***This article contains major spoilers for Age of Ultron #10, on sale now.***
***No, seriously… we talk about everything. Big spoilers follow.***
People have been talking about Age of Ultron #10 for months before even Age of Ultron #1 was released.
Months before the first issue was out, Marvel and series writer Brian Michael Bendis promoted the an "unguessable ending," which we were speculating on back in November. In March, part of that was revealed: Former Spawn supporting character Angela debuting in the Marvel Universe, as a result of the legal dispute between Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane.
But that's not it: The outcome of Age of Ultron revealed that Marvel's space-time continuum is broken due to Wolverine's time travel pushing things to the breaking point. One result is Angela showing up in the MU, another major one is the classic version of world-eater Galactus making his way to the Ultimate Universe's Earth — which is the concept of Hunger miniseries by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Leonard Kirk, which had been previously kept under wraps.
Age of Ultron #10 also, like many anticipated comics these days, leaked on torrent sites. Bendis isn't shy about his annoyance over it — both that it happened at all, and the quality of the copy that surfaced early online.
"Literally someone took pictures of it with their cell phone, and there's pages missing," the writer told Newsarama. "Just imagine someone showed you the last 15 minutes of a movie, but minute 2 and 7 are missing, and they only showed you 30 seconds at a time."
We talked to Bendis about issue #10 (illustrated by Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco, Bryan Hitch, Butch Guice, Alex Maleev, David Marquez and Joe Quesada), and its many implications, including the much-needed win for Hank Pym and any possible perceived resemblance to DC's landmark 1985-1986 story, Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Newsarama: Brian, Age of Ultron #10 has some very big things in its final scenes, and with space-time continuum broken and different realities colliding, it certainly seems like we're headed towards something even bigger after this.
Bendis: Now the entire Marvel universe seems a lot more dangerous. People have a little sense of things that are about to happen in the next year or so with Guardians and Infinity and all that.
Even the simplest time travel story or displacement, it's not just what it seems at face value. There's going to be a cost. There's going to be a price to pay. And that's very exciting. I think it takes a lot of our books into new territory. There was a real sense that surprising characters can pop out of any corner.
Nrama: It seems likely that the reaction, fair or not, from fans upon seeing the pages of the different versions of characters through eras and realities — a Marvel Zombies Spider-Man, a Heroes Reborn Iron Man, Squadron Supreme — is that it feels kind of Crisis-y.
Bendis: That's certainly the shortcut language us comic book fans would use, and we do it all the time, absolutely. But the Marvel Universe is not like the DC Universe, and there are a lot of differences, obviously. Even though there are some alternate realities and alternate timelines, the way they're handled, it's just a different science to them. Most of them I think are pretty obvious for people who know their stuff.
Even if we did some giant Crisis-like story, the story would be incredibly different, almost to the point where it would be its own thing. When House of M was coming out, they referred to it, "Oh, House of M is just like 'Age of Apocalypse.'" Then when it's done, you go, "OK, it's not like that, actually." And now people are referring to House of M as a thing.
I know you could compare other reality-breaking events, not only in comics but other places, to what happened in Ultron, but when you see it all put together, you go, "Oh, actually, it's its own thing." In fact, we go to major efforts to make sure of such a thing. So, yes, if you say, "The timestream broke," that might bring upon an idea from pop culture to you, but when you actually read it, it's its own thing.
I get it, I do it all the time myself, but our job is to push against preconceived notions and create something else with it, and that is what we did — or at least we will see. [Laughs.]
Nrama: Were the major consequences of the story — the space-time continuum breaking and everything that comes along with it — always part of the story, or something of a confluence of events given how many recent and upcoming Marvel stories involve time travel?
Bendis: I wanted to do two things: I wanted a story that starts in one genre, but then turns into another. I like that mainstream comics are all different sub-genres all going on at once, and I thought two of them clashing into each other would be kind of fantastic.
The story starts off: "What if this villain fulfills their promise?" You wake up one day, and it's happened. Obviously the real-world allegory is you wake up and the terrorists have done something that we've heard could happen on the news every day for like 10 years — you wake up, and they've done it.
And then at the end, that the heroes, Wolverine in particular, have to go to great lengths to solve this, and the responsibility of using the space-time continuum — which Reed Richards has been talking about since issue #2 of Fantastic Four — something really bad does happen. And not just that they do something and all this stuff pops up, but the warning that both Iron Mans give: We're not alone in the universe. If Earth is responsible for ripping time and something pops out of it, someone else in the galaxy is going to go, "OK, who did that? Where did that come from?" And that will start a whole new series of stories, as well.
Those were both in the original pitch document. I did say: What's the craziest thing that could pop out of this rift? You can only do these rifts like, once. "What is the nuttiest thing?" Boy, I wouldn't have imagined Angela in a million years. We made a list of the craziest things, like, "Batman!" "Oh my god, it's Buckaroo Banzai, and Indiana Jones, and they're married!" But when Joe called up and said, "Hey, remember Angela?" And I went, "From Who's the Boss?" And [Quesada] then told me the whole back story with Neil Gaiman— as left field as that is, I just love it to death. That's exactly the kind of thing. So I'm very glad that we were able to not only come up with what else we came up with, but to add that little cherry on top.
I am sorry, on many levels, that Angela leaked. It would have never been up to me to let that leak. [Marvel] would have let it just happen. But this is the world we live, there's like, four people in the world trying to ruin everything for everybody else. So we had to step in front of the story so it doesn't get a mixed message.
I know there are still a lot of people who don't know what happens. I even heard from people today — the book shipped already in other parts of the world — who didn't know Angela was coming into the book, because they don't read every little thing we do online. It was exciting to see people respond in the way I was hoping they would.
Nrama: Let's get back to that Angela scene in a bit, and first focus on something that wasn't out there before the issue shipped: Galactus arriving on Ultimate Earth.
Bendis: I was thrilled that didn't leak. I'm so happy that something didn't leak, because the promise of this is gargantuan.
Nrama: That also feels like a big and crazy outcome of this story. I know there's a lot more left to be revealed — likely very soon — about this, but what was the origin of that idea?
Bendis: I was sitting around going, "What's the biggest villain that I could pull from the regular Marvel Universe into the Ultimate Universe, and have him just wreak havoc?" It's so difficult, because so many of them are in use, or are going to be in use, y'know?
?[Matt] Fraction goes, "Galactus!! How cool would that be?" Me, Matt and Kelly [Sue DeConnick], we just have dinner all the time and bitch about each other's stories, and Matt threw out Galactus. And I went, "Ooh, that is really good." So I emailed Tom [Brevoort] and said, "Is there any way I could get Galactus?" And he goes, "Galactus should be starving by now. That sounds great for him."
And to actually have David Marquez, who is one of the lead voices of the Ultimate Universe, visually, draw that scene, so as soon as you turn the page, you go, "OK, you are in the Ultimate Universe, because there's David, and there's Miles Morales." It feels a little more real, and the whole thing got very exciting. So excited for what happens next in the Ultimate U.
Nrama: Then there's the introduction of Angela into the Marvel Universe. How tricky was that to write?
Bendis: That was a gigantic undertaking, all from the mind of Joe Quesada. He brought the brand-new costume design and an elaborate back story about how she will now fit into the Marvel Universe, where she's been and where she came from, that is clean and understandable — and wow, you should have seen this document. He gets so into this stuff when he's drawing. He gets almost proprietary, like Angela's his daughter. We had conference calls, and meetings, and all kinds of back and forth.
If you follow Joe on Twitter, he's released a bunch of costume designs. An amazing amount of effort from Joe, just to create Angela, and that severed Kirby monster head.
Nrama: It does seem like a challenge, because you don’t want it to seem completely foreign, given how many people likely won't recognize the character.
Bendis: We have to imagine 95 percent of the audience today doesn't know who she is. They may know the legal story more than they know her. They know she is from the mind of Neil Gaiman. But the book hasn't been in print in 20 years, which is literally four comic book generations of readers. And when she was out, she literally was only in a handful of comics. And I've read them all recently. It is the least amount of research I've ever had to do on an existing character. The good news, there's a lot in those appearances, and the other good news, is there's a lot of room for reinterpretation and reinvention.
I'm very excited about that, and that Angela story takes place right into issue #5 of Guardians of Galaxy, which will be on sale next month. And you get to see Sara Pichelli draw one of my favorite fight scenes that I've ever been involved [with], which is Angela vs. Gamora. Ultimate catfight.
Nrama: And Neil Gaiman is co-writing the book soon.
Bendis: Yes. Absolutely.
Nrama: And that's issues #5 and #6?
Bendis: #5, #6, #7… I'm not going to tell him to stop. [Laughs.] Whenever he's got to move on and go work on his novels.
Nrama: Back to #10 specifically, Ultron's ultimate downfall, though there are quite a few pages of superhero fisticuffs, is that he's outsmarted by Hank Pym — essentially brains over brawn, which seems suitable for both characters.
Bendis: One of the themes of the piece is that everybody's important. Hank Pym would be perceived by some — not all — to be a minor cog in the Marvel Universe. But then you see, if you pull out that minor cog, the whole thing unravels. Now he didn't get to see it, but he certainly gets to feel, "I have an importance here that maybe I've been neglecting, and maybe it's time to get back on the horse and act accordingly."
No. 1 is taking care of this Ultron situation, which he did, finally. I think that it's kind of cool that he was the one that did it. And No. 2 you'll see in Mark Waid's Age of Ultron #10A.I. and Avengers A.I. with Sam Humphries, both of which I've read, and both of which are very cool. And also the lengths that Mark Waid has gone to establish a Hank Pym that we can understand and get behind is pretty cool.
Hank needed a win! And he got it. And for those who wanted to know where Ultron was during Age of Ultron, there he is! Yay!
People go, "Where's Ultron?" It's "Age of Ultron," This is the world of Ultron, not Ultron. I know that's bullsh*tty, but I'm saying it. There you go.
Nrama: With Ultron being one of Hank Pym's two most famous transgressions, do you see this as a redemptive story for the character?
Bendis: Well, the beginning of one. I think that there's more to do there. But yeah, absolutely.
But for Hank, Wolverine, the All-New X-Men, the Ultimate Universe, Angela, the Guardians of the Galaxy and so many more… this is just the beginning.