Dec 27, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 306: Avengers v.4 #12.1, June 2011

I got Avengers: Age of Ultron for Christmas this year, and my wife and I have just finished watching (she'd never seen it before) so I thought that a fun thing to do for the next 9 days or so would be to read the "source material" (in that they share a name) written by Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch a few years back.

Re-reading the Bendis-era Avengers is a feat I've not yet attempted. He wrote the series for just shy of a decade, during which time there were numerous crossovers and, at times, multiple series. That's a lot of comics. And throughout that time, rumours flew of something called "Age of Ultron," but whether it was a story arc coming up, or a crossover event, none, save maybe the creators, knew. Bendis ended his run on the title in 2013, passing the torch to Jonathan Hickman. And then a few months later, Age of Ultron began. To call it one of the most nihilistic superhero stories I've read is to do it a disservice. Bendis, Hitch, and friends do everything they can to dismantle the Marvel Universe, to push its heroes to their breaking points and then see what happens beyond that. This issue, written 2 years earlier, is where it all starts.

One thing that is always for certain when you see "Hitch" and "Neary" on a comic is that you're in for a treat for your eyeballs. The two work so remarkably well together, and create such dynamism and expression in these characters. Though perhaps not quite as remarkable as their work on The Authority, this comic is very pretty to look at. It does seem in some ways like a fill-in issue (which, I guesss, it was), or a prelude to a story that really should have come a lot sooner. While I was willing, on the strength of his previous stories, to give Bendis the benefit of the doubt, the wait for Age of Ultron was a bit long, and this comic got forgotten in the interim.

But I've re-read it now, and will continue on through Age of Ultron for a few more days. A spaceknight crashes to Earth. Spider-Woman investigates, is captured, then rescued, and for some reason, the spaceknight morphs into Ultron. And Tony Stark tells the rest of the team that, basically, it's the end of the world.

All endings are beginnings, however. Tomorrow we'll have a look at what is born from the end of civilization. Be warned - it's not pretty.

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