Issue(s): Avengers #161, Avengers #162
Then Henry Pym attacks in his Ant-Man persona. His attack is very effectively depicted, making Ant-Man look like a threat for the first time.
The Wasp shows up to explain that Pym is having another nervous breakdown. Even designing herself a very exposing new costume didn't help assuage his psychological problems.
It turns out that Pym's problems were exacerbated (or perhaps just taken advantage of) by Ultron.
Despite a nice showing by the Scarlet Witch...
...Ultron is able to defeat the Avengers, seemingly killing them. He takes Pym and Janet to his secret lab. His goal is to create a mate for himself. The mate will be based on the Wasp's persona, fittingly enough considering his overt Oedipus complex.
Ultron uses Pym's expertise to start the process of draining the Wasp's lifeforce into the robot body (the robot will eventually be called Jocasta (the name of Oedipus' mother in the myth), but she is unnamed in these issues).
Meanwhile, Thor returns to the Avengers Mansion to find most of the Avengers seemingly dead (although it is soon revealed they are merely in an Ultron-induced deathlike state), and the remaining few - Black Panther, Wonder Man, and Iron Man - scrambling to call in some reserve Avengers (There's a brief interlude with Hawkeye and the Two-Gun Kid hanging out on a ranch with some lady friends.).
Now that they've got Thor, they launch an assault on Ultron...
...but he's too powerful even for these heavy hitters.
Wonder Man starts realizing that he could actually die (again) in this battle, and it starts to rattle him.
Iron Man, the pragmatist, doesn't bother actually trying to fight Ultron, but instead threatens to destroy Jocasta. Ultron withdraws from the battle.
The issue is left with Pym still stark raving mad.
Perez's art is very nice. You can see all the detail in the lab machinery and stuff. It's not exactly flashy; in fact, the reason it is so good is that there are many compressed panels with lots going on in each, and yet they all manage to look good. His new costume designs for Wonder Man and the Wasp aren't so hot, though.
Shooter is clearly doing a lot with this series. You can see the Vision and the Scarlet Witch developing a bit, and he's doing some interesting stuff with Pym, obviously. Taking the time to show what's going on with Hawkeye and Two Gun Kid, without having them engaging in some gratuitous action/fight, is also a good development.
Ultron's appearance here was actually the culmination of some background machinations that involved helping the Grim Reaper resurrect Wonder Man and reviving the Black Knight statue, but the details were never explained. See the Appendix for more details.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This needs to take place before Yellowjacket and the Wasp's appearance in Marvel Team-Up #61-62 according to an editors note on the letters page for Avengers #165. Thor appears here out-of-time. In issue #175 it is revealed that the Collector had been pulling Thor out of the timestream whenever the Avengers were in grave danger, and this appearance is specifically cited. Therefore Thor's appearance here does not need to fit chronologically with any appearances elsewhere, and technically shouldn't "count" as an appearance, although i do have him listed for now.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (13): show
Although the scripts by Jim Shooter never explicitly states "Ultron and the Grim Reaper are working together and have been for a long time" there is enough in these issues for attentive readers to connect the dots.
Before this, in #160, the Grim Reaper says to the Vision "You think yourself invulnerable, but I have learned every detail of your synthezoid construction, and I can hurt you!" Who would the Reaper have gotten that info from? Most likely Ultron, who created the Vision.
Later in that same issue, the Reaper, talking about the technology that he is using to torture the Avengers, states "You would tremble if you knew who provided me with the technology to build them, Avengers." I think that, again, Ultron is the most likely suspect, given what is stated in the next two issues.
In issue #161, after defeating Wonder Man, Utron observes "Amazing! It took almost two seconds for Wonder Man to fall after my Encephalo-Ray struck him! How unfortunate that the Reaper failed to keep his bargain with me! Wonder Man would have proven an interesting study subject."
Ultron seemingly kills several of the Avengers with that Encephalo-Ray. But in the next issue, the remaining Avengers find out that their teammates are actually in death-like comas, and Ultron explains "My Encephalo Beam is much like the Coma-Ray I built for the Grim Reaper, who has served me in times past."
So, it seems likely that Ultron was the one who revived Wonder Man as a favor to the Reaper, and who animated the Black Knight statue so that it would knock out the Avengers Mansion security system, enabling the Reaper to sneak in and ambush the Avengers.
This also means that, since the Reaper used the Coma-Ray back in his very first appearance in Avengers #52, he and Ultron have been allied for some time now, and that Utron was active behind-the-scenes for a while before his actual debut in #54-55.
Posted by: Ben Herman | June 21, 2015 3:34 PM
In Busiek's run, Ultron states explicitly that Eric went to the Tinkerer for help in defeating the Avengers before Avengers 52 and the Tinkerer got Eric and Ultron in touch with one another. It's too bad nobody's done an untold story explaining how Ultron and the Tinkerer met.
Posted by: Michael | June 21, 2015 3:41 PM
I guess I'm in the minority, but this Wonder Man costume was my favorite.
Posted by: Andrew | March 16, 2016 4:32 PM
With these issues, Shooter changed the Avengers status quo forever. Prior to this Hank Pym was a bit of a cypher, and Ultron was a character who had made a splash in his first storylines, but had only appeared once since. After this Ultron was a top-tier villain, and Pym's struggle with mental illness became a permanent fixture.
Posted by: Andrew | June 23, 2016 9:27 PM
Wasp is also elevated here. Prior to this story, Wasp has only been relevant five times in this series: 1. She names the team (Avengers #1). 2. She is injured and hospitalized (Avengers #14), She names The Vision (Avengers #57), she gets married (Avengers #59), and she is injured and hospitalized (Avengers #137). She barely registered in my mind in other issues. From this point forward, I like her more.
Posted by: Steven | July 12, 2016 1:44 PM
At least Wonderman can blame his terrible costume on the fact that he doesn't actually have eyes.
Posted by: Mizark | July 21, 2016 6:38 AM
The average reader rating on these issues is TWO stars? I find that hard to believe.
Posted by: A.Lloyd | February 4, 2018 2:16 AM
Wonder Man's awful new costume and the really atrocious use of Hank Pym definitely factor in the overall enjoyment of the otherwise good story. Also the kinda lame "they're dead!" - "no, wait, they're not dead" fake-out. I also would hazard a guess there's probably more than a couple of people who just stumble on the site and are rating fnord's write-up rather than the issues.
Anyway, I personally rated it low because I think this really handles Hank Pym's character woefully. Shooter had an axe to grind with the guy (and Moondragon) which came to a head in his second run but is unforunately very evident at points in this first run. Hank doesn't shrug off the effects or come out on top by strength of character, by the end he's "still raving mad" and foaming at the mouth psycho... then is just magically cured off-panel.
Avengers #170-171 is a much better Ultron story by the same creative team.
Posted by: AF | February 4, 2018 6:29 AM
There's one bit of nice character work by Jim Shooter that I think is worth quoting. It's a scene where the Beast is driving Janet home after Hank's attack, and Beast has been criticized for joking around in the aftermath of the attack:
Janet: "Look... about your joking before, it didn't mat--"
Posted by: Andrew | April 20, 2018 9:27 AM
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