Today, Taylor and Ethan are discussing Uncanny Avengers 8AU, originally released May 22nd 2013. This issue is part of the Age of Ultron crossover event. Click here for complete AU coverage.
Taylor: The thing about parties is that they’re only fun if you know the people who are going to be there. Now, this doesn’t apply to everyone, some of the more socially fluid among us have an ability to mix and match with anyone. However, for your average Joe, going to a strange party means having to make conversation with a lot of people you’ve never met before and who you will never meet again. What do you do; who do you know; is that beer good; this song is great – become your most-used phrases for a couple of awkward hours. By the end of the night all the names and faces blend together and you’re more than happy to leave without saying goodbye to any of the people you just met but couldn’t care about less. In just the same way Uncanny Avengers 8AU is not a fun issue to read unless you are steeped in the mythology of the Marvel Universe. Even then, there is little that is appealing about this issue for fans of the series, both old and new.
So as a little recap, you will remember that Ultron has destroyed most the Earth and most of its heroes along with it. To try and rectify this, Wolverine traveled back in time and killed Henry Pym to prevent Ultron from ever being made. This (obviously) has ramifications on the continuity of several timelines and that’s where this issue begins.
So in 4145, during the Kang Dynasty, Kang is busy watching some giant ant men rebel to the death when he gets bored. To rectify this he sends the Apocalypse Twins back into the past (because he controls time) to the Age of Ultron. He charges the twins to kill Colonel America, telling them that if they don’t mutants will be repressed by humans in the future. Colonel America is on his own convoluted mission and snooping around sewers when he meets Rogue, Havok, and their merry band of mutant followers. The Apocalypse twins choose this moment to attack and while they don’t kill Colonel America they do manage to end the lives of Rogue and Havok. This makes them feel guilty so Kang decides to punish/train the twins for awhile more before sending them on another mission. Oh, and he also shows them his pretty awesome trophy room.
Before I continue I should let it be known that I’m not the most knowledgeable man around when it comes to the Marvel Universe. I know the major players in the universe along with some of the ancillary characters but I do not claim to even a fraction of all the Marvel characters. With that being said, having picked up this title as part of the Age of Ultron event, I was expecting to at least feel a little bit at home despite the fact that I’m not well versed in Uncanny Avengers lore. Unlike previous issues of Ultron we are given two introductions to this issue to properly set the events. There are those that have taken place in the Avengers story line and those of Ultron. However, despite these little prompts, it is hard to find any solid footing in the events of this issue. When Colonel America is speaking with Havok and Rogue I’m completely lost as to what they are talking about.
That’s a lot of name dropping with a lot of implied back story that I am unqualified to comment on. While this is probably rewarding for fans of the extended Marvel Universe, those less familiar feel nothing but alienated. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, after all, some self-referentialism in comics is a rewarding experience for devoted readers. However, I have to question Rick Remender’s and Gerry Duggan’s wisdom in doing such a thing in massive crossover event such as Ultron. This event has the potential to attract new readers to Marvel (which is something I’m sure corporate is aware of) but no new reader is going to find joy in this issue given how disorienting it is. Further, I’m not sure how well-versed readers would feel about this issue either. Nothing all that exciting or meaningful happens in these pages. Sure, Havok and Rogue die but given that they die unheroically and for no narrative or thematic reason, I don’t see how anyone would find them all that entertaining or moving. Turns out causality is bitch, even for those who write it.
I suppose this maybe speaks to some of weaker parts of the Ultron events in general, however. With time travel being introduced into the storyline and Wolverine fucking everything up it’s hard to tell what really matters and what doesn’t. What is preventing our heroes from going ever further back in time to try and rectify the things that plague them in the present? Couldn’t someone go back in time and make sure Havok and Rogue don’t die while at the same preventing Ultron from coming to power? Throw in an antagonist like Kang and things become even more nebulous, so I guess we really can’t hold Remender and Duggan accountable for too much here. Still, it’s frustrating.
Before I hand things over to Ethan, there is one more thing I would like to point out about this issue. After Kang and the Twins return to his dynasty era we see Kang’s trophy room, full of trinkets he has collected from the numerous Marvel characters he has killed. However, there is one in particular I noticed.
My mind instantly jumped to Raphael of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but then I realized that they must belong to Elektra. Still, I think in my mind I’ll have them belong to that non-Marvel entity because at least that would make this issue a little fun for me. To me, it’s the free-flowing beer that makes strange parties bearable and the only thing I can really enjoy about this issue.
ETHAN! You know a lot more about the Marvel universe than I do, so is this issue more enjoyable for you than me? Did you get all the references or do you feel like a tea drinker in a hip coffee shop? Do you think Kang is benefiting from the Ultron experience? Do you care that yet more heroes were killed? Also, no Ultron presence to be seen in this issue, how does that make you feel?
Ethan: Taylor, I’m glad you brought up the awkward-party analogy. When you get to a house-party, first there’s that lame part where I have to hunt for a safe place to put my guitar since I’m coming straight from the gig my indie band just played, and then they’re serving a lousy champagne, and everyone’s crowding me with all of their questions about how I invented a new time signature (it’s 16/5/Q, by the way). Super-hot celebrities have NO sense of personal space, right? Ugh. Parties suck.
Seriously though, I do agree that this issue throws the reader into the deep end. I do enjoy a wide variety of what Marvel publishes, but there some fuzzy patches for me, too. In any case, for those less familiar with Marvel’s stuff, here are a few quick highlights.
Kang the Conqueror: Pretty clear from the issue that he’s an evil time-traveler. Fun fact: a younger, not-evil version of him actually founded the Young Avengers using the alias “Iron Lad” (no seriously – the Young Avengers started out with HILARIOUS hero-names). The Kang in this issue is the more familiar villain who often messes with the Fantastic Four and the Avengers; he’s also obsessed with the ancient mutant Apocalypse (and tried to claim him as his heir at one point). So it’s actually par for the course that he abducted and is now raising…
Uriel & Eimin Worthington: Yep, son & daughter of Warren Worthington III, aka Angel, aka Archangel, aka founding member of the X-Men. Uriel & Eimin were conceived when Archangel (who had just taken on the mantle of Apocalypse) hooked up with one of his minions. Kang kidnapped them away from the Apocalypse Cult and is now obviously raising them to be bad people like himself.
Alex Summers: Hm… the Summers family is kind of like Marvel’s version of the Kennedys. Alex is the li’l bro of Cyclops, nephew of Vulcan, uncle of Cable, grandson of Corsair, etc etc. Bottom-line, he can shoot cosmic rays to superheat the air around him into plasma, which is RAD.
Ok, enough recap! I did enjoy this issue, especially as a prequel to Uncanny Avengers #8 (which is even MORE opaque to new readers, for what it’s worth). But it is disappointing that we didn’t get any time with our favorite Armageddon Android. As a consolation prize, we do see a favorite character die (farewell, sweet Rogue!). The issue certainly has its problems, but if we can get past the lack of metal and the extremely tangential nature of the issue, there are some redeeming aspects. The additional time spent with Colonel America is an interesting glimpse into the fact that while SO much is different in this timeline, some things remain the same.
The blonde guy wearing the stars and stripes strides down into a decidedly hostile mutant stronghold in order to request that a member of their community stand trial for an alleged misdeed. His conversation with Havok makes it clear that he’s very concerned with the rule of law but also being open-minded enough to recognize that the charges against the suspect – Caliban – are not absolute. In fact, his admission that Caliban may have been acting more out of self-defense than out of malice is pretty interesting. Where CAPTAIN America may have thought the same thing, I don’t know if he’d be willing to say it out loud: the human side of Steve Rogers that’s willing to accept a few shades of gray seems to be more pronounced in this Colonel incarnation. So while strolling into a place where most of the people want him dead is perfectly in line with what we have seen in the character in his standard timeline, it seems like the Age of Morgana may have cracked open a bit more of his human side, forced him to adapt to a different environment. Regardless of the whodunit details of that dialogue, I found this scene really rewarding just for that bit of nuance.
And just to make sure we recognize this version of Steve, he indulges in a bit of diving into the path of a bullet to protect the bystanders. Even if those bystanders are a group named after those gross subterranean creatures from H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine.
Perhaps I’m giving Remender too much benefit of the doubt. It can’t be ignored that for a supposed crossover issue, we didn’t see hair nor hide nor servo of Ultron. Every AU issue before this one has centered around a sky-filled with robots (or lackluster stand-in dragons) or a landscape of ruined buildings, so this was a definite departure from the norm. I AM chomping at the bit to see where the Ultron arc is going, and this issue was a bit unwieldy. But if every issue of AU was nothing but death rays and shiny surfaces, it would be a very sad entry into the canon (EVEN when compared to the Secret Invasion stuff. HATE). Yes, superhero comics are in large part about spectacle, but they’re also about exploring how our familiar civilization can fit in amidst that spectacle, whether that’s figuring out how something abstract like a piece of legislation affects our real, daily lives (cf. the Civil War tussle), or how we react to a sudden change like the death of a social leader (e.g. Xavier’s passing and the subsequent AvX). Honestly, I’m ok that we didn’t have to stare down any pointy-eared Sentinels this time around; we’ve gotten plenty of that in the crossover so far, and I’m sure there’s more than enough to come.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?