***This article contains significant spoilers for Age of Ultron #6, on sale now.***Way back in the faraway time of March 2013, writer Brian Michael Bendis hinted that the currently unfolding Age of Ultron event would see a shift halfway through, and change into a different type of story — calling it "the Barton Fink of Marvel events."
As of the freshly released Age of Ultron #6, the 10-part series is officially in its second half, and it's becoming evident what Bendis was talking about. Not only does issue #6 feature the arrival of new-to-the-story artists Brandon Peterson (drawing the scenes taking place in the present) and Carlos Pacheco (illustrating the ones in the past), the last page features Wolverine's "controversial decision" that's been promoted since Marvel's April 2013 solicitations were released in January.As set up in issue #5, Wolverine (joined by Invisible Woman) travels back in time to stop Hank Pym from ever creating Ultron, and he's actually successful, with a well-placed claw strike slitting the past version of Giant-Man/Ant-Man/Yellowjacket/etc.'s throat. Of course, there's more yet to play out — Hank Pym has already been billed as one of the main characters in upcoming post-Age of Ultron series Avengers A.I. — but it looks to be a significant development at least for the remainder of the series (from the solicitation to May's Age of Ultron #7: "In an attempt to defeat Ultron two Marvel Heroes take it upon themselves to create an all-new Marvel Universe"). Newsarama talked with Bendis about Hank Pym's fate, criticism over the pacing of the first five issues, why Invisible Woman went along for the ride through time, killing Hitler and circa 2004 Ashton Kutcher movies.
Newsarama: Brian, when we talked following the first issue of Age of Ultron last month, you mentioned how you intended it to be a story with a shift towards the middle that changed what kind of story it was. Now with #6 out, it seems that we've hit that point, right?
Brian Michael Bendis: This is, I think, a promise well kept — that the Bryan Hitch issues would feel a certain way, with a certain kind of story, and then something happens. And here it is, where now it is a completely different kind of story, and yet follows the logic of a place that I think is very exciting.Other stories have teased going to a place like this — the grand old, "if you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?" Yes, Hank Pym is not Hitler, but it's that type of decision-making process. And then it begets the question that many people are going to ask: "Well, why don't they go back in time and do this? And why don't they go back in time and do that?" Now you're going to find out exactly why. And Tony Stark may have known, and Reed Richards may have known — Wolverine didn't care.
Nrama: And he did it with Invisible Woman in tow, who's an unconventional partner for this.
Bendis: That was not in the original pitch document, and then I got there, and I was like, "Someone should be there. And it should be the last person you expect to be on a road trip with Wolverine." Because this is that kind of story, where you're just ending up with people you don't expect to be with. "There's Black Panther and Red Hulk, how are they together?" Sometimes that's how sh*t happens. You just turn around and go, "OK, I'm going to have this major moment of my life with this person."There was just something about the mother of Marvel Comics being there and making choices — that was very exciting, and putting her in this situation was something we'd not seen before. She's been in dire straits before, but this is, "It's all over, and what is she going to do?"
Nrama: Compared to Wolverine's pragmatic reasoning, she's bringing a much more personal approach.
Bendis: And energy, yeah. And in issue #8 when they have a baby… oh my god! [Laughs.]
Nrama: Of course, the big moment of the issue is what happens to poor Hank Pym.
Bendis: Yeah, well, what are you going to do?Nrama: Seeing Wolverine kill him in the past certainly seems like a big moment, for everyone involved — and for the series?
Bendis: It is a big moment. I know there will be some who enjoy it immensely and others who have a big problem with it, and others still who look at a story like this very pragmatically, without putting any of the emotion into it. You got to put it in Wolverine's head, and Sue Storm's head. What they've seen, what they've felt, what's really happened to them. That's why we spent so much time in that Age of Ultron world, so you can really feel "it's over." There's no way out, and everyone's gone. Now we're here, and this horrible thing that normally Sue Storm particularly would never do — it would never happen, except there's no other way.
Nrama: Sure, there was a lot of world-building being done.
Bendis: Now you see it's not only world-building, but it's motivation-building. I know some people were like, "That could have been all one issue." I'm like, "No, it really could not have been. It would not have been enough to buy this moment."Nrama: Right, there has been a notion of that criticism out there around the pacing of the first five issues.
Bendis: Sure. I knew it while we were doing it — but if we pay it off halfway through, and things start getting crazy, then I think people will see it. Some people never will.
It wasn't for nothing. It was for this moment. With Wolverine you can buy it a little bit more. I think the Sue Storm moment is the one that needs to really be examined, and made sure that what she has seen, a mother whose lost her children — and her husband, and her brother — and the world's coming to end. "Alright, I'm going to have go down this road."
Nrama: Hank Pym is complex in that he's been around since the Silver Age and a founding Avenger, but in a lot of ways he's not seen at the same level as many of those other long-running characters, and obviously has some baggage that is unique. How do you see him?
Bendis: Some choices were made for the character over the course of many, many years. Even once you create Ultron and Ultron is an ongoing concern, that kind of changes the way people perceive him as an A-lister or whatnot. And then the whole stuff that Jim Shooter did, with him slapping Jan around, it does taint the character. It's the way you treat people in real life. If you find out someone did something like that in real life, you don't really talk to them anymore.
Even if you have all the back story and all the redemption, there's this guy who did this thing. That's the line you don't cross.Nrama: Though we see him get killed in issue #6, in one form or another readers already know he'll still be around post-Age of Ultron, in Avengers A.I.. So is part of the goal of this story maybe somehow rehabbing the character?
Bendis: Well, what it does show is, here's this character that you just said yourself, never really seemed A-list. But he's been there for a lot of important stuff, and had his hand in a lot of important stuff. If you take even this element out of the Marvel Universe, what would happen? Now we get to see it, and that's kind of cool. The Marvel version of the butterfly effect, which is astronomical.
Nrama: As opposed to the Ashton Kutcher version.
Bendis: Yeah. The Ashton Kutcher version, which begets direct-to-video sequels.Age of Ultron
#7 cover.You take one Avenger out of the Avenger equation, and look at the spiral. Without Hank Pym, there's no Ultron, then there's no Vision and there's no Jocasta, and there's no marriage to Jan, and all of the other things that he's touched and done, and invented, over the course of the Marvel Universe. We made this giant list of things that would not have happened if Hank Pym wasn't around.
From there, I got to make a creative decision, "Here's the big stuff, but what would be missing from the Marvel Universe?" However many years it is from this moment to the present day, what would be the shift? And that shift was fun to come up with as well.More from Newsarama:
- What We Learned From MARVEL's JULY 2013 Solicitations
- AGE OF ULTRON: Hitting the Halfway Point with AXEL ALONSO
- Marvel Announces New EPIC COLLECTIONS