In most of Bendis’ better storylines, there is a slow buildup with lots of character bickering and little movements. However, some time around the middle, he picks it up and rewards the reader with a killer payoff, plot twist, or a balls to the wall action sequence. Bendis does all three in this fast paced middle chapter of Marvel’s Age of Ultron event. The last few issues had fighting on the edges of the universe (Luke Cage vs. Ultron/Vision; Black Panther’s death), but this issue introduces a major conflicts and some big developments in one of Marvel’s most beloved characters.
Even though this story was filled to the brim with hero on hero and hero on android action, Bendis wrote a tight script full of both big ethical dilemmas and little character moments. He does a great job of mimicking the overwrought dialogue of Bronze Age, like Chris Claremont, in a scene where “past” Hank Pym is opening up Fantastic Four android foe Dragon Man and monologuing about the greatness of artificial intelligence. These pages also serve as a testimony to Carlos Pacheco’s ability to capture the feel and costumes of Marvel in the 1970s. Jose Villarubia’s use of garish blue and yellow colors on costumes will make long time Marvel readers smile. This whole issue could be read as a contrast between the simpler, science focused comics on the Silver and Bronze Ages and the gritty, dystopian books of the Modern era and beyond.
Like many of the previous issues, there is a big ethical debate in this book. Should one man die to save the entire universe? Wolverine proves a crafty debater by appealing to family, a classic touchstone of Fantastic Four comics, and a soft spot for Sue Storm, who has lost her husband, son, and brother. These losses weigh heavily when she and Wolverine arrive at the Baxter Buildings, which looks like it came out of a Jack Kirby Fantastic Four book circa 1965. However, unlike some of the earlier issues, this debate has a big payoff for both characters and the whole event.
While Sue and Wolverine are debating and nostalgia tripping, Nick Fury and his “task force” led by Captain America are ready to take down Ultron himself in the future. No ethical quandaries here just old fashioned superhero action and a bit of witty banter from Red Hulk and Iron Man. Brandon Peterson draws Ultron’s dystopian New York just as well as Bryan Hitch, but uses the ruined scenery to move the plot along, not just for aesthetic value. His art style also meshes very well with Pacheco. This is because they had the same inker Roger Martinez who adds some rugged lines to his character models. Peterson also gets to cut loose and show Marvel’s greatest heroes (and some more obscure ones) in action against Ultron with the biggest of stakes on the line.
In Age of Ultron 6, Bendis seems to be tying up some loose ends from the previous issues together by bringing the surviving heroes together on various suicide missions and providing a better mix of exposition, dialogue, and action. However, he ends the issue on a great cliffhanger that could tear apart the time, space, and moral fabric of the Marvel Universe.