I'm not too sure what happened this week, yet somehow, as well as my usual 2000AD, I've managed to jam through Age of Ultron and Descender from my reading pile! Not to bad when you consider that's a whopping four-hundred plus pages of comic to digest over a week. Let's start with Age of Ultron.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco, Butch Guice, Alex Maleev and Joe Quesada.
To start off with, this is a meaty volume of two-hundred and forty pages that collects eleven issues from the Age of Ultron story event from Marvel Comics. Also, forget the movie, they share the name, but that is about where it ends, this is a very different story. The comic is set in an apocalyptic future where Ultron has returned to earth after his last encounter with the superheros of Earth, and using using his superior technology his defeated and enslave mankind. The heroes of mankind are now in hiding, live underground whilst thinking of a way to defeat Ultron. The comic follows the heroes plan to prevent Ultron from ever returning to Earth, and the consequences of these actions.
I have mixed feelings about this story, and therefore this comic. The artwork is some of the best I've ever seen in a comic book. Some pages left me with my mouth dropping at the amount of detail and quality of illustration that they present. Some pages are just unbelievable. I must admit, as an artist, having to draw some of these pages to the volume that is required for this story would have seen my gibbering dressed as banana riding around my home on a tricycle mumbling manically that the clowns are out to get me (which they are....).
On the other hand, the writing is good. Hey, I've said it before I'm a Bendis fanboy. However, about halfway through the story shifts gear. I'll try and explain without to much spoiling. The story starts off amazingly, it is incredibly good to begin with. Real edge of the seat type stuff. You don't know how the heroes are ever going to fix the mess that is the Earth in this new age of Ultron. Even Captain America is a broken man with no plan - and that never happens! Then you hit the halfway point and Cap gets an idea, a wonderful idea that will save the day.... and it involves time travel..... That's when I get a bit twitchy, cos already you have a feeling in your gut where this is heading.
Sadly, this story doesn't disappoint and the 'Bill and Ted' effect kicks into overdrive as Wolverine and Sue Storm keep traveling back in time re-fixing a set point in time until they get it right and re-set everything back to happy days right before it all went wrong... and they all lived happily ever after with almost zero consequence for the Mavel universe - in other words, one of my pet hates of story telling that raises its head all to often in Superhero comic book stories. 'The end of the world/death of a big character/how do we fix this' reset button that makes for a good, sometimes great, journey story without impacting the comic franchise in anyway to upset the apple cart.
So, Age of Ultron in a nutshell: Beautiful artwork, it is worth owning this book just for the art. Writing is good, the disappointment is the story. It starts out very strong to take a sudden plunge and a tail spin that it never recovers from. On a side note, the writing stays solid throughout, just the plot gets weak and very predictable once you hit that middle point.
Story By: Jeff Lemire
Art By: Dustin Nguyen
Set in the future, planet sized robots called Harvesters have appeared and wreaked havoc across the galaxy to then vanish. Ten years later a young android wakes to find that all robots have been outlawed. The young android is called TIM-21 and he may hold the secret to the Harvesters, and so he becomes the 'most wanted' in a galaxy full of bounty hunters and threats lurking around every turn as he embarks on an adventure with his robot dog and friends to discover what is really going on.
I picked up Descender by random chance. I was looking for a copy of Pride, Prejudiced and Zombies (which I did find in the end) in my local book shop when Descender sort-of 'popped' off the shelves at me. It was cover that grabbed my attention, I just loved the artwork right away. So I had to have a flick through the pages, and I was pretty much sold there and then.
Descender is a brilliant example of a 'space opera' sci-fi story in a comic book format. The artwork perfectly matches the story as well, it can be hard hitting as much as it can be sweet and caring, also a lot of fun as well. The characters are all instantly likable and you are quickly invested in the main group as they come together in their quest.
One of the things I really like about Descender is the look and feel of the universe that both Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen have created with their combine writing and artwork. I must admit, as an artist, this book and story really appeal to me and I would sell what little I have left of my soul to work on such a compelling story. So, as you can tell. I like this one - a lot! In a nutshell, the story and artwork combine to make a brilliant and very enjoyable read. Can't wait to pick up the second volume - soon.