The Whole Ultron Thing
So, the title of Avengers 2 was announced: Avengers: Age of Ultron.
I have, in my many years of reading, exploring, and studying comics and the industry which produces them, come to several Absolute Truths regarding comic books. At some point, I should really explore these Absolute Truths with you folks, but for now, I am going to tell you a key one: There Are No Bad Characters.
This is directly from the writing philosophy of Mark Waid. Upon being challenged with this concept, Waid, alongside Grant Morrison, proceeded to write perpetual and seminal “Mort of the Month,” Egg Fu into DC’s epic 52, as the Chinese superhuman program mastermind, Chang Tzu.
Knowing that the idea of there being no bad characters in comics is key to my personal writing philosophy, you should realize that I have a very low opinion of those stories that make poor use of a potentially great character.
And this brings me to Ultron.
Ultron is an Artificial Intelligence created by Hank Pym (Ant-Man, Giant Man, etc.) which was built to be self-improving. As AIs tend to do, Ultron instantly decided to destroy all humanity.
In his first appearance, under the guise of the Crimson Cowl, Ultron puts together a team of Masters of Evil to go up against the Avengers. This plot is foiled by the intervention of the second Black Knight, Dan Whitman who joined the Masters with the intention of betraying the villains. Dane then joins the Avengers and goes on to achieve mediocrity.
In Ultron’s next appearance, he sends his own creation, the “synthezoid” (synthetic android, maybe? aren’t all androids synthetic?) Vision to infiltrate the Avengers and then turn against them. Upon leading the Avengers into a trap, the Vision turns against Ultron, who is revealed to have been created by Pym, and allows the heroes to defeat the villain. Vision then joins the Avengers and marry a hot redhead mutant.
Eventually, he would create the female robot Jocasta and sends her to kill the Avengers. She then joins the Avengers.
So, at this point, the Big Bad of the next Avengers movie has accidentally created three Avengers allies. In fact, Ultron-12 actually redeemed itself and allied with the Avengers until being destroyed by Ultron-11. When the bad guy has done more good for the heroes than bad, it should come in question how bad the bad guy is.
I have read a good percentage of the Ultron stories that have been written; from his original Avengers appearances, to his stint against the West Coast Avengers, to battle against Iron Man, to his conquest of the Kree Empire that led to the formation of the most recent team of Guardians of the Galaxy. Most fail to really show what the character can be, with a few exceptions.
Avengers #57-8 is the Vision appearance and, despite some late-60s-Marvel wackiness, it is a fantastic tale that is well-crafted by the legendary team of Roy Thomas and John Buscema. The themes that are prevalent in this story would be repeated a number of times with Ultron stories to come; with Jocosta, with Ultron-12, with a creation of Ultron’s called Alkhema, and after taking over Iron Man’s armor. Ultron’s own creations are consistently rebelling against their human-hating master.
Daredevil #275-6 presents a two-part story as part of Marvel’s lackluster Acts of Vengeance crossover; False Man and The Hundred Heads of Ultron. In this story, Daredevil, having been forced from New York and befriended the genetically perfect woman Number Nine and several Inhumans, finds himself facing an Ultron who consists of 13 different personalities of the robot. This leads to a battle on a philosophical level between Daredevil and Ultron and ends with an amazing revelation. Unfortunately, this revelation is never followed up upon and Anne Nocenti, the writer of this tale, would never write Ultron again.
The Avengers crossover, Ultron Unlimited, finally provided an Ultron that lived up to the hype. Ultron built hundreds of bodies for himself and then proceeds to try and wipe out the human population of the European nation of Slorernia. That’s right! Ultron hates humans so what does he do? He kills a whole bunch of them! Eventually, the Avengers manage to stop him, but not before Ultron kills thousands upon thousands of innocents.
Despite these great yarns, the overall lack of originality for Ultron stories probably has a great deal to do with my overall lack of enthusiasm for the character. I’ve seen the Frankenstein story done again and again with so many variables that seeing it with a robot and superheroes barely adda originality to the theme.
I will admit that it would be possible for an Avengers film tasking the heroes with facing Ultron could be cool with the proper set-up, but Hank Pym isn’t, reportedly, showing up until Ant-Man, making it unlikely that he would build the mad automaton. This says to me that the plan is to have someone else build Ultron. I see three possibilities for this.
First, and least likely, is that some new, unknown (or little known) character will build Ultron. The Marvel Universe is filthy with mad scientists that could fit the bill; from Karl Malus, to Bill Foster, to the Mad Thinker. This, however, would require another factor to be introduced into an, already information heavy, film.
A second option would be to have Tony Stark the inventor of Ultron. Now focusing on development and inventing, and perhaps as an upgrade to his Jarvis A.I., Tony creates an Artificial Intelligence he calls “Ultron”, but the system goes out of control and begins to upgrade itself, developing a powerful machine intelligence that threatens the systems of the world. This would be enough for Tony to put the armor back on and call in the SHIELD and the Avengers.
A last, but my favorite, scenario would be to have Ultron developed by SHIELD, itself. A bunch of SHIELD scientists, in an effort to make an early warning or monitoring or other pi calculating computer, builds and advanced AI called Ultron which goes crazy and blah, blah, blah.
The drawback to any Ultron scenario is that we have already seen this movie. It was called “Avengers.” A threat faced by one of the heroes becomes a threat to the world and everyone has to team up to defeat it. I trust Joss, I really do, but I don’t want every Avengers movie to have the same bullet points with Find/Replace for the villain’s name.
I haven’t completely lost hope for the second Avengers film being a wild ride that is enjoyable and cool, but I would be more excited for some exterior threat to be the enemy.
Kang, the Conqueror could have been brought in as a danger from the far future.
The Masters of Evil could have been brought in as a criminal foil to the heroic Avengers.
Hell, we could bring in Black Talon and have the Avengers versus zombies!!!
Okay, so the guy dresses like a chicken. Still: zombies!
- Doc Palindrome