The page after the big Ultron explosion and disappearance in Avengers #12.1 shows the facility the Avengers and Intelligencia were in blown to bits and the Avengers getting up from the wreckage. It’s a big two-page panel above three smaller panels of Tony Stark talking all Tony Stark-esque. In Age of Ultron #10, we get two panels that seem like they’re visual allusions to that large panel of the grey building wreckage and Avengers struggling to their feet: the first Butch Guice panel, which is tiny and cramped; and a big two-page panel where Ultron’s head gets knocked off as he fights the Avengers in the wreckage of the building. Neither is satisfying.
Both Bryan Hitch and Guice have eight pages of art in Age of Ultron #10 and both are action-based scenes, although Hitch’s pages are a little more low key. Over the course of eight pages, Hitch uses 25 panels, while Guice uses 40. That could simply be the way that Bendis wrote the scenes; it could also be that either artist deviated from Bendis’s exact panel demands. If it’s the former, it seems strange that Bendis would call for that sort of pacing since it limits the impact of the defeat of Ultron by making it smaller than his return when it should be bigger. If it’s the latter, then I have to wonder who deviated: Hitch by combining panels and making for larger, ‘breezier’ panels, or Guice by breaking up requested panels into multiple panels or adding in small, meaningless bits that clutter up the page? In the age of full script, do we blame the artist for pacing problems or the writer?
I don’t think that Bendis is a bad action writer. I also don’t think he’s particularly good; or, rather, he’s not always consistent. He’s written some good action-based comics, but it’s not where his natural talents (or necessarily interest, it seems sometimes) lie. However, the disparity between the action pages of Avengers #12.1 and Age of Ultron #10 is large enough that it’s hard to pin the ‘blame’ on Bendis. I mean, it could be that the issue had so many demands (and the Hitch pages already existed) that the defeat of Ultron was crammed into few pages that it, ideally, would have taken and Guice made the best out of a tough assignment. (If you haven’t caught on, there are so many unknowns behind the scenes, that all I can do is speculate and call it criticism.) There is an attempt at creating tension through a bunch of quick panels that are meant to mimic quick cuts; but, that’s something that’s never really worked in comics for me. Small, ‘quick cut’ panels tend to make for a denser visual that slows me down. It doesn’t catch the frantic pace of modern action movies, it feels more like a written summary of those action scenes.
Even the biggest panel of the Guice pages, the one that covers the top halves of two pages where Thor smashes Ultron, his body explodes, and his head goes flying is anti-climactic in its composition. As I said before, it seems to draw its influence from the post-Ultron escape panel that Hitch drew in Avengers #12.1, which is a downer panel. It’s a panel of loss and the futility of the Avengers. Oddly, the panel that seems like a more natural base to work from is the one that’s repeated in Age of Ultron #10 where Thor smashes his hammer into Ultron and it’s in your face, large, and full of violence and excitement. That panel feels like a bigger moment than the actual destruction of Ultron, which is seen from a distance and is reminiscent of the time where the Avengers struggled to stand back up. Those eight pages called for bombast and insanity; they got clutter and depression.