Monday, July 09, 2007

"This Evil Returning--!" (Marvel comics)
Marvel Two-In-One #92 When: October 1982
Why: Tom Defalco How: Ron Wilson

The story so far...
The android called Jocasta was originally the result of an evil plot for Ultron to take a wife. Though the transferred consciousness of the Wasp would be expelled from the robotic shell, the remnants of her memory would serve as the template for a new, whole Jocasta!

Now in the service of good; Jocasta finds herself suffering an identity crisis with no real sense of belonging or purpose. Alas, as she pines from within her temorary residence at the Baxter Building, a twist worthy of Shakespeare sets a dastardly series of deeds in motion!

Calling upon a long forgotten piece of sub-programming, Jocasta is compelled to travel across the country to a secret industrial headquarters once belonging to her creator. There, the distorted monolith stands with a buddha-esque smirk - a testament to Ultron's defeat. Even so, with the tools surrounding him, Ultron compels Jocasta to revive him, and so, the mechanical menace is born anew!

Previous Form:
Machine Man (#65): Nearly single handedly defeated Fin Fang Foom.
Thing (#15): Recently victorious over the robotic Super Adaptoid.
Jocasta & Ultron: Neither has yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Ultron 5 (Professor)
Speed: Ultron 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Ultron 6 (Generator)
Agility: Machine Man 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Thing 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Ultron 5 (Lasers)

As many of you know, Secret Wars on Infinite Earths is a website dedicated to discussing superhero comics through a structure built around the fights contained therein.

With that in mind, it's almost disturbing to note that it has taken twenty months for us to have robot-on-robot action.
I realise it's not enough, but all I can do is apologise to all of you faithful readers out there. It's... I'm sorry.

So, in the red corner is a guy, like Dr. Doom, who is new to the website, but deserving of far more recognition than that status implies. A guy who has been known to send a shiver down the collective spines of the Avengers, Fantastic Four and Secret Defenders. Actually, I'm not really sure about that last one, I just wanted to show some diversity of the fear inspired by -- Ultron the unfeeling!

Ultron's most impressive feature is his adamantium composite body, which affords him near invulnerability, and incredible resistance to physical attacks. It's a job like that that gets heavy-hitters like Wonder Man and the Thing all hot and bothered when he comes knocking.

In the purple corner is Machine Man. You might remember him from such battles as Nextwave's encounter with Fin Fang Foom. [Nextwave #2]
As far as robots go, Machine Man (you can call him Aaron), isn't anywhere near as indomitable or obsessed with the destruction of "fleshys" as Ultron. Generally content with his creators, Machine Man bares a humanoid disguise, and utilizes much more trixy tactics in his pirsuit of truth, justice and the robotic way.

Most notable in Machine Man's arsenal is his extendo Inspector Gadgetesque arms and legs. These days he also packs a whole bunch of useful gadgets, becoming a lethal sort of humanoid-Swiss army knife. Some people would tell you that doesn't count because Nextwave was "not in continuity", but those people are Nazis and should be marched to the gallows as soon as possible.

Inexplicably joining Machine Man in battle, as was the style in Marvel Two-In-One, is the ever loving blue eyed Thing, having apparently survived yet another sub-average feature film. (Ooo, meta-textual! Someone grease me up like Grant Morrison!)

Thing certainly packs the physical punch Machine Man is otherwise lacking, but even he is going to have a tough time shutting Ultron down for good. Truth be told, without the aid of specially customized thumbtacs, Thing can't even program the VCR, not that he knows how...

Together, Machine Man and Thing are a pretty good team, but without talking about potential strategums and preperation time, I'm going to give this one to Ultron. The simple facts are that even Things brute force fails to measure up to Ultron's strategic and phsycial prowess.

The Ma th: Thing/Machine Man (Overall) Ultron (Average)
The Pick: Ultron

What went down...
Having rebuilt Ultron, Jocasta is able to break free of her dormant programming and regain independence. In such a state, she becomes of little use to Ultron, who recognises the change and goes about knocking her down for her defiance.

Ultron gloats over Jocasta like a mechauvenist, distracted so much he doesn't even see the telescopic arm shooting forth a purple fist! It strikes Ultron across the face, before being followed by the mechanical Machine Man!

Machine Man uses his extendable legs to dodge Ultron's power blasts, while his extended arms give him the necessary reach to continue to sock it to Ultron! Ultron pursues the weaker of the two robots, but Machine Man continues to keep his distance through the use of his highly durable and agile telescopic legs.

Just as Thing shows on the scene, the building cracks open from Ultron's wreckless display of power! Inside, he finally snags one of Machine Man's legs, and while Machine Man remains comedically defiant, his leg easily snaps under the might of Ultron!

Thing wastes no time going to work, literally pulling the flooring out from under Ultron in a move that buys the damaged Machine Man some time to himself.

The immovable object meets the unstoppable force in a classic scene as the two super-strong titans clash! Apparently not privvy to the pretentions of Ultron's favor for robots, Thing suffers the verbal assault, if unscathed by the physical blow.

Coming out fine, Thing cleans Ultron up with a left-hook that sends the machine menace flying across his own headquarters into an adjacent wall of technology!

Even so, Ultron does his best T-800, returning at speed for another shot at the Thing. The two tie-up, and as cosmically infused biceps push against futuristic servo-mechanics, Ultron reveals another of his many skills!

Must... buy... Ultron Unleashed... Must... Buy...Thing finds himself ill-prepared for an attack of hypnosis!
Locked up at a close quarters, Thing has nowhere to lose himself but in the eyes of the sinister robot! Why, it might almost be romantic, if they were cowboys! [You're telling me the date is up on Brokeback gags?! Come on!...]

Meanwhile, Machine Man does his best to pull himself together, but the damage sustained by Ultron's earlier assault becomes the least of his worries!

Leaning against a wall without the use of his legs, the Machine Man has the misfortune of staring down a hypnotised Thing, who would have fisticuffs with him!

Though the war may rage on, this battle is over!

The hammer...
Following in the footsteps of Doom, Ultron debuts with an impressive victory! Sometime in the near future we might pick that up in the next issue, where Thing is the slave of Ultron! Dun dun!

Unlike Dr. Doom, there's actually no curiosity about the distinct lack of Ultron on this particular website. In my humble estimation, Ultron represents both, perhaps, the greatest villain to menace the Avengers -- and also one of the shining examples of what tired me in a world of classic Avengers. He'd be one of the factors that made me a bit more receptive to the New Avengers, than a lot of other fans.

There's something inherently American about Ultron.
It's true of Iron Man, too, as well as a lot of other technologocially grounded characters in the Marvel and DC universes. Though they are generally accepted to represent the most advanced of technologies, they have a way of retaining their clunky, basic, unimpressive designs -- and you can forget about getting smaller!

Yes, in it's own way I actually find it charming.
In a world still reeling from the fad explosion of anime culture, it's somewhat refreshing to pick up a comic about robots or suits of armor, and not recognise something unmistakingly Japanese. Undoubtedly it was cringe-worthy when Marvel unleashed it's manned Sentinel models, that unashamadely paid "homage" to Neon Genesis: Evangelion and it's giant-sized EVA units.

I sort of enjoy the subtle commentary that is there, even if only through the American subconscious, that continues to have Iron Man show up in big, rendered suits of armor. Sure, he's come a long way since the 'fridge tank', but for such an advanced piece of technology, he has a way of really looking pretty basic. And an alien shaped helmet really didn't help sell otherwise. So, it's amusing to see clunky American manufacturing and design feature in technologically inclined comics, but for Ultron, it just seems old hat.

The irony here is that I haven't been reading Brian Bendis' Mighty Avengers, which reinvents Ultron as a vivacious Mike Cho woman. As much of a design improvement as that might be, it isn't quite what I would've had in mind.
Actually, for me, Ultron as a concept isn't a new subject. I've pondered it briefly before, and personally, I actually think a little bit of that Japanese touch, filtered through the Western world and sub-cultures of the Marvel universe, are actually what might be needed.

You have a lot of pieces of the overall puzzle sliding around fairly conveniently to provide usage of one of the booming pieces of technology available right now.
Being that I'm not reading Mighty Avengers, I don't know how steeped the current Ultron stuff is in the technology, but being that Iron Man has essentially made himself wirelessly online, it opens his vulnerability to a foe like Ultron up in ways that excite and intrigue.

I like the idea of Ultron-5 and Ultron-XI, and all the other successive models that work their way into the canon with every appearance. I like applying what we know about the character to the conventions and adapted rules of existing technologies -- like wireless and internet applications.

Tony Stark, now organically online through wireless technology, suffers some of the vulnerabilities of everday wireless use. Expanding them out to super-concepts, I like the idea of an Ultron who might try to exploit the lack of natural firewalls Iron Man would have. Granted, Tony Stark will be privvy to some of the most advance online security, but on a while I love the idea of Ultron, through various means, attempting to hack or interfere with Iron Man and his wireless armors.

In my world, this is really a decoy measure. I think surrendering Tony Stark to the control of a hacking Ultron is a little too easy, but in a world where man and machine have become one, you start to see new and interesting ways for new versions and models of Ultron to [co]-exist.

I personally like the idea, particularly for the online aspects, of a sentient and self-replicated virus versions of Ultron. Something along the lines of Project-2501 (Ghost in the Shell), that is a self-running intelligence. Presumably this downloaded or programmed version of Ultron would be able to access informations independently for his solid counterpart, while also reinventing the returning-Ultron concept through the use of stored versions of the online-Ultron through various internet sites.

Much like real virii or hackers, the basic tools of the internet suddenly become frustratingly effective weapons for Ultron. It's just a matter of upscaling that logic to deal with men, suits of armor, and SHIELD helicarriers.

Then you take the notion of onlineUltron (iUltron) attempting to hack into Tony Stark, who may have even been the unwitting victim of iUltron's subversive intelligence attacks, before becoming aware of them. Attacks that provided Ultron with Matrixesque avenues to establish yet another new form in his war on humanity and flesh.

Having gained access to the Extremis information, iUltron suddenly begins to emerge across the internet spreading the question, 'What is the 616?'
As dispondent and disillusioned individuals across the world begin responding to this exciting new wave of online philosophy, one [un]lucky user is chosen, perhaps because of the location indicated by their IP, to meet with Ultron.

Becoming the recipient of the Extremis project, 'The One' plucked from an Internet Relay Chat is suddenly transformed into the physical vehicle for a brand new Ultron. An Ultron derived from iUltron, but dealing with a brand new concept: In a world that can create human-machine hybrids, where are the lines of war drawn?

This is where, I assume, the lines of Bendis' work bare, and I also believe he's breeched the subject of hacking Iron Man's armor. Although, Ultron taking possession of Iron Man technology is by no means new, this updated version is maybe more along the lines of what I came up with. I don't know.

But ultimately what you find yourself with is Ultrons with distinct personalities and interests. Classic Ultron, the adamantium bodied robot represents the old ideas, and the mission to destroy all life on Earth in favour of robot dominance.

iUltron, existing purely as a free-running program, would perhaps become a more benevolent concept. You could go a lot of different ways with a lot of different running versions of iUltron, ranging from a comedic meltdown due to internet spam -- to a metaphorical devolution as a result of becoming obssessed with collecting data from newsites and google searches -- to becoming a living application tool to be exploited by terrorists and heroes alike.

Or hey! Maybe Aaron Stack (aka; Machine Man) could download iUltron and convince it to serve as a finance calculator, so he can dazzle all with his accountancy presentations! Mmm... Yeah, or not...

Then, finally, you have the Extremis-Ultron, who is fundamentally influenced by both versions of Ultron (being that his consciousness is a downloaded version of iUltron), but finds himself on a path for his own discovery.

In his own dramatic twist, Extremis-Ultron takes on a peculiar admiration and respect for Tony Stark, and as a being of tech and flesh, abandons a pursuit of human eradication. Instead, like the Ultron of the past, he pushes a whole new concept of human-mecha hybrids, in the same old way.

In this respect, Extremis-Ultron ultimately becomes an enemy to Iron Man and Ultron-original alike. His vision of the world is to merge the two, threatening both humanity and robotics.

And those are just some of the ways you could use Ultron, largely tied to one story concept created last year when I probably could've been doing something more productive. Hey, a guy's gotta have goals. Goals to turn everyone at Marvel into human-robot hybrids! Mwahahahaha!

Hey, y'know, iUltron could reinvent himself as a mysterious pop-synth artist. And he could jam out with Tom DeFalco, who's just hit the top ten creators!
Rock me Extremis! R-r-r-rock me Extremis! Uh uh oh! Oh uh uh uh oh!

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 4.5
NEXT WEEK: The dark magicks of the man called: BARON MORDO!

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