Title: What If? Age of Ultron
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2014
Artist: Raffaele Ienco, Ramon Villalobos, Mico Suayan, Piotr Kowalski, Neil Edwards, Ming Doyle
Writer: Joe Keating
Collects: What If? Age of Ultron #1-5
The What If? concept remains as sound as it ever was, but Marvel has really seemed to struggle to find a way to market it to contemporary readers. Their latest annual What If? experiment is a five-issue, weekly series that explores the Age of Ultron conflict from five different angles. But does one specific event comic need that many alternate takes? That's a question I'm still struggling with after reading issue #1.
This first issue from writer Joe Keatinge and artist Raffaele Ienco is very much a mixed bag. The premise is a little vague. Usually What If? books revolve around one specific, key event happening differently and causing a chain reaction. Here, Ultron goes bad immediately after activation, kills the Wasp, and ushers in an Age of Ultron completely different from the one we saw in Brian Bendis' series. But otherwise, Keatinge's script is solid. He creates a sweeping sense of desperation and futility as Hank Pym labors on in a world where all other life has been eliminated. The ending is harsh and depressing, but that's one of the appeals of the What If? line. There doesn't have to be a happy ending.
Unfortunately, the art doesn't do the script much justice. Ienco's figures are very stiff and lifeless, and the inks are too heavy. Granted, the art captures the look of Brandon Peterson's work on Age of Ultron pretty well, but I had similar problems with those issues as well.