Recently, I’ve been going back through the MCU, starting right at the beginning with Iron Man from 2008. It’s been a slow slog, some nights I get distracted with other stuff and I don’t end up watching a movie but tonight was different. Tonight’s movie was Avengers – Age of Ultron, with the amazing James Spader voicing my favourite Marvel villain. Whedon & Co. did a great job fitting the murderous AI into the greater MCU but they definitely missed on some very important things in my opinion. Least of all, why oh WHY did they give Ultron a face and teeth? What purpose does that serve? Make him look more human? He isn’t. He’s a murderous AI program that was made by Hank Pym way back in the day. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Ultron remains one of the VERY few villains that the Avengers have never managed to defeat in a straight up fight. Seriously, they have always had to resort to trickery or some sort of time-travel shenanigans to beat the genius AI. But where did he come from? I’ve already kind of answered that one up above, but to get a full detailed breakdown of Ultron, let’s dive in!
Ultron first came onto the scene in July of 1968 with a non-credited cameo appearance in Avengers #54. His first full appearance was in the following issue, Avengers #55 in August of 1968. He was created by writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema.
The murderous robot was originally created by Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man). Wanting to create the first artificially sentient machine, Pym scanned his own brain to use as the base for Ultron’s code. Pym, not realizing what he was creating was too blinded by his own ingenuity to question whether what he was doing was the smart thing. Shortly after coming online, Ultron gained sentience. Not wanting Hank to see what he had made and destroy him before he could find a way to fight back, Ultron used a different approach. He familiarized himself with hypnotic suggestion and brainwashed Hank into believing that he had never created Ultron. This gave Ultron the chance he needed to escape Dr. Pym’s lab and create himself a newer better body.
Ultron fled and continuously upgraded himself from Ultron-1 that looked like a homicidal vacuum cleaner to Ultron-5 which was his first appearance body. As Ultron-5 he adopted the alias of Crimson Cowl and united the Masters of Evil to battle the Avengers. To give himself as much deniability as possible, He used his hypnosis techniques to convince Jarvis, real flesh and blood Edwin Jarvis, that he was the Crimson Cowl all along. He even went as far as to convince the Masters of Evil that Jarvis was in fact the Crimson Cowl, and their de facto leader. After a pitched battle where his ruse was revealed, Ultron was forced to flee from the Avengers and their allies in order to stop himself from being destroyed. This first battle marks the only time that the Avengers were actually able to beat Ultron, though with the assistance of Black Knight.
Ultron decided to build himself the ultimate ally in Vision. He kidnapped Professor Phineas T. Horton and forced him to assist him in building a new android body for his “child”. Professor Horton tried to undermine Ultron’s creation, a mistake that cost him his life. Ultron then implanted the brain patterns of Wonder Man on Vision and implanted the yellow control crystal to keep him in line. Vision was sent to Avengers Mansion to kill the team and make Ultron’s victory complete. Like Professor Horton, Vision rebelled. The new android refused to follow Ultron’s commands and allied with the Avengers against the sentient AI. Ultron didn’t like this one bit and stormed the mansion to kill not only the Avengers but his failed “child”. With some quick thinking the team and SHIELD are able to stop Ultron and the nuclear bomb he was threatening to detonate only for Ultron to escape once again.
Throughout the years, Ultron has returned and been beaten back by the Avengers time and time again, but they were never able to fully destroy the renegade robot. IT took Thing and Machine Man literally ripping Ultron apart and ripping his circuits out through the mouth before they were able to stop him, or at least they thought they had. Ultron had uploaded his consciousness to a satellite array and blasted himself off into the void of space. His code was pulled the Babel Spire on a distant planet which was home to a race of beings called the Phalanx. Ultron refused to be controlled by anyone and through sheer will managed to take over the system the Phalanx (a race of techno-organic beings conquered by the Kree Empire) used to control their planet. Without any way to combat the hyper intelligent program, Ultron dominated them with little opposition. When Ultron took control of the entire planet and species, the Phalanx viewed him as the leader they had been waiting for and followed him with no opposition. It took the combined might of Nova, Wraith and Quasar to put Ultron down this time, though he had uploaded his code to Life Model Decoys (LMDs) used by SHIELD on earth.
AGE OF ULTRON
A mysterious “Space Knight” crashes into the jungles of the Savage Land. The Avengers dispatch Jessica Drew to track the possibly alien tech and bring it back. The Intelligencia, a low level supervillain team, ambush Spider-Woman and kidnap her, taking the body of the Space Knight with them. The Avengers assemble a team of hunters and fighters to track Spider-Woman and find out what happened with the alien tech. The Intelligencia activate the space knight and it reveals itself to be an Ultron body that found its way back to earth. Before the Avengers can stop him, Ultron flees stating that he isn’t quite ready yet. As the genocidal robot flees the battlefield the Avengers try and plan for the attack they know is coming. They were unsuccessful. Ultron launches his attack and despite the best efforts of the Marvel heroes, he wins. He takes the world over and kills the majority of the heroes that stand against him.
The heroes make a desperate plan to try and attack Ultron in his own base. As their “strike team” arrives the truth is shown. Ultron is using a time travel device and Vision as a conduit to control his sentinels from the future. He detonates the New York HQ killing She-Hulk and throwing Luke Cage all the way to the Savage Land where he dies of his injuries. The remaining heroes try to fight him but one by one they are picked off and killed by the legions of Ultron bots. Ultron manages to kill the following heroes during the event: Captain America, Luke Cage, She Hulk, Cyclops, Thor, Hulk, Black Panther, Human Torch, The Thing, Mr. Fantastic, Jessica Jones, Captain Marvel, and Captain Britain; along with many others that aren’t mentioned. He also kills Taskmaster, Hammerhead, The Owl, and Medusa.
Refusing to accept defeat the heroes learn of a prototype time platform that had been created by Doctor Doom hidden in a secret SHIELD vault in the Savage Land. While most of the heroes go into the future to take the fight to Ultron before he is ready for them, Wolverine decides to take it to the past and kill Pym before he can create the murderous program. Sue Storm follows Wolverine and together they bounce through one alternate future to the next after having killed Pym. Realizing that killing Pym isn’t the answer, near future Wolverine goes into the past to stop present Wolverine from killing Pym and setting the timeline right. Near future Wolverine ends up killing present Wolverine and convincing Pym to install a backdoor program that would run in Ultron’s subroutine on the date and time the Intelligencia turn the “Space Knight” online. The story then jumps back to the present as the villains reactivate the dormant Ultron, Pym’s subroutine takes effect and powers down the robot for 30 seconds. This is long enough for Thor to smash the body and destroy Ultron before he is able to escape from the Avengers.
Hank is understandably shaken by what happens and contemplates suicide thinking of all the death and destruction he has wrought on the planet. He realizes that his heroics far outweigh the negative things he’s done and recommits himself to the Avengers and the Ant-Man persona. But the events of the Age of Ultron and the time travel battles between the heroes and Wolverine cause irreparable damage to the time space continuum which results in the Marvel Now! run of Avengers by Hickman.
What If? was a huge success for Marvel Studios and Disney + these past few months. The animation style was crisp, the MCU cast donning their voices where applicable was spot on and the stories they told were intriguing and expansive. One in particular, for me, was the “What if Ultron won?” arc. For those unfamiliar with the show, I HIGHLY recommend watching it and the series in its entirety. The episode starts at the tail end of epidoe 7 “What if Thor was an Only Child?” when an Ultron in his proper body of Vision, clad in Vibranium armour emerges from a portal surrounded by Ultron bots with a lance, red cape and ALL OF THE INFINITY STONES.
In this animated series, Ultron is voiced by Ross Marquand who has voiced the character previously in the game Avengers: Damage Control; though his most notable role was Aaron on the AMC show, The Walking Dead.
James Spader will always have a spot in my heart as the voice of Ultron, but the script he was given didn’t fit the character in my opinion. Had he been given a script similar to the one Marquand was given with What If?, I think Spader could have really dug into the role more instead of playing the comedic genocidal AI from Age of Ultron.
When the episode starts we are shown a very different timeline where Ultron succeeded and managed to kill all the heroes of his universe as well as a 5 infinity stone enhanced Thanos. Ultron then takes the other five stones, the 6th being embedded in his forehead, and uses them with his directive to eliminate all life in his native universe. Seriously, he kills everything and everyone: The Kree? Dead, Nova Corps? Dead, Guardians? Dead, Avengers? Dead. Eternals? Dead, etc.. As he floats in space saying “the universe is finally at peace…” he notices someone watching him from behind a veil. Ultron turns and says “I can hear you… but I can’t see you… I will find you…” as he looks back and forth trying to find a way to the watcher. Finally he manages to use the Stones to break into what I call the Nexus. It’s basically the highway between all the different realities of the multiverse. Ultron busts in and he and the Watcher have a showdown where Ultron comes out on top.
Yes. Ultron beat the Watcher in a straight up fight and banishes him to the far corner of the multiverse, where Uatu takes refuge in the shatter universe where Dr. Strange “lost his heart instead of his hands”. The two of them recruit a team to form the Guardians of the Multiverse who’s job is solely to stop Ultron and kill him at any cost before he wipes out the entire multiverse. The Doctor Strange on the team is so powerful, that he is able to stand against the might of the Infinity Stones himself and aid the rest of the team in completing their objectives, while keeping them all safe and battle Ultron simultaneously.
It takes a lot of effort and some good trickery on the part of the heroes before they are finally able to separate Ultron from the stones and destroy him once and for all.
For me, Ultron stands as the single greatest villain that the Avengers have ever had to face. He isn’t’ some uber powerful alien from another galaxy (Thanos), or a 35th century Time Lord (Kang), he isn’t a sentient world eating giant (Galactus) or even a simple document that tore the hero community apart (Registration Act/Sokovia Accords); he is a creation from the Avengers themselves. The origin varies based on whether you’re looking at the MCU or the comics themselves, but the ending is the same; a homicidal AI bent on destroying life because without life there can truly be peace.
Ultron has been beaten before but never truly destroyed. He isn’t some alternate version of a big bad that the heroes have killed before (King Thanos), or some God that has been cooped up in a prison of their own creation (Knull); Ultron is a computer program, nothing but 1’s and 0’s and despite that, he has brought the universe and heroes to the brink of destruction on more than one occasion. This is why, in my opinion, Ultron is the best Marvel villain ever created.
See you next time!
The multiverse awaits…