“Age of Ultron” #2 by Brian Bendis and Bryan Hitch is an “event” comic. In this case, the creative team has chosen to interpret that literally: everything that’s happened in “Age of Ultron” has been the result of a specific, near-cataclysmic event, and no one seems quite sure what that was — only that it’s left Ultron in charge, and things are not good. Now, both issues #1 and #2 have both been about characters reacting to this change of circumstance, as wrong-footed by events as anyone reading it will be.
Whether or not the promise of finding out is enough to pique your interest is the key to the story at this point, and personally, I don’t feel drawn into it. The world might have gone to pieces, but it’s in such a way that there’s absolutely no credibility or logical progression to the events. Publicity has told us that it’s happening in the Marvel Universe, but when the Black Widow gets half her face burnt off and teams up with Moon Knight to murder someone over a Twix, it doesn’t take a genius to see that there’s a reset button ending due. Doubtless it’ll be a reset button ending that’ll change the Marvel Universe in some way — but so far, it just feels like a retread of an earlier, more innovative event.
At least on a technically level, it doesn’t underwhelm. Bendis opens with an uncharacteristically laconic action sequence, before sliding into more familiar territory in the back half of the book. His Peter Parker is always fun to read, even if it is notionally the “Superior” version. Hitch’s storytelling is, as ever, superbly detailed, while Neary and Mounts bring out the best in his art in the way only frequent collaborators can.
But some of Hitch’s artistic quirks are starting to become a distraction. His reliance on ultra-wide panels and double-page spreads seems problematic (the latter, particularly for digital readers) in that it’s squeezing the story around his style rather than vice versa, and when you’re using the same type of panels and meter for conversation scenes as action, well, something’s gone wrong somewhere. Similarly, the ultra-thick whitespace panel borders make pages look unfinished, rather than ordered. It just doesn’t work as well as it could.
What really harms the issue, though, is the wider story behind it — or rather, a lack of one. Two issues in, the story doesn’t seem to have forward momentum, or even a coherent narrative. It’s a prologue. The cliffhanger to the first issue, which posited that things were so dire they had left even Captain America broken, simply isn’t even a concern for the readers or characters. Bendis’ event plotting has always been weaker than his character work, but here it borders on non-existent. Maybe things will change with issue #3, maybe not — but at this point, it feels like time to wait for the collection and hope it reads a bit better like that.