Issue(s): Daredevil #275, Daredevil #276
And i have to admit that i'm a lot more impressed with these issues now than i thought i would be. At a basic level i still feel like Ultron ought to stomp Daredevil 9 times out of 10, and this issue adds to my general frustration with Acts of Vengeance that the swapping of villains results in virtually no losses for the heroes. But Nocenti does introduce some mitigating factors in this case, and uses Ultron in a clever way that ties in to the themes she's been exploring with the "perfect woman" character Number Nine that was introduced recently. Also: John Romita Jr. drawing Dr. Doom and Ultron and the Inhumans.
But the fanboy/continuity type concerns are definitely real. One other issue is the fact that the Ultron attack is instigated by Dr. Doom deciding to show up the Kingpin by killing off Daredevil.
My problem with this is it's exactly the same motivation for Dr. Doom in the Acts of Vengeance issues of Punisher. The one difference is in that story he goes to Kingpin in advance and gloats to him about how he's going to kill the one guy he's never been able to take care of. The Kingpin initially thinks Doom is talking about Daredevil, and tells Doom not to worry about it because "Daredevil is a ruined man". In this story, Doom decides to take care of Daredevil without consulting with / bragging to the Kingpin first. So does this story take place before the Punisher story, in which case Dr. Doom has already failed to kill one of the Kingpin's enemies before going to brag that he's going to kill another? Or does it occur afterwards, after Doom has already heard that the Kingpin is not interested in killing Daredevil and after he's already had a humiliating failure in attempting to kill the Punisher? Or does it occur during that story, in which case Doom is wasting time with one thing when he should be focused on another.
There's no right answer here because all possibilities are pretty bad, and the point is that there doesn't seem to have been any sort of coordination to assure that something like this didn't happen. To be clear, that's not really Nocenti's fault or even, in isolation, editor Ralph Macchio's fault; it's a sign that the Acts of Vengeance event wasn't being orchestrated in a very strict manner.
Anyway, Dr. Doom find the remains of Ultron in an abandoned lab, and instead of simply reviving and reprogramming the robot (as he did in Secret Wars, for example) he combines all of Ultron's prior personalities into a single merged consciousness. That includes the personality of Ultron Mark Twelve, aka "Mark", the version that reformed and reconciled with Henry Pym. Doom says:
...I have unlocked the system's secrets and discovered not just one -- but the brain plates of all twelve reincarnations of this robot. The original head of Ultron 11 is absent, but the blank slate of 12's cranium will serve. And the genius of his rebirth will be in combining those twelve brains in the perfect combination. I need a strong dose of Number 12, the humanitarian, to temper the genocidal murder instinct of the other eleven... yet leave enough of that to allow him to kill without remorse.
When Ultron is activated, it thinks to itself that "all thirteen of us serve ourselves... against each other!", and they are definitely a bit distraught and confused by the merging of identities, so they agree to go along with Doom's orders for now.
Daredevil, meanwhile, is sullenly sitting in an attic avoiding the Inhumans, who are talking with Skip Ash from previous issues. It seems that there's been an ongoing "genetic research exchange" between Skip's facilities and Attilan.
Daredevil begins to pack up to leave, but he's interrupted by Number Nine and Gorgon. Number Nine's programmed nature is hammered home because she'll be compared with Ultron in a bit.
Back to Ultron, who has been busy creating a huge pile of heads for himself.
Nocenti breaks down the personalities such that the first 9 are lumped together. #10 is differentiated because he created Jocasta, and the first 9 at least believe that all creators are flawed. I should note that this seems to be inaccurate; i haven't been keeping track, but by Wikipedia's count, it was Ultron-8 that created Jocasta. It's also arguable that Ultron's earlier creation of the Vision (however you want to say that "creation" occurred, be it from the body of the original Human Torch or just spare parts or whatever) also would have violated that tenant, unless you can make a distinction between the Vision being created as a servant whereas Jocasta was intended as a partner. Despite the inaccuracy and quibbles, i do like the idea that there's a fundamental difference between an Ultron that wants to destroy all life and one that is willing to be a creator of sorts.
Ultron's plan is partially "pagan" and "low tech"...
...but we really won't find out what it is because things change when Number Nine, out for a jog to clear her head, runs into him.
Ultron immediately blasts her but he regrets it when he sees her genetically manipulated body repairing itself. He realizes that she is a "perfect, indestructible woman" and decides that he wants her as a companion, as he did Jocasta. Or at least that's true of the later incarnations; the earlier ones still want to kill her.
Definitely the sort of thing i found bewildering and "wrong" when reading these issues in earlier days.
There's also a weirdly religious aspect where Ultron curses Doom for defying the "true creator".
I was always confused by the "Thou shalt not kill" ending from Avengers #68, but maybe Ultron is a deeply religious robot!
As the Inhumans are leaving to continue their search for Black Bolt and Medusa's missing baby, Daredevil hears Number Nine's scream and runs off after her. And we're just going to have to go with some big splash panels here.
Daredevil, Gorgon, and Karnak are sent flying and at the opening of issue #276 are still laying on the ground smoldering. The Inhumans recognize who Ultron is and are sufficiently awed and fearful about it. But our titular Man Without Fear just loads up a truck with explosives and tries ramming Ultron with it. It doesn't work.
So really, my young fanboy complaints were pretty unfounded. Of their own accord, the heroes seem unable to defeat Ultron. But the mitigating factor is Mark Twelve, who begins tearing out circuits to make the voices in his head stop hating Number Nine.
An ironic element is that Number Nine's desire to be ordinary seems to be getting through to "Mark"...
...who as we saw is trying his best to overcome the evil personalities inside him.
But Daredevil, not quite hearing the conversation, assumes the opposite and decides he has to keep rushing in to fight Ultron.
Ultron winds up dislodging his own head in an effort to make himself right for Number Nine.
And that's what gives the heroes the opportunity to defeat him (despite the art, i'm going to say it's mostly due to Karnak; no matter what the circumstances, i don't see Daredevil being able to defeat Ultron with a tree branch).
But since they're really defeating Mark, that makes the ending more a tragedy than a super-fight upset.
These issues are a good example of what i mean when i say that the Marvel universe is greater than the sum of its parts. I had some problems with Steve Englehart's introduction of "Mark" and Englehart's writing style in general did not make those stories very good. Similarly, there's a lot of flaws in Nocenti's story here. But the fact that Nocenti is building off of what Englehart introduced and tying it in to her own story about Number Nine in her usual surreal stream-of-consciousness way, it gives the story a kind of elegance and validity. It works because it's based on developments that happened in Englehart's earlier story. I don't think i would have accepted an "Ultron with feelings" if he was introduced in this story; it would be too much on top of everything else. So individual stories may be pretty crappy but they can still be important building blocks that give meaning to the larger fictional universe. In the same way, i can look on the Acts of Vengeance crossover and still say it was a pretty cool idea even though when you look at the trees instead of the forest there are a lot of problems.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: As mentioned in the previous entry, i've allowed some time to pass since last issue, with the idea that the Inhumans have been talking with Skip Ash for a while, as the other events in Acts of Vengeance get cooking. I don't track the various incarnations of Ultron as separate characters, but i do make an exception for Ultron Mark Twelve, since he developed an extremely different personality than the others. That personality is revived here and melded with Ultron's previous iterations, so i've included "Mark" as a separate character, although arguably it's really just a copy. See above regarding Dr. Doom vis a vis his appearance in Punisher #28-29; i'm afraid that his appearance in this book and Punisher are so uncoordinated that it doesn't make a great deal of sense no matter how you place the two issues. Daredevil #277 is an out of sequence fill-in, so Daredevil #278 is the next appearance for Daredevil, Gorgon, and Karnak.
Crossover: Acts of Vengeance
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showBrandy Ash, Daredevil, Dr. Doom, Gorgon, Karnak, Lockjaw, Number Nine, Skip Ash, Ultron, Ultron Mark Twelve
I'm not sure why I laugh so much at Doom calling Daredevil "the Daredevil," but it reminds me of how old people tend to add unnecessary "the's" to a lot of things, like "THE Family Guy."
Posted by: MikeCheyne | April 4, 2015 4:35 PM
I agree - it MUST be Karnak who allows the heroes to win. It makes no sense otherwise.
I liked these issues when they came out, although like much of Nocenti's run there was a lot that bothered me.
Posted by: Chris | April 4, 2015 7:44 PM
Well, you know how to solve any continuity problem about Dr. Doom, right?
Posted by: KombatGod | September 8, 2017 5:13 PM
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