Today, Drew are Shelby are discussing Age of Ultron 10, originally released June 19th, 2013. This issue is part of the Age of Ultron crossover event. Click here for complete AU coverage.
Drew: Age of Ultron 9 found Taylor asking “What is time?” It’s something so central to our perception of the world, yet something we barely understand. Issue 10 continues the trend of focusing on subjects at the edge of our scientific understanding, this time taking up the question “What is reality?” What really are these things we believe to be true? History, as they say, is written by the victors (and re-written by whoever beats them, and so on), suggesting that “reality” might be a bit more subjective than we like to think. But what if the victors could actually alter history, not just our retellings of it? What if reality was objectively malleable? That’s kind of the question this series has been asking all along, but its conclusion puts a finer point on it, making the very fabric of Marvel’s “reality” the focus of this issue.
The issue picks up a few months ago, where time-travelin’ Wolverine and Sue Storm have just left tipped off Henry Pym that he needs to activate the self-destruct code he built into Ultron (way back when our time-dispaced heroes confronted him in issue 9). He manages to shut down Ultron, but then reality shatters reality in a scene that looks for all the world like Marvel’s version of the Retcon Punch.
Granted, altering space-time until it collapses under its own weight is less absurd than a bad guy punching reality itself, but the effects seem to be similar. We see multiple versions of characters (zombie versions, Ultimate Universe versions, pirate versions) potentially collapsing into one, and the result is the reconciling of at least two different continuities, as Angela is brought in from Spawn. It also looks like this has somehow pushed Galactus into the Ultimate Universe. Honestly, we don’t see the full ramifications of this potentially Universe-altetring event, but it has the potential to change pretty much anything about Marvel’s continuity.
Oh, and time travel might now be off-limits. I’m actually a fan of time-travel stories, but this event in particular set a nasty precedent for future Marvel conflicts. They really needed to take time travel off of the table, or it would always be an out for our heroes. Of course, this also has ramifications for current Marvel stories. All-New X-Men has featured the time-displaced original X-Men lineup, and Thor: God of Thunder features three different Thors from three different points in history, who are currently all hanging out in the distant future. Are they not allowed to go back? Would not allowing them to go back cause more or less damage to the space time continuum?
That stuff makes my head hurt, and like I said, we haven’t seen all of the ramifications yet. Who knows what this will mean for the Marvel Universe going forwards? Based on Carol’s Ms. Marvel outfit in the “some months ago” bit, the changes could be whatever tweaks were made in the shift to Marvel NOW — that is, maybe we’ve already seen the ramifications — but we’ll have to wait to find out. I’m hoping these questions will be explained in the other Age of Ultrons 10 (A.I. and U.C.) as well as the epilogue, but I’m not sure if/when/how we’ll see the effects on other titles. If this reality-altering event happened “some months ago,” we’ve actually been living in this reality for a while.
Shelby, usually when we talk about meaning, it’s not confusion about what just happened, but here we are. This issue might be kind of difficult to talk about without a clear idea of what these events might actually mean, but hey, we love Retcon Punches around here, right? Getting in at the ground floor of what could turn out to be Marvel’s own Infinite Crisis is kind of exciting in its own right, but that’s a weird, meta-text place to draw excitement from. What do you think, Shelby: was the issue exciting enough in its own right, or am I focusing too much on its potential implications?
Shelby: Is it wrong to say “I don’t know?” Because I’ll be honest, retcon punch or no I don’t know where I stand on this issue or its implications for the Marvel universe.
As a conclusion to Age of Ultron, this was a pretty satisfactory resolution. We all knew things were going to go back to normal somehow, and to accomplish it by travelling back and forth in time and taking a solution from an alternate future and applying it to an altered past is a pretty slick way to do it. It’s complicated enough to avoid the “…and magically everything is better!” letdown. It’s also just shy of being so complicated and ridiculous that I throw the book down in disgust. Only just, mind you. To answer your first question, this issue was definitely exciting enough on it’s own. There’s a big fight and a race against time to deploy a virus within a virus to defeat the ultimate A.I. The tension in that last battle is very real; if I didn’t know comics as well as I do, I might have doubted the good guys were going to pull it off.
That’s not to say we should focus any less on the potential implications of this conclusion, because I think they are going to be even more important than we realize. My problem is my lack of experience with the Marvel universe. I recognize that this reality recoil is going to change a lot of things in big ways, but I’m just not invested enough in all the characters to really know what that means.
I understand what this is supposed to be because I know how comics work. This is a treasure trove, a scavenger hunt, a speculation factory. This spread (and the one Drew posted) is so chock-full of clues, heavy Marvel readers should be jumping up and down in their chairs. My problem is, I just don’t know enough about the Marvel universe, either past or present outside the books I’m reading, to really grasp the significance of these images. It’s neat to see a blond, hip Wolverine, or a lady Captain America, but to me it’s just that: neat. It’s not necessarily a fault of the book itself, it just leaves me unprepared to fully grasp the implications which will surely be far-reaching and serious. Even the big Angela reveal rings a little hollow, simply because I am wholly unfamiliar with her as a character. I’m intrigued and excited, namely because she’s a Neil Gaiman creation, and it’s a well-documented fact that I love everything about him. I know she’s the counterpoint to Spawn as an assassin from Heaven instead of an assassin from Hell, and that is all that I know. I’m really looking forward to seeing how she’s going to fit in to the rest of the Marvel universe, or what’s left of it after it shatters into pieces, anyway.
I can’t help but feel like this whole event was just a set-up for the next event, much like Rise of the Third Army was really just a prologue to Wrath of the First Lantern. Even though it was an exciting issue, and a satisfying conclusion to the Ultron story, leaping into the next big thing left me a little unsatisfied. Momentum is important, but I would have liked more of an opportunity for the events of Ultron to sink in. What I really want to know is who I have to talk to make a pirate Ben Grimm book a reality. It’s clobberin’ time, ye scallywags!
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?