Age of Ultron (abbreviated AU) is a Marvel NOW Crisis Crossover storyline written by Brian Michael Bendis and featuring The Avengers published by Marvel Comics, that involves the return of Ultron and his conquest of the Earth.
Suddenly and without warning, a Robot War of epic proportions was kicked off as Ultron made his grand attack on Earth, taking over the planet as a lifeless, mechanical world and forcing many of Earth's heroes — those that survived the initial assaults — into hiding. As Earth's heroes prepare to make a final assault, two heroes — Wolverine and the Invisible Woman — decide to take matters into their own hands and confront Ultron's creator, Hank Pym, before he could make the robot. However, are the consequences of these actions worth our survival?
The storyline had an odd concept with its tie-in issues. A number of titles, including Uncanny Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Superior Spider-Man, released a second numbered issue alongside the regular issue for that month, this one bearing an "AU" mark beside the number. Originally, they were meant to be one-shots, but were changed at the last minute.
A sequel dubbed Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand was launched in late 2013. The series sees the heroes of the Ultimate universe dealing with Galactus after he is teleported to their world thanks to Wolverine and Sue Storm's actions.
Age of Ultron provides examples of:
- Adaptive Ability: Logan encounters a harmless Brood in storage at a SHIELD installment and destroys it and the embryo it implants in him. Unfortunately this allows the Brood Queen also kept there to develop the vicious features Brood are known for in present day.
- Age of Titles: Ultron, specifically.
- Alternate Universe: Two, aside from the prime Earth-616. We have Earth-61112, where The Bad Guy Wins, and Earth-26111, where without Ultron and Hank Pym, Magic Versus Science was decided completely in favor of magic.
- Ambiguous Time Period: It's never stated exactly how long it's been since Ultron took over.
- Anyone Can Die: Ultron finally dies... until the "Rage of Ultron". The others are double subverted, as they do die, but in alternate universes that don't make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Ultron takes over the world.
- Artificial Limbs: As Black Widow and Stunt-Master find out, Starktech limbs are vulnerable to Ultron's control.
- Big Brother Is Watching: In the Wolverine and the X-Men Logan and Sue infiltrate A SHIELD base where Sue discovers a room of surveillance footage of all the heroes. Even though she warned Logan of the butterfly effect she uses the equipment to warn Reed he's being watched and to increase his security.
- Bittersweet Ending: Avengers Assemble #15AU is the closest that the Ultronverse stories get to a happy ending: Brian Braddock, Captain Marvel, Computer Graham and Magic Boots Mel are all dead, and the whole planet is still overrun with Ultron's lackeys, but the control unit for Ultron's drones in London has been destroyed, Britain's link to the multiverse and Otherworld has been restored, and Faiza Hussain — now Captain Britain — and Dane Whitman are alive and prepared to try to take back the country.
- Close-Enough Timeline: The timeline generated at the end of the story. It's basically the same, but with a small detail that leads to a happy ending.
- Continuity Nod:
- The Avengers Assemble tie-in with Black Widow has her meeting with Stunt-Master, going over her time with the Champions, along with Stunt-Master's appearance in Kurt Busiek's run on Avengers.
- Likewise, at one point during that an Ultron drone can be seen that resembles his very first design.
- Crisis Crossover
- Expendable Alternate Universe: Desperately tries to avert this, to the extent that Brian Michael Bendis said that the story takes place in Earth-616 in order to make what happens in the Age of Ultron itself more important. It doesn't work, owing to the very way time travel relates to alternate universes in Marvel. In the end, two separate Alternate Universes are treated this way: the Age of Ultron itself (Earth-61112) and the attempt by Wolverine to fix it resulting in the loss of The Magic Versus Technology War (Earth-26111).
- Fantastic Aesop: The moral of the story; do not mess around with time.Tony Stark of Earth-26111: Listen to me, the reason... the reason why we don't go back and forth through time and fix things... The reason we don't just do whatever we want whenever things don't go our way is because we can't. Time is an organism. It's part of us. It lives and breathes and every time you travel through it, you rip it. You tear it. You hurt it. If you keep doing it eventually you will kill it. You'll break it beyond repair. Do you hear me? What happens when time is dead? What happens when you kill it?
- Fighting a Shadow: As Avengers Assemble 15AU reveals, Ultron's not even present anywhere. All the leaders of his armies are just copies.
- For Want of a Nail: Going back in time and taking out Henry Pym of all people leads to a very different world.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Black Widow's got a severe burn on the left side of her face, along with a case of Eye Scream.
- Great Offscreen War: The opening of the series takes place a month or so after Ultron's conquest of Earth, with many of Marvel's heaviest hitters (including Thor, Magneto and the Hulk) already dead.
- Heroic BSoD: What Captain America has apparently been doing since Ultron took over.
- The Magic Versus Technology War: The Asgardian/Latverian War in Earth-26111, which happened on account of Earth-61112's Wolverine killing Hank Pym before he created Ultron, resulting in the dissolution of the Avengers and the victory of said war by the combined forces of Doctor Doom and Morgan le Fay (here called Morgana le Fay) and their magic, only barely held in check by a veritable army of Iron Man drones by the time of the present day.
- Mind Screw: The entire ending. Time and space are shattered and repaired thanks to Wolverine and Sue's time travel mishaps and it brings Angela out of the Spawn Universe while seemingly pushing Galactus into the Ultimate Marvel Universe.
- The Mole: When She-Hulk tries to meet Ultron, she meets his servant instead: The Vision
- Morton's Fork: Ultron and his forces like yelling out "surrender or perish". Surrendering just results in death anyway - not that most of Ultron's drones actually give people a chance to surrender anyhow.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: Subverted. Wolverine thinks that the best way to save reality from Ultron is to kill Hank Pym before he created it. However, this leads to magic winning over science, and Tony Stark in the new world chews him out for not just suggesting a way to kill Ultron being in-built. The resulting time travel throughout the storyline regarding the attempts to Set Right What Once Went Wrong causes untold destruction to The Multiverse.
- Noodle Incident: The exact specifics of Ultron's taking over the world are not shown, though some of the tie-in issues contain hints and suggestions. The basics are that Ultron just one day attacked the entire world with an army of drones, wiping out most major population centres in less than an hour, leaving only a handful of survivors.
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Ultron returned and is ruling over a dystopian world. The conclusion causes a multiversal Mind Screw that sends various universal versions across dimensions, including Galactus to Ultimate Marvel and Angela to the prime Marvel Universe.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Wolverine's jumps through time open a tear in the fabric of space and time, creating a Reality-Breaking Paradox.
- Shout-Out: Avengers Assemble 15AU begins with a British man confronted with several Ultron drones, and sarcastically asks whether they'll "exterminate" him. The drones then begin repeating it, Dalek-style. Later on in the issue, several Ultron drones can be seen standing outside St. Paul's Cathedral, and for some mysterious reason suddenly they look less like hyper-advance robots, and more like people in badly made costumes.
- Show, Don't Tell: A major violation occurs in one issue of the main series, where Luke Cage's struggle with Ultron's forces, the death of his associates, and his struggle to get to the Savage Land while dying of radiation poisoning... are all told to the reader by Emma Frost, without so much as a flashback panel.
- Shown Their Work: After Wolverine killed Hank Pym before he could create Ultron, Bendis released a list that compiled of all of the changes that would come as a result of this - Whilst some are fairly obvious (Ultron, Vision or Victor Mancha never being created), some were less so (Nova & Star-Lord not sacrificing themselves to stop Thanos) or just obscure (the events of Nextwave never took place).
- Terminator Twosome: Wolverine goes back in time, to kill Henry Pym before he creates Ultron. Sue Storm follows him, to try to convince him not to do that. Eventually, it is Wolverine who convinces her, who stands sad and does nothing while Wolverine does what he does best.
- Time Skip: What the Great Offscreen War takes place in.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Ends with a fairly small Reality-Breaking Paradox.
- Took a Level in Kindness: The apocalypse caused Otto Octavius to learn the merits of teamwork and he seems to have gained more of Peter Parker's traits.
- Wham Episode: Galactus of the main Marvel universe/Universe 616 is now in the Ultimate universe. Angela of the Spawn Universe is now in Earth-616, though she received an explanation later that excluded her from her source.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In the lead up, the Bendis written Moon Knight title's main plotline concerned the deactivated head of an Ultron, and the final issue stated that this would tie in to Age of Ultron. It was never mentioned again.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: A pointed aversion during Avengers Assemble 15AU. Ultron's robots are just technically "alive" enough to kick the curse on the Black Knight's Ebony Blade into overdrive, meaning the British heroes have to bench Dane.
- Wrecked Weapon: Captain America's shield has been broken again.