The artificial intelligence, Ultron has taken over the world. Most of humanity has been killed off and the remaining beings that are still alive under such a chaotic reign must pay Ultron to live. In the first issue, Hammerhead and the Owl intended on giving Ultron Spider-Man, for him to let them live. After being saved by Hawkeye, Spidey explained it to the other heroes who managed to avoid Ultron's judgment and gave Captain America a plan to rebel against Ultron.
As many of us should know, Doctor Octopus and Peter Parker had a "Freaky Friday" moment when they swapped brains in Amazing Spider-Man #700. In the end, Peter Parker died and Otto Octavius is now...The Superior Spider-Man! Yeah, it's as bad as it sounds. (Actually, the comic book is great. The situation is just crazy.) In Superior Spider-Man #6AU, it was revealed that Otto Octavius has been playing down his immense ego and trying not to tip off his fellow Avengers of Peter's departure.
|Executive Producer:||Alan Fine|
|Chief Creative Officer:||Joe Quesada|
|Editor In Chief:||Axel Alonso|
|Editor:||Lauren Sankovitch, Tom Bervoort|
|Assistant Editor:||Jake Thomas, John Denning|
|Writer:||Brian Michael Bendis|
|Lettering:||VC's Cory Petit|
In the rubble-filled streets of New York City stand Luke Cage (with newly grown hair) and Jennifer Walters, AKA She-Hulk (with newly cut hair, coincidentally). The sky is covered with a robotic wall that has many random beams and overhangs coming off of it. (A processor unit of some sort?) The city below is in ruins, with dust filling the air and debris and jalopies covering the street.
After taking a thorough inspection if the area around them, Luke Cage initiates the plan by asking She-Hulk if she is ready. Obviously, she wants to switch positions with him, but that's not the plan they had devised beforehand. "Don't brace yourself. Go limp," Luke Cage advises. "Just do it," She-Hulk murmurs. Cage gives her a good, protein-filled knuckle sandwich right in the jaw. Crack! (This may just be the most absurd super-hero plan in the history of comic books.)
The impact of the blow essentially sends an earthquake down the streets, buildings toppling and cars launched up from the road. (Does it even matter? The city is jacked up as it is.) Luke Cage hoists She Hulk over his shoulder and starts a long climb up a pile of debris.
An hour before this, in the remains of the fallen S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, Spider-Man says enthusiastically, "How about everybody gets off their butts, dust off, shake it off, and let's fight back." Emma Frost, everybody's favorite and manipulative drama queen, responds, "If only it were that easy. If only there were more of us left." (Ahhh. Way to break Spidey's spirit, Emma.) Everybody starts throwing around names of those taken down by Ultron, among them Cyclops, Thor, Hulk, and the Thing. "Luke... Jessica and the baby?" Spidey asks. Cage becomes painfully silent and it is apparent that they are not among the survivors.
Once Spider-Man apologizes to Cage, Captain America begins planning their revolt against Ultron, suggesting they "give him something to barter with." Spider-Man explains again how Owl and Hammerhead were going to trade him to Ultron. Storm asks, "Why wouldn't this robot wipe just about everybody out...? Why go through all the trouble to ruin the world?" Sue Richards adds, "And now it's playing Monopoly with low renters?"
"Yes," Tony Stark says. "And I'll tell you exactly why... Ultron was created to have human needs and desires. So ideas like revenge, torture, hate...all these quote-unquote illogical ideas. It's programmed in him. He taught himself to act this way." Essentially, he is saying that it's not enough for Ultron to just take over the world.
Suddenly, in a fit of anger, Hawkeye yells, "And can I just say screw Hank Pym for inventing Ultron in the first place?" When Stark starts to defend Pym, Clint goes off on him, "I don't get you at all, Stark. I go out and save Spidey's butt, you all act like I've taken a dump in the pool... Pym INVENTS the thing that SHUTS DOWN THE WORLD--does all this--and you're all 'Well, he didn't mean it.'"
Captain America stops the arguments from worsening and says, "If the robot is buying and trading for guys like us...let's sell him one of us."
"And see how far one of us can get into Ultron's world," Hawkeye says. "The robot might not know how to react to it." Daisy Johnson figures, "It would have to be someone who can take punishment. Sturdy." "Indestructible," Wolverine adds. (Too bad Hulk's gone. His new status quo could certainly help them.) Both Luke Cage and She Hulk volunteer. The two start debating over who should go, Luke Cage mentioning his "unbreakable skin" and She Hulk promoting that she's "a Hulk."
Emma Frost, being a mind-reader and all, tells them that Tony Stark wants neither to go. "It's not a plan...It's half a plan. It's not worth another life," Tony Stark explains. "Well, I'm not sitting here one second longer," She-Hulk says. Luke Cage decides that he'll be the one who sells her, but Wolverine stops him and decides that he thinks that he'll be a better candidate to confront Ultron. "You? Your leg isn't even healed yet," Hawkeye grumbles.
Since Wolverine's bones are made of adamantium, Captain America figures, "He will flay you the second he sees you, strip you for parts and who knows what else." When Stark agrees, Wolverine says, " You two agreein' with each other? It is the end of the world!" She-Hulk confirms that she's going with Cage and, even though it would be "a miracle" for them to "make it out the other side", they need to meet at another point to meet Cap and his team.
"The mutate village in the Savage Land. There will hopefully be enough vegetation and supplies to get us back on our feet," Cap says. "Alright then," Cage says as he and She-Hulk walk out of the room. Tony Stark and Captain America both look at each other out of the corner of their eye, knowing that their plan is terrible and they have probably sent these two heroes to their deaths.
In current time, Luke Cage has She-Hulk hoisted over his shoulder, still walking on the debris-covered streets. Soon, he comes across an area where the robotic processors that had respectfully remained in the sky start descending to the actual streets. A fleet of Ultron silently and quickly surround him, as creepy and robotic as ever. "I have a Hulk. I want to trade," Cage exclaims.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, things are painfully gloomy. The city has been demolished. The skyscrapers and high-rises are all still barely standing, most of them with massive chunks torn from their sides. It looks as if a nuke was detonated and exploded half of the city.
On the top of a building that remains in peak condition, (compared to the others surrounding it) a small group of heroes are monitoring the area around them. Taskmaster, master of physical imitation, is looking around with binoculars while Red Hulk and the Black Panther stand near him. Black Panther is making an attempt of not being seen by hiding behind a pillar of some sort, but Rulk and Taskmaster are just standing in the open.
"We can't be exposed this long," Rulk tells Taskmaster, who looks like he is wearing something that he just picked up from the nearest costume shop. "I'm doing the best I can, Dave," he replies. Rulk, obviously annoyed by the disrespect, tells him, "My name isn't Dave, Taskmaster." "Well, I'm not calling you Red Hulk. So I've decided to call you Dave," he says. (As typical and unnecessary as this Bendis-banter is, he has a point.)
Taskmaster catches a glimpse of an Ultron sentry right as he burns a man to death. "There. 1.2 miles away. Go!" he yells. Rulk jumps from their position, ready for a brawl. On the streets, the Ultron is peacefully hovering around buildings, looking for his next victim, when Rulk brutally smashes his body into the ground. He rips off the Ultron's head, which is connected by a slimy, alien-like esophagus. He has what he was looking for, disgusting enough.
Rulk jumps back to his waiting teammates, who are anxious for his return. "It wasn't quick enough," Taskmaster sadly reveals. As Rulk skids onto the roof, a fleet of Ultrons are following him. Rulk throws Black Panther and Taskmaster the Ultron head and commands them to go. (He didn't have to tell Taskmaster twice. He was gone as soon as the Ultrons arrived.)
The Ultrons assemble in a circular formation (as they always do right when they're about to blow something up) around Rulk and start firing blasts down at him, resulting major impact and damage on the building below. When Rulk grabs the leg of an Ultron and pulls it down, he easily starts tearing up the others with it as a weapon.
While fleeing the battle zone, Taskmaster and Black Panther are knocked off their feet by an explosion. They fall down a flight of stairs and Taskmaster recovers before the Wakandan king. Taskmaster yells, "Come on! We have to keep--" When he finds that Panther had snapped his neck with the fall and no longer has a pulse, he picks up the Ultron head and runs down a hallway.
"Sweet Christmas," Luke Cage says back in NYC (Times Square, I believe), surrounded by Ultron sentries and holding She Hulk. the Ultrons have led him to the mainframe, which is two blue, metallic spheres are stacked on each other, held up by three futuristic-like legs. A massive antenna is on top of it and it seems as if a foil wall is covering the area behind it.
The Ultrons direct Cage into an entry in one of the three legs of the building. In an anti-gravity hallway that heads upwards, Cage and the Ultrons fly up to where the main Ultron is supposedly holed up. They enter an open, circular room, with a single walkway leading to a center platform. Cage walks down the walkway, closely guarded by the sentries. "Oh no... It's--It's not Ultron," Cage says suprised.
"Luke Cage. What do you offer," asks Vision, floating in the air with the lower half of his body torn off.
You know what Bendis is great at during these giant crossover epics? The cliffhangers. You don't even need to read the actual story; just skip straight to the end. And that applies to this story. It feels like the issue is just building up to the development. I was certainly not expecting the Vision to be involved with Ultron's reign. I'm interested to see where it goes.
The story itself is one of Bendis' best. Things have finally picked up with the heroes striking their first attack against Ultron. The dialogue is (with the exception of Taskmaster) completely out of character for Bendis, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Everybody isn't terribly enthusiastic and jolly, like in most of Bendis' work. Rather, everything is very grim and characters only talk when completely necessary.
This is also the first event where I'm afraid that Spider-Man will actually die. I mean, sure the threats have been high in Civil War and Secret Invasion, but only a few heroes actually fall in the end. Well, after actually seeing Black Panther die, I really realized how possible it is that everybody else will die. I know that it will all be reversed in the end, but it is interesting to see what actually happens. Everybody gets angry at Bendis for always killing someone, so this is the perfect event for his writing. No matter what happens, everything will be okay in the end! He can kill ANYBODY HE WANTS during the next seven issues and it doesn't matter! What happens in the next seven issues is all Bendis.
I like how subplots of other places around the world are being interjected in the main story. It makes Ultron's reign feel more widespread, while concentrating on the B-lister heroes who don't always hang out in NYC. I never thought that I would see Taskmaster or Moon Knight get more than a page of content in any Marvel event. It also feels like Spider-Man has been playing a bigger role in the event than usual, which is always welcome.
As for the art, the farther the event continues, the more I am convinced that no other artist could do this type of top-notch work than Bryan Hitch. His art is so detailed and spot-on. I have never seen such a flawless issue in a Marvel event. Ever. I mean, it's natural to have John Romita Jr. or Andy Kubert on these type of stories. I don't hate their art, but it isn't always the most consistent. Hitch's style is open and makes everything feel big. And that is perfect for this event. It is going to be depressing when he leaves with issue 5.
As far as crossovers go, this is developing to be one of my favorites.