The sins of the past come back to haunt the current incarnation of the Avengers as an old iteration of Ultron, cocooned in a purpose build quin jet and shot into the depths of space, returns seeking vengeance, having commandeered the higher technologies contained on Jupiter’s moon, Titan, and used it to possess its citizens.
About a year and a half ago, Marvel launched a new original graphic novel imprint that told new stories by industry best creators, which could stand just to the side of the continuity presented in the ongoing monthlies and, one presumes, act as a perfect point of sale item for people who have found the characters via the cinema and want to purchase a book that can be enjoyed without dilly-dallying with decades worth of back-story.
I found this to be a most commendable endeavour and one that makes perfect marketing sense for a company like Marvel who don’t have many classic, self contained stories like Batman: Year One or The Killing Joke to push onto the general public in the instance of a film’s release, especially when taken into account that the current position of Marvel seems to be a pathological inability to retain any kind of status quo with their characters. Taking those recognisable icons presented on the big screen and rendering them almost unrecognisable, only for them to go through another major change when next they face an Armageddon level threat… which is every storyline, apparently.
The imprint got off to a good start with Warren Ellis’s Avengers: Endless Wartime, but alas, with only a few books under their belt they seem to have forgotten the point entirely. Not only does Avengers: Rage of Ultron very much takes place in the current Marvel continuity, with a cast of characters that’ll be irrelevant within months (female Thor, The Falcon as Captain America, Sabretooth, an old man Steve Rogers, none-entity Starfox helping out), but it concludes with yet another status quo altering event, which, in a remarkably cynical move, will force pre-existing Avengers fans to buy this overpriced hard cover graphic novel just to keep abreast of the fates of one or more major Avengers characters.
My personal feelings on Marvel’s dubious marketing practices aside, how does it stand up as a stand-alone story?… In short, not that well.
Written by the ever more popular, but surprisingly hit-and-miss, Rick Remender, Rage of Ultron is little more than a collection of beautifully rendered action sequences and overly verbose and sigh inducingly repetitive meditations of daddy issues and teen style angst.
Quite why Hank Pym, Giant Man, one of the smartest people on the planet, and his all powerful artificially intelligent invention, Ultron, can’t come to terms with such juvenilely simple emotional issues is perplexing and somewhat aggravating, especially when, to pull it off, Remender has Pym in a constant state of extreme opinion which is almost entirely out of character.
Passing over the actual plot points at speed and indulging in long, less than thought provoking, bouts of angry dialogue makes the book feel at once rushed and padded, and the general air of maudlin robs the ‘shocking’ conclusion of all but a little emotional punch.
The saving grace is the artwork. Drawn by über artist Jerome Opeña (with the assistance by excellent fellow artist, Pepe Larrez) and coloured by the industry best colourist, Dean White, the imagery in Rage of Ultron is detailed, epic, dynamic and packed with emotion, making this relatively expensive graphic novel just worth having on your shelves.
So, a treat to look at but lacking in the writing department, Avengers: Rage of Ultron, released in conjunction with the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie, has the unfortunate distinguishing features of being a moron level missed opportunity and ode to a company’s greed and declining dignity. Very disappointing.