Call it the sizzle selling the steak, but Brian Michael Bendis' final Avengers tale (for now) is a page-turner when it has absolutely no right to be. A-List Avengers villain Ultron is almost nowhere to be found; the plot is cliche time-travel we've all seen before; major plot threads are left hanging unresolved (in the main series at least.) And yet, Bendis with art from heavyweights like Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco creates several alternate realities that are fascinating.
The plot is like a reverse scenario of the very popular "Age of Apocalypse" X-Men story. You see, everything that's happened in the last few years in Marvel lore was not how events actually played out. Ultron, using an interface in the future, had managed to take over the present. Scores of heroes were killed, leaving only a ragtag band behind. They hatch a time-travel scheme on two fronts: to attack Ultron in the future... and to murder Hank Pym in the past, preventing him from ever building the human-hating robot.
So with a title like "Age of Ultron," you'd expect a larger focus on fighting Ultron in the future, right? Wrong. Once the split happens, the focus shifts entirely to Wolverine and the Invisible Woman going after Pym. Logan pops his claws in the ol' doctor, and returns to the present... to, of course, find out that things are even worse. He battles distorted versions of his friends AND himself before going back in time AGAIN, killing HIMSELF so he can't kill Pym, and... oh dear, I've gone cross-eyed.
Despite its holes and seemingly obvious outcome, my curiousity was still piqued throughout this book by just how weird everything is. The Ultron-dominated present with multiple heroes getting killed off has a strange vibe. So does the revised present, and the universe-"fixing" solution. To top it all off, there are bizarre consequences to Wolverine altering the past as - even though there have been countless time-travel stories - THIS is the incident that starts to rip holes in reality. Creatures begin jumping from universe to universe (including a chilling image in the Ultimate Universe as Miles Morales Spider-Man comes face-to-face with the towering shadow of a legendary villain,) though the ending Marvel had thought would be "crazy" kinda falls flat. Really: they had an opportunity to move any character from any Disney-owned property into the mainstream universe... and they chose a Neil Gaiman-created Spawn reject that no one even remembers?
I will say this. I know this is a piece of crap, but it was a fun read and one that I'll go back to again. Truly, there is nothing else like "Age of Ultron." Let's keep it that way.