Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
A few years ago, my husband was in the hospital for a fairly serious procedure that required an extended stay. After the surgery, he began experiencing excruciating pain and, following a bit of work, learned that it had to do with the stitches: There had been too many and some were too tight, so the surgeon was called back in to take a look. The surgeon spotted the problem immediately and asked a nurse to bring him some scissors. Snip, snip, the tension was released and the surgeon said everything should be fine in a few hours.
Which it was, but after the surgeon was gone, my husband was left with bloody gauze, a pair of scissors and the remains of his stitches left all over his chest. We waited and didn’t touch anything, thinking, “Oh, that guy is coming back or something.” He didn’t. I grabbed a nurse, and with a long-suffering sigh, she apologized and cleared away the remains. When we said we thought the surgeon had left everything behind because he would be coming back, she explained this is just something surgeons do. When in the operating room, there are people on hand to take care of the little things so the surgeon can concentrate on the task at hand; they tend not to give things like cleaning up a second thought, if even a first.
Brian Michael Bendis is an incredible surgeon of event storytelling, and Age of Ultron #10 leaves stitches and scissors all over the reader’s chest. I can’t even say I’m surprised, nor can I really confirm that this is a “bad thing.” There’s no value judgment here: Age of Ultron needed to get to point B, it got there after 10 issues, and point C is going to be handled by a variety of folks (including Bendis himself, but we’ll get to that). In the end, I’m not exactly sure why it needed to be encased in black plastic, as the ending literally tells us to stay tuned for yet another issue (or series entirely). But I’m getting ahead of myself. Did you dare to open your sealed copy of Age of Ultron #10? Of course you did! Follow on, Dear Reader, as we talk about the skill inherent in a Bendis event and all the things that are traditionally left behind.
WARNING: Yep, spoilers for Age of Ultron #10. Honestly, I wouldn’t worry too much about knowing something that would ruin your enjoyment of the series whole, but it’s up to you if you read further. Do you dare? Click on, brave soul.
The more I think about it, the more surgeon-like Bendis becomes in writing this long, eventful tentpole stories that grace us every summer. From his first one to today, he will be quick and sharp with his words to locate the problem, remove or change said problem, seal it up and then bail to play a round of golf (or simply move on to the next patient, let’s be fair). In Avengers Disassembled, we had a problem of a stagnant Avengers comic; the book wasn’t selling well, it had fallen into something of a rut creatively and couldn’t compete with the Distinguished Competition’s Justice League. Bendis grabbed a pen and introduced a major shake-up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the repercussions of which still last to this day. Too many mutants around thanks to Grant Morrison’s wild ride? Bendis surgically struck with House of M, and “No more mutants” continues to anger our heroes (despite that edict being rewritten in a semi-Bendis-directed AvX). We needed a common enemy, old characters back on the playing field and another big shake-up to the Marvel Universe. Bam, Secret Invasion, which led to Dark Reign and beyond. Each time there’s a problem, Bendis will solve it in an eight- to 10-issue story arc, and then he’s out of there.
Rarely has an event book under his steady hand had a clear, definitive ending. The Avengers disassembled because the Scarlet Witch went crazy. Why? That was left for nurse Allan Heinberg to flesh out more in Avengers: Children’s Crusade. Now that there’s no more mutants, what happens to the X-Men? Welcome to the entire direction of the X-titles handled by everyone but Bendis at the time. Secret Invasion just ended with Norman Osborn slaying the Skrull Queen. What’s after that? Dark Reign, where more characters were just pushed into place until Siege, where they were pushed back out of place and Heroic Age could begin. It’s like there’s no period at the end of Bendis’ event sentences; they just keep going and going, running one into the other until someone else gets their hands in there and puts in that full stop.
Age of Ultron #10 is the best example yet of this strange, never-ending story phenomenon. Last issue, Hank Pym was tasked with creating Ultron, installing a backdoor fail-safe so he could be defeated at a specific time and then erasing his own brain so all of this would look like “fate” and not disrupt the space-time continuum (because time can’t tell if you’re fibbing). The Avengers find themselves at the same point in time they were years ago when the Age of Ultron was first hinted at, and Hank gets his cue from himself on … an iPad? Something like it. Anyhow, the Avengers fight Ultron when the Pym gambit works out and Ultron shuts down. We are told it was really hard but deception in programming won the day. Just when the day is saved, there’s … I don’t know. A time quake? A big two-page spread of time fracturing and a variety of characters shouting out while history or the future plays out in shaky cam behind them? Reed Richards, Tony Stark and Beast all get together to stroke their chins and not really know what happened either. Apparently, Wolverine’s fool move was the last straw and time is officially pissed off at the Marvel Universe.
And that’s the end. Yes, there are more pages, but those are short ads for the miniseries Hunger (where 616-Galactus will invade the Ultimate Universe), Avengers A.I. (as Hank Pym now knows what he did wrong and what he has to do) and Guardians of the Galaxy (where Angela and the reader will figure out how she got into the Marvel Universe). The end of this issue tells you nothing of what exactly its ramifications will be, only that they are so important it needed to be sealed to protect the information within. The information … that will be in a Previews catalog or simply right here on this topical website.
Again, I can’t fault him for this. Bendis knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish when he started out on this story (to break time, I suppose) and struck right to the heart of the matter. That nurse Mark Waid is coming in to do a post-event issue should honestly be a relief. That Sam Humphries will be handling Hank Pym and what he knows now is expected. Heck, Bendis is going to have a nurse on hand in Neil Gaiman to tell Angela’s story, and Joshua Hale Fialkov at his side for Hunger. While Bendis may be the catalyst for a lot of the major events that have shaped the Marvel Universe we know today, we also know to thank the nurses who assist in these procedures and ensure the continued health of our universe.