Age of Ultron #6

While the series has had an undeniably slow start, "Age of Ultron" #6 by Brian Michael Bendis, Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco is all action. Sure, there's some hand-wringing and jabbering about the best path to take, but there is action nonetheless. Unfortunately, much of that action is thrown throughout the sands of time and holds fatal conclusions for the heroes, but time travel always comes with a rest button, doesn't it?

In the interim, Bendis fills "Age of Ultron" #6 with fatal decisions and a two-pronged attack on humanity's greatest nemesis. Captain America and Nick Fury lead a strike team into the future to take down Ultron. Unbeknownst to those leaders, Wolverine has other ideas about how best to turn the tide and retreats to the past, determined to kill Hank Pym before the size-changing hero ever has a chance to create Ultron. It's a step beyond the philosophical question of going back in time to kill Adolf Hitler -- equivalent to going back in time to kill Hitler's father. Bendis has set Wolverine's mind and everyone else falls away a bit, not quite to Star Trek redshirt status, but this very much becomes Wolverine's story. Bendis exploits Pym's inferiority complex by having him declare his quest for the next big thing: the inception of true artificial intelligence prior to Wolverine's appearance in his lab, very much defining who Hank Pym is and what he is working towards.

The art is wonderfully split between Pacheco in the past and Peterson in the future, which accommodates both artists quite nicely. Peterson is so well suited to the future with harsh edges, grit and almost excessive detail, while Pacheco addresses the past with fluidity and grace. The contrast in the art stretches beyond the penciling as Paul Mounts' characteristic bright color palette fits the explosive future the one strike force discovers. Jose Villarrubia's colors over Pacheco are more earthy, worn and faded. Just looking at those pages, there is no mistaking those scenes are from the past, as if the visual cues from Pacheco were not enough, with Pym sporting his Goliath costume and listening to Nat King Cole on LP. Even the word balloons in the past appear have a film to them, as Pym's word balloons are tinted gray against Wolverine's bright white text. Hitch did a good job setting up this story and establishing these characters, but with Peterson and Pacheco on hand, the art gains some sizzle.

"Age of Ultron" #6 delivers a couple gasp-worthy moments here and everything changes. I'm sure there's a magic history eraser button at the end of this story, but for now, the desperation just rocketed up to astronomical levels, claiming lives of many Marvel Universe stalwarts. This is the level of action and excitement, uncertainty and wonder event comics used to have. At the end of this issue, I can honestly say I have no idea what to expect of the next, and it's about time. "Age of Ultron" #6 took a while to get to, but there's no mistaking that the payoff is worth it, especially since the final page leaves the question of "Now what?" floating in the ether. This is a cliffhanger we were screaming towards and now that it's here, "Age of Ultron" #7 has become something I look forward to instead of dread.

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