Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Age of Ultron 5, originally released April 10th 2013. This issue is part of the Age of Ultron crossover event. Click here for complete AU coverage.
Shelby: Why is it always time travel? If you have a science-y plot in a comic book (especially a Marvel book, it seems) odds are pretty good that time travel with either be the basis of the conflict or the solution. Personally, I hope we never figure out how to travel through time. Travel to the past, and the most innocuous action could alter the future in unimaginable ways; travel to the future, and your knowledge of what will happen will color the actions you take in the present. It all seems too risky. It would appear that Brian Michael Bendis disagrees with me; not content to limit himself to one kind of time continuum manipulation, Age of Ultron 5 has the team traveling to the past AND the future to resolve this Ultron problem. What could possibly go wrong?
Tony Stark is coming a little unglued. As the tattered remains of the Avengers and X-Men wander through the jungle looking for Nick Fury’s Savage Lands bomb shelter, he reminisces about that time he, Henry Pym, and Reed Richards brought the Vision back to life. The crew eventually finds the bunker they’re looking for; Fury is inside, and naturally he shoots at them first, and then asks why they didn’t get to the secret location they didn’t know existed sooner. His plan is to use Dr. Doom’s time platform to travel to the future and unplug Ultron. That will stop the takeover, but it won’t change anything that’s already happened, so Logan suggests they actually go back in time and kill Pym before he invents Ultron in the first place. Being concerned with the cosmic effects of murdering an Avenger in the past, a group sets off to the future to do the thing; once they’re gone, Logan claims that he WILL go to the past, because he is THE WOLVERINE and he doesn’t ask for permission. Meanwhile, I hope you didn’t have any pressing business in Austin.
So Bendis is taking the “travel to all the times” approach to the Ultron problem. I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, Logan’s plan and attitude seems a little heavy-handed. In the Science Flashback, Pym and Richards talk about that very same idea; Pym speculates on what the world would look like if he traveled back in time and talked himself out of creating Ultron. They come to the conclusion that once you start going back in time to “fix” things, you’ll never stop; you’ll just keep going and going, changing history over and over again. A few pages later, Logan proposes the exact same thing. Not only is it a dumb idea (seriously, the ripple effects of killing Henry Pym in the past would be beyond enormous), but we just went over this. I understand the point Bendis is making, but I don’ t like how obvious he’s being about it.
Luckily for me, Bendis wasn’t satisfied with a basic travel-back-in-time scenario. Things are much more complicated by having half the crew in the future. Should Logan succeed, we’ll see the effects of his actions in the past in both the present-time of the story and the future, where the team is confronting Ultron. While I doubt that’s how things will go down (unless Marvel is looking for their own retcon punch), seeing Fury and his team dealing with the very long-term effects of Wolverine’s dicking around in the past should be fun.
That just brings me to another quibble I have with this issue; namely, that Nick Fury seems to be an idiot.
He doesn’t tell the crew how to get in, but when Red Hulk punches his way in, Fury shoots him. Then he tells them they’re all late. Issues with his asshole-ish behavior aside, Fury is supposed to be a leadership figure, right? So why doesn’t he lead these people who made their way to him? All he does is tell them his plan, and basically shrug and say, “whatever, we’re leaving” when Wolverine has a different idea. Not only does he do nothing to stop Logan, he takes Cap and Tony, leaders of the NY group, with him. He just leaves the rest with no authority to deal with Wolverine, the ultimate loose cannon. That’s just irresponsible; I could make the argument that maybe Fury assumes Wolverine will respect his authority, but he doesn’t even tell Logan to not travel to the past. He arms everyone, and leaves. Unless he’s afraid his plan to unplug Ultron won’t work, and he wants someone to go back in time and stop Pym; that is less irresponsibly dumb and more quietly desperate What about you, Drew? Do you think Fury is stupidly ignoring the threat Wolverine poses, or is he a desperate man initiating a dangerous Hail Mary from the past?
Drew: It’s possible that’s Fury’s plan — hell, it’s possible he’s leading the team into the future specifically so there’s nobody there to stop Wolverine from going to the past — but without a better understanding of how cause and effect works here, it’s really hard for me to say. Like, Wolverine only goes back to kill Pym if Ultron attacks, but that only happens if Hank lives long enough to build Ultron — it’s a causal loop, and this narrative already has them out the wazoo.
How exactly is Ultron controlling this from the future, anyway? Like, if he can send orders to his troops, can’t he theoretically send orders to them at literally any time during their invasion? Conversely, couldn’t his troops be sending data to him at any time in the future — that is, if they ever sent a message and didn’t get a response (you know, because maybe he’s been destroyed in the future), couldn’t they just send it to a slightly earlier time? Hell, upon discovering that there’s a point where Ultron no longer responds to transmissions, couldn’t his minions in the present pinpoint exactly when that happens, then feed Ultron all of that information before it happens? Also, if we’re worried about butterfly effects, where is Ultron that he could run this invasion without the world changing drastically around him? Can he only send transmissions through time because he’s already succeeded in his goals in the future. Also Also, “the future” is a pretty nebulous destination…do they even know where they’re going?
All of that makes me think that the plan might really be to send Wolverine to the past…but I also don’t think anything is going to come of that. You mention the two conversations about going back in time being retreads, Shelby, but I think there are two big differences: 1) that the first conversation took place in front of the Vision, and 2) that the second conversation reveals the notion that going to the past to ask someone not to do something might act as a challenge for them to do that very thing. I suspect the Vision tried to do that very thing — not with Hank Pym, but with Ultron itself. Ultron either takes that as a challenge, or decides to go on the offensive after learning that the Avengers have considered erasing him from existence. Point is, I think Ultron only attacks because the Vision came to him in the past and begged him not to. As Mike Ehrmantraut might say, the Vision used a half measure when he should have gone all the way.
What does that mean for the narrative going forward? Well, I think Logan’s journey into the past is going to run him into the Vision (though I suppose the Vision’s mission would have taken him to a point after Hank had already invented Ultron), which is going to change his overall objective. I’m not sure of the specifics of what they’ll be doing, but I’m certain they’ll somehow fix the present so Ultron never happened. I mean, specially-numbered crossover-issues aside, no other titles has so much as hinted at these events, which makes it clear that they’ll never actually happen. It’s Rotworld with a mechanical twist.
So I guess Fury needed to get Wolverine into the past, one way or another. I mean, we can’t have everybody gunning for Austin, right?
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