As the release of Avengers: Age Of Ultron draws ever closer, telltale signs are emerging that herald its coming. The movie’s stars are making the rounds on the talk show circuit; The Hulk is currently appearing on bags of Doritos Jacked 3-D chips; Marvel is releasing a bevy of comic tie-ins, old and new, to stimulate pre-viewing interest or satiate post-viewing homicidal robot joneses – depending on the individual.
This week alone saw the release of Avengers: Ultron Forever #1 and the original graphic novel, Avengers: Rage Of Ultron. While I haven’t had a chance to read the latter, the former serves as both an accessible entry point for casual fans and an enjoyable throwback for Marvel zombies.
The book may have “Avengers” in the title, but writer Al Ewing (Mighty Avengers) avoids spoon-feeding readers the most widely recognized versions of these characters, choosing instead to showcase variations from the team’s rich history. So instead of Tony Stark, we get James Rhodes early in his initial Iron Man stint, a belligerent Hulk as he appeared in his short-lived 1962 debut series, and the mysterious female Thor from writer Jason Aaron’s current run.
These heroes, along with present-day Black Window and Vision plus future Captain America Danielle Cage (the daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, destined to be a future cosplay favorite) are plucked from the time stream by a Doctor Doom – not the Doctor Doom – in order to combat the Ultron Singularity; a wave of destruction and total human subjugation four centuries hence, spearheaded by the Marvel Universe’s favorite genocidal A.I. The assembled Avengers split into teams to defeat Ultron, disable his drone factories and destroy Ultron’s Avengers: twisted robotic counterparts of Earth’s mightiest heroes. Sound straightforward enough? Keep reading…
While Ewing’s script is brisk and engaging, the real star of Ultron Forever is Alan Davis. The veteran artist is simply one of the most accomplished storytellers working in mainstream comics. This is readily apparent in his expert pacing, kinetic action sequences and superior character renderings. Longtime collaborator Mark Farmer supplies inks that go hand in glove with Davis’ pencils, a level of artistic synergy comparable to that of another enduring team, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson.
Both the story and art of Avengers: Ultron Forever recall the high-adventure tone of Marvel’s 1980s heyday under the stewardship of editor-in-chief Jim Shooter. While many characters and situations are introduced in this over-sized issue, they’re presented in a way that fosters curiosity and interest rather than alienation (as with this week’s Convergence #0 ).
Featuring plenty of strong set pieces, clearly defined characters and surprising twists, Avengers: Ultron Forever is a superhero spectacle with enough elements to sustain momentum through its two remaining issues and to appeal to new and veteran readers alike.