In this feature, I count down, well, top fives. a href=”http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2006/06/17/archive-of-top-fives/”>Here is an archive of all the past top five lists!
Today we’ll take a look at the top five best Ultron vs. Avengers stories!
Vision’s debut in #57-58 is awesome and it is technically an Ultron story, but so much of the story revolves around Vision’s own personal issues (something like seven pages out of the 44 pages in the two issues actually deal with fighting Ultron) that I’d feel weird including it on an Ultron list, although it DOES have the famous Ozymandias page at he end of #57.
If you really think that this should count as an Ultron story, just consider it #2 on the list and then bump the other four stories up one spot.
Similarly, while TITLED Age of Ultron, that mini-series was really more about what the world was like POST Ultron and less about the Avengers actually fighting Ultron (they only fight him in part of the final issue of the series) so I would also eliminate that one from contention although I thought it was a good story overall.
There were two really good Ultron stories in the West Coast Avengers. First, Steve Englehart did one of the first in-depth examinations about how Wonder Man, Ultron and the Vision are all sort of kind of family in a really messed up way. Later, Roy and Dann Thomas wrote a fun story where Ultron creates another female robot, this time based on Mockingbird.
EDITED TO ADD: Since initially writing this piece, there was a new Ultron story in the recent Rage of Ultron Graphic Novel by Rick Remender, Jerome Opena and Pepe Larraz. I fond that graphic novel was strong for roughly 95% of the comic, but I really did not like the ending. I didn’t mind it in the abstract (as a plot development) but as a way to wrap the story up, I don’t think it really worked and I think writer Rick Remender really should have just held that plot development for a future run where he had more time to let it breathe. It’s clearly something he’s been wanting to write for some time now (all the way back to his Secret Avengers days) but I think he should have let it be its own thing and not as an ending to this graphic novel, as it overshadows the whole story (and not in a good way). But for the rest of the story, it was a rollicking good time, complete with some interesting questions of the ethics of robotics in the Marvel Universe and some fantastic artwork and cool moments, like this one…
5. “The Ultron Imperative” Avengers: The Ultron Imperative #1
Kurt Busiek teamed up with Ultron’s creator, Roy Thomas, as well an all-star roster of artists (John Paul Leon, Jerry Ordway, Tom Grummett and much, much more!) to tell a fascinating story that examines the nature of free will when you’re talking about a robot. The Avengers come across a plot by Alkhema to create a civilization based on the brain patterns that she recovered from Ultron’s defeat during the Ultron Unlimited storyline (Ultron had taken brain patterns from Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, Hank Pym, Vision, Grim Reaper and the Wasp). However, she unwittingly was just doing Ultron’s dirty work for him. Meanwhile, Hawkeye has to deal with facing off against Alkhema, who is based on his (then thought to be) dead wife, Mockingbird. It’s an epic tale with a lot of great insights into the personalities of the Avengers as well as Ultron and his ilk.
4. “We Stand at Armageddon” Avengers #66-68
The cover artist of the previous story, Barry Windsor-Smith, was the interior artist on the first two parts of this classic which introduced the world to adamantium. Roy Thomas wrote the whole thing and Sal Buscema then drew the final part of this storyline which opened with the introduction of adamantium and then followed by the Vision being controlled by his creator, Ultron, to steal the adamantium so that Ultron can be remade in an entirely adamantium body! How do you defeat a bad guy made up entirely of adamantium? That’s the problem facing the Avengers and they face their challenge in style, as Smith’s two issues are absolutely GORGEOUS, filled with stunning full-page spreads, like the end of Avengers #66…
and towards the beginning of #67…
Read on for the top three!
3. “Deliver Us From…The Masters of Evil!” Avengers #54-55
In this classic two-parter by Roy Thomas, John Buscema, Georges Tuska and Klein (the latter two each inked one issue apiece), the Avengers are betrayed by their own butler, Edwin Jarvis! This story would be referenced many times over the years, as it was pretty much the introduction of Jarvis as he was betraying the team (yes, he had made earlier appearances, but never to this extent). This storyline, which introduced a new Masters of Evil, also saw the introduction of their secretive boss – Ultron!
It is really impressive that Ultron’s debut was in the middle of such a cool storyline.
2. “The Bride of Ultron” Avengers #161-162, #170-171
Jim Shooter, George Perez and Pablo Marcos delivered this classic storyline, which was oddly enough split apart by nearly a year. In the first part, spinning out of Ant-Man’s mental instability (something Shooter would return to later on) and his attack on the Avengers, Ultron kidnaps the Wasp and uses her brain waves to create a bride for Ultron.
Dubbed Jocasta, she is left with the Avengers when Ultron escapes. He later returns for her in the second part of this story…
The Avengers have to defeat the evil robot while also determining whether they can trust this new female robot who seems to want to be one of them. Shooter, Perez and Marcos were on quite a run during this period.
1. “Ultron Unlimited” Avengers Volume 3 #19-22
The concept of the storyline (written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by George Perez and Al Vey) is that Ultron IX has decided that he does not want to simply wipe out humans from Earth – he wants to repopulate the world with his own people: robots. He begins this attempt in horrific fashion as he enters the small European country of Slorenia and proceeds to slaughter the entire human population in three hours. He sends a message to the horrified public watching at home – do not come into this county or suffer the same fate.
Meanwhile, he has also kidnapped the Avengers that he considers “family” and intends to use their brainwaves to base his new world population of robots on, much like the way he earlier based his intended robot bride Jocasta on Wasp’s brainwaves, the android Vision on the brainwaves of Wonder Man and the robot Alkhema on the brainwaves of Mockingbird.
It is during this story that we learn for the first time something that probably should have been evident to readers earlier (it’s somewhat surprising it took decades until Busiek came up the concept), which is that Ultron’s mind was based on the brainwaves of his creator, Hank Pym, who happens to be among the Avengers kidnapped by Ultron.
The Avengers ultimately decide to invade Slorenia, resulting in many interesting battles within the country as the small band of heroes seem to be overmatched by Ultron’s apparently unending supply of robot drones (hence the “Unlimited” part of the story’s title). During the course of this war, the Avengers have to face off against all the earlier Ultrons, each of whom was enough to fight them to a standstill in previous years.
Ultron is quite confident that his minions are more than enough to defeat the Avengers. That same confidence leads to one of the coolest dramatic entrances ever (and winner of a Wizard Award that year for Best Moment) when the Avengers burst into Ultron’s lair, looking quite ragged, with Thor speaking for the entire team when he declares “Ultron, we would have words with thee!”
This turns the tide, and ultimately, Hank Pym is able to redeem himself and save the day.
Well, that’s the top five! Feel free to suggest what YOU would have chosen instead!