|20 out of 21 pages in this issue contain little if anything all that wasn't established in the first chapter of Age Of Ultron. This is one of those 20 pages.|
If you've not bought it already, I can save you the trouble of acquiring a copy of Brian Michael Bendis, Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary's Age Of Ultron: Book 2. Explaining what happens is hardly an inconvenience, because so very little does. In fact, the only plot-beat of any consequence involves the revelation of the appallingly scarred face of the Black Widow. As far as developments go, it's a relatively minor one to fill out all 21 pages of an entirely by-the-numbers, post-Apocalyptic yarn. But then, Bendis being Bendis, we're not even told what has caused her deformity, or why it matters to the exclusion of anything else of the slightest importance. Instead, the Senior Architect focuses on barefacedly repeating the threadbare sequence of genre cliches which passed for a plot in the opening chapter of the series. Though that was hardly a rich, imaginative and rewarding experience in itself, it obviously seemed to demand repeating. After all, it can't be that Bendis had simply forgotten what he'd already written, and he can't possibly believe that his readers are burdened with catastrophically dysfunctional memories. Still, the slim spine of the anorexic epic is laid out once more; Ultron still rules the world, civilisation has still fallen, the few survivors are still being annihilated, and the heroes are still fearfully in hiding. Even by the Deacon of Decompression's standards, this is apparently hollow and contentless fare. Sadly, the author's seeming lassitude appears to have hamstrung the efforts of the usually captivating Bryan Hitch. Here the artist's finely rendered and yet entirely interchangeable visions of urban destruction lack anything at all of variety and distinctiveness. But then, what else could he do, faced with a script which seems to have asked for little but page after page after page of "despair", "doom", "talking heads", and "ruined buildings"?
|An entire page to tell us that we're in San Francisco, a setting which appears to have no function at all in AOUB2..|
Cynics may carp that a second chapter is just a touch too early in a ten-issue series for information to be so charmlessly and exploitatively regurgitated. But to argue that is to surely miss the uniquely Warholian qualities of Bendis's artistry. Such an undoubtedly passionate and intelligent man can hardly be ignorant of how fifth-rate this degraded appropriation of decades-old SF and super-book cliches is. After all, these two issues carry nothing more than the equivalent of the content expressed in two or three panels at most of Chris Claremont and John Byrne's rightly lauded Days Of Future Past from 1981. Indeed, the similarities to the latter in Age Of Ultron would pass for an exceptionally accurate homage if only more of the original's relative complexities had been touched upon. But Bendis and Hitch have at least lifted a few of the aspects that made the original so exciting when it appeared some 32 years ago. The same after-the-holocaust metropolitan setting, the same robotic menace, the same small group of resisting super-survivors, the same seeming set-up for temporal paradoxes, and the same visual iconography. All that's lacking is that the fact that the original, epochal two-parter was over in the same amount of pages as Bendis has filled up with the barest bones of a set-up. Yet so obvious is the process, that it's impossible to believe that any of this can have passed Bendis by.
|This is not an unlettered page.|
Given all of that, we can only assume that Age Of Ultron is intended as work of art to inspire us to question what it is that we want of the superhero comic. Its provocatively empty-headed, stone-hearted, valueless pages must have been intended to serve as a blank canvas, upon which the obvious absence of worth will compel the reader to ask what's missing. As such, we ought to celebrate Bendis as a conceptual superbook scriptwriter of the very first rank. A straight-faced prankster, a hype-wrapped agent provocateur, a long-embedded mole apparently playing for the other side while feeding us the secret information we desperately need. Yes, Age Of Ultron: Book Two must be the ultimate critique of idly deconstructed, carelessly decompressed Event storytelling, and it ought to be treasured for its ironic challenge to the very system that's made BMB what he is. Long before Bendis's promised textbook on how to write comicbooks appears, and reveals him to have been the nemesis rather than the enabler of pap anti-pop storytelling, here's the evidence which reveals his true purpose.
Not, therefore, an insubstantial turd of a comicbook, but an insubstantial turd that's been purposefully chosen, baked, varnished and polished until the audience can see its own reflection in it. Gosh. Age Of Ultron isn't disgracefully indolent writing at all. It's art.