Welcome to 52 in 52, a look at the vast world of Marvel Unlimited. I will be reading and sharing my thoughts each week regarding a different single arc or event from somewhere within the world of Marvel Unlimited, trying to find things I haven’t read that are relevant to the current comic or cinematic landscape, or completely irrelevant and just fun to read.
One year. 52 tales. One per week. Marvel Unlimited.
Let’s do this.
On the docket this week: AVENGERS: ULTRON UNLIMITED *Warning, there be spoilers ahead*
AVENGERS #19-22, #0
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by George Perez (19-22), Stuart Immonen (0)
Release Date: July – November 1999
So, people seem to be chatting about this Ultron cat lately, eh? This week we head back to one of the grand times of Avengers – the Busiek/Perez era. The 90s weren’t all bad, y’all.
Ultron is as classic an Avengers villain as you can get and Busiek uses that to his advantage in this tale. He’s got the whole Ultron “family” in play here, which is always a fun time because the dynamic with Pym, Ultron, Vision (and an added bonus of Scarlet Witch being with Wonder Man) is always good for some drama. This one has some big action, but also big drama, and Busiek strikes a good balance between the two. We get some great posturing and long speeches, and if you’re looking to get into the world of Ultron this isn’t a bad place to start. It has a classic feel and certainly respects the source material of Ultron’s first appearance, and Busiek (as with Avengers Forever) continues to be a master of integrating classic continuity with his Avengers stories.
Spoilerz, in the end the Avengers defeat Ultron and the death of the world is averted, but some interesting character stuff happens along the way…
Ultron: This is his party, let’s talk about the big bad. He’s prone to big speeches in this one, his ego on full display. You can hear Spader’s voice in said speeches, and his over the top attitude is a load of fun. He’s a mass murderer who takes pleasure from toying with his “family” like a cat has fun with a mouse, and he’s a quintessential Avengers villain. Not a lot of baddies have the horsepower to take on the entire Avengers team, and this Ultron has the stuff you’d expect from a villain with this kind of a reputation.
Hank Pym: He’s not as big a player in this storyline as he is in the Rage of Ultron OGN, but he’s definitely a big part. He’s practically in the middle of his 19th nervous breakdown, so he spends a lot of time speaking in broken sentences and is shattered by stress, but in the world of comics there is no Ultron story that is complete without a heavy examination of the “daddy issues”. One thing I found very interesting was the (SPOILER FOR RAGE OF ULTRON WARNING) the concept that the OGN explores about Ultron being the worst aspects of Pym, himself. That’s some deep stuff, yo. That’s the kind of stuff that makes this arc so rich.
Vision: Ultron’s “son” is depressed. His love has left him, his marriage is fractured and he can’t process it well. This isn’t easy for a robot, and Busiek does a great job of humanizing Vision without removing his mechanical aspects. He’s an easy character to make fully machine or fully human, and Busiek walks that tightrope very well. I’ve read many a take on Vision that seems to be patterned after this character, and there’s a good reason why – he’s a great read when examined like this.
Cap, Thor, Tony: The big 3 are very Avenger-y in this arc, facing down thousands of Ultron-bots and throwing fists despite impossible odds. Thor has got some great “have at thee”s, Cap is stoic and all-American and Tony’s got a tech solution for every problem. Quintessential Avengers here, folks.
Justice, Firestar: Fixtures of Busiek’s Avengers, I found myself asking quite a bit “where are these characters now?”. They’re solid characters and, like Songbird, are Busiek staples that deserve more page time in the Marvel U. Get the right creators behind characters like this and good things happen. I like good things.
Scarlet Witch: Wanda’s power is immense, and Busiek has great respect for the character. It’s nice to read Wanda when she isn’t as mentally fragile as she’s been these past 10 or so years, though I’ve never been a fan of Perez’s costume design for the character. She’s a powerhouse here and I await the day when she is one again. Come back soon, powerhouse Wanda.
Other than Wanda’s costume design, Perez’s work is fantastic. When I think George Perez, I think amazing Avengers work that is timeless. This is just that, and his Ultron, in particular, is fantastic. He and Kurt Busiek are one of those legendary teams that are synonymous with a great era of a team, and arcs like Ultron Unlimited are why their Avengers run is so cherished. He handles huge battles and quaint character moments very well, and even nearly 16 years after publication, this art holds up. Stuart Immonen’s work on issue #0 gave me a chuckle as his style has become such a part of the Marvel Universe in the past few years and his issue was almost unrecognizable to me. His pencils aren’t bad, but they aren’t the Immonen we see in current books, and I’m damn happy he’s fallen into his current groove.
Ultron Unlimited is a rock solid Ultron arc for anyone checking out that flick that’s got all the buzz and stuff. Busiek and Perez are all-star, hall-of-famers and arcs like this are why. Classic Avengers goodness awaits you, don’t hesitate to dive in.
On deck: SECRET WARS
Special thanks to John Ernenputsch for helping to curate this adventure.