Age of Ultron #1 sports a scheduled release date of March 6, meaning that it's just a smidge more than a month before the first issue of Marvel's latest event series goes on sale. Though it's clear that much of the story is still shrouded in secrecy — like the ending, which series writer Brian Michael Bendis said that "literally five people" knew as of last month — we do know some of the basics, like a few of the major characters involved.
Marvel has been very specific in their language that, despite getting a prelude back in 2011's Avengers #12.1, Age of Ultron is in fact a "Marvel Universe" story, not an "Avengers" story. So it's a very big cast, even though it's been hinted that not every marquee character survives Ultron's initial attack, however you wish to interpret that information.
"It is a Marvel Universe book," Bendis told Newsarama. "Yes, it started in Avengers #12.1, but you'll see the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and all kinds of people from all walks of life front and center in the first issue of that book."
One character obviously front and center to Age of Ultron, is, well, Ultron. Duh.
BACKGROUND:"I love the origin of Ultron," Bendis said. "It is such a great idea. The Shakespearan tones in which it was handled when they were first debuting it — I loved everything about it."
Ultron was first introduced, briefly, in Avengers #54 by Roy Thomas and John Buscema, with a full appearance an issue later. A robot created by Hank "Giant-Man/Ant-Man" Pym, he soon developed a mind of his own along with an intense grudge against his "father."
"One of the Avengers created him! That's fantastic," Bendis said. "A robot with daddy issues. The whole Marvel Universe is daddy issues! This is fantastic."
Like the best technology, Ultron has gone through multiple upgrades and rebuilds, with appearance and abilities differing accordingly. Though Ultron has nearly 50 years of history, Marvel senior vice president of publishing and Age of Ultron editor Tom Brevoort says he's a character that, by design, can stay on the bleeding edge.
"The way that Brian approaches Ultron is certainly different than guys have in the past," Brevoort told Newsarama. "The way Brian tends to think about him is less, 'He's an evil robot.' He's a piece of artificial intelligence. He's a complex series of code that does the thing that it does."By approaching him on that level, it kind of opens up a number of different aspects and avenues that relate a lot more to the technology of the 21st century than anything they would have been thinking about when the first Ultron story was done."
Along with Hank Pym, Ultron also has a familial bond with "synthezoid" The Vision, who he created, plus a complex relationship with Pym's ex-wife The Wasp, whose form he replicated in a 2007, Bendis-written Mighty Avengers story. Ultron has another "son," Runaways team member Victor Mancha, who stars in an Age of Ultron tie-in (Ultron #1AU) out in April.
EVENT EXPERIENCE:Ultron is fairly familiar with Marvel Universe-wide crossovers, having played a role in '80s events like Secret Wars and Acts of Vengeance. In 1999, he was the antagonist of Kurt Busiek and George Pérez's multi-part Avengers story "Ultron Unlimited."
In recent years, Ultron's appearances have been fairly limited, in part because of Brevoort's desire to curb any potential overexposure.
"The Avengers as a unit have very few big villains of their own," Brevoort said. "I don't want to see Ultron or Kang as a bit player anywhere. I've sort of selfishly guarded, and tried to keep them out of stories where they would just be another marker on the road.
"If Ultron shows up, you want it to be a big deal, so it has impact the moment he's in a story, and he's the thing you're facing. It's not just another story. It's Ultron. It's this big, unstoppable thing."The last major Marvel event to feature Ultron was 2007-2008's Annihilation Conquest, a cosmic story co-written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with art by Tom Raney.
"Annihilation Conquest was probably the last real big Ultron story, and people sort of overlook it because it happened in the space titles," Brevoort said. "Even over there, Ultron was a huge thing. He had taken over the Phalanx, and the whole crossover was dedicated to having to stop Ultron."
AGE OF ULTRON IMPACT:
As is obvious by the title of the series, Ultron does in fact a big role to play in Age of Ultron."[Age of Ultron] takes place in this situation where Ultron has completely taken the world," Bendis said. "That's always been the fear: That Ultron will one day wake up, and he'll have won. He's going to be smart enough to figure out how to do it, and he'll do it. And we wake up one morning, and he's done it. And it is a disaster. It is a Marvel Comics disaster movie unfolding on every page. It is pretty brutal."
It's also a story that Marvel has had a significant amount of time to prepare for: At least since 2010, when the opening arc of the Bendis-written "Heroic Age" era Avengers series showed a future where Earth's Mightiest Heroes failed to stopped the Galaxy's Evilest Robot.
"We knew we were coming here since at least that first arc in the 'Heroic Age' Avengers," Brevoort said. "A bunch of stuff that was in that Kang story was all in preparation, knowing that this was going to be the end game of it."
"If I ever did an Ultron story, this is the Ultron story I was going to do. I remember sitting with my kid watching [animated feature] Next Avengers and thinking, 'If I ever do my Ultron story, I'm going to go this far with it,'" Bendis said. "You want to do the story where you can't imagine another story ever happening with this character."More from Newsarama:
- The 10 Greatest AVENGERS Villains of ALL TIME!
- Brian Bendis Guards AGE OF ULTRON's High-Level Secrets
- Immonen's AGE OF ULTRON Tie-In is a RUNAWAYS Reunion