If you are excited for Avengers: Age of Ultron and looking to get caught up on the Marvel lore leading up to the events of the movie, look no further. Avengers: Age of Ultron Prelude is a graphic novel compilation of significant events in the Ultron story arc for those that are familiar with the story and just want a refresher, or for those who are new to the franchise and want to start building a foundation for their knowledge of everything Marvel. The graphic novel combines elements of Joss Whedon’s Marvel universe as well as some classic tales, including work from as far back as 1963.
The first third of the book is an illustrated rendition of Whedon’s last Avengers film. The graphics are beautiful and the level of detail included in each frame is astounding. The artists involved include penciler Joe Bennett, who has worked on everything from The Amazing Spider-Man to Teen Titans; penciler Agustin Padilla, who has worked on many Iron Man projects as well as several other Avengers: Prelude titles; and colourist Jay David Ramos, who has also worked on X-Men titles and the Villains for Hire series. The graphic novel version of Whedon’s Avengers sticks pretty close to the script of the movie, leaning on significant dialogue moments to tell an abridged version of the story. Although the illustrated version of Avengers doesn’t add anything to the story we already know, it’s fun seeing caricatured version of the actors reliving classic Avengers moments such as “I have a plan, Attack” or “Puny god”. The panels and dialogue are so well laid out that you can practically see the film playing out on the pages. Much of the filler story has been cut in order to make the screenplay manageable for a graphic novel format. This doesn’t detract from the overall feel of it if you’re already aware of how the full film plays out. My concern would be that the effect of this jumpiness is that anyone who doesn’t remember exactly how the first movie played out would be a bit lost as to what is happening at times. It’s great fun to read the movie in this way, but it’s definitely meant for an audience that has seen the first film a couple of times, or at least has seen it recently.
The next story focuses on a classic Avengers comic that introduces Vision as he first encounters the Avengers: A synthetic humanoid created by Ultron to antagonize our heroes and who eventually becomes an ally before “malfunctioning” and becoming a villain again. Able to change his density at will, Vision is a formidable force kept “in check” by the control crystal in his forehead. This particular story includes Vision tangling with heroes like Wasp, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Black Panther, and more. Because it’s a classic comic, the art style is wonderfully bright, simply rendered, and the puns are fantastic in that nostalgic, eye-rolling sort of way. After a disastrous run-in with Wasp, the Vision is captured and examined by the Avengers team. We learn what makes Vision such a formidable foe, what powers and abilities he contains, and how he is connected to “a metal being” called “Ultron-5”. Not only is this story arc great for introducing a character who makes a significant appearance in Age of Ultron, but we get to meet the illustrated version of Ultron, as well. Since the reboot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man and Captain America have become household names; this comic is a great introduction to emerging characters who don’t have a stand-alone film to explain their backstory.
For anyone waiting for the crew assembled according to Whedon’s films, the next part will be a much more satisfying read. Another Vision-focused storyline delves even deeper into the lore surrounding this mysterious entity, particularly in an incident where he approaches Cap and the rest of the Avengers to ask to join their team. We’ll meet classic renditions of Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America, faces that will carry over to the next comic when the team hunts down swarms of Ultron’s “Necro-Cyborgs”. In the last segment of the collection, we even see a collaboration between the Avengers and the X-Men. With the Vision and Ultron playing key roles in almost every text, this collection will fill in some of the gaps that Whedon’s film doesn’t get a chance to address. Avengers: Age of Ultron Prelude is a great read for anyone who didn’t grow up with these comics or is a convenient refresher for those that did. The mix of current and classic comics, film-story and graphic novel, makes this compilation worthwhile for old and new fans alike. It’s a great buy if you plan on collecting the Avengers movies on BluRay or DVD and want the relevant Marvel lore to go with them. And, if you like this collection, there are Prelude collections for other fantastic Marvel franchises, like Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man, and Captain America. For those that don’t have the time or money to collect the Marvel comics in full, this and the other prelude books are an accessible and enjoyable means of bolstering your knowledge of your favourite heroes.
Convenient themed collection in one place
Mix of great classic and contemporary works
Not for people unfamiliar with the films