Today, Taylor are Patrick are discussing Age of Ultron 9, originally released June 5th, 2013. This issue is part of the Age of Ultron crossover event. Click here for complete AU coverage.
Taylor: What is time? This is perhaps one of the most fundamental questions to human existence, and as such, it has been discussed by mankind since time immemorial. While philosophers and physicists debate about what exactly time is (it’s a question that still rages today), science fiction and pop culture have popularized the question by using it in a countless number of plots and stories. So none of us should be surprised that a comic book entitled the Age of Ultron (my emphasis) would come to center its plot on time travel and its consequences. Indeed, with time travel we have seen a proliferation of ages in this event increase exponentially, the consequence of which has been the raising of an eyebrow both for better and for worse. Yet while the plot of Ultron isn’t always all that original, issue nine raises the question of what exactly time is and what the consequences of traveling through it could be.
You, gentle reader, will be kind enough to remember that in the previous issues of Ultron Wolverine went back in time and killed Hank Pym to make that Ultron was never created. He and Sue Storm then travel back to the present to (surprise, surprise) find that the timeline has been changed significantly by their actions. Turns out that the death of Pym eventually lead to Tony Stark being the ruler of the world in his bid to keep it safe from Morgana Le Fey.
Issue 9 picks up with Wolverine accepting the fact that a world dominated by a war between Tony “Cyborg” Stark and Morgana Le Fey is just as bad as a world decimated by Ultron. Realizing this, he once again travels back in time to confront Pym. The catch this time is that he not only has to confront Hank, but he most confront himself from a few days ago in the act of trying to kill the creator of Ultron. Wolverine convinces Past-Wolverine that killing Pym just makes things as bad as ever – and they come up with a plan. They convince Pym of the danger of Ultron and he agrees to build a failsafe into Ultron that will prevent it from ever destroying Earth. With that accomplished, Wolverine has himself killed by Past-Wolverine before they travel back to the future, hopefully free of the Ultron plague.
This issue is exposition-heavy and it’s clear that Brian Michael Bendis’ main intent in this issue is to explore the issue of time travel and the all the weird stuff that can happen when people start flying through time. It seems fitting then that we actually get an explanation of what time is courtesy of Cyborg Stark as Wolverine is fleeing from the wreckage of Manhattan.
This is an interesting take on the question of “what is time?” Tony’s worry isn’t about causality and the way a person can fuck up the timeline by traveling through time Back to the Future style. Rather, his worry is about the health of time itself. Apparently, when a person moves through time they actually hurt time itself, which, in theory, is an act that could kill time. Of course we don’t get anymore explanation than that here, but the concept is interesting nonetheless. Most of the time (puns!), time isn’t viewed as something can be damaged. Indeed, some would say time is just a creation of man in the first place – a desperate attempt to impose order and meaning on an otherwise ambivalent universe. But what if it is something tangible and something that can be damaged?
This is perhaps the most interesting part of the issue, since other discussions of time in this issue tend to focus on the more mundane aspects of time travel, if there are any. When Wolverine confronts Past-Wolverine and Pym in the lab, most of the talk focuses on the usual issue of time travel: causality. While this scene is pretty conventional I couldn’t help but laugh at the mighty Hank Pym’s inability to comprehend some pretty basic time travel stuff.
Making it all the sweeter is the look of exasperation on his face. Maybe Pym (who is nursing a slashed stomach, after all) is simply tired of hearing about time travel – like I suspect some of the readers of Ultron might be. Whereas previously this series was a little heavy-handed in its doom and gloom, it seems that now it has traded that for time travel. While this subject is certainly more lighthearted it still is a little tiring having to deal with its effects issue after issue. After all, while one lash from a killer robot isn’t so bad, it becomes worse and worse the more it persists.
Patrick, do you dig all this jazz about time travel or is it beginning to wear you down? What do you think of Tony’s revelation about time? Do you think that will come back to bite our heroes in their skinsuited behinds?
Patrick: I don’t think this will bite them in butt – no matter how shapely those butts may be. If there’s one thing I know about Wolverine, it’s that he only resorts to non-violence when he knows it’s going to work. That’s the most interesting part of the issue for me: Wolverine’s discovered a problem that he can’t simply gouge his way out of. Doubling my delight here is that Wolverine’s got to convince himself from a few days prior that murder isn’t the ace-in-the-hole this time.
I mean, it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? They needed to go back in time and alter something surgically – they sent a snikt when they should have send a scalpel. The slash n’ burn approach to changing history was only ever going to bring heartache to our characters, and by extension, launch the readers into a world we no longer recognize and had a hard time investing in. There’s a pretty stern parallel between these two types of time-travel problem solving and the Big Two publishers’ approaches to history, continuity and re-launches. DC is represented by Wolverine (the first time he went back to confront Pym) – his approach is literally hack n’ slash, and to hell with the consequences. It turns out that — for Wolverine and for DC — this didn’t clear up any of the problems they had before butchering history. It’s not until Wolverine’s experienced this New
52 Timeline that he’s able to see how wrong he was. When he re-goes-back in this issue, he’s representing Marvel, offering small tweeks to the world that maintain the status quo, except for the little ripple where everything goes to shit.
Of course, we still need to see how the rest of this event plays out. Bendis makes a point of not showing us the consequences of Wolvy’s actions. I suppose it’s possible that they travel to the present and we STILL have images of a flatted New York City, superhero corpses littered about the place. Man, that was a little bit of deja vu at the top of this issue, wasn’t it? For as light as the tone of the past-segments of this story are, the opening is pretty damn grim.
It’s kinda classic Age of Ultron – the pacing even regains its glacial quality as we get entire pages of Wolverine passing out, healing, and coming to. Whatever fun we were having in this new world IS DECIDEDLY OVER the second Bendis asks artist Brandon Peterson to do his Bryan Hitch impression. Peterson’s colorist, Paul Mounts absolutely owns these scenes, and somehow infuses every moment with vibrant color without robbing the rubble of his bleakness. I particularly like the way he colors Wolverine’s claws, when they’re lit by the magic luminous guts of Le Fey’s goons.
Carlos Pacheco’s art isn’t nearly as charming. Nor is it as much fun as the Bronze Age stuff he turned in for issue 6. It might be because the majority of his work takes place in this single scene in Pym’s lab. Dragonman’s body rests on the table — just as it did back in issue 6 — but we catch awkward glimpses of it for pages and pages before we get a clear shot of him. Plus, the space is just too damned crowded for a giant Hank Pym, Sue Storm, and two Wolverines. I did like the depiction of the Wolverine-on-Wolverine homicide. I made the mistake of thinking about what it would actually take for one Wolverine to kill another one – I effectively horrified myself. Needless to say, there’s no way it’s as clean and quick as the cover of this issue would suggest. Pacheco shows restraint, focusing instead on both Wolverines’ twisted sense of duty – and the fact that they need to do this outside of Sue Storm’s earshot.
Hey, is it SUPER WEIRD that none of the characters we’d been following since the beginning of this event are still alive? For a long time, Sue and Logan were the last hold-outs. But Susie went out at the beginning of this issue, and the Wolverine we’ve been following since Hawkeye rescued Spider-Man went out at the end. Sure, we have backup versions of both of those characters. But, like, that’s not the same right?
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?