This last weekend, we were able to go see Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was pretty excellent. We have an ongoing discussion thread about the movie and all things Avengers – that would be a great place if you wanted to talk about the movie, spoilers welcome! Or if you’re looking for a full movie review, how about two-for-one over on Sourcerer?
Meanwhile, this is my LitFlix for the movie – my comparison of the movie and its source material in the comics. I read a handful of Avengers comics before and after the first appearance of Ultron in Avengers #55. I also read the titular Age of Ultron storyline. I know it’s not really the source material for the film, but between these two and some Avengers reading from a while back, I feel like I have a good foundation for comparison.
So let’s look at the Avengers in the film and the Avengers in the comics!
Ultron: The Unkillable Kill
So many of the parts of the movie, at this point, are continuations of the previous storylines. So what’s new? First and foremost, it’s the title villain: Ultron. I wrote a short Character Study of Ultron recently on Sorcerer. I’ll try not to duplicate that, but here’s some main points:
- Ultron is not the robot body, but the program. And it’s much harder to kill the program. It also means he keeps coming back, improved and with a new plan.
- He’s focused on evolution, on perfection. Both of which, for him, preclude and replace humanity – even super-powered humanity.
- Ultron was created with all the best intentions – to help the Avengers do more than they can individually or even as a team. To help and protect. And something goes wrong inside him. He goes evil – and develops an anti-Avengers streak.
- He also has daddy issues, hating his creator. This is almost religious in tone, like in many robot/A.I. stories – he knows who his creator is, and tries to imitate, one-up, and defeat him.
Ultron often seems like a backdrop to what ends up being character stories, about what the characters are willing to do to stop his ridiculous, grand plan this time. That’s certainly how the Age of Ultron comics read, as well as his appearance in the 2010 Avengers comic. And in the movie, as they added more characters to the already prodigious cast – the backdrop of Ultron and a global problem left plenty of room for the character stories.
One of the big changes in the movie was of course who created Ultron. In the comics, it’s Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man; in the movie, it’s Tony Stark, the self-proclaimed “mad scientist.” However, changing who the creator is doesn’t change any of the bullet points above. The heart of Ultron, how he works, why he’s created, and how he turns out – those things are all carried over into the movie.
They kept some subtle references to the comics, as well. For one thing, Ultron first appears as the Crimson Cowl, to hide his identity. Much like the red cowl he’s hanging out in when the twins meet him.
However, his original appearance was a double blind: his identity was hidden behind a mind-controlled Jarvis, who pretended to be the “real” Crimson Cowl! So in both, Jarvis is subverted in the creation and introduction of Ultron. A subtle Easter Egg for which I tip my hat.
However, they exceeded my expectation when it comes to Ultron. The unkillable kill? He’s gone. I believe them that they removed him completely from the Internet, and destroyed all his robot bodies. They put a lot of emphasis on it. And really, given their movie plans right now – there’s no time for Ultron to come back. And they kept the most important ongoing, lasting effect of Ultron.
If he be worthy…
One of the results they show in the Age of Ultron comic series is that Ultron has to exist, because the Vision needs to exist. He’s just so important of an Avenger. Ultron is created, and almost immediately creates.
The first appearance of the Vision is in Avengers #57, just a couple after Ultron first appears. And it’s the first time that Ultron is (almost) fully destroyed, with the help of the Vision. The Vision, so overpowered, able to take on the other Avengers on his own.
The Vision, worthy to lift Thor’s hammer.
From conversations, I’m finding that one of the things people are most excited about from the movie was the Vision. His creation feels like a bit more of an accident in the movie, whereas it was very purposeful in the comics. Nonetheless, it created a new fan favorite Avenger.
In the comics the Vision is the conscious imprint of Wonder Man, someone who may or may not show up in the movies. It makes sense to me though to have this android built from the mind of Jarvis, the already existing artificial intelligence from the movies.
They also deal with the question of how artificial intelligence is created – sort of. It’s so often a mistake in fiction. It certainly was in the comics. However, the movie had a ready-built overpowered cosmic artifact to make it happen: the Mind Stone, one of the six Infinity Stones. This was how Ultron was created, and it was what was then used to create the Vision.
It also then happily explains the Vision being overpowered, and for any number of other powers that he seems to exhibit. So it worked well for explaining the artificial intelligence, the Vision and his powers, and to lead in to the future movies. It also means that the Vision is in danger – Thanos is going to want that Stone back!
A few notes on the other characters
He’s fast and she’s weird – Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch
The Twins turned out about as well as they could, given they didn’t get their own origin movie or the comic origin story. They’ve been experimented on with alien technology, setting us up for the fact that there’s going to be a lot more of that in the coming movies!
They also had a troubled start as Avengers in the comics. They first appeared with Magneto as part of the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, later becoming Avengers and turning against their father. There seems to be a lot of that going around…
In the comics leading up to the introduction of Ultron, besides Black Panther joining the team (soon!), the Twins went back to join their father and the mutant cause. So they have a history of going back and forth, trying to do what is right not only for the world, but for their home and their people. So though they couldn’t do the mutant origin, I think they kept that idea alive.
Also, it’s our major introduction to magical abilities in the Marvel universe – more to come in next year’s Doctor Strange!
The city’s flying, there’s an army of robots, and I have a bow and arrow – Hawkeye
So I had made a big deal about wanting to know where the heck Hawkeye is supposed to have been during the last several Marvel movies. He should have been around for the fall of SHIELD, at least. Or else been working for Fury… something.
Instead, they give him such a simple, human secret. He has a family. A home. Projects. He’s the humanizing element in the increasingly ridiculous world of the super heroes.
Still, it’s not what I expected of him. I guess it’s from reading Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, but I expected his life to be more like, well, this:
Which is to say, I did not see this one coming. And it’s not from the comics. At least they didn’t make his wife Kate Bishop… I don’t think…
Gonna need a lullaby – Black Widow and Hulk
I don’t know about a comic origin for their love story at all. This seems like one that entirely follows from the fact that the two of them have had some great scenes together in the movies. I’ve heard a lot of people saying that the relationship feels like it came a bit out of nowhere. Also, that their most emotional scene together could have gone another way.
What do you think? Because I don’t know that I have thoughts I can articulate about this, and I certainly don’t have a comics grounding to base it on.
Because Ultron is created and utterly destroyed in the one movie, he had to move through his whole evolutionary arc in one story. I thought they did this very well. Indeed, the theme was often evolution itself. About children replacing their parents. Also religion. So many of his lines betraying his line of thought, watching the logic progress.
Still, they surprised me with the final scheme of his. The thing that it most got me thinking of was honestly Sephiroth, another unkillable kill. The whole idea of Jenova, riding in on an asteroid to hit, infect, and destroy a world – all to float on in the night to do it again. The sort of cleansing asteroid that took out the dinosaurs. The sort of asteroid Ultron creates and plans to drop on the Earth in the movie.
Evolution. Extinction. We got the former in the Vision. The latter? Remains to be seen.