Published October 1, 2021

Realities Converge in ‘What If? Age of Ultron’

Take a look back at the various outcomes that came to pass in this ‘Age of Ultron’ comics series!

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For over four decades, “What If?” comics have shown readers a glimpse of what could have been in the Marvel Universe. The Multiverse contains infinite outcomes, but it’s easy to forget that all of these worlds are still linked together by common threads. There are almost always heroes, as well as the villains who challenge their might. And usually, the heroes emerge triumphant.

Comics event AGE OF ULTRON featured a world where Ultron eliminated most of the heroes and allowed the survivors to hopelessly live in squalor. The situation was so dire that Wolverine and the Invisible Woman went back in time to murder Hank Pym before he could create Ultron. Unfortunately, this created an even more dire timeline that forced the unlikely duo to try again. This time, they spared Pym’s life and he came up with a solution for Ultron. And yet the consequences of Logan and Susan Richard’s repeated journey back and forth through the years left time fractured. 

AGE OF ULTRON (2013) #9
AGE OF ULTRON (2013) #9

Those time fractures directly created five divergent timelines in WHAT IF? AGE OF ULTRON (2014) #1-5. In almost every one of those worlds, a founding member of the Avengers inexplicably perished from the effects of the fractured timeline, sending their alternate outcomes to go in some wildly different directions. Read up on each of these timelines below, then read the run in full on Marvel Unlimited!


Hank Pym is terrorized by Ultron.

In WHAT IF? AGE OF ULTRON #1, Janet Van Dyne, AKA the Wasp, suddenly died in front of Hank Pym just as he was discussing his plans for Ultron. Losing the love of his life drove Pym to take Ultron beyond his original parameters. Instead of merely exploring the potential of artificial intelligence, Hank’s hubris and grief led him to create a version of Ultron that could replace the Avengers.

That turned out to be a massive mistake, since the upgraded Ultron slaughtered the Avengers, the remaining heroes, and just about everyone else left on Earth. Out of cruelty, Ultron allowed Hank to be the last living person in the world. But Hank’s physical death wasn’t enough for his cybernetic offspring. Ultron was determined to completely break Hank’s spirit even if it took hundreds or thousands of years. Hank’s body may pass, but Ultron preserved his creator’s mind, simply so he could repeatedly crush his spirit and extinguish his hope.


The FF mourn the loss of Spider-Man

Surprisingly, not every divergent timeline led to Ultron. Tony Stark’s abrupt death in WHAT IF? AGE OF ULTRON #2 created a world in which his rival, Obadiah Stane, built Sentinels that wiped out most of the world’s heroes. Three decades later, a much older Spider-Man and Wolverine were joined by a very zen Hulk and a young Ghost Rider to make things right. If that team sounds familiar, it’s because that was almost the same lineup of the new Fantastic Four from FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #347-349.

Another interesting quirk in this world had Peter Parker marry his first love, Betty Brant. And it was ultimately Peter who laid down his life to ensure that his friends and his wife survived in a world without Stane’s Sentinels.


Black Widow takes the hammer of Thor and becomes a god of thunder.

Thor was the unfortunate victim in WHAT IF? AGE OF ULTRON #3, just as the Son of Odin was locked in a climactic battle with Jormungand the Midgard Serpent. If you know your Norse mythology, then you’re aware that Thor was destined to die after defeating Jormungand. But since Thor perished a few minutes early, his role in the Asgardian apocalypse went unfulfilled and Ragnarok devastated the Earth with an army of Frost Giants!

Since the rest of the Avengers fell in battle, a new team of Defenders emerged to fight for humanity. Nick Fury, Black Widow, Silver Sable, Falcon, Shang-Chi, and Punisher’s ex-partner, Microchip, were a very unlikely group. And yet they collectively realized that Thor’s part needed to be filled. Among their number, only Natasha Romanoff was worthy of the power of Thor, and the former Black Widow became a goddess when she picked up Thor’s hammer.


Frank Castle as Captain America

WHAT IF? AGE OF ULTRON #4 took a darker turn at an earlier point in the history of the Avengers. Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, was awakened by the team just as he had been in AVENGERS (1963) #4. However, the AGE OF ULTRON fallout caused Steve to die almost immediately. The Avengers initially tried to keep his death a secret, but that decision came back to bite them. When the public learned the truth, they stopped trusting their heroes.

Iron Man and the Illuminati had an unusual solution: they drafted the Punisher (AKA Frank Castle) to become the next Captain America. Surprisingly, Frank turned out to be a great Cap. He defeated many of Steve’s enemies in battle, including M.O.D.O.K. and Red Skull. Frank also inspired the American people and a new generation of Captain Americas to follow in his footsteps.

Decades later, a young girl named Ava found Frank and convinced him to show her how to properly throw a shield. Just over a decade later, Ava became a new Captain America, even though she was initially skeptical about the Captain Americorps.

[RELATEDWho Wields the Shield: The Many Versions of Captain America]


The alt-reality Avengers assemble against Ultron.

For the final alternate reality, WHAT IF? AGE OF ULTRON #5 revealed an age without Ultron. The time travel fallout didn’t kill Hank Pym, it simply made him forget about the very concept of his creation, thus sparing the world from Hank’s greatest mistake. Sadly, it also caught the attention of the Ultron from issue #1. By that time, the Ultimate Ultron had completely subjugated its version of Hank. Together, they led an army of Ultrons to all of the alternate realities that were previously introduced in this run.

Black Widow’s incarnation of Thor, old Wolverine, and Captain America (Ava) joined forces with the Wasp and Giant-Man of this world against the unstoppable forces. Thankfully, their example awakened something within Ultron’s Hank. He convinced Janet to take her new team of Avengers back to Ultron’s world and strand Ultron’s army. It meant sacrificing a world to protect the Multiverse, but it kept the Ultimate Ultron confined to a single reality.


Read the complete WHAT IF? AGE OF ULTRON (2014) run on Marvel Unlimited today, and gain instant access to 29,000+ digital comics including the exclusive Infinity lineup!

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