The Event Perfected: How AGE OF ULTRON Should Take Over the World

SPOILER WARNING: This article talks at length about Age of Ultron’s publication without mentioning the actual contents of the book at all.

This is the first time I have seen this picture.

This is the first time I have seen this picture.

I can only speculate about what kind of summer Marvel are gearing up for, but I imagine spirits are high. We’re about two weeks out from an Iron Man movie and something like a hundred days from a Wolverine movie, with Guardians of the Galaxy news and Thor 2 teasers to sprinkle throughout the dog days.

In the meantime, I understand they also sell comic books. How are the blockbusters going in that department? No one ever really says (and this is another way comics are a unique entertainment medium: imagine if Marvel Studios saw the box office numbers printed in the trades after opening weekend or the Neilsen ratings from the night before, chuckled, and said “Those numbers are completely imaginary” without then coughing any data whatsoever up) but if you believe the imaginary numbers that are out there it looks like Age of Ultron took three spots in the top ten last month. I imagine the folks in Marvel’s Ink On Paper division are walking pretty tall.

As well they should be. After years of attempts and halting steps up the evolutionary ladder, Age of Ultron has perfected the Event Comic.

Just stay with me for a couple more paragraphs.

One of the reasons the book’s sales are especially impressive is that, to the bystander, Age of Ultron barely seems to be happening. Compared to your Civil Wars and your Fear Itselves, Age of Ultron is some kind of secret. Like, a Skull and Bones-level secret.

It’s possible that I might be very mildly exaggerating this one time. After all, no less than our own Josh Flanagan has reported hearing ads for the series on local radio, which isn’t something I can say about any other comic I’ve read. At the same time, if my habits and those of my friends are anything to go by, Josh may have been the only person outside of the broadcast booth listening. We are rapidly approaching the point where radio and newspapers are where I would put something I was trying to hide.

I suspect, with an abundance of no evidence at all, that the more common reaction would be the one I got from a regular comic book reader who’s a friend of mine, who texted me the last time I wrote about Age of Ultron saying, “That article was the first time I’d ever heard that series was even going on.” (One of the unintended consequences of the digital era: people reading on their iPads don’t see the ads, even the in-house ads for the blockbusters and their tie-ins, and they don’t have to walk past any posters or displays to get to the book they want.)

If you’re here, you’ve read a lot about comics, which means you’ve read a lot of complaints. Which ones does the complaint connoisseur hear every time one of these blockbusters starts hitting the stands, pray tell? “Ugh. Every time one of these things comes out, they hype it to death for months in advance then spend all summer cramming it down your throat. Every story you’re reading grinds to a halt so they can awkwardly wedge in the crossover, and you end up having to buy issues of every book in the line for months just to keep up with what the hell is going on.”

Can you say a single word of that about Age of Ultron? Without being a total churl?

I don’t think anyone being straight with you could call anything about this series “hyped to death,” unless I missed the live webcast press conference from Times Square.

Marvel cheerleaders. Not pictured: the author.

Marvel cheerleaders. Not pictured: the author.

Sure, it seems to be coming out constantly, but that hardly qualifies as “cramming it down your throat.” If anything, it seems like they’re trying to get in and out as quickly and directly as they can, rather than dragging things out and diluting the impact. Remember Secret Invasion, when the stars of every book you read were busy in the miniseries and the books they were normally in got to spin their wheels in flashback for a year?

And what about those tie-ins? So far, there have been what, three a month? Almost all of them are one-shots; maybe one title is doing two crossover issues in a row. So far, all of them have essentially been DVD extras for the main series. If you want to see the deleted scenes featuring Spider-Man, or find out the backstory about how Sue Storm got to that room, you can do that; if you don’t, you don’t. It couldn’t make less of a difference. They have been the most perfectly skippable, functionally optional comics in the history of Eventing. Most of them have a completely different writer and artist than the ongoing series and don’t intersect with the regular stories at all. Wolverine and the X-Men was two issues into an arc; Matt Kindt wrote an issue about robot war that relates in no way; next issue will be part three of the arc, like Kindt’s issue was a dream we all had. Considering half these books come out every two weeks now, it’s like they’re treating you to a little time off. Or treating you to a done-in-one Matt Kindt Wolverine story! Take your pick!

There is no better way to do this sort of thing. If you love Ultron and Events, that’s what you get. If you don’t, this won’t hurt a bit and will be over before you know it. It might as well come with a tank of nitrous oxide. Compare that to Avengers vs. X-Men; if you liked Cyclops stories but hated the Phoenix Five, you had yourself a bad year.

Is this a microcosm of how media consumption has changed? Is this a look at how comics marketing has adapted to the way we consume the medium now? Is it a happy accident?

What has ten fingers, an iFanboy column, and doesn’t care about any of this as long as they keep it up?

After decades of hits, misses, and complaints about hits and misses, Age of Ultron has learned from its predecessors and adapted like some kind of hyperintelligent artificial life form. From a publishing standpoint, I bow to its superiority and hope it takes over the world.

 


Jim Mroczkowski also likes Demon Knights, Batgirl, and a number of fine DC products.

Comments

  1. BC1 BC1 says:

    But the other important thing is that, unlike every event comic that has come before, the consequences of this one so far don’t seem to be undoable. If they are undone, massive death and destruction rain down on the entire universe’s head. Unless some massive deus ex machina is introduced (and they only have 4 issues left, so it’d have to be soon), I’d say that this one’s going to stick.

  2. tripleneck tripleneck (@tripleneck) says:

    I’ll disagree with BC1 above and say that I expect a lot of what I’ve seen in AoU so far to be neatly undone by the end of the event. Manhattan will be un-destroyed just like it was before Ultron took over. She Hulk, Luke Cage, and other dead heroes & villains will be alive when the series wraps up. Aren’t these characters currently in ongoing series? I don’t expect those titles to be cancelled when AoU is done. I do think there will some lasting effects and that’s where the real suspense is: what will stick and what won’t. But almost everything will be going back on the table neat and orderly just like it already is right now in the current Marvel ongoings.

    Also, I don’t like events, but I’m thoroughly enjoying this one!

    • Jetstorm Jetstorm says:

      Why does “Age of Ultron” remember me a lot of another title, “Age of Apocalypse”.I think a lot of things happen there, and almost everything went back, instantly.
      The was another event in the same vein as this one, also by Bendis. House of M. I say same MO. Noboy remembers it, but it leaves a lasting effect in the Marvel universe.
      Time is a great factor in this event, so i’ll say this is going to be erease, and unerease, before it finishes.

  3. phess1 phess1 says:

    I agree with Jim. I haven’t been reading this past issue one but it hasn’t interfered with anything I am reading accept for pushing the pause button on a couple books I really like which in effect helped my wallet more then anything. Hopefully infinity is this way as well.

  4. IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

    I’m not reading this, or even any Marvel books right now but I admit I can’t find much to complain about from “overhyping”. I remember seeing some ads in books or posters and the like but not much else in my LCS. I don’t even think the clerk (who is prone to long anger Marvel rants) has mentioned it at all so that must be a good sign. Although I have been reading “oh I’m reading this series but I’m wondering if I’m wasting my money” comments on here for a few weeks, maybe those have stopped but it seems like the only real complaint I can see with the event is the quality of the first few issues.

  5. RobotZombie RobotZombie says:

    But is AoU any good?

    • bub64882 bub64882 says:

      I’m interested. It’s got time travel, which is my least favorite thing, but it seems to be used to explore character, so I’m not hating it. The art is okay, but there is the promise of a spaceknight, and the whole WTF nature of introducing Angela to the Marvel U. I’d give it a 7.5, with the potential to get to 8.5 in the next issue or so.

    • RobotZombie RobotZombie says:

      You had me at Spaceknight.
      Dammit!
      Now i have to go read th back issues.

  6. muddi900 says:

    This is not something. It’s a slimy retail trick that has been going on since the golden age; flooding the market with your product to drown out shelf-space for the competition. Marvel has been doing it for the past 24 months or so, the much maligned double-shipping practice.

    What’s truly disgusting is how they treated Hitch; They had him rush the issues and then sat on them for the year and then didn’t even call him for the rest of the issues.

  7. flapjaxx flapjaxx says:

    If either Marvel or DC released the first three issues of a Big Event in the same calendar month, all three issues would end up in the Top Ten.

    So that isn’t particularly impressive.

    But issue #3 registered only slightly over 100,000 in sales. That’s dismal for an event book. It was beaten by non-event and/or artist fill-in issues of “Batman” and “Justice League”.

    As far as quality goes, this is the only major comics site I know of in which any of worker bees are actually giving AoU high marks.

    And the idea that this is a big event because it seems like a nonexistent secret is baffling. It’s like saying that the best baseball team is one that doesn’t play any other teams. But I guess for some people it’s just too much fun to be silly and contrarian and dance around in circles, like an Alice in Wonderland character, singing “Events don’t HAVE to matter if it’s Big Bendis Fu-u-un!”

    You already did a column about your irrational love of this event like two weeks ago, Jim. Between that and your Guardians of the Galaxy article, don’t you think you’re shilling for Marvel and Bendis enough? I mean, really, you can’t think of anything else to write about? Nothing else in the entire medium excites you to the level that you’d want to write about it? Instead the recent columns have topics like “Age of Ultron . . . Remember my old ROM article? . . . Age of Ultron (again)”. You’re a better and a cleverer writer than this. I know it.

    I do generally like Marvel, like what Bendis has been doing with the X-titles, actually gave AoU #1 a shot (it was dreadful), and have liked various columns of Jim’s in the past. I’m not a hater. But, really… is this the best you can do?

    • jonb227 says:

      Not a hater? Doesn’t sound like it….that’s akin to totally bashing someone & then saying “no offense”….the dude is a good writer, and this is an editorial column, would you rather he write about whatever is on your mind? To say that the method of releasing this series isn’t interesting is just plain wrong, in that it bucks all the trends that we have come to know during an event book, from the shipping schedule to the tie in methods…….it’s not your bag, I get that, but I’m personally enjoying it, along with most of the “worker bees” at the other sites I read, which have consistently rated it good or better….ultimately it’s cool that marvel and dc are changing the way they approach events, how marvel is cutting the needless tie ins & forced impact linewide, and how dc seem to be going the crossover route with the event being portrayed solely in the series own issues….I personally thought it was an interesting read

    • tripleneck tripleneck (@tripleneck) says:

      I’ll pile on ‘cuz it seems like U B Hatin’.

    • muddi900 says:

      Yes, all criticism should be dismissed as Hating. All criticism of hating should be dismissed as Hater Hating. I guess I am a Hater Hater Hater.

    • BCDX97 BCDX97 says:

      I didn’t realize this article was by Marvel lover Jim. I just started reading away. should have known better and just skipped it.

  8. I would be curious as to how the tie-in issues are doing, sales wise. They seem to tread the line between “complimentary” and “insignificant”

  9. GKFinns GKFinns says:

    Unfortunately, the first 5 issues were so boring and padded out that I felt it was a waste anyway.

    Could have easily been condensed into 2 or 3 and would’ve flowed better. The benefit of a weekly shipping schedule I guess is that the disappointment doesn’t have as long to fester.

  10. I never understand why people complain about decompression in comics.

    We all know how this will end – some kind of time-space reboot with minimal changes affecting the established 616 timeline.

    So if we know where this ends, then why are we rushing to the finish line? Let’s enjoy the bleakness of the future, the desperation and depression of the heroes, the grim darkness of it all. Let’s live in that world for a while before we have to give it up and return to normalcy.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      I think it’s a shorter attention span in readers, plus money troubles that causes that. People want something Now, and it has to be excellent and new and fresh. Least that’s how I see it, it seems that’s the way our culture is edging towards. I like to live in “alternate worlds” too, but what bugs me are when some details are ignored or only big ideas are given when I want to see the smaller, minutae ones to show how the world operates.

    • muddi900 says:

      People complain about decompression because it’s bad writing 98% of the time.

    • BCDX97 BCDX97 says:

      Decompression just gives you less story. Back in the day, a 22 page , 75 cent comic could be packed with an entire tale. Now you get 6 20 page comics for 3.99 a pop with the same amount of story. Sure, the comics used to be a little wordy and didn’t really let the art shine, but there is a happy medium.

  11. DikBallistik DikBallistik says:

    I’ve really been enjoying AoU. I even liked the Wolverine and the X-men tie in. It was totally unnecessary reading but i felt the story and character dynamics was compelling enough for one issue. This crossover doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and that’s a good thing.

    • BC1 BC1 says:

      But that’s one that might have some ramifications. Who knows what fighting that Brood will do to it’s evolution and how that might intersect later with WatXM?

  12. JSAkid JSAkid says:

    Solid article but I’d have to disagree with one thing : the tie-ins not being detrimental to the story. While I love that there are only a few, the Wolverine & the X-Men tie had the most significant moment in the story so far so it’s definitely not a skip tie in, and Superior Spider-Man gave us a great perspective from Doc Ock’s mind we weren’t getting from the Spidey in the main event and I found that cool cause its not Peter Parker in Age of Ultron. Then the AA tie in shows us how Black Widow and Moon Knight got together and they are who the whole story starts off with. It’s definitely not event fatigue and love its subtlety marketed execution as well as the story which to me has tie ins before it happened. Moon Knight was predicting Ultron two years ago in Bendis’ run and Uncanny Avengers has Kang with the Ultron twins that relate to Archangel & Apocalypse in issue 5 but the Uncanny Avengers UofA tie in with Kang isn’t until issue 8 and 6 has Thor battling Apocalypse in the past. Ultrons fighting them from the future using a time placed Vision as a catalyst but behind him (and this is my theory) is Kang a time traveler who mentions in Uncanny Avengers 5 that his plan will take patience and time time and that fortunately he’s a master of both. Then the time gem is missing in New Avengers 2, Infinity with Thanos is coming so my ultimate theory here is UofA is leading into Infinity (Kang,time,ripples, butterfly effect) and behind Ultron & Apocalypse is Kang but behind Kang is Thanos. Moon Knight is an A lister!!! Lol! Love it

  13. theWAC1 theWAC1 says:

    I’m just happy I haven’t had to buy a single AoU issue just to enjoy my monthlies. So if that means success and progress, then I’m all for more of it. As for Marvel’s perspective I think we will find out in the next couple months after the first three months of preorders work themselves out and we see how many people are actually continuing with the series and its various tie-ins. The first three months’ sales seem to be somewhat skewed in big events. Either way, if it gives me the option to partake, I’m in favor of that.