Today, Mikyzptlk and Ethan are discussing Age of Ultron 6, originally released April 17th 2013. This issue is part of the Age of Ultron crossover event. Click here for complete AU coverage.
Mikyzptlk: Age of Ultron has taken us to some pretty extreme places. We’ve seen cities destroyed, deaths of countless civilians, and heroes taken out left and right. In a series that’s all about going to dark places, this issue really manages to go to some darker places. Essentially, it asks us if the ends justifies the means. More importantly, it asks us what we would do to protect the ones we love.
We begin “years from now” where Nick Fury and his team have arrived in the future to a surprisingly lush Savage Land. Sue Storm is missing, but they move forward with their plan and head to New York City. What they find is a nightmare, unless you ask Iron Man who also considers it a “technological masterpiece.” Unfortunately, they’ve flown in too close and a massive swarm of Ultron heads attack. A battle ensues, but the team is overwhelmed as Avengers begin to fall. The last we see of the future is Captain America as he quite literally loses his head. I’m really going to miss that guy.
Meanwhile, “years ago,” we find Wolverine in a suddenly lush Savage Land. He’s surprised to find Sue Storm has hitched a ride with him instead of going to the future with Nick Fury’s team. She’s not sure if she’s there to stop Wolverine, but she knows theres “a right thing and a wrong thing.” Questions of morality are put on hold, however as Nick Fury of the past shows up in his nifty flying car. As Nick enters his hideout for reasons unknown, Sue and Wolvy “GTA” his car and head for a still intact New York City. Once there, Wolverine picks up on Henry Pym’s scent and confronts him in his lab just as he gets the idea for Ultron. Excellent timing Wolvy! Pym doesn’t know who this furry fella is, but that doesn’t stop Wolverine from slicing and dicing. Sue quickly steps in to stop the fight, but then decides that she’s seen too much carnage and lets Wolverine do what he does best.
“Someone put a knife to your kid’s throat, you’d kill ’em…This is that times a million. One man’s life for a million.” This is the beginning of Wolverine and Sue’s brief discussion of morality. When posed this way, Sue is quick to agree with Wolvy that she’d take a man’s life in an instant if it meant protecting her children. Surprisingly though, it’s not the thought of losing her family that allows her to let Wolverine kill Hank Pym, it’s the thought of the rest of humanity losing their lives. So, do the ends justify the means? The answer to that is never a simple one, but I’m glad that this series poses the question at all. Sue wants to find another solution that doesn’t involve adamantium claws, but is hard pressed to find one. Hank Pym is dead, with only the hope that the future will be saved. Meanwhile, the events of the future almost act as an affirmation to the choices made in the past as it seems that Nick Fury’s plan is utterly failing. Does that mean that Sue and Wolverine’s choice was right? Maybe, but they are still left with the fact that they killed an innocent man. A superhero even. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this, which I’m sure is mirrored by the characters in question. Regardless of how things turn out in the future, I’m interested to see how this decision affects these characters in the issues to come.
Artwise, this is the first issue of the event without Bryan Hitch. While I found the change to be a bit jarring at first, simply because it was a change, I quickly became used to it. Something that could have been even further jarring was the fact that this issue sees two artists take over, however that was cleverly smoothed over by the fact that each artist handles the two time periods featured separately. Brandon Peterson takes on the future, while Carlos Pacheco illustrates the past. I enjoyed the work of both artists in this issue as I think they captured the essence of both time periods. Peterson’s lines were a bit messier and more jagged which I think fit very well with the harsh future our heroes found themselves in. Pacheco’s illustrations were much cleaner on the other hand and gave us the subtlest impressions of Marvel’s Silver Age. Since Nick Fury was the only character in which we saw past and future versions of, here’s a comparison shot of the artist’s work.
That’s right, I used Comic Sans. Want to make something of it? Anyway, I enjoyed this issue. For those feeling that not enough has been happening in this series, I hope you felt rewarded with this issue as I know I did. How about you Ethan? What do you think of Wolverine and Sue’s choice? It seems to me that Wolverine was right in end, or was he? I suppose there is still a chance for Nick Fury’s team in the future. Of course, with the past now altered do you think that they will still even be there? Or, is it possible that killing Hank Pym will bring about something even worse for our heroes? After all, it seems that nothing can ever be too easy for them these days.
Ethan: First, and most importantly, Mikyzptlk, in answer to your question “I used Comic Sans. Want to make something of it?” please consider me having made something of it. Not only is Comic Sans the typographic equivalent of Barney, the Purple Dinosaur, but it has even less sex appeal than the aforementioned freak. Glove. Has been. Thrown.
With regards to the issue, though, I like how you have zeroed us in on the “do the ends justify the means” question. Like you say, that question is never simple. When some staggering percentage of your species has been slaughtered by a more advanced and more metallic variety, I personally feel as though we are beyond the point of justification. Bottom-line, I don’t think it’s a valid argument to say “It’s ok that I’m killing this one guy, because that action is saving billions” – nor do I think Wolverine is trying to make that argument. But Wolverine is not making ANY argument; he is killing Hank Pym. Wolverine is not, as a rule, someone who feels the need to justify himself. Instead, I read his discussion with Sue more as a ploy to keep her from interrupting the murder than a philosophical debate. Sue is just an unwelcome passenger on Wolverine’s Time-Trip O’ Carnage. As far as our adamantium-laced friend is concerned, she is a liability: a bleeding-heart, all-created-equal, save-the-whales flaw in the plan to kill ONE FLIPPIN’ PERSON TO SAVE THE HUMAN RACE.
Which is why I was so startled when she let him get away with it. Yes, Wolverine was very specific about the point that they’ve come to the past in order to stop the Ultron Event from happening in the first place, but still, I fully expected Sue to trap him in a force-field bubble at the last second, saving Hank and damn the consequences.
At the end of the day, I don’t think the real question for any given superhero is “do the ends justify the means.” If that were the question, then most of the “villains” would be long-dead. Instead, I think the question is “can I take such-and-such action and still be a hero after I’ve done it?” In the Superior Spider-Man series, Doc Ock chooses to kill the supervillain Massacre because he realizes that his enemy will only continue to kill more innocent people in the future. In doing so, Otto chose the course of action that perhaps saves more people in the long-run, but invalidates his claim to any kind of moral higher ground, because his action was murder.
What defines a hero? On the most basic level, heroes are people who are trying to make the world a better place – retrieving stolen purses, helping people who cannot help themselves, opposing those who wish to better their own condition at the expense of others. If you leave the equation open – if any action made to satisfy those goals is heroic – then Wolverine is decidedly in the “right” – he’s just trying to do the thing that will result in the largest number of people being happy as possible.
It’s when you introduce the idea of harm as anathema that the equation starts to break down. If the only way to be a hero is to both help the helpless AND avoid bringing harm to ANYONE, then you start facing impossibilities. Let’s say that Lex Luthor wants to make a ton of money by tricking a few thousand investors into buying stock in a company that doesn’t actually add value to the economy. In that scenario, you have two competing desires: Lex wants the benjamins, and investors want good faith that their money will be spent in a way that will result in attractive returns. At the end of this day, someone is going to be unhappy; either Lex doesn’t get as much money as he wants, or the investors get cheated. No matter how you split it, someone is going to be upset.
This issue is further complicated by the distictions between action and inaction. Yes, Wolverine cuts Hank’s throat, but Sue voluntarily does NOT stop him from doing so. So who is more guilty – Wolverine, because he moved the muscle to end the life, or Sue, because she looked on with the power to prevent by chose not to to act?
Wherever you place the blame and/or heroism, I’m really curious as to where we go next with this series. Time travel is a goofy concept and typically receives a goofy treatment – if you go back in time and kill your ancestors, you tend to turn a little translucent and eventually disappear. Now that Sue-Verine has removed one of the fundamental pieces of the Ultron Equation from the mix, where does this leave us? Will the dead-and-or-dying heroes in the future melt away into the familiar, healthier, more-alive versions of themselves, or will Wolverine’s one villainous act beget a whole world of anti-heroes? I predict some version of the white-washed former, but I reserve the right to be catastrophically wrong.
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