Thursday, April 2, 2015

Review: Avengers Rage of Ultron (comics)

Raging about the Rage of Ultron
by rick olivares

The synopsis: The genocidal android, Ultron, has been shot into outer space never to return. Or so the Avengers thought. Years later, Ultron has returned after taking over the moon of Titan, home to the Eternals and the Avengers’ old foe, Thanos. Except he finds an almost entirely different crew of Earth’s Mightiest Defenders. And Ultron’s “father”, Hank Pym, is confronted with issues and a solution that will no doubt reverberate for years to come.

Avengers: Rage of Ultron, the new original graphic novel from Marvel and in time to whet one’s appetite before Avengers: Age of Ultron film will go down as one of the best in the history between the protagonists and their nefarious robotic villain.

The Avengers have always had some dangerous villains. I’d say Thanos is tops followed by Ultron and Magneto. Kang the Conqueror would be fourth, then Loki, the Skrulls, and the Masters of Evil. My reason for the first three – they have zero qualms about eliminating life. That is something the other foes aren’t too keen on as they are after power. They still need people to subjugate.

Ultron… like Thanos… is frightening. And it gets even more difficult to defeat him because it comes back in the worst way possible. And having said that… Avengers: Rage of Ultron, written by Rick Remender and drawn mostly by Filipino wunderkind Jerome Opeña, has its hits and misses that prevents it from topping the best of the Avengers-Ultron stories.

First off, the cover. It features Hank Pym, the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. But save for Pym and the Vision, the others appear only in the first 23 pages of this 99-page graphic novel. In the remainder of the book, it is the new squad led by the Falcon with the female Thor, Sabertooth, Spider-Man, Vision, Wasp, and Quicksilver with a guest appearance by Starfox.

I wish that new team should have been on the cover. Was Marvel concerned there’d be a lack of sales without its original heavy hitters on the cover?

Second, it looks like Marvel rushed the release of the graphic novel. Jerome Opeña’s art is one of the draws of the story but he clearly needed an assist as Pepe Larraz pitched in at least 18 pages including the epilogue. This reminds me of the time when Bryan Hitch did the first five issues of Age of Ultron only to turn it over to Brandon Peterson. Uh uh. Uncool! I totally hate it when they change artists midway. That means either someone was late or they moved the artist to something that demands equal attention.

And if you ask me, because of that, it is a major downer because Opeña is the lead artist. Remember when Marvel first teased about this graphic novel months ago with some Opeña art? It was so awesome. And it is rather disappointing that he didn’t get to finish this graphic novel.

Moving on… at the crux of the story is what is the solution to rogue Artificial Intelligence? Pym shuts down the Descendants who first appeared in writer Rick Remender’s stint on Uncanny X-Force (along with Opeña) and that brings him into conflict with the rest of the Avengers most notably, the Vision, who argue that the androids are sentient and shutting them down is akin to murder.

I am surprised this is still an issue with the team. Putting the kibosh on foes has been a major issue for the Avengers ever since Operation: Galactic Storm when the Iron Man-led faction of earth’s mightiest heroes decided to put to death the Kree Supreme Intelligence who engineered the nuking of his people with the Nega Bomb in hopes of – re-starting their evolution as a species.

These deeply-rooted differences once more reared its ugly head during the Civil War, and now it’s a hotly debated topic among the current crop of heroes when Planet Ultron returns with its final solution to the problem of humanity.

Speaking of deeply rooted differences, former Avengers writer Kurt Busiek, who provides the intro to this graphic novel, put it best when he wrote that Ultron not only suffers from an overblown Oedipal complex but his issues cross bloodlines from Hank Pym, who created him, to the Wasp, to the Vision, Wonder Man, Jocasta, Mockingbird, Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch, and Quick Silver. Talk about a blood feud.

And there are even more fundamental flaws in the team’s membership. I have always been against Wolverine on the team because he is a killer, pure and simple. And now Sabertooth, a reformed version, is on the team?

It’s like this is being rammed down fans’ throats because it sells. And that is why I feel this was rushed (again, Opeña wasn’t able to finish everything on time) ahead of the coming Avengers film (its worldwide premier takes place on April 13 in Los Angeles). To delay the printing of Rage of Ultron means it will miss the pre-film hype altogether.

I am sorry but I am not crazy about Larraz’ art that reminds me of a darker Terry Dodson. Hey, I love Opeña’s art but his Steve Rogers’ Captain America looks like it had the Super Soldier Serum beaten out of him. But other than that… I think he’s the new Marc Silvestri/Andy Kubert.

Remender supposedly is best with sci-fi genre stories but he flubs it when Planet Ultron enters earth space. Theoretically, that should have caused tidal waves and whatnot. Instead, the danger comes when Ultron tries to infect every human with spores turning them into his soldiers (much like he did in Ultron Unlimited in Avengers #19-22 from the team of Kurt Busiek and George Perez).

As a Remender fan, I love how he throws curves in the plotlines that you don’t see coming; hence, the ending. Some may quibble that graphic novels are supposed to be self-contained stories. And they should. But the ending reminds me of Mike W. Barr’s Son of the Bat that had one hell of a cliffhanger.

Rage of Ultron leaves you with a similar one although it will leave you with your stomach churning not because it’s terrible story-wise but because it sets up all sorts of other stories in this never-ending battle against Ultron.

Look. My gripes aside, it is still a heckuva story. I had high hopes it would top Ultron Unlimited or Age of Ultron; both killer stories. This however leapfrogs The Bride of Ultron and The Ultron Initiative.

Now… will the film version of Age of Ultron top them all?

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