Thursday, September 17, 2015

Comic Book review: Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies

Among the wilder concepts to come of Marvel’s 2015 Secret Wars event is the four-part Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies. On the far edge of Battleworld, a giant wall has been constructed to keep the more problematic creations from Marvel’s comic history quarantined – those problems, of course, being the undead hordes of Marvel Zombies fame and the ever-evolving rage-filled A.I. known as Ultron. The Zombies wish only to devour those individuals who are tossed into their so-called Deadlands as punishment by the Thors for breaking God Emperor Doom’s laws, while Ultron seeks to eradicate the zombies and their impure nature in his quest to perfect this no-man’s land.

While this is certainly a curious pairing, it would prove a tiring conflict very quickly were a third party not introduced. At the start of this limited series, a version of Hank Pym from the wild west town of Timely is banished to the Deadlands. With little to defend himself and limited knowledge of the Battleworld realms beyond Timely, Hank would most certainly be a goner, were it not for the arrival of Vision, Simon Williams, and Jim Hammond. The trio rescues Hank Pym, bringing him to their makeshift fortress/home in the middle of this desolate region, with the hopes that he might be able to create a counter to Ultron and his devious machinations.

This stranger-in-a-strange-land Hank Pym is, naturally, taken aback, having practically zero knowledge of their modern technology. But he did manage to partially construct a clockwork equivalent of Ultron once upon a time, and, after some convincing, agrees to aid these three synthetic men. Vision, Simon Williams, and Jim Hammond, are not the only three whose lives are factored into Pym’s decision, as there are many other survivors living in their shielded community – most notably, the love interests of these three heroes.

What lends Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies to be a more compelling tale than the cover art might let on is the juxtaposition of this bleak environment and its terrifying armies with a focus on classic Marvel heroes, all of whom have previously struggled with the concept of what it means to be a man versus what it means to be a machine, and where they fall in that spectrum. Hank Pym, meanwhile, is more so the tether that binds the story together.

There are some more frequently vocal members of the undead hordes, which lends the zombies some personality beyond shambling, starving husks. And the situation becomes even more so dire when Ultron proposes a plan that could unleash both armies on the rest of Battleworld. At four issues in length, Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies has nearly-perfect pacing. It incorporates daring science projects, golden age heroism, and a nicely varied but appropriately-contained cast. It has fun with its diverse roots, embracing its oddities and weaving an entertaining and well-rounded narrative.

My rating: 7.5 (out of 10)

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