Orphans on a spaceship – that basically sums up the first of the Age of Ultron tie-ins. The main storyline is pretty grim with the heroes defeated, those that are still alive huddled together in hiding, barely surviving, and Ultron presiding over a destroyed Earth – Matt Fraction saw that and said “I can make this scenario EVEN SADDER!”.
Contextually this issue takes place before Age of Ultron #1 and provides the backstory for how the remnants of the Fantastic Four ended up underneath Central Park along with the other ragged band of heroes. The Fantastic Four respond to a distress signal from Black Panther and head back to Earth leaving the kids behind on the spaceship in the past (in the main Fantastic Four series they’ve been travelling through time). The kids awaken to holographic recordings of their family telling them how much they love them now that they’re dead. Yup, it’s a real cheerful comic!
But by no means a bad one. Back on Earth we see the Four struggle to fend off the Ultron drones and figure out what happened. I’ve been reading the main story arc so I know which of the Four survive so it wasn’t a surprise but it was still interesting to see how they went down. I was also surprised at the sheer number of Ultron drones there actually are, a fact that isn’t entirely obvious in the main story.
It is low-hanging emotional fruit to have parents leave video wills for their young children to watch so I wasn’t that moved to read Ben and Johnny’s testimonials but Fraction does give Reed a great line that made me pause. I won’t spoil it but as an atheist it cuts right to the core of my beliefs and rang so true and beautifully. I’m sure I’ve read that line elsewhere but it fit so well in Reed’s farewell to his kids and is just a great moment.
Fraction and his editor at least acknowledge the overwhelming, almost silly amount of, sadness in this issue. The AR content has a video of crying babies playing on top of Fraction’s editor wailing and sobbing into the camera – “Matt, Matt, tell me it’s gonna be alright – it’s gonna be alright, right?” cut to Fraction looking down at his desk, looking up momentarily to shake his head, sigh, and look back down. Oh, you guys!
So is it essential reading if you’ve been following the main Bendis/Hitch story arc? No, you can safely miss this and continue just reading the main Age of Ultron comics without missing much story-wise. But, like most tie-ins, it supplies rich background detail that a large scale Event misses out on as well as supplying much needed emotional weight to the Event that’s been missing so far.
Fantastic Four #5AU (Age of Ultron Tie-In) by Matt Fraction and Andre Araujo is out now at your local comics shop and online at Comixology and Marvel Unlimited
This article was first posted on March 31, 2013