***This article contains significant spoilers for Age of Ultron #7, on sale now.***
The Marvel Universe is a very different place in Brian Michael Bendis, Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco's Age of Ultron #7, but going back in time and killing founding Avenger Hank Pym before he ever conceived of the evil artificial intelligence Ultron — i.e., in the very early days of Marvel's Silver Age and about 45 years ago in real-world time— will do that.
Wolverine did that deed at the end of Age of Ultron #6 in an attempt to fix the ruined world of the first five issues of the series, with a morally conflicted Invisible Woman along for the ride. Returning to the present, the two heroes found The Defenders in place of the Avengers, consisting of The Hulk, Doctor Strange, Star-Lord, The Thing, eyepatch-sporting "Colonel America," Janet Van Dyne as Captain Marvel, Scott Summers calling himself (and resembling) Cable, and Wolverine in the '80s brown-and-orange costume.
Oh yeah, and apparently Tony Stark exerting some manner of totalitarian control. We talked to Bendis about the latest issue and crafting the reimagined Marvel Universe, which he suggests we haven't seen the worst of yet.
Newsarama: Brian, Age of Ultron #7 shows the world following Wolverine assassinating Hank Pym in the past, and things don't necessarily seem that bad, just… different.
Brian Michael Bendis: Oh no. They're terrible. [Laughs.]
Nrama: It must have been fun was to put together this part of the story, with the alternate takes on multiple familiar characters, like Wasp as Captain Marvel and Colonel America.
Bendis: Everyone one of those characters that shows up in issue #7, I have a whole elaborate backstory of how they ended up being this way, and how this team got together, and what their relationships are. We'll hint at little bits and pieces of it, but the fun is not to spell it all out. My Cyclops story is elaborately ridiculous.
Nrama: And the designs were by Brandon Peterson?
Bendis: Yep. Issue #8 is probably the greatest thing he's ever done. He went bananas. I was really hoping he would just dig in — it's a lot of world-building, and it's a lot of design he had to make his own. He really did it. Whereas Carlos brought this more pop looking design, and the juxtaposition between the two is really what we were looking for. It's fantastic.
Nrama: Following the criticism of the first five chapters, at the end of #7 it's not easy to see how can this get wrapped up in just three issues.
Bendis: Well, issue #10 is 400 pages long. [Laughs.]
Nrama: And at least one of them has Angela on it.
Bendis: Now imagine how cool that would have been if no one knew!
Nrama: That's kind of the nature of the game at this point though, right?
Bendis: I guess it is. Not my game! But that's how it is.
There's more coming. The good news is that it's not all hanging on her. That's pretty cool still, and it'll still be a nice surprise for many people, but there's some other fun stuff coming.
Nrama: It's hinted throughout the issue — "Starkguard" and all — but the end of #7 reveals that something strange going on with Iron Man. So his life is very different without Hank Pym around?
Bendis: Without it ever being heavy-handed throughout the Avengers history, Hank's scientific relationship to Tony was this nice collaboration, even if they didn't work on the same things. You'll feel this too, with the people that you work with — there's a person there you might not be the closest with, but they maybe keep you in check a little bit. I'm giving you the idea that Hank just being there, and the kind of science he was doing, and the kind of back-and-forth that they had as scientists made Tony's discoveries and technologies maybe more warm, maybe more socially aware. Without the Avengers together, Tony on his own and the things that have happened to him, there's a coldness there.
I thought that was one of those interesting things: You know what you would feel like if you lost your best friend — but what if that guy wasn't around, and this is a guy you've known for many years? What would that be like?
Nrama: There's clearly a lot of time travel all around Marvel right now, and you've discussed how Age of Ultron was in the works for a while, so was there any planned coordination between this and the time travel aspects of All-New X-Men?
Bendis: There is massive abuse of the space-time continuum going on. This is not just a little tickle. These are massive abuses of time and space from people who know better, and are just doing it anyhow. And yes, you look at Wolverine and go, "What other choice could he possibly have had?" But you add it all up, and something's going on. There will be ramifications. Imagine a character like Angela — where the hell did she come from? That sounds like a ramification. She came all the way from another company! [Laughs.]
That's another one of those things we always play with; Marvel Comics, just as an organism itself, is in this great position to really examine that fantastic sci-fi idea of, "What happens if you keep poking that thing with a stick?"
Nrama: Yeah, a lot of people guessed that at some point in Age of Ultron character would try to go back and kill Hank Pym, but it was surprising for them to be actually successful, as the middle-point of the story.
Bendis: And a lot of fun to be had. When Age of Ultron and All-New came together, I sat there going, "All of a sudden I've gone from crime writer to time travel guy." But that's cool, too, because between this and Guardians, I have a lot of ways to examine the fallout of something like this that makes it all worthwhile.