We are still a couple months away from the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron and the third trailer just dropped last week (see it here) and you may be asking your self, what the hell is an Ultron? Why does Kick-Ass have white hair? What was that pink thing at the end? Well fear not true believers, I’ve put together a list of required reading so when May comes along you’ll have the privilege of being able to freak out at the post credits scene while every one else is confused.
The Ultimates and The Ultimates 2 by Mark Millar with Art by Bryan Hitch
Let’s go back to the simpler days of 2002. Nelly’s Hot in Herre was number one on the charts, we had just crowned our first American Idol and Marvel launch its ultimate line of comics. The Ultimate line of comics had two purposes. The first was to give writers a chance to work with their favorite characters without the burden of 70 years of canon. Some characters like Spider-man started back from square one and got a new and updated origin story. Others like the X-men got face lifts and had major changes made to its canon. The idea was that this new universe would allow for writers to tell interesting stories without screwing up the main marvel canon while at the same time giving the stories weight. If a character died in the ultimate universe they really died, they may not ever come back like they might in the main marvel universe. So the second goal was to create stories that would make good transitions to film or TV. Mark Millar had this in mind when he wrote the Ultimates and wrote the book with TV and film in mind. While neither of these story arcs are going to be about Ultron they will give you a good foundation of who the avengers are and serve as a introduction to characters we haven’t met yet. The books are very accessible and don’t require prior knowledge to read. While the stories are ridiculous and over the top they are grounded and take place in a more realistic world than normal marvel universe.
There is a third volume, Ultimates 3, but I don’t suggest that. These two tell a pretty complete story and again, a little over the top, but will give you a good foundation of marvel.
Age of Ultron by Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch
I know this one seems like a no brainer and should be the first thing on the list, I mean this literally has the title of the movie in its name. The problem is that while Age of Ultron is a good story there is actually not a ton of Ultron stuff in it. Are you scratching your head in confusion? The story takes place in an alternative future where Ultron has all ready taken over the planet. The remains of the marvel heroes send Wolverine back in time in order to kill Hank Pym in order to prevent him from creating Ultron in the first place. Most of the story takes place in the past before Ultron is created and really centered around the ethics of committing a murder in order to save millions. Again its a good read but will have nothing to do with the actual movie coming out this summer.
The Avengers 54-58: First Appearance of Ultron by Roy Thomas and John Buscema
This is the first story with Ultron. I wouldn’t really bother, its from the 60’s and is confusing mess. It seems counter intuitive that you would want to skip the origin comic of a character but with these characters being around since the 60’s they are fairly irrelevant at this point.
The Mighty Avengers 1-6 – The Ultron Initiative by Brian Michael Bendis and Frank Cho
This story is definitely a lot newer and while its still a little complicated will be a better read. There is a lot of Ultron in this story but Ultron appears as a half woman half robot hybrid this time around.
Annihilation: Conquest By Various Authors and Artists
This story is sort of a sequel to the Ultron Initiative and involves the cosmic characters of the Marvel universe instead of our typical crew of Avengers. I’d generally not suggest this since the cosmic characters go pretty deep in the line up of known characters but with Groot being a first name character for kids across the country I full support this book to read now.
Avengers 19-22 Ultron Unlimited – by Kurt Busiek and George Perez
This is an older comic but generally considered the best Ultron story there is. Ultron is a real threat in this story line and poses a real challenge for the Avengers. Not only that but there is a lot of collateral damage and will likely be on par with the scale we’ll see in Age of Ultron this summer. The art is great, George Perez is a legend, however it is a little 80’s.
Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin and George Perez / Ron Lim
There’s no Ultron in this book but you are going to need to read this book any way for Phase 3 so you mine as well start now. The after credits scene in Avengers Age of Ultron can be over several things. It can be a clue to Ant Man which will come later this year or possibly a lead up to Captain America 3: Civil War. But if I were a betting man I would guess the teaser will be for the entire Phase 3 which will center around Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet.
Where to Get These Books?
If you want to read any of these books there are a few options, you can go to your local comic book store or book store and they are likely to have some, however this option will likely be fairly expensive. Use the Comic Book Shop Finder to find the closest shop to you (click here).
Second you can buy any of these on Comixology (click here) digitally which will cost some what less and the most convenient. The best part about Comixology is they are constantly having sales so if you keep an eye out you can get some of these books on the cheap. Marvel has sales every Monday and Friday and will periodically have sales in between.
You can get a subscription to Marvel Comics Unlimited (click here) which has all of these books and costs 60 dollars for a years subscription or 10 dollars a month (you can cancel whenever you want).
Last and cheapest would be to go to your local library and check out the books. Libraries are getting hip these days and might have some of the more popular books on hand, however you may need to ask to see if they can special order some of the more obscure books.