Age of Ultron
Maybe it’s because I’ve been playing Bioshock: Infinite lately, but the choice we make now can lead to infinite worlds of harder choices in the blink of an eye. There’s a philosophical weight to certain scientific theories that takes the dryness of numbers and calculations and puts them into context for who we are as human beings. One of science fiction’s many functions is to play around with that: Robots can be used as puppets to play out our feelings about our own humanity, the aftermath of post-apocalyptic nightmares can show us how societies work at the broken point, and then there’s time travel.
Oh, man, time travel is a huge trope for the deep thinkers! The infamous “go back in time in kill Hitler” question is still debated in classrooms to this day and bandied about online forums. It’s huge temptation to think that, by changing a single thing about our past, we could create a brighter future, whether that’s saving 11 million people or simply knowing where we put our keys in the morning. It’s something we can comfortably wonder about because no one on Earth is capable of actually traveling through time to change anything.
Comics, on the other hand, can and often do. There are time-travel powers, devices, plot elements … it’s a fun topic to explore, and so our heroes jump into the time stream with little time for debate or even a basic plan. This creates the action and adventure we came to read and allows the creative team to test out a variety of scenarios for our entertainment and enlightenment. We debate, but fiction can act.
Does this make comics smarter than us for acting on these ideas or are comics more frustrating for tossing caution to the wind when any of us would pause to understand if we were doing the right thing? This is why Age of Ultron bothers me so much.
WARNING: Big reveal from last week’s Age of Ultron #6, so grab your copies and read along!
July is going to be a big month for comics. Mind you, it should be as spectacular as they can make it at the House of Ideas because the fans who have fought hard to go to Comic-Con International won’t be forgiving if it’s reprint month. Nope, all the stops need to be pulled out, questions need to be posed, if not answered (as much as plotline questions are ever answered in serial comics), because there’s going to be a large audience ready to ask the big questions about what the heck is going on and what’s coming next.
Sure, the upswing of comics produced and plotlines kicking into gear isn’t all Comic-Con armor; some of it is the sort of halfway mark between events. Summer comic events should be in full swing by the time July comes around, and this year we’re seeing the end of Age of Ultron, and the stirrings of Infinity, Jonathan Hickman’s no doubt mind-blowing event. It’s a big-time shift for the Marvel Universe … or is it?
Let’s take a look through Marvel’s July solicitations and see what clues we can find about our future, shall we?
On the heels of this morning’s July solicitations, which included a mysterious “Classified” listing for a one-shot called Age of Ultron #10 U.C., Marvel has released a teaser that may tip the company’s hand … a little.
Seen in full below, the image depicts the word “HUNGER,” in telltale Galactus purple, repeated over over a cosmic background. Fiddling in Photoshop also reveals what appears to be mountains, but I could be wrong.
The issue is so secret, that Marvel isn’t revealing the writer and artist, or even what the “U.C.” in the title stands for. Whatever it is, it’ll likely spark the next round of Marvelman speculation. (Hey, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso did recently tell Comic Book Resources the company is moving closer to the character’s debut. MickyMoran vs. the Devourer of Worlds? Nah.)
Every so often, public opinion shifts and popular culture gets a craving. Remember when everything was all about pirates? Then we all got on this huge kick about vampires and the supernatural, and we had a variety of different television shows to slake our thirst? The remnants of those yearnings still linger (well, not so much the pirates), and now the masses have all lined up for zombies.
Zombies play into so many metaphors for the fears that plague us (death, communities turning against us, a loss of identity and so on), and they can even reflect economic shifts with consumerism and political-mob mentalities. That latter point is probably why Game of Thrones (a fantasy political drama) and The Walking Dead (a morality play on humanity versus its corrupted self) are TV-ratings gold.
Sadly, this cannot last. I’m not saying zombies are on their way out, just that the cultural craze is reached a peak and is moving toward something new — and Marvel comics has your back.
With robots! They’re fantastic and a personal favorite of my science fiction-loving heart, so the announcement of Avengers A.I. left me looking past our zombie-filled present with a hope for a new future-craze. We should be looking forward to what comes after our old rotten selves, pushing forward with our fiction to better understand the human condition. There is no better metaphor than that of the robot to help us grasp our own humanity and morality by looking through mechanical eyes; the future of our pop culture might not be full of artificial men, because who can really predict the public’s taste for fantasy or fiction? But Marvel seems primed and ready to try to take us into a new age of androids.
Happy Easter and welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where we review the stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today we are joined by Miranda Mercury and Voltron writer Brandon Thomas, whose collection of original art and other stuff we featured in Shelf Porn yesterday.
To see what Brandon and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
“The health of the industry is based upon having good stories and good characters, and a wide customer base. If bringing some of these characters back to the fold in a meaningful way adds to that, then it just strengthens our industry. [...] “Good stories that entertain are something that we all should applaud on any level. Whether we’re doing it directly at Image Comics, or at our competition, it helps keep our industry that we love alive. I will sit back and be as interested as anyone else.”
– Todd McFarlane, who was embroiled in a nearly decade-long legal battle with Neil Gaiman over the rights to the characters they co-created in Spawn #9, responding to the announcement last week that the writer will introduce Angela into the Marvel Universe this summer. McFarlane also confirmed to Newsarama that as part of the 2012 resolution to their lawsuit, Gaiman owns the rights to Angela outright.
In “By the Numbers,” ROBOT 6 takes a look back at the events of the past five days … in numbers.
With Thursday’s announcement that Neil Gaiman is returning to the Marvel Universe and bringing with him Angela, the character at the center of his eight-year legal battle with Todd McFarlane, we’re left to wonder about the whereabouts of Marvelman. We also look at the surprise departures at DC Comics, and what the right price is when you name your own.
Few were more excited by this morning’s announcement that Neil Gaiman will introduce Angela into the Marvel Universe than Kearstin Fay Nicholson, who referred to it on the Comic Book Resources Facebook page as the “greatest news I’ve heard all day.” That’s because the Chicago-based cosplayer won The Superhero Costuming Forum‘s 2012 Most Epic Female Costume Contest for her take on the Spawn character — and deservedly so.
You can see for yourself below, and on Nicholson’s photo gallery.
It’s been almost two years since Avengers 12.1, an issue where Tony Stark warned that Ultron comes back smarter each time he’s reborn. Well, Hank Pym’s robotic “son” is back again, and apparently smart enough to take over New York City and transform it into a dystopian dictatorship. The first issue arrived on Wednesday, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary and Paul Mounts, the same creative team who created that 12.1 issue — and the same writer who teased it in an issue of Avengers back in 2010.
So was it worth the wait? Here are a few opinions from the web who thought so or thought no, as the case may be:
It is relentlessly focused on the evocation of nostalgia, to a degree that’s remarkable even among super-comics (a genre that’s built out of nostalgia-evocation), but what is perhaps most interesting about the book is the particular frequency of nostalgia the publishers appears interested in.
Yes, this is a comic book seemingly about other comic books, a comic book like so many other Marvel comic books you’ve already read, but which Marvel comic books, and from which decade? That’s what’s unusual about this particular go-round.
It’s hard to look at the cover and not think of the 1990s.
No longer content with variant-cover schemes, Marvel has upped the ante in its silly cover-gimmick arms race with DC Comics, and come up with an embossed gold-foil cover. There’s a metallic shine to the wrap-around cover (the back of which is really an ad for the second issue), justified in-story by the fact that this is about a robot. That robot, Ultron, like the “AU” and “Marvel” logos, is embossed, so the comic feels special — not just metaphorically, but literally. Run your fingertips all over it with your eyes closed; yeah, this isn’t your typical issue of Avengers!
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. Below you’ll find a breakdown of the big announcements that came out of this weekend’s Emerald City Comicon, our contributors’ picks for the comics of the week — from Age of Ultron to Al Capp — and the top events to look for in the next seven days (hint: convention season is fully under way).
So here I was, gentle reader, tapping away at the keyboard this morning, polishing up my thoughts on Wolverine’s current employment trajectory and comparing it to a popular comedian from the ’80s when I got a message from my distinguished colleague, Mr. Tom Bondurant.
“Why is Marvel releasing solicits Friday afternoon, like the Pentagon doing a big document-dump?” he asked via Twitter, causing me to drop everything and run to my favorite and most trusted news source, this very website. Lo and behold, Tom was right, and Marvel’s solicitations for April had gone up just in time for the weekend. Normally, these are released in a timely fashion, as we comic book fans and retailers have a rhythm worked out for peculiar way we look forward to, order and then receive comics. Having these guys show up on a Friday and, more telling, having them seemingly reiterate information we learned throughout the week feels as if that rhythm is mutating somehow — that we might get previews for events in a different way and that Marvel promotions might be delivered to us differently in the months to come. This could either be the herald of a new way to talk about our future in our present about comics that have come out in the past, like trades or reprints, or it could be a very busy week at the Bullpen and they only got this list out today.
Either way, April is waiting. Read on!
In just three months, we will be pretty entrenched into the new NOW! of Marvel. So far, so good, right? Can’t say that they’ve all been hits, but considering the alternative (*cough*reboot*cough*), I’d say we’re doing pretty well.
Will this be an era that’s looked back at as a radical change in publishing and a landmark era of storytelling for Marvel? I get the feeling that a lot of people are hoping so, most of them in marketing. This is a fresh face for the Marvel brand, and we should be looking at a moment that will be well-documented by journalists, historians and (more importantly to the layman) comic book price guides. Sadly, my precognitive powers are only available in March solicitations, so let’s look at those and see what NOW! will look like then. Or THEN! I’m not sure.
First, let’s talk about the trades. I rarely get to do so because they’re always at the bottom and there’s normally a huge amount of comics to sort through and events to define before we reach the reasonable road of the trade paperback. But in March, Marvel NOW! will officially be the final status quo on the shelves, so we’ll begin a steady stream of trades for major titles in hardcover and softcover format.s The first volumes of Uncanny Avengers, Iron Man and Avengers will be out in hardcover, with Fantastic Four, Red She-Hulk and X-Men: Legacy getting softcover editions; I think the change in format probably has to do with the price of the original issues.
“Despite Marvel coming to me and asking for the Cap series, rather than my pitching it to them, it was constantly being sidelined and eventually dropped to my disappointment. Since Ultimates ended, I’d been less and less involved in a collaborative process at Marvel. They now had their various brain-trusts, architects or whatever the gang was calling themselves, and that was what led their creative process. It seemed a very closed shop and not what it was like when I signed up to do Ultimates at all. I felt like they wanted an illustrator not a creator, and that was very frustrating to me. I’d submitted several proposals for various series, getting nowhere; Cap was dropped, and I didn’t even feel involved in the story I was working on. It really felt like I wasn’t contributing the way I wanted to be.
Obviously the work I did there over more than ten years is a true high point in my career and, in looking at the Marvel movies, clearly influential, but I guess there’s a time when you feel like you don’t know anybody at the party anymore or nobody’s laughing at your jokes and it’s time to call a cab. Possibly, had I known the Ultron series was longer than the five issues I’d originally thought and if I hadn’t had the Cap book pulled from under me, I may never have considered moving on, but stuff changes I guess.
I don’t want any of this to sound anything other than light, frothy and pleasant though. There’s no regret or bitterness, far from it. There’s always things one could have done differently or better but I had an amazing time and got play with a lot of company toys, and it made my career in the best way possible. Now in going forward I feel like I have some incredible opportunities I might otherwise not have had.”
– Bryan Hitch, in a lengthy interview with Comic Book Resources, discussing his departure from Marvel following Age of Ultron
If it seems like only last week that we were looking back on Marvel’s 1980s sci-fi series ROM: Spaceknight, that’s because we were. Spurred by Hasbro’s new trademark filing for ROM, we summed up the inauspicious history of the Parker Brothers action figure, and the more successful — and more fondly remembered — comic book it spawned.
But no sooner had we left Galador and the Dire Wraiths behind than Comic Book Resources debuted art from Marvel’s Age of Ultron #2, by Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch. And right there on the massive two-page cork board, squeeze between photos of Doctor Strange and Wiccan, is none other than ROM, greatest of the Spaceknights!
Are the two things related? It’s certainly possible — after all, Marvel and Hasbro have had a long (and presumably profitable) relationship that continues to this day with Avengers and Superhero Squad action figures, giant plastic Hulk hands and the like. So who better than the House of Ideas to help revive that plastic relic of 1970s toy chests? However, it’s unlikely Marvel would plunk another company’s character into a major story event, particularly after it’s had to untangle its own creations from licensed properties over the decades (ROM, Micronauts, Godzilla, et al). It seems more probable that Bendis and Hitch are having a little fun, dropping a figure from Marvel’s past among some of its more prominent players. Still, though, an Easter egg like that is usually tucked away along the edges of a panel or a page, not smack-dab in the middle …