a post-apocalyptic tale featuring several Marvel superheroes striving to do whatever they can for a world that’s already ended. And it shifts gears into a time-travel adventure starring the odd-couple pairing of Wolverine and the Invisible Woman (a brilliant pairing, as they’re total opposites in so many ways—shame there wasn’t more time to spend with them). And it somehow winds up being a story about the importance of one deeply flawed man—Ultron’s creator, Hank Pym.

And even with the time-travel shenanigans and the inevitable reset to undo the apocalypse, events have consequences for the present-day Marvel Universe.

It’s not the movie, but it does feel like a big-budget superhero film in comic book form, with lots of favorite characters (and alternate versions of such) each getting time to shine. Nowhere near perfect, like the movie, but it’s lots of fun regardless, also like the movie. (So maybe there are more similarities.)

Different artists contributed over the course of the series, but the differences in their styles feel appropriate, never jarring. Bryan Hitch sets the tone in the first half—the man draws a great apocalypse. And, of course, Brian Michael Bendis wrote the entire series, and at this point I’m convinced he’s a comic book savant.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Age of Ultron (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comics — The Avengers #19-22 (1999)

Avengers_19_1999I enjoyed the Avengers: Age of Ultron film a great deal, but with all due respect, these four issues by Kurt Busiek and George Perez comprise the greatest Ultron story ever produced.

The Avengers are best when the stakes are huge and personal, and that’s what we get in the “Ultron Unlimited” arc. Ultron is taking another shot at his usual goal of replacing organic life with robotic life. But this time includes some twists. He actually does destroy an entire small country as his opening salvo, which gives tremendous gravity to the proceedings. And he kidnaps his “family” so that he can use their brainwaves to generate unique personalities to animate the robotic life he wants to take over the world.

So…that “family.” Stay with me here… Hank “Ant-Man/Giant Man” Pym created Ultron, so Ultron perceives Pym as his father and the Wasp as his mother. Ultron in turn created the Vision, a “son,” and he based his brain patterns on the then-late, since-resurrected Wonder Man, so Vision and Wonder Man are kind of like brothers. But Wonder Man also has a biological brother—the villainous Grim Reaper. And at some point along the way, the Vision married and later divorced the Scarlet Witch, adding her to this twisted family tree as well.

Only in comic books. Or soap operas. Maybe Game of Thrones.

But roughly 35 years of continuity build-up pays off with these four issues of epic, character-driven action. This story is well worth tracking down.

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Penciler: George Perez

Inker: Al Vey

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Avengers: Ultron Unlimited (TPB); Avengers Assemble Vol. 2 (TPB, by Busiek)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up