Originally created by Dr. Henry Pym–Ant-Man–in the Marvel Universe and in our own universe by Roy Thomas and John Buscema in the pages of Avengers Issue #55 in 1968, Ultron is one of our inductees in the borg.com Hall of Fame. Depending on which of his 18+ incarnations you look at, throughout his development he is often a blend of the organic and the technological to form the ultimate artificial lifeform. We don’t yet know the state of Ultron’s form in the pages of Age of Ultron Book One, released in comic book stores this week. But we do know he nearly obliterated the planet and its superheroes like no villainous force before him. When we last heard of Ultron, Tony Stark aka Iron Man predicted that when Ultron returns he will bring an apocalypse for mankind. It’s that apocalypse that brings us to this new Age of Ultron.
Writer Brian Michael Bendis and artists Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary plunge readers into an incredibly cool book from page one, revealing New York City today as a leveled island replaced with a technological nightmare of a fortress. Looking a bit like London after the zombie apocalypse of 28 Days Later or a post-Cloverfield monster crisis, from the city’s ashes one bow-wielding, unlikely warrior rises above them all–Clint Barton aka Hawkeye. What happened to the city? Why is Hawkeye saving a girl from a gang of street dregs who look like the mutants of The Dark Knight Returns?
This well-armed street militia of goons actually consists of pawns of Ultron, acquiring superheroes like bounty hunters after the reward from a WANTED poster. Soon we catch up with Peter Parker’s Spider-man, no longer the cocky hero. Ultron surfaces displaying even greater destructive forces, beautifully rendered by Hitch and Neary in a series of blurred pages that reflect the sheer scope of his power.
And we begin to understand how bad the situation is for Earth and its citizens, as we meet up with Luke Cage, Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk), Tony Stark (Iron Man), Logan (Wolverine), Emma Frost and Beast (X-Men), Sue Storm (Invisible Woman) and Steve Rogers (Captain America)–the last remnants of the Avengers, The X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Fantastic Four–all hiding in a cave.
Age of Ultron Book One is a deluxe format book with the cover printed on a glossy card stock instead of standard comic book paper. Several alternate covers are available. The cover and interior visuals are big and detailed and the story delivers what we want–dropping us into the situation far into the actual story instead of giving us the typical blah introduction of characters first issue. Call it post-apocalyptic, call it dystopian, the world left behind Ultron’s wake provides a set-up that will make it difficult for the Marvel superheroes to turn the world back to the way it was. Ultron is revealed as large and in charge and all appears hopeless.
Age of Ultron is being released as a ten-issue mini-series with nine tie-ins through June 2013, including appearances in Fantastic Four, Superior Spider-man, Ultron, Avengers Assemble, Wolverine and the X-Men, Uncanny Avengers, Fearless Defenders and an Age of Ultron epilogue book. Check out Age of Ultron Book One at your local comic book store on sale now.