Robot 6

The Fifth Color | Bendis’ surgical strike with ‘Age of Ultron’

age of ultron10A 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.

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36 Comments

This is probably why I’ve always loved his Ultimate-Spiderman run . . . it really hasn’t ended. I’ve always had issues with his runs on other books. LOL I never really thought of it like that. But all surgical precision aside, all Bendis does is shake up the Marvel Universe . . . he never really gives it a direction or makes it better. Its disaster after disaster and I would argue that the other writers are the ones who carry the weight of having to fix or make amends of his actions . . . until the next event.

I wish he wasn’t behind so many events. And in truth, as much money as they make, I wish there weren’t so many events. Yes, everyone argues about event fatigue, but I’ve yet to read one that stuck. I’d rather events happen in their own books or a separate mini-series that didn’t affect the main title, unless of course its being written by the books author then at least it wouldn’t run rampant across all the titles.

Really nice article, and nice comment from Jesus S. Bendis can be wonderful. I think his work on ANXM and UXM is some of his best since his early Avengers work. But I suspect the nice character work there will be derailed in the way all his stuff tends to be by universe shaking events. I don’t hate Bendis, and I think his time in the MU has largely been a positive, but there’s that lack of closure, that sense that his characters don’t so much have an arc or a future as they are stop gaps until his next event.

I have no problem with the basic concept of the “ending” and a few previews to follow as epilogue chapters. Mechanically, I think FEAR ITSELF did this well with the “main” ending at the guys with the lawnmower, and the four epilogues for INCREDIBLE HULK, DEFENDERS, THE FEARLESS, and BATTLE SCARS.

This was a bit flat. Yes, it ended with previews of A.I., HUNGER, and GUARDIANS, but I can’t tell what’s the true stopping point for the main story and what’s the previews for the rest. I guess it’s the HUNGER preview, but it doesn’t work well. In other words, I wish we’d gotten a few general fallout pages showing temporal damage to the Marvel U, followed by the four previews we got. The three sub-endings really should have been a glimpse of what the follow-on books would be like FEAR ITSELF did.

You said: “Too many mutants around thanks to Grant Morrison’s wild ride?” but the FIRST thing that he did was to kill a gazillion mutants. In fact, he left a manageable number of them. More credible than the 198. That’s not a minority, that’s an incredibly rare condition.

Age of Anticlimax

Time for BMB to go to pla;y in the DC field. He can do something good there. They need him, and MARVEL surely can be relieved of him for a while.

I mainly bought this series because of Brian Hitch and Moon Knight. While it was OK in parts, overall I found it somewhat ho-hum and not satisfying. I had a similar reaction to Fear Itself and swore to myself I would never get sucked into a universe-wide Marvel event again. Silly me, sucked in again. But I swear, as God is my witness, I will never buy another Marvel Event series again!!

Probably…

Is it just me or is this Marvel’s version of the Superboy punch?

Concur, Che.

Brilliant comparison in the article to a surgeon. Great work.

BMB goes to DC I stop reading DC.
Good article.

It is Marvel’s version of the Retcon Punch, in that they seem to be intent on redoing Crisis on Infinite Earths.

I wish Marvel (and DC for that matter) would give it a rest with the event storylines for a while. They keep talking about ‘shaking up the status quo’, which might mean something if there was a status quo in place to shake. With a big storyline like, say, AvX, we need more breathing space to examine the ramifications of the repowering of mutants. But we all know that, thanks to crossovers, we’ll get 6-8 months of storylines before the next shakeup. And then you have stories like Age of Ultron, which are great examples of busywork, getting all the pieces into place so they can launch a few books that won’t last more than, what, a year and a half? Fun.

Unfortunately, I can’t fall into the ranks that think Bendis did a great job with this. 40+ years of reading comics has not left me jaded, but seriously: nothing happened in issue 10 except to successfully conclude with Pym’s previously implanted “end code” wiping out Ultron’s memory banks. Oh. So, forget all of the setting-up for a whole new series: I was loving the way the tale was unfolding. How would this typical “Ultron-takes-over-the-world” storyline merge with an “untypical” Days of Future Past storyline? The possibilities were endless, so Bendis just ignored the endless possibilities and ended with a boring one. Really–did the magical-Morganna-possible-future have any real relevance? The character who could warp AI by being in its proximity meant…what? Taking 3 issues to get Fury off his butt in Antarctica did…what? Why the shock value of having the Vision be a conduit for Ultron’s New York operation, a fact that ended up being totally meaningless? This is the problem with stringing along a weak storyline for the sake of buzz and high sales rather than a purpose (i.e., The Watchmen 12-issue series): readers like me just stay with our main favorites and don’t want to buy mini-series and “special events” like Ultron. Age of Ultron was a sucker bet, and I’m not going to spend one cent on whatever happens in the next major event until it’s over and the reviews are in. Once bitten…

My gut tells me that Age of Ultron was written a year ago. In the intervening time, everything at Marvel changed. This event was no different. It really feels like some where along the way the ending was radically altered to set up new comics coming down the pike and to justify what’s going on in the Avengers currently.

I wish I could sympathize, but if you haven’t learned Bendis’ air fluff game by now, you deserve what you get.

You hit the nail on the head on this one. The main problem with big events(Bendis ones in particular) is there’s little to no closure or follow-up once there done with. They either lead in to another or the next big event or get swept under the rug so that things can be kept in some form of status quo.
What happened to the Skrulls, the Hulk’s armies, all those floating cities made by the P5? No we get a new spin-off series that may or may not explain something from the event but usually goes down a different route or gets Cancled.
Bendis usually has some cool ideas but always sucks at implementing or ending them .

If BMB is a surgeon (and I’m not knocking his previous works, as I think the metaphor is at least interesting) then AoU was the equivalent of a costly elective surgery for an almost non-existent problem, and one that could probably have been better solved by a simpler regime of regular exercise and dieting.

This was my first Marvel event that I collected in single issues in about 12 years (been overseas for the past few years where American Comics don’t get any play). This series left such a bad vibe for me that I will NOT be collecting for the foreseeable future. Bendis.Quesada.everyone Marvel/DC can suck it right now. Corporate is running things waaaaay too far these days with these two companies. Corporate shills, if you ask me. There’s no creativity in these lines anymore. Switching to Independent comics mode again!

So Bendis knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish… but you can only “suppose” what that is? Deary me. I have no doubt that Bendis intended to get somewhere, but as tends to be the case when he writes events, there’s no there there. Bendis’s storylines don’t end as much as they just stop. In ongoing titles, that works better because we expect to have succeeding issues in which themes can be developed. But in a limited series it becomes aggravating, as though the issues are his attempt to work through an idea that he had rather than present a fully formed concept and narrative.

That isn’t surgical, at all, unless you define “surgical” as “sloppy and distracted.” I hope your husband’s medical care was better than you describe it here.

Bill B, you should really try the more self-contained, critically praised Marvel books instead of the dumb summer crossover. Try HAWKEYE, DAREDEVIL, or YOUNG AVENGERS, for example, before condemning the whole line.

What the hell did I just pay $40+ to read? What was this? I read the whole thing and still don’t get how this is in any continuity. I mean, what team of the Avengers were the “Real Avengers” Supposed to have been? When were all those Avengers even on the same team at the same time? Even the artwork of this thing was below standard. Remember when one artist was capable of drawing all the issues of one event?

Someone get Scarlet Witch on the phone and say, NO MORE EVENTS.

Sorry Bendis, Love what you’re doing on Ultimate Spider-Man, but even the end of this event doesn’t fit in any current continuity you’re doing on that one. Stick to single books, not whole franchises because all the end of this makes me think is, Michael Brian Bendis just BROKE the Marvel Universe.

Time was, ultron was to the avengers, what doc doom and galactus were to the ff, but like those characters,one got weary of time and time and time again, after getting wasted, see him come back. Way back in avengers 57, that introd the vision, he got blown to bits for the first time, then again in avengers 68.I hope, that marvel NEVER again, bring the character back.

I read this on the basis that I enjoyed some of Bendis’ other work, namely his early crime/noir stuiff, his stunning run on Daredevil, Powers, heck, even Scarlet, Moon Knight and Spider Woman (despite Maleev’s variable work on these). I must admit to not really following his work on the big Marve team books a event story lines he seems to have become known for, so cannot comment on those.

Having laid out 30 British pounds to read this, mainly because it picks up on an intriguing thread from Moon Knight (which I had assumed had been followed up and developed in other books, but apparently not), I feel entitled to express a few thoughts:

- AU started well. The first issue had that widescreen, mythic quality you want from a big team/event/robot apocalypse story
- It quickly degenerated into slapdash story telling, with some important aspects of the situation left unexplored, eg where are all the non-powered citizens, ie us? Dead? In camps? Being used as batteries? I’m left with the distinct impression of a bunch of be-suited buffoons deciding the fate of a world with which they have no real connection (sound familiar?). I doubt this was a point of the story, and at any rate it has been done better many, many times before over the past three decades
- The artwork was of variable quality and contributed to an overall sense of unevenness and inconsistency. And what is going on with those horrible CGI-looking covers? They’re like bad computer game ads. And while we’re on the subject of current trends in comic art, photo-referencing is getting out of control, folks. Copying exactly every line of your buddy’s grimacing face in order lend realism and drama to your artwork will usually result in a facsimile of someone acting badly.
- Oh, I could go on, but I’m getting increasingly annoyed as I write

Suffice to say, I feel cheated. I feel like I’ve spent 30 of my heard earned pounds on an advert for Hunger, Avengers AI or whatever else Marvel (Disney!) decide to spin out of this. I mean, really, who cares if some derivative 90s Wonder Woman knock off has ‘crossed over’ from one publisher’s universe into another? A major factor is the number of books Bendis is writing (or supposed to be writing) each month. It must be pretty hard to sustain quality over how many? Six? Seven titles, including his creator-owned stuff (always the first to drop off the schedules. What happened to Scarlet’s mooted monthly shipping)?

As I said before, AU was a superhero book about superheroes talking to superheroes in a world of superheroes and was crucially devoid of any human angle anchored in experiences to which readers could relate. I suspect this is true of much of Bendis’ big team/event work at Marvel, hence why I’ve never bothered ( also, because these things, as is mentioned in the above article, are really exercises in paving the way for sales-boosting retcons, reboots, relaunches, whatever). I really get the sense from Marvel that the creative process consists of a bunch of guys sitting round saying ‘You know what would be really cool? Galactus!’. Comics creators talking to comics creators in a world of comics creators. Ironic, given Marvel’s origins and reputation as the relevant, in-touch comics publisher. Come on guys. Get lives. Please. For the sake of creativity.

The sad thing is that, ultimately – ironically – AU constitutes nothing more and nothing less that the death of the superhero.

Excuse the typos!

In case anyone hasn’t noticed, not only are “events” still going strong, but they are increasing in both frequency and duration. Last year AvX was 12 issues spread out over 6 months. This year we got a 10-issue AoU spread out over four months. And now we’re getting Infinity almost right on top of that. This is leading to an eventual revolving door of event books. Not too far in the distant future there will be a large scope mini series of some type covering every month of the year (if not every other week of the year). Mark my words, it won’t be long before Marvel does it’s own weekly series (like 52, countdown and Trinity over at DC). You can almost see them warming up for it. They’ve done a great job rotating their artists all over the place to keep up double shipping on their more popular books and now event books are are starting to approach a weekly shipping status for their limited durations.

The real key here, though, is not that Corporate America is greedy. The key is that people are buying these things in droves. As a business person, if you saw that every single issue of every one of your event books sold through the roof despite the protestations of fans online, would YOU stop making them? No. In fact you’d do exactly what they’re doing. You’d test the waters to see how much demand there really is for this sort of thing by increasing shipping schedules and the length of the events and such. And so far, it’s working. So where it goes from here is that not only will events NOT stop, but they’re going to be far more frequent and occur for longer periods of time. And I don’t blame them for doing it. Until we stop buying, this will continue. That’s how it is.

beane2099 makes a perfectly good point. So, everyone, LET”S STOP BUYING THIS CRAP!!!

I am not buying the infinity series.When one adds up not just the cost of the mini/maxi series, but, all the crossover issues, your talking more or less,100 bucks for the entire event.These events end up, spinning off three or four new events.back in the mid 1990s, the fans got So pissed at marvel, both for what they had done with the spidy clone, and the endless first issues and special expensive covers, they organized a boycott online that nearly destroyed marvel.Not pushing one, but see one coming.

Big Bendis fan. Big Avengers fan. Big Ultron fan.

This was one of the worst things Bendis has written, one of the worst Avengers stories I’ve ever read, and one of the worst Ultron stories to ever see the light of day.

I was dying to love this, but 3 issues in I knew I wasn’t going to. Stuck with it ’til the end with fingers crossed, but… in the end, had to concede that this was a huge let-down.

For the life of me, I really don’t understand what the problem is here. Big company comics don’t end. They go on and on and on. This isn’t new. It’s been like this for decades upon decades.

Event comics are often used to springboard new ideas that drive the narrative direction of new or existing books. That’s what makes them events.

That’s all Bendis is doing, so why is that being criticized??? Is it better to kill the top villain of a book and then leave so someone else can pick up the pieces (ala Grant Morrison on New X-Men)??? What he’s doing here is exactly what a company would expect for an event, and that’s why events have gone like this for years.

Seriously, I really think a lot of you have no idea what you want other than to complain …

JC Lebourdais

June 24, 2013 at 5:50 am

Bendis is very good at getting people addicted to serialised fiction. From a business perspective, there is no reason for him to stop. As long as people keep buying, the perp will continue committing crime against good stories. he’s the pusher, you all are the junkies. Time for some cold turkey :)

Considering superhero stories from the Big Two are unending second acts, isn’t setting up a new status quo the point of a comics event?

I found this story really weak in the way it was told and the vague ending it had.

Darth, I disagree. Satisfying, well written stories have to have some kind of conclusion or closure. While the titles don’t end, discrete story arcs within the certainly do, even if there is some ‘fallout’ that serves as a springboard into new story arcs. Look at Fraction’s Hawkeye. Excellently executed standalone story in every issue that adds to a wider narrative. And standalone issues are what comics used to do. The extended multi issue story is relatively recent in terms of comics history.

Perhaps you’re right about event books and we should just bend over and accept being shafted in the wallet for inferior product. We do know what we want. High quality work from people who we know are capable of much, much better.

Oh, and if Bendis is willing to accept the plaudits, he can damn well take the much-deserved criticism for this dreadful hack job he’s cynically foisted on his loyal readership.

That boycott idea is beginning to sound quite appealing…

Antonio Demark Hughes

June 24, 2013 at 4:00 pm

So Wolverine is the Breaker of universes, somehow this reminds me of a What If story from years past.

“I wish Marvel (and DC for that matter) would give it a rest with the event storylines for a while. They keep talking about ‘shaking up the status quo’, which might mean something if there was a status quo in place to shake.”
Exactly. And, really, what changed at the end of this issue? Angela showed up in the Marvel Universe, the Ultimate Universe has a new problem, and Hank Pym knows how to shut down Ultron. The fact that there are other Marvel universes is nothing new (Alan Moore showed us a few in Captain Britain, decades back), and heroes have crossed over from one to the other, before now. For a book that was supposed to “shake up” the Marvel U, quite a lot has been left for others to do…
(In other words, this has been a ten-issue set-up to tell other writers that they could write stories about this stuff, if they want.)

Marvel is publishing daredevil, Hawkeye and young avengers… AOU did not come at their expense. Its not a zero sum game where an evemnt comic you dont like makes comics you do like disappear. In fact, I’d wager that huge crossover events make publishing those other cult classic type books more feasible,

didn’t read the series was not interested enough from what I had heard from others. But, if there is a hole in the time stream,why not use it to bring in the original Miss America and the Blonde Phantom to the present ?

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