It's over. They lost. We lost everything.
Civilisation as we know it is effectively over; New York one massive, mangled wreckage, its once vainglorious skyscrapers crumbling into the yawning crevasses of its underground system where the streets and pavements used to be. As lightning crackles rather than flashes overhead, something unimaginably massive hovers above the ruins - an awful, futuristic construction of unknown intent. Nothing and no one is moving. It's dead.
Move out from under its apocalyptic epicentre, however, and although the suburbs look like a war zone, some of the tenements still stand, barely, and there are pockets of life like this hooker on the street, making a midnight house call. The thugs that answer the door are heavily armed, one with the makings of an exoskeleton. Still, open the door they did - and that's all he needs. That's what Hawkeye's been waiting for
The opening was off-the-scale epic, and I hadn't been so knocked out or excited about a Marvel or DC event in years. We're talking the opening two seasons of ULTIMATES by Millar and Hitch. We're talking KINGDOM COME which begins after things have already gone wrong and it's about to grow catastrophically worse. Only here, it's already happened. Here it couldn't really get any worse. Here it's more up close and personal.
What's left of Marvel's Avengers, Fantastic Four and X-Men are all but cowering in seclusion, holed up in a makeshift, appropriated bunker, for venturing out means almost instant detection. Leave and you don't come back. Leave and you won't be let back - you could be tracked or tagged.
It seems that only one of them is prepared to take that risk, break the rules and sneak out into the night - even for one of their own. Somewhere in a basement of that tenement is one of their friends and colleagues, tied to a chair and almost beaten to death by a small army of humans armed to the teeth and two former crimelords you'll know. They have an arrangement with Ultron. Hawkeye doesn't give a shit.
Every single page of the first few chapters pencilled by Bryn Hitch knocked me sideways - the action was monumental and the atmosphere of desperation, almost defeatism from everyone except Hawkeye and the mate he went to rescue, was sustained throughout
Until Bryan Hitch was replaced as artist halfway through, and it was like watching a slow puncture on a tyre as the wind blew out of the story's sail. Additionally, it was as if that wheel had already been changed because it didn't even read like the same tale to me, as a couple of the cast took centre-stage leaving the rest to linger on the temporal sidelines. Indeed, it didn't so much end as serve as an introduction to other, lesser series. Given what has now emerged about whither those series are heading and to what effect, I suspect the change of direction, which seemed such a severe swerve to me, was dictated editorially or from even further on high after half the work had been completed on this book so very long ago.
Shame. On so many levels
Collects AGE OF ULTRON #1-10 and #10AI.