Real Talk: 'Age of Ultron' #4 Racks Up the Casualties

A comic review article by: Sean Gonzalez, Jamil Scalese, Shawn Hill


Sean Gonzalez: Well, that seemed to escalate rather quickly. Our heroes have gone from spending days in hiding to road trippin' across the world, getting together with the rest of the gang, and finally having a plan to take down the baddy! And of course, they met up with Ka-Zar (if I call one more plot development correctly Marvel should send me a No-Prize)

Aside from the important story developments, I'd most like to talk about the major casualty list they're racking up so far. It's basically to the point where I'm getting Transformers: The Movie flashbacks. I worry this bodes bad tidings for the event's aftermath for two disparate reasons. On one side, if there is a massive list of characters gone, I'd assume that the only way to return to the status quo would be to use what we've discussed; magic or time travel (which we're now aware is going to be involved in some way.) On the other hand, maybe Marvel will stick it out and move forward with the Crisis-sized loss. Though the latter does bring about one of my favorite effects of a Crisis: minority replacement heroes! Except… it looks like we'll be coming out about even if Marvel actually replaced Cage and Panther.

But getting back to the point; do you guys think any of these heroic sacrifices will actually matter in another month and if not, does that mean these story beats hit as hard? I know that these doubts were affecting my enjoyment of the issue. In addition, I could not wrap my head around the drastically different pacing. For instance, I'm slightly upset with Bendis giving Cage an off-panel death with zero time for the reader to process; especially after considering that the first 3 issues of the series was so incredibly prolonged. I'd argue that the glossing over of these character deaths is another hint that we won't be missing anyone for long.



Jamil Scalese: This is a different type of event, that's for sure. Death in superhero comics represents one of the highest forms of honor, and creators normally preceded it with such ceremony and supercilious window-dressing that occasionally the energy can be sapped before the key action ever happens. That's not the case with Age of Ultron #4, where we see (or don't see) three deaths, two of which happen suddenly and without fanfare.

I'll admit that the Luke Cage's passing came across a little weird, but there's also the underlying idea that no one wanted to see him burnt to a crisp (from the inside, I guess), holding onto the last sinews of life. Luke was put there for logistical reasons above anything else, but Bendis make sure he went out heroically, both in his final battle with Ultron-bots and in the journey to the Savage Land to give his friends the important info he -- and we -- discover at the beginning of this issue.

Though it didn't seem to have much to do with the overall plot Red Hulk death-smashing Taskmaster definitely made me pause. It's a quick moment, and done well, but it's super jarring to see a "hero" (albeit an antihero) murder his partner based on suspicion that he might be a double-crosser. I think it's an indication that the world has gone to crap, and there are no consequences. Might is right, and all that jazz. I just hope that the moment provides dividends down the line, that is, I don't trust Red Hulk right now and I hope there's a reason the creative team made me feel that way.



Shawn Hill: Rulk is more of a paranoid bastard than Grulk, but we've known that about Thunderbolt Ross all along. Who's really going to mourn Taskmaster (his daughter, maybe?)? I think Cage did get a hero's funeral of a sort, through the reactions of everyone whom his death affected. Obviously his important sacrifice mattered to all of the survivors, just as Shulkie's did (though her grimly precise method of dispatch was horrific). 

That we're going to get a reset and these horrors may not matter that much isn't really affecting my enjoyment level, for two reasons. A) Hitch is selling it like he needs to get paid. And B) it's actually comforting for me to accept Bendis doing an alternate dystopia story the only point of which is to show how bad things could be (rather than how bad things will be from now on, which he's created far too often for my taste). That's Warren Ellis material, and he could do much worse as a storytelling model.

My mind is kind of blown right now by the impending arrival of Angela. Is it merely a copyright/ownership kind of thing? Is Bendis doing Gaiman a favor? Does he really have an idea for the character, or is she going to be an annoying intrusion like Pandora or whatever non-entity over in the New 52? I'm just happy that she's maybe got the right kind of power to screw with Ultron's circuits.



Sean: I might sound a bit pessimistic, but I expect them to shoehorn her in randomly seeing as how Gaiman is helping out with the last issue and none other. Either way, I know I'm interested to see what they do with her. DC are heavily experienced with bringing another publisher's heroes into the fold, but Marvel is taking a stab at this for the first time. Perhaps another hint that the effects of Age of Ultron will last?



Jamil: From what I read -- and it's nothing too spoilery -- Angela is merely a result of the ending, not the cause. Her first main story has something to do with the second arc of Guardian of the Galaxy, which Gaiman is helping co-write. It's certainly a huge move, and it speaks to fluidity and flexibility of comics.

However, we all know we're a ways off from that, at least narratively. We stuck in the middle of a disaster movie and the Angela arrival will most certainly require some type of reality-bending incantation/god-machine/cosmic weirdness. Right now, we have no inkling of that element. 

Is it okay if I gloat a little about my correct prediction from last week? The Vision reveal from #3 left us all a little confused (in a good way), and I ventured the guess that although Vision looked like he was controlling "Ultron City" he probably was just an ombudsman for the villain. Apparently he's a "conduit." This development plays right into one of the biggest questions we've had so far -- where the hell is Ultron, anyway? 

I have to admit, the answer impressed me. The future. The future! That's some decent sci-fi right there, and it shows up how far along Ultron has planned his assault on Earth. How does one stop someone from doing something they haven't done yet? 



Shawn: That's one's easy, Jamil. By making sure they never came to be at all. Not "if you could kill Hitler, would you?" but instead "if you could kill Hitler's mom--"  Uh oh. Hank, better get that movie out quick, dude!



Jamil: Man, I'm starting to love Red Hulk. So quotable. "We go get Ultron. And we wipe even the idea of him out of existence." Close to chills, fellas. 

Sean: I'm definitely intrigued, but we all know that killing Hitler's mom never pans out. (There's gotta be at least one episode of Twilight Zone or Outer Limits that teaches us this.) Despite this... am I the only one imagining original Avengers vs. time-displaced present Avengers? The entire battle hinging on Ant-Man's life! I can already see the '60s inspired variant covers.



Jamil: Sean, you bring up Hank Pym, godfather of Marvel A.I., and yet we've seen as much of him as we have Ultron. I suspect that when we figure out what's happening with one we'll get the scoop on the other. 

Whatever the next step is, I'm glad it's almost here. The "Hitch-pace" that Bendis specially set up for the artist has done it's job, now it's time to ante up. Age of Ultron #4 is more lively and meaningful, and we got some of those unpredictable moments that, you know, fiction is supposed to deliver. 

Next issue marks the halfway point, and the big moment where the heroes make their high-stakes move. I'm excited. We've had our complaints, but based on our collective and individual scores none of us have hated this crossover, I think we just expect more. Well... more is coming and I welcome it. Bring the ruckus, Bendis. 



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