Thursday, May 28, 2015

Age of Ultron, Part II: Marvel Avengers Age of Ultron Prelude by Will Pilgrim; Also, Marvel Avengers Battle Against Ultron by Matt Forbeck

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     Marvel has come out with a very popular line of books--new Marvel movies are presaged by "Prelude" books. With all the excitement over the summer block-buster, Age of Ultron, Marvel, it seems, also intended to cash in on a glossy new "Prelude" book for the Age of Ultron, as well. 

     So, here we have it. Marvel Author Will Pilgrim, has collected under this one title, Marvel's Avengers 1 and 2; Avengers: Cinematic Infinite Comic 1; Avengers (1963) Nos. 57 and 58; Avengers (1998) 22; and Avengers 12.1.

     Unless you are a comic book fan, you probably don't know what the numbers mean. So, the question becomes, what do these titles include in them to act as a prelude to Marvel's summer movie hit, Age of Ultron? Let's take a look at a brief synopsis and I will tell you what I think about this new title.

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:  As I indicated, just above, this book is a prelude--a way to prepare for the Age of Ultron movie. The Marvel Cinematic Universe sets the book's stories between the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Avengers: Age of Ultron! Publishers indicate that this new story will fill in for fans, what has happened between the two films, who the Avengers have battled, and what threats they have dealt with. 

This is a scene from the movie, Avengers. [2]
     The book opens with two comic book titles focusing on the first Avengers' movie--the Avenger's come together to find Loki, and then to do battle the Chitauri in downtown New York City. Next, Marvel takes us back to a classic 1957 story with the birth of "Vision." (#57) Another story of "Vision" takes up another classic title from 1958, "Even An Android Can Cry." 

     Two titles from 1998 follow with Avengers 21 & 22 where the Avengers battle Ultron, trying a multitude of different approaches without much luck. The final story is the same title, Avengers 12.1, title that I reviewed earlier this month. To see that review, click here. In the final story, the 12.1 issue, the very end of the book, the last page, focuses on Iron Man who says that he has has "seen the future" and Ultron will bring the apocalypse--and "there's nothing we can do to stop it." This statement, of course, paving the way for high anticipation for the (then) upcoming movie, Age of Ultron.

An ultra close up
of the stitches
holding the
pages together.
This keeps the
book from fall-
ing apart. [3]
     First, what I liked the most about this book: Without a doubt the strongest selling point is the professional appearance the publishers have given the book. The cover is a cardstock with a glossy finish. Moreover, the book does not fall apart as I have seen other graphic novels do; the book is sewn together and then glue applied to the inside of the spine. The effect is to create a sturdy book that looks attractive and holds together without falling apart. Without this strong point in its favor the book would be worthless. I have had several, otherwise wonderful, books fall apart and pages come out that were rendered worthless.

This is the very last page of the book,
Avengers Age of Ultron Prelude by Jack
Penn and Joss Whedon. [3]
     The final chapter in Prelude  is issue Avengers 12.1, and in the Age of Ultron by Will Pilgrim, (Also Avengers 12.1) the story is the very first in that collected book. [See my book review of the Age of Ultron by Will Pilgrim, by clicking here.] My point in bringing this up is the plot line. The Prelude book rightly ends on the note that Ultron will be coming back, whereas Pilgrim's book starts when Ultron has returned and the coming apocalypse must needs be dealt with. So, they have the chronology right--that's another point in their favor.

     If you would like to read a little bit about what makes a good graphic novel, and would like to see some examples of those I've liked and those I don't, please check out the following reviews (positive + and negative -):

  -   Thor: The Dark World Prelude by Marvel Comics (10-29-13);
  +  Vampire Academy, A Graphic Novel by Richelle Mead (01-10-14);
  +  Captain America: The Winter Soldier HC by Brubaker and Epting (03-14-14); 
  -  All You Need Is Kill (Edge of Tomorrow) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (05-25-14);
  -   Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore (06-29-14);  
  +  Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (07-17-14);
  +  Graphic Novels: The Dresden Files: War Cry by Jim Butcher (10-15-14);
  +  Wool the Graphic Novel Omnibus by Hugh Howey (12-31-14); and
  -  Age of Ultron/Age of Ultron Companion by Will Pilgrim (05-11-15).

Whether you call it intro, climax and resolution, or
beginning, middle, and end, the story arc has these
primary elements. [4]
     One of the things that marks a graphic novel is that the book or story has a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion. In other words, it has a complete story arc, just as any literary novel would have. Here, while the Avengers have their genesis in the comic books, the comic book characters have had their action turned into a whole story, with a beginning, middle and end. Screenwriters have created a palatable story that would work visually and be as satisfying as a literary work. Comic books are episodic in nature; you know, they come in installments with a short, exciting bit of action created in pictures. A graphic novel--a novel or story using a format with graphic images--is one single story, not episodes; importantly, moreover, the story has that story arc I just mentioned.

Here's an example of the
eminently readable text with the
words bolded  to aid reading and
to highlight their importance. [3]
     Another point in the plus column is how the dialogue and art were covered. The art, beautifully done by Illustrators Joe Bennett, Marcio Loerzer Bennett, Jay David Ramos, and Augustin Padilla, is both dynamic and expressive and the use of color, vibrant. The dialogue and information boxes within the frames of the graphics are clear, concise, and readable. Some of the dialogue is placed with the text bolded to help important words stand out.

   OK. Let's cut right to the chase. I'll give you the major problem I had with the book, one that really didn't work for me. The book as a whole was disappointing due to the quantity of filler versus "prelude" material. The bulk of the material is what I would call, "filler." For example, the first two stories are merely the Avengers (1) movie turned into a comic; I felt bored reading it because it felt like I was watching the movie through still frames. Talk about dullsville.

     Much of the materials used were merely reprints from years ago, accumulated, it can be surmised, to make money for Marvel. Marvel could sell its "Prelude" books for $13.59 for a book that would need very little work to put it together. No costs would be incurred by Marvel in having authors, illustrators and colorists working on new material.


I felt like a sucker...being taken for a ride. The problem was that it wasn't even entertaining.

     The beautiful cover and binding, the readable text, and the wonderful work done by the Illustrators and colorists could not save this book. Marvel calls the book "Prelude," when it should have been called "After Thought."

     This little book is only 128 pages long, but boy does it pack a lot of information into those pages. The target audience is the group of children who range in age from 8-12 years old (3-7 the grade); a big caveat, here, I am an adult and I very much enjoyed this book, so don't let the target audience deter you. 

     Moreover, this title, technically, isn't the AGE OF ULTRON, but the Avengers Battle Against Ultron. Material in the book covers the Age of Ultron, but other periods regarding Ultron, his pitched battle against his biggest enemy, The Avengers, is also included.

     I picked this book up because as I perused its pages, I noted many things about the Avengers, Ultron, Vision, and other superheroes and villains, that I had not known before. For example, I learned that the super heroine, Wasp, came up with the name for the group of heroes known as The Avengers. So many snippets of information exist that I can't share them all with you, today. But one last thing relating directly to the Age of Ultron, is to show you just how many "ages" of Ultron there have been. (See the graphic here in this paragraph.)

     Another thing you will want to know is that really this little book isn't a story, as such, with a beginning, middle and end. The book doesn't even have chapters, just chun- ks of interesting information about The Avengers, Ul- tron, and other heroes and villains related to the Ultron stories. Nonetheless, I found this book very entertaining as well as informative. And, as you can see from the photo in this paragraph the amount of detail and information included is very compacted on just two pages (about the helicarrier). In the photo in the previous paragraph, the use of color is wonderful and the organization of information is well done and easy to understand.


     For the Age of Ultron Prelude, I think that you may have guessed that I am not happy at all about the lack of any meaningful storyline or new material. I am also unhappy that for $13.59 I should have gotten, not only more pages, but a lesser price. Honestly, I think the value of the book should be $2.99--no more. It isn't enough to have a glitzy cover and glossy pages and vibrant art. I recommend you skip this book, it isn't worth your time or money. For all the above reasons, I rate this book 2 stars out of 5.

     For the book Marvel Avengers Battle Against Ultron, I recommend you buy it if you have any real interest in Ultron or the Avengers. It is very informative and well organized. Moreover, if you know a young person in the target group, it would make a wonderful gift to encourage reading. I loved this little book and for all the above reasons, I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.

     Thank you for joining us this week as we got to see the other two books of most interest following the Age of Ultron movie. Please join me next time as I will give you a book radically different from superheroes, comics and spandex. Thank you, again, my friends. I really do look forward to being back with you next time with another new book.

Until next time...
This flower is a white and red Rose of Sharon. [10]

...many happy pages of reading!

Be good to each other.



[1] "Marvel Avengers Age of Ultron Prelude." Retrieved 05-24-15.
[2] "The Avengers (2012) Review." [Kyle James Hovanec; 04-30-12] Retrieved 05-25-15.
[3] "Close-up of Book--Avengers Age of Ultron Prelude." Retrieved 05-26-15.
[4] "Harry Potter and the Missing Story Elements." Retrieved 05-27-15.
[5] "Peruvian Rip Off The Great Thief (Peru)." Retrieved 05-27-15.
[6] "After Thought." Retrieved 05-27-15.
[7] "Marvel Avengers Battle Against Ultron." Retrieved 05-24-15.
[8] "Motorcycle TV The Devil's Ride." Retrieved 05-28-15.
[9] "4.5 Stars Out of 5." Retrieved 05-28-15.
[10] "White Rose of Sharon Gifts." Retrieved 05-24-15.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Footsteps in the Sky by Greg Keyes--Keyes' Book is Released as an e-book on 05-26-15!

This is the cover featuring Greg Keyes' new
novel, Footsteps in the Sky.[1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     Thanksgiving in New Mexico. . .well, that's how I thought of it. Of course, it really was a photography trip with my husband and daughter. My husband, daughter, and I had taken night classes in photography at the local college; I had earned two associate degrees (in photography, of course) and looked forward to shooting at a location that I had never been to before. 

     New Mexico was nothing short of beautiful, as they say, "The Land of Enchantment." We spent a week driving around Northern New Mexico taking photographs in many urban settings, and landscapes, well, everywhere, Chaco Canyon included. On Thanksgiving we celebrated quietly, ate well, and relaxed. Peace and serenity enveloped us so that we really felt and appreciated the beauty and "enchantment" of the land we photographed. Being there was, indeed, something for which we could truly give thanks.

This is the Kachina Doll I bought when
I was in New Mexico. The Kachina's
name is  "Morning Singing."
The artist is D. Livingston. [2]
This is not the black pottery of which I spoke,
just above, here. This pottery was a gift
from my daughter that she purchased
on another trip to New Mexico. [2]
     What I remember most fondly, though, was seeing the kivas and dwellings at Chaco Canyon. I was able to take many beautiful photographs there; they now reside on the walls of my home. Of course, while we were there, I couldn't resist purchasing some mementos of our trip, some handmade jewelry, black pottery, and a Kachina Doll.

     Greg Keyes novel, Footsteps in the Sky, is grounded in that Hopi culture, its people, religion and way of life. He takes the beautiful traditions of the Hopi people of New Mexico and, in a way, grafts it to a different time and place.

"The Four Worlds and the Emergence" [3]

     As the book opens, we are transformed from readers to listeners as Keyes presents us with a beautiful Hopi story. But not just any story; it is the story of how the Hopi left this world where the people everywhere were of "two-hearts," where there existed much corruption and the people were unhappy, to make a new start on another planet.

     In the oral traditions of the Hopi, such an origin story really exists. "The Four Worlds and the Emergence," tells of this traditional story:
Hopis tell stories about ancestral journeys through three worlds to the Fourth World, where the people live today. Here, Hopi storyteller Nuvayoiyava (Albert Yava) tells a story, handed down through the generations, about how people began as bugs and migrated and [evolved into people as they] migrated through the worlds." [3] 
This Kachina Doll
is "Maasaw," and
was created by
Bradford Kaye. [4]
      Author, Greg Keyes, takes this beautiful story a step further as he creates a new creation myth for readers. Some of the Hopi heard some footsteps in the sky and realized that someone had to be there and wondered if they, too, could live there. The Hopi sent the Catbird to the sky to find who it was who lived there; the Catbird soon found the person who made the footsteps in the sky--it was the god Masaw. Masaw agreed to let them come to his world and the Hopi ascended to the sky through reeds to Masaw's world--one that required much hard work in order to live and survive there.


     In their life on earth, the Vilmer Foundation was a stand in for Masaw. In a contract with the Hopi, the Hopi would travel to the new world and cultivate the land and make the surface conditions habitable; in exchange, the Hopi would get to keep the land. A hundred years later one faction of those early inhabitants looked to bring back the old way and give honor to the Kachina spirits. The other faction looks to technology and power.

     One descendant, SandGreyGirl (Sand), thinks that the Kachina live somewhere beyond the stars and that the gods have been preparing a new world for the people. Even though Sand hopes that the gods live and that they are, indeed, readying a new world for the Hopi, she has her doubts.

     Those doubts may be well founded since the human race has discovered not only one, but nine new and habitable worlds. "Someone has been seeding planets, bringing life to them." But, as yet, no one has discovered who it is that has been seeding the worlds. No one, that is, until the day those "ancient farmers," returned. Finding that the planet has deviated from their growth plans, they contemplate strip- ping the planet bare and starting over with a new seeding.[1]

     First, I have to say I was very pleased to be able to read this title through NetGalley. Even though it was originally released in 1994, I hadn't read it, yet. I am so pleased, now, because the book is specifically being released at this time, as a digital edition by Open Road Media. And, as many of you may know, I read a lot (but, certainly, not ALL) of my books on my Kindle in a digital edition format. This new release, digitally, will make it easier for many readers who require the portability that hardback and paperback editions, do not. Remember, anyone can read a digital edition on a computer or other device, not just e-readers.

     Second, as I began reading, I felt a little bit confused. For anyone, it is under- standable as you open the pages of a new book and step into a brand new world with which you are unfamiliar. Also, it took me a little while to realize what the author was doing with changing characters and scenes. The A-ha moment, if you will. does anyone determine the point of view of a story? And...what the heck is the point of view of Greg Keyes' Story?

  • Well, the very first thing you need to do is to disregard the dialogue in favor of focusing on the PRONOUNS in the narration. What are the pronouns used?


    • In the first scene, entitled, "Farmer," we see pronouns like we, us, and our; but we also hear the speaker say, I. If you are ever faced with a situation like this, choose the first person point of view. In this story the three sisters operated as one entity; hence, the mixed up pronouns really do equal one person--at least in this section of the book.
    In Greg Keyes' story, Footsteps in the
    , the narrator doesn't use words
    like "you, your, and you're." So,
    we don't have second person. [7]
    • In part "II. Pela," we are introduced to a person named "Pela." Someone says, "Pela," and speaks of Pela as "she" and "her." For example, "Pela took a grateful breath, felt the blood throbbing in her legs and arms." We hear the speaker call Pela by name. Of course, this is third person. The speaker may call the person doing the action by their specific name, here, "Pela."
 Part III is back to "Farmer," and first person while Part IV, entitled, "Hoku," the speaker addresses us saying "Hoku snarled," and "he," "him," and "his"--again third person. So what is up with the back and forth stuff? Why first person then third person? What's going on? We may find the answer by taking a closer look at THIRD PERSON.

     In third person, we can ask if the narrator simply describes facts and events in a neutral way, without including the thoughts or feelings of the characters. If so,  what we have is THIRD PERSON OBJEC- TIVE.
 If the character's thoughts and feelings are reported by the narrator, then we can ask if the narrator is reporting on the thoughts and feelings of one character or multiple characters. If the narrator is only reporting on one person's thoughts and feelings, we have THIRD PERSON LIMITED, but if multiple characters are observed and reported upon, the narrator is said to be THIRD PERSON OMNISCIENT.

     Since we have the narrator making observances that are not just a neutral reporting of facts, we can eliminate Third Person Objective. Also, since the narrator is reporting about multiple characters we know we have third person omniscient. So, there we have it. Not so bad when we realize the narrator is the one speaking and can see into every character. Now, it isn't so confusing.

     Greg Keyes' narrator speaking in third person omniscient speaks with the voice of authority. By his very distancing from the one being spoken about, he gains credibility--some have said that the narrator speaks with the "voice of authority."

     Another really great benefit from writing third person omniscient versus, say, first person, is that first person tends to be all about the narrator telling the audience what's happening, while third person omniscient tends more to show the action. So Greg Keyes is able to use a point of view that helps him show the action--and that is certainly what I enjoyed as the action picked up in the latter half of the book. [11]

     Without giving out more of the plot of the book, I can tell you that the way Greg Keyes weaves the various characters' points of view together, that it conveys an atmosphere that feels authentic and makes the characters feel authentic, as well. Not only that, I found that the story conveyed an ever-deepening sense of mystery and anticipation.

     While the story seems to be a story about the Hopi people, it is also a murder mystery, Star-Trek-like space exploration, and about alien beings from another world holding the power of life and death over the world. Keyes somehow, is able to also weave in spirituality, the Hopi's belief in gods, spirits, and life beyond with moments of poignancy and love; then, characters are hit with painful moments when they realize they've been betrayed. Keyes includes such varied things as tribal conflict, political power, violence, an engineered plague, and a good old-fashioned chase scene. Whew! What a ride!

     As I indicated, above, I was confused a bit at the beginning of the book until I figured out what Greg Keyes was doing with the various points of view. Also, the beginning third of the book was a bit slow getting established. But given the scope of Keyes' novel, I'm not sure how else he could have accomplished that feat. I liked Keyes' writing and "story-telling," very much and find this aspect of dislike not an insurmountable obstacle. I was puzzled, how to answer the question asked of me, "What is your book about this week?" I stammered a bit, and muttered something to the effect of, "It's about the Hopi Indians in outer space colonizing a planet." Then I sighed with my lame description and launched into more detail, trying to explain. Oh, well....

     Greg Keyes' Footsteps in the Sky, is a triumph of science fiction grafted onto earthly roots! It is a book that will hold you spellbound all the way to the end and one that will leave you with imprints of its footsteps in your memory. I haven't seen a book like Greg Keyes' book since I read Hugh Howey's, Wool; I loved the mystery, action, and epic quality conveyed by the novel. The use of voice in conveying an authenticity of the culture of the characters was nothing short of brilliant. Thank you, Greg Keyes. Thank you, Open Road Media.

     Given all the above reasons, and in honor of the title of Greg Keyes' novel, I am pleased to rate this book 5 footprints out of 5. This book has, indeed, the possibility to become one of sci-fi's classic novels.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we got to look at an exciting new e-book release of Greg Keyes', Footsteps in the Sky. I hope you enjoyed reading about this exciting new e-book and and I want to thank you for your time and attention to this blog post. Next week we will look at a new book and see what the pages have in store for us.

Until next time . . .

This flower is a double, white Rose of Sharon. [14]
. . . many happy pages of reading!

My very best to you,


[1] "Footsteps in the Sky." Retrieved 05-15-15.
[2] "'Morning Singing' Kachina Doll." [D. Livingston.], and Pueblo Pottery.  Photographs by Sharon Powers. 05-20-15.
[3] ""The Four Worlds and the Emergence." [Nuvayoiyava (Albert Yava), Tewa Village, August 1969] Retrieved 05-21-15.
[4] "Maasaw Kachina Death Sculpture." [Bradford Kaye] Retrieved 05-22-15.
[5] "Point of View." Retrieved 05-22-15.
[6] "First Person." Retrieved 05-22-15.
[7] "Person." [Second Person] Retrieved 05-22-15.
[8] "Third Person Objective." [Objective.] Retrieved 05-22-15.
[9] "Point of View." [Limited] Retrieved 05-22-15.
[10] "Third Person Point of View: Omniscient, Limited, and Objective."  [Miss Mayfield.] Retrieved 05-22-15.
[11] "Five Advantages of Third Person Omniscient Point of View." Retrieved 05-22-15.
[12] "Is our Society Spiritually Starved for Authenticity and Trust?." [ Retrieved 05-22-15.
[13] "Footprints." Retrieved 05-22-15.
[14] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 05-15-15.
[*] "NetGalley." Retrieved 05-15-15.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Age of Ultron by Brian Michael Bendis and Marvel's Age of Ultron Companion Book: Do These Titles Reflect the Avengers: Age of Ultron Movie?

Age of Ultron [1]
Age of Ultron Companion [2]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers

     My original Marvel post was a review of Thor: The Dark World Prelude (A Graphic Novel) on 10-29-13, followed by Marvel's Captain America: Winter Soldier on 04-04-14. With this book, we will be looking at the third book review I've done from the Marvel universe: Marvel's Age of Ultron. As a bonus, today, I will also include a short review of the companion book to Marvel's Age of Ultron, Marvel's Age of Ultron Companion.

     Age of Ultron, the movie, has been out for one week (as I am writing this review). Many of us, me included, have already seen the Marvel blockbuster; many of us, I for one, would not mind paying to go and see it again. Actually, I am planning to take my family to see the movie this weekend.

     The long and short of it is, many of us already know what the movie version of Ultron is all about. Nonetheless, let's take a quick look at the book and movie plots to see how they are the same and how they differ; also, I know many of you would like to know if the graphic novel is worth buying. So, I will be addressing all of this as we go through the story.

     Entertainment Weekly (Double Issue, July 25/August 1, 2014)  provided an "Exclusive First Look!" at the Avengers Age of Ultron movie. The author of the article, Anthony Breznican, explains the first major difference between the comic book stories, the graphic novel, and the movie version is a difference by virtue of Ultron's creator; Breznican said that Ultron's " remain the same, but the creator has changed." Breznican went on to explain the difference that, "[i]n the comics, Ultron was built by scientist Hank Pym (a.k.a. the first Ant-Man),..." but in the movie, Ultron's father and creator is Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey, Jr. [3]

      OK. So, that major difference having been stated, we find out from none other than the Director of Avengers: Age of Ultron's, Joss Whedan, that even though many people might expect the Ultron story-line to originate in the comics because the movie was titled, Age of Ultron, and because of the newly released book entitled, Age of Ultron. that that is simply, "not the case." Whedon had stated that they had decided, instead, to do their "own version of the origin story of Ultron." [4]

Ant-Man movie poster. [5]
     For those who know the origin story involving Hank Pym, a.k.a. Ant-Man, and Ultron, readers might have surmised that the origin story would be followed, perhaps in part due to the upcoming Ant-Man movie due for release on 07-17-15. Before the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie came out, some had speculated "...that Ant-Man could debut in The Avengers 2 before spinning off into his own movie." At the time of the interview with the Director, Joss Whedon, he denied an Ant-Man appearance in Avengers, Age of Ultron. Now, obviously, we know that Whedon was being forthright. [4]

     Regarding all of the brouhaha around the "origin story," Whedon commented that they were "taking the things from the comics for the movies that we need and can use...[but] a lot of stuff has to fall by the wayside." Whedon went on to say, "...I was amazed [that] anybody was surprised...."  [4]

     Whedon's statements go hand-in-hand with the definition of "adaptation." When a book is adapted for film, it necessarily undergoes some kind of transformation. Often, die-hard fans of the books are disappointed in the loss of a character, or in the change of a beloved scene, dialog, appearance of a character, or as in the case of Ultron, the change of story-line.

     The change of story-line is not all that changes from the book to the big-screen; when you step out to the theaters to see the Avenger's: Age of Ultron, see if you spot other changes. Now that we've explored the story-line by comparing the book to the movie, let's move on to the rest of the book to see what is in store for you as a reader.

     Brian Michael Bendis has gathered together for readers eleven issues of the Marvel Universe under one cover with the theme of, Ultron. The first collected issue is Avengers #12.1, followed by the other ten to include, Age of Ultron, #s 1-10. Note that it is not uncommon for one comic book, or a major character to cross over from one series to another--just as the Avengers join the Age of Ultron in this collection.

     Also, this would be a good time to point out that in our first story, S.H.I.E.L.D., S.W.O.R.D., and Avengers are mentioned as the "good" guys, as are Hydra and the Intelligencia as the "bad" guys. Moreover, keep in mind that individual characters like Jessica Drew have been involved in several groups at one time or another; here, Jessica Drew has been a member of S.H.I.E.L.D., HYDRA, The Avengers, and S.W.O.R.D. In this book, Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew, is a member of S.W.O.R.D. and The Avengers, and bumps heads with the notorious bad guy group called The Intelligencia.

     NOTE: In the comics and graphic novels, the so-called, "bad guy" group spells its name "Intelligencia" vs. the dictionary spelling, Intelligentsia. I wonder how many young readers came away from the story thinking the intelligencia was the correct way to spell the word. If this misspelling was done deliberately by Marvel, it is a truly an ironic twist of the definition of the word--and definitely, very dry, and sly humor.

Jessica Drew, a.k.a. Spider-Woman, from Marvel's Encyclopedia. [7]
   After being kidnapp- ed and interrogated, Jessica Drew is res- cued by The Avengers. At first, The Avengers (including Iron Man, Wolverine, and Hawk- eye) do battle with The Intelligencia, but soon the fight turns ugly and the whole place seems to explode--The Avenger's realize, to their horror, . . . ULTRON IS BACK! After a brief discussion about how to find Ultron, Iron Man says that he has "seen the future," and that when Ultron returns, it will be because "he has brought the human apocalypse." Perhaps this scene inspired Iron-Man's vision in the movie? What do you think?

     With the knowledge that Ultron is back, we know that in this story-line, we will not see the creation of Ultron; that story is covered in other Avenger's comic books. In The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the movie, we see the origin story covered in a "Starkly" different manner (Ha, ha!). So, where, then, does the story line take us after the revelation of Ultron's return? Take a look at the snapshot, just below.  

In this snapshot from Marvel's Encyclopedia (p.381), see the little box on the right that indicates the "Essential Storylines" for the Ultron story. They are not the same as the ones presented, here, in the Age of Ultron, by Brian Michael Bendis. If you look at the text above the box, you can see where this storyline begins. Ultron caused the explosion that demolished the building, and made his escape. The final sentence also gives away the basic plot of the rest of the storyline--Wolverine and the Invisible Woman (from The Fantastic Four group) time travel to stop the creation of Ultron by Henry Pym. Boy, that sounds like a storyline from The X-Men, doesn't it--you know, time travel back in time to save the future? On the left side of the picture is an image of Ultron and Vision fighting each other. [1, page 381.]

     So, the rest of the story is quite simple. On the edge of annihilation, Wolverine, and Susan Richards of the Fantastic Four, travel back in time to murder Henry Pym. After Wolverine's nefarious deed, the two return to find things even worse than when they left. Commanded to not return to the past to attempt to fix the murder of Pym, they, quite naturally, go anyway. After some misadventures, Wolverine and Susan Richards (The Invisible Woman), manage to do something unbelievable; they return to the present day and help to stop Ultron. But the magic in the story, is how they do it. You will have to read the story to understand why it is so compelling.

Grumpy Cat. [8]
     Some places in the story were confusing and not well-prepared for the reader to understand what was going on. I'm not talking about building tension for the enjoyment of the story, but actual confusion about what is happening. For example, in Age of Ultron, #1, the story opens in New York and we follow a woman into a house where it appears she is willing to trade sex for drugs. An unknown character enters and starts a fight with the thugs; an explosion occurs and then the story makes a jarring cut to a hostage scene where the hostage appears to be Spider Man. Someone starts shooting arrows--it appears to be Hawkeye.

     Then, one or two?--apparent Avengers continue fighting. All of a sudden flying robots enter, a countdown occurs, a bomb goes off and Hawkeye and Spider-Man make their escape. Not knowing who the characters are might be OK in some situations where you later learn who those characters are. It is mightily confusing, though, to have the story shift suddenly without dialog boxes to explain what is happening, characters you don't know, shifting to a location that is disorienting, and, then, add in action that is unclear.

     Also, I read this book one time and took a couple of photos of it. Just take a look at how the pages are already coming away from the binding. I don't know what happened, here, because Marvel books are generally better constructed than this. It is disappointing that I paid $22.13 for the paperback and it is already falling apart. See the photo? I can't say if all the Age of Ultron books are like the one I have, here, but I wanted you to know that if you decide to buy the book, you should be aware of its possible deficiencies.

     Finally, I do not like the cover. The cover is just way to busy to be a good design. I do see Ultron in the middle and Captain America on the right, but the rest of it just gets muddled with the dark, dull colors.

     First, the nuts and bolts, so to speak, about the companion book to Age of Ultron. The Authors are credited as Al Ewing, Matt Fraction, Cullen Bunn, Christos Gage, Kathryn Immonen, Gerry Duggan, Rick Remender, Matt Kindt, and Mark Waid. Illustrators are listed as Butch Guice, Andre Araujo, Phil Jimenez, Dexter Soy, Amilcar Pinna, Adam Kubert, and Paco Medina. The paperback book edition is a mere 200 pages, just under two thirds the size of the Age of Ultron (288 pages), and yet the hefty price ($21.11) for this "gold leaf," "paperback" edition is only $1.02 less than the larger book. The Collected Edition collects under one cover the Marvel editions as follows [1]:
AU is the designation for gold. Here,
however, it is not used for gold,
but for the Age of Ultron. [10]
  • Avengers Assemble #14AU-15AU;
  • The Fantastic Four (2012) #5AU;
  • Fearless Defenders #4AU
  • Superior Spider-Man #6AU; 
  • Ultron #1AU;
  • Uncanny Avengers #8AU;
  • Wolverine & the X-Men #27AU; and
  • Age of Ultron #10AI
     If you are wondering what the funky numbering is after the title, like AU and AI, just know, that I was wondering about that, too. I discovered that AU is a designation for the Age of Ultron mini series. These books are crossovers from other series of books that deal with the Age of Ultron storylines. The A.I. designation refers to an Avenger series that takes place at some point after The Age of Ultron. The world "has been colonized by A.I.s [artificial intelligence drones] 'who may or may not have positive feelings about the way humanity has been treating them....'" The mini series ended in 2014. [9]

As this title indicates, #s 14AU-15AU, are about the coming together of the Avengers. Initially, in #14AU, we see the world before the apocalypse, before Ultron's attack and the devastation of modern society. Suddenly Ultron attacks and sends his drones to annihilate society--Black Widow tries to help civilians escape underground. Making it to the safe house, she finds only one other Avenger: Marc Spector a.k.a. Moon Knight.

     AVENGERS ASSEMBLE #15AU: Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, is stuck on the Americas side of the ocean as the Ultron drones attack; quickly, she saves a civilian. In London, at the British Museum, the magical sword, Excalibur, connects with other magical artifacts to keep Ultron's drones away. Dr. Faiza Hussain, the current caretaker of the sword, Excalibur, also has magical powers to heal, and does so with the civilians huddled under the British Museum's roof. The balance of the story features "Computer Grahame," Brian Braddock a.k.a. Captain Britain, Dane Whitman, The Black Knight, wielder of the black "Ebony Blade (the Anti-Excalibur), and Mel Kapoor, a.k.a. Magic Boots Mel. Computer Grahame attacks within the machine giving it a "bad code." Half of the heroes die, but Ultron's signal has been blocked, giving Earth's heroes a chance to regroup.

     FANTASTIC FOUR (2012) 5AU: The Fantastic Four realize Earth is under attack and travel to the planet to find it devastated. The story alternates between Fantastic Four action on earth and a Fantastic Four base where two children wait for their parents. Apparently all four are killed, but then, suddenly, Sue Richards is rescued from the rubble. The children wait for the Four's return.

     SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #6AU: We find Peter Parker, Spider Man, rise from the ashes of the apocalypse, but not quite. Dr. Octopus had transferred his consciousness to Parker's body, and what arose from those ashes was "Superior Spider Man," both Parker and Doc Oct. Superior Spider Man schemes to make the Ultron drones fall under his control. The Superior Spider Man fails but realizes that with the right people at your side, Ultron can be defeated.

     ULTRON #1AU: This story is about Victor Mancha, cyborg, and son of Ultron. Victor grieves for his lost friends, but with eidetic memory, he can recall every last conversation and detail about them. We find Victor in the ruins of the apocalypse, as he does everyday, searching for lost children--he finds a young boy, Jaime, and returns to the hideout where other lost children hide. Soon the Ultron drones attack, destroying the hideout. Victor cries out that his father may be Ultron, but his mother is Marianella Mancha, and he enjoins battle against the drones.

     WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #27AU: This episode starts out very similar to an episode in, Age of Ultron, by Brian Michael Bendis. After Wolverine and The Invisible Woman arrive in New York at a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. laboratory, each go in different directions. Wolverine heads to the laboratory and finds an alien life form pleading for freedom--Wolverine releases it and immediately the lifeform enters his body through Wolverine's mouth--he does battle with others like it. Invisible Woman checks surveillance monitors trying to remember something important--suddenly she remembers. Wolverine gets back to the car first and Invisible Woman shortly after; with an alien growing inside Wolverine, the two head off in search of Hank Pym...Ultron's creator.

     UNCANNY AVENGERS #8AU: This story revolves around Kang and his "Twins of the Apocalypse," Uriel and his sister, Eimin. Kang fills in background by speaking of the altering of time and of plucking the Twins from their timeline; Kang sends them on a test: to kill Captain America. Meanwhile the Captain has gone below ground to the land of the Morlocks in search of Caliban to bring him back for a murder. Eimin manages to kill Rogue, but Uriel protects Cap to keep him from being killed. The Twins failure causes Kang to send them to "camp," as punishment so they can better learn not to be merciful.

    FEARLESS DEFENDERS #4AU: The time frame is the post Latveria-Asgard Wars, the location is Lord Doom's Domain. Demonic Air-Sentries shoot down a plane killing the former Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta. During the following three days, the Amazons were destroyed, apparently, by Lord Doom's forces. Hippolyta is brought back from the dead by the gods; she is then captured and sentenced to the "War" Arena to fight against other captured Amazons. Hippolyta disarms her own Amazons and frees them, and then destroys the fake Lord Doom. Finally, Hippolyta fights Ares, her real father, and lets him live. Hippolyta says, "...The Amazons will fight by their Queen's side!"

     AGE OF ULTRON #10: The final story is the culmination of the book. The story takes us through the sweet and sour of Hank Pym's childhood, through his monotonous days of lab work for a big corporation as a "little worker ant" before he quit his job and began experimenting on a serum to make himself small. Having succeeded, he played at being the hero, Ant-Man, then a "giant," then a "Goliath," a "swashbuckler," and eventually, a father. Trying to create something practical he then created Ultron, who nearly annihilated mankind before he was able to stop it. After contemplating suicide and feeling dejected, Pym finally realized that he did matter...he started life, anew.

     First, I like the cover better on the Companion than the Age of Ultron cover. It is a simpler, less chaotic cover; it is much more appealing than the latter.

     Second I also like that the book is more understandable than the Age of Ultron book; look, for example, at the photo of Avenger's Assemble 14AU. I find all the stories, in general, clearer and more understandable than the Age of Ultron.

     Even though the companion book introduces some Marvel heroes that are new to me, I did not feel lost. The hero was described, his/her powers, and sometimes even a basic background given. As I have indicated in another post, I am not a comic book aficionado, but I do enjoy reading graphic novels relating to other books, books made into graphic novels, and those that have been adapted to film, or are coming to the big screen. On the negative side of things, this book lacks cohesiveness and is an oppressive read--it has few redeeming aspects, as a whole, with which to recommend it.

     Comic books or graphic novels are what they are; that is, children and young people have always been the target audience for works of pulp fiction. Modernly, however, many graphic novels have been written to appeal to adult sensibilities. So, in these two works, we seem to have a bit of both. If you are an adult, these graphic novels or collected editions will work for you. If you are a parent who regulates what their children read, then perhaps consideration should be given to the apocalyptic themes of murder, killing, destruction, consideration of suicide, etc.

For Age of Ultron by Brian Michael Bendis:
     I have, above, already indicated that the story is muddled and confusing. First, if you haven't followed the comic book story-lines, and second, by virtue of the lack of scene descriptors and dialog prompts, and by having art work that seems to jump from situation to situation without explanation. Moreover, the story is apocalyptic, without the redeeming qualities of such works. It was not only bleak, the art work added to the overall glumness and gloom of the book. Finally, in one photograph, above, I showed the pages coming away from the binding. This paperback book was not cheap, I paid $22.13 for this book only to begin falling apart after one reading. I find that almost unconscionable. The only good thing that might come of this is that you will know to buy the Kindle ed. over the paperback. Given this, and all of the above reasons, I rate this book 2.5 stars out of 5.

For Age of Ultron Companion by Marvel (and all the above-listed authors):
     This companion book is better than the Age of Ultron book it accompanies. A big, however, here, this book is still expensive at $21.11, comparing it to the Age of Ultron at $22.13. Moreover, a reader gets less bang for the buck, because there are 88 pages fewer than Age of Ultron. And while I liked the companion book better than Age of Ultron, it had a lot of room for improvement.

     I understand, this book is meant to augment, accompany, or add to the Ultron book, but even giving it a break for that reason, I still find it lacking. Yes, the art is better and the selections more comprehensible, but overall it lacks a cohesiveness that I'd like to see there. Also, like the Ultron book, it is oppressive with negativity and dour attitudes. I realize it is apocolyptic in nature, but I find few redeeming aspects. So, because it is better than Age of Ultron for the reasons I mentioned, above, I rate this book at 3.5 stars out of 5.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we got a close up look at the Age of Ultron and its Companion book. I hope you have enjoyed checking out these two titles since we now have the movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron out in theaters to help stimulate our desire to read more about this movie theme. Join me next time for a new title and a new review.
Until next time...

This flower is a double, white Rose of Sharon. [15]
...many happy pages of reading!

My best to you all.



[1] "Age of Ultron." [Brian Michael Bendis] Retrieved 05-05-15.
[2] "Age of Ultron Companion." [Al Ewing, Cullen Bunn, Christos Gage, Kathryn Immonen, Gerry Duggan, & Rick Remender.] Retrieved 05-05-15.
[3] "Avenger's Age of Ultron." [Breznican, Anthony. "Avenger's Age of Ultron." Entertainment Weekly, July 25/August 1, 2015: 26-32.] Print. Retrieved 04-10-15.
[4] "Joss Whedon says The Avengers: Age of Ultron Not Based on Age of Ultron Comic; Promises New Ultron Origin Story, No Ant-Man, and More Sci-Fi." [Brendan Bettinger, 07-21-13] Collider. Retrieved 05-07-15.
[5] "Evangeline Lilly Talks Up Marvel & 'Ant-Man.'" [12-18-14] apocaflix. Retrieved 05-07-15.
[6] "HTTPresents--Adaptations: You're Doing it Wrong." [HTTProductions, 04-30-11] Retrieved 05-07-15.
[7] "Spider-Woman." [Marvel Encyclopedia, First American Ed., New York, N.Y.; DK Publishing, 2015. Print.] (Purchased on
[8] "no." [grumpy cat] Retrieved 05-09-15.
[9] "Marvel AU Comics Question." [comic book forum] Retrieved 05-09-15.
[10] "Ron Paul vs. Bernanke: Is Gold Money? (Well is it?)." Retrieved 05-09-15.
[11] "Dark Mood Icon." Retrieved 05-11-15.
[12] "Books, The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy." [2.5 stars] Retrieved 05-11-15.
[13] "Expensive Sign." Retrieved 05-11-15.
[14] "Kodak Easy Share Picture Reviewer." [3.5 stars] Retrieved 05-11-15.
[15] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 05-08-15.