When it comes to Avengers villains, the line starts with Ultron. He’s the biggest, baddest opponent Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have ever faced. There are those who might argue it’s Kang or the Masters of Evil and they may make some valid points on the matter, but they can’t hold a candle to grudge match that Ultron’s got going with this team. He’s brutal with his attacks and when he loses, he just comes back later with more upgrades than ever before. His goals are simple enough: he wants to destroy all humans. His motivations are even simpler: he’s doing it because his daddy tried to kill him. Hank Pym, his creator, saw the evil in him early and decided to take him out before he could do some damage. Turns out that plan failed and has failed ever since. Ultron always returns to wreak havoc on the Avengers. ALWAYS! In honor of this (and the new movie coming out on May 1st), I’ve compiled a list of my favourite appearances of this bad-ass killing machine. These are best of the best stories involving Ultron. Some are classic tales. Others, hidden gems. All are must reading for any Avengers fan who just can’t wait until the movie to see some action. Read on, True Believers!
Behold the Vision – Avengers #57 (1968)
Creative Team: Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (artist)
This story’s so good it’s not only one of the best Ultron stories, it’s one of the best Avengers stories! If the title didn’t give it away, this issue marks the first appearance of the Vision (also making his cinematic debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron). Like a lot of Avengers from that era, Viz starts out as a villain but turns to the side of the angels rather quickly. He’s a sythezoid (a synthetic android) created by Ultron to attack the Avengers and lure them into a trap. But seeing these heroes in action, Vision has a change of heart and teams up with them to defeat his creator.
This was part of a series of issues revolving around Ultron at the time – his first appearance was only a few months before in issue #54 – but this is the standout of the bunch as it not only introduces us to a new character, it also broadens the net of the strange, makeshift family tree. Hank Pym’s a grand-dad! I don’t think he’ll be handing out cigars to celebrate any time soon.
The Bride of Ultron – Avenges #161-162 (1977)
Creative Team: Jim Shooter (writer), George Perez (artist)
Speaking of additions to the family tree, here comes the bride! Hank Pym, who’s been feeling stressed as of late, has a breakdown and his memory lapses back to the early days of the Avengers. He reverts to his Ant-Man persona and attacks the Avengers (who he believes have been corrupted). The Wasp shows up and is able to subdue him. Before the Avengers can really help out their friend, they’re attacked by Ultron who takes out the team and kidnaps both Pym and the Wasp. The reason for their capture? Ultron’s wants to put Wasp’s brain in a robot body to be his bride. Using Hank’s memory loss to his advantage, he convinces him that he needs to transfer his wife’s mind into an android fom to save her life. Luckily, the Avengers are able to reach them in time to stop the procedure. But Wasp’s brainwaves do get copied and Jocasta is born.
This is another great tale where a villain is introduced that will soon become a hero who joins the Avengers. Ultron’s defeat is brought about by Ironman threatening his new bride’s life, thus showing that even though he’s a robot, he still has the emotions and needs of a real live boy! His humanity is his true downfall.
Where Angels Fear to Tread – Avengers #171 (1978)
Creative Team: Jim Shooter (writer), George Perez (artist)
This one’s got a lot going on. The story takes place right in the middle of the Korvac Saga , when the Avengers had a lot on their plate. They’re tracking Jocasta through the streets of New York in hopes that she will lead them directly to Ultron. Guess what? She does! Oddly enough, the location she leads them to is a convent. Ultron removes the Scarlet Witch and Ms. Marvel from the equation by sicking a robot nun on them (it reads better in the book than it does here). With the two of them preoccupied, Ultron’s able to defeat the rest of the team and trap them in a force field. But instead of just killing them, he pauses to wed Jocasta…..who in turn betrays him and aids the Avengers in defeating him.
Because this story is just an issue that’s part of the bigger story involving Korvac, there’s a number of odd occurances happening here. Heroes disappear and reappear throughout the book mysteriously. The reason for this is that they’re being beamed up and captured by the Collector. But even though there’s some long term plot points happening, this issue still stands as a great Ultron appearance. The Avengers are nearly defeated and there’s no denying the android’s dominance over the group in combat. If it wasn’t for the Scarlet Witch showing back up near the end, the robot might have defeated them this time.
The Evil Reborn – Avengers #201-202 (1980)
Creative Team: Jim Shooter and David Michelinie (writers), George Perez (artist)
This issue might have been the major influence behind the plot of the upcoming film. By use of mind control, Ultron commands Tony Stark to build him a new body using adamantium from his own production plant and components from Hank Pym’s lab. He also has Stark abduct Wanda (Scarlet Witch) to ensure she will not be a factor in beating him a second time. It’s a well thought out plan except that he didn’t plan on The Wasp hitching a ride in Wanda’s glove or Iron Man breaking free of his control. They hold the fort against Ultron until the rest of the Avengers arrive and the group delivers a grand butt-kicking. How do they defeat him this time? Why by poring vats of molten adamantium on him until his body hardens and becomes immobile, of course.
This story, like many on the list, was drawn by George Perez. Nobody does a better job of rendering the mechanical, demonic smile of Ultron. His work on the character is always good, but has never been better than in the next entry on the list.
Ultron Unlimited – Avengers Vol. 3 #19-22 (1999)
Creative Team: Kurt Busiek (writer), George Perez (artist)
Another entry from list of Greatest Avengers Stories! This is by far the best Ultron tale ever! The European Country of Slorenia is destroyed and all of it’s inhabitants are dead. And from the destruction of this small baltic country comes a message – Ultron has returned and the human race’s days are numbered. The planet’s only hope is a UN strike led by The Avengers themselves. With teammates captured, Cap, Thor, Iron Man, The Black Panther and Firestar must battle through an army of robots and cyborg zombies to get to the genocidal Ultron and face him in the final showdown.
With this one story, Kurt Busiek solidifies Ultron’s claim as Best Avergers Villian by making him more vile and destructive than ever before. He kills an entire country and ressurects them as robot zombies! He has an army of older Ultrons as his foot soldiers. This also marks a shocking revelation regarding his making: Hank Pym used a digital copy of his own brain to create the robot. All the family drama of a classic Ultron tale is on display and the action is top knotch. The best artwork Perez has ever drawn and probably the best superhero epic that Busiek has ever written. Hands down.
The Ultron Initiative – Mighty Avengers #1-6 (2007)
Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Frank Cho (artist)
This one’s on here not only because it’s another fantastic Avengers tale but also because of it’s creative use of Ultron. In the fallout of the Super-hero Civil War, Iron Man commissions Ms. Marvel to help him put together a new Avengers team. On their first mission out, the shit hits the fan. Iron Man is dead and Ultron has returned! But this time, he’s taken a form resembling The Wasp. Thrown off their game and trying to figure out if their teammate is actually dead, the Avengers must be ready to do battle with arguably their greatest and most fearsome villain.
As stated above, Frank Cho (not a popular fellow these days) is the artist for this story. Cho was up front with the fact that he’s not very good at drawing Ultron. So what do you do when your artist can’t draw your main villain? Let him draw what he draws best: a woman. By hiding Cho’s weakness and playing to his strength, Bendis gave us another layer to Ultron’s psyche. We also get to see heroes like Ares and The Sentry, two heroes who’ve never faced Ultron, go face to face (and at one point, inside) this great villain. In my opinion, this is the last great Ultron tale to be told thus far.
So that’s the list. Some of you might disagree with a few of my choices or omissions, but these are the Ultron stories that stand out as the hallmark of quality when it comes to the Avengers’ most fearsome villain. Check ’em out today!
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!