I have to admit something: as much as I love comics, my schedule frequently has me behind on staying current with various titles. While there are exceptions to this (certain Bat-family titles, books I would/can review, etc…), many, many books fall into my “wait for the trade” pit.
Uncanny Avengers has been one of those books. I got burnt out by the ending that the Avengers encountered before Doom saved the Marvel universe. I was not sure anything was going to wash the taste of another Stark/Cap battle-to-the-death confrontation out of my mind’s mouth. Avengers, to me, needed to be something more than a group that devolves into in-fighting, which, unfortunately, has meant that Civil War II has not been my favorite title.
Again, this is why some books fall off my radar. Right now, I am waiting for CW II to conclude and for some books to build into material worth reading (Justice League, I am looking at you. Get to a point! Quickly!).
So, considering that I am apprehensive about the state of the Marvel Comic Universe, I decided to check out Uncanny Avengers since I heard net-talk about Kang and Vision being important to future stories. I had been mistaken (it turns out this was part of the AN/AD Avengers title). What I got instead was an Ultron story.
I love Ultron!
I think, aside from Dr. Doom and Kang, Ultron is probably one of the best villains around. I have written about him before, something I need to do in more detail again very soon. I was confused and intrigued by the premise that Uncanny Avengers showcased as far as Pym and Ultron’s characters were concerned.
First, they were “friends,” and second, Pym was having adventures in space. Obviously, more research was required. This lead me to find out that Pym and Ultron’s fates were explained as part of an Original Graphic Novel called Rage of Ultron.
If you like Ultron, I mean, even a little? Or Pym? This is a good book. Does it do everything right? Eh, the ending could have been clarified a little more, but look, the point is this: it is a good, powerful Ultron and Pym comic. It clearly and directly gets to the heart of what makes both characters so interesting.
Pym is a human with emotional turmoil and issues with being accepted. Ultron is a machine with the mind of a human who, despite himself, wants to be loved. Unfortunately, the shortcomings for both the “father” and the “son” mostly wind up in tragedy. Which is great!
What Rage of Ultron does better than any other Ultron/Pym story is it changes the relationship between the two for, I believe, the more interesting. I hesitate to say “better” since events within the pages of Uncanny Avengers highlights how the new Pym/Ultron relation is still being cleared up, but the fact is that the characters are changing. In the end, change can be one of the most rewarding things a comic can give to characters, even if it is hard to do well.
When we read comics, sometimes we do it for escapism. We read so that, maybe for some short period of time in our day or lives, we don’t have to have as many neurons firing in the same stressful way as they might be forced to fire at work, or elsewhere.
For others, comics are ways we can flex our minds. Some people genuinely love keeping track of the Marvel and DC universes, what changes them, etc… I love trying to figure out what and where certain villains “are” in their lives. Ultron has always been interesting because, despite the incredible promise his character was given with the Annihilation: Conquest story, he has remained mostly static.
Whereas this can be awkward for some villains, for Ultron I always saw it has his biggest shoulder chip. He wants to be “more” than what he is, he wants to humble and shame the Avengers, and he wants Pym broken/dead/groveling before him. But, in the end, he can’t actually ever get these things.
While a lot has been written about the Oedipal issues Ultron has, emotions are one I never really gave much attention to until I read the introduction by Rick Remender for Rage of Ultron. His emotional ties to not just Pym, but many, many Marvel characters means, in some way, Ultron has a conflicted family that extends beyond Pym.
Similarly to how many people can relate to disliking/disagreeing with a family you never actually leave, so too is it in a way with Ultron. He hates the very group of people he can’t ever really leave.
Rage of Ultron forces this dynamic, this family dynamic, to the front of the action as Vision, Pym, and Ultron come to blows after Ultron returns home from trashing the cosmos.
While I believe the “end” of Rage of Ultron is great, it can easily be spoiled thanks to the Uncanny Avengers plot which saw a post Rage of Ultron Pym/Ultron pairing come into the story. Needless to say, Pym and Ultron join forces. I won’t elaborate further, but the two halves of these two fractured characters join together in a way you might not expect.
So, to get back to the fact that some villains change while others remain the same: what do you like about villains or even comic characters? The next time you’re reading a comic, really ask yourself how you’d answer this: “I love X comic because the character encounters X and changes, thus showing X.” Not every comic is going to give you answers because not ever comic demands that characters change from their encounters; however, if they don’t, ask yourself how that makes you feel. Good? Bad? Indifferent?
I wanted to talk about Rage of Ultron because, at heart, the book forces change upon two semi-stagnant characters. This is not to say that neither are bad (quite the opposite), but after how many times can these two face off and come out just “the same.” Rage of Ultron forces change and it was change I believe is positive in comics, even if the impact(s) of those changes means stories down the line that fail to live up to the possibility hype.
At any rate, if you can? Check out Rage of Ultron. Ask yourself what kind of change matters to you in comics. Think about what you love within comics and if you’re getting enough from those characters. I hope my sharing of this book prompts you to possibly recommend books to myself or others.
Until next time!