Marvel Entertainment’s renowned heroes find themselves in an unfamiliar and unsettling position in the pages of the just-released “Age of Ultron” series: defeated, demoralized and desperate.
After years of well-placed warnings that have gone unheeded, the ever-adaptive artificial intelligence that is Ultron – a creation of Avengers co-founder Henry Pym – finally has realized his potential as conquering villain. He has turned the planet into a dystopian landscape that is wrecked beyond compare with technology at the top of the food chain and humanity on the extinction trail.
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In short, said Brian Michael Bendis, who wrote the series that debuted last week, Ultron has lived up to his promise.
“Ultron is one of the big villains of the Marvel universe, up there with Dr. Doom and Magneto,” he said. “He’s been a threat – a constant threat – and they’ve never been able to defeat him because of the nature of his being.”
With Ultron’s ability to adapt, react and learn, his promise has gone global and what was once a vibrant planet is nothing more than piles of debris with androids and mechanized robots running roughshod across the surface. Heroes such as Iron Man, the Sensational Spider-Man, Moon Knight, Invisible Woman and Hawkeye have been forced into the shadows.
It is, Bendis said, a reckoning of sorts with the Marvel universe “destroyed” and “half the heroes dead and half the world is dead.”
Those who are left – remnants of the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Hulks – live in the shadows, fighting back, Bendis said, and they aim to stop what happened from ever happening again.
“It’s not an imaginary story. It’s happening in Marvel continuity,” he said of the tale, which has the first three issues out this month, followed by issues Nos. 4, 5 and 6 in April, all illustrated by Bryan Hitch. The heroes “are going to break some rules with the space-time continuum.”
The 10-issue story is illustrated by Bryan Hitch, Brandon Petersen and Carlos Pacheco, with a fourth artist who Marvel is keeping secret.
The series will leave readers confused and, possibly, upset, too, said Tom Brevoort, senior vice president for publishing at Marvel and editor for “Age of Ultron.”
“Part of the ethos we’re trying to adopt, as part of Marvel Now, is the idea that really, anything can happen and the sky is the limit,” he said. “‘Age of Ultron’ is the exemplar of that. It’s supposed to make people feel edgy and uncomfortable.”