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What on Infinite Earths is: Rage of Ultron?

G D Penman By G D Penman Published on January 13, 2017

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This article was updated on April 27, 2017

It has been a long time since we have swung by our old friends at Marvel to talk about one of their newer projects, the company has been through a few ups and downs over the last few years and today we are going to have a look at one of the lower points.

Ultron has always been a slightly divisive villain, hearkening back to the robot uprising stories of the 50s. His ever expanding, never fully explained powers were coupled with a desire to destroy everything for no particular reason. He was useful as a plot device antagonist, a great evil for the heroes to band together against, but he never had the motivation of some of the great antagonists of comic history.

Rage of Ultron was an attempt to give him some of that depth and to update the character for the new millennium, where readers expect some logical reason for a character’ actions beyond the vague notion that “he is evil.”

April 2015 was an important time for Ultron to get updated for the modern reader, Marvel had him headlining their Avengers sequel and a whole new crop of potential readers were about to descend on their local comic store. All that they had to do was make a straightforward entry into the canon, where the brave heroes faced off against Ultron so that the movie fans could see their favourite characters in action. Instead the world received Rage of Ultron, which could not have been a more confusing tangle of half formed ideas and bizarre inclusion choices if it were written with the intention of putting off new readers.

To provide the motivation for the shiny chrome murder monster, Rage of Ultron decides to tap into their robot’s daddy issues with his creator Hank Pym, a character who had not even appeared in the film’s universe yet. Pym’s depression and self-loathing are mirrored in Ultron, who lashes out at the world in response.

There is a second layer of familial dispute as the character of The Vision is related to the entire mess too. When Pym creates a device that will destroy all robot life in response to his failures at dealing with Ultron, The Vision, who is himself a robot, rightfully calls him out on his planned genocide.

One final, insane component to the mix is the addition of Jupiter’s moon Titan, which in the Marvel Comics Universe is home to superhuman creatures tangentially related to the Greek gods. This entire populated world becomes a giant Ultron after the Avengers attempt to destroy the robot by launching him into space. The only survivor is Eros, the god of love who joins the Avengers and ultimately, Hank Pym as they try to beat back the planetary infestation. Love vs Hate… it is a very subtle message that this comic is trying to send.

Through the combination of Eros’ love-rays, The Vision’s phasing powers and a series of progressively more complex mistakes, Pym and Ultron eventually find themselves fused together as a single miserable entity and launched back into space. A fittingly empty conclusion to a story that meant nothing and went nowhere.

I can respect what the writers were trying to do, introducing a layer of psychological depth to a pair of characters who were sadly lacking in it despite having been a core part of the Marvel canon since almost the very beginning, unfortunately their reach exceeded their grasp and we were left with a character study that provided little more depth than a label of mental illness.

G.D. Penman writes about queer monsters for a living. He is the author of Call Your Steel, The Year of the Knife, Heart of Winter, Apocrypha and many other books. He is also a full-time freelance ... Show More

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