I have been incredibly critical of this series from the start, but I feel like my criticisms have been legitimate. For a book to be called ‘What If? Age of Ultron’, you’d expect Ultron to play a part in it, right? Well, we haven’t seen the maniacal machine since the first issue (unless you count the covers) and that’s sort of a big problem. However, despite the lack of that connectivity between the stories and the premise, the past few books have been pretty good.
In the issue three, we looked into a timeline that saw Thor fall before his time and required Black Widow, Shang-Chi, Falcon, Silver Sable, and Microchip to step up to defend the world from a mystical serpent. We even discovered that Natasha is one of those elite heroes who are worthy of the powers of the God of Thunder.
Now, we see who would have stepped up to become Captain America if Steve Rogers didn’t survive all those years in the ice. And that man, to the surprise of many including himself, was Frank Castle AKA The Punisher. So this small issue chronicled the many years of active duty that Castle served under the mantle of the Star-Spangled Avenger and the legacy he left when he decided to retire.
In the mainstream Marvel continuity, Frank Castle actually did take up the stars and stripes of Captain America for a short time after the assassination of Steve Rogers. That arc is one of my favorite Punisher stories of all time and I loved the suit that he wore during that period, so to see it happen again in this timeline was something that I could get behind.
Then, it took things further by introducing the Captain Americorps. Sure, it was basically a ‘Batman, Inc.’ rip-off, but it was still a lot of fun. I even enjoyed the cameo from Shannon Carter, the MC2 hero American Dream. By the time I got to the end, I wished that we had more time to spend in this timeline because who knows what else could have developed with Ava and her team of Captain Americas.
To be honest, the only thing that I disliked about this issue (besides the lack of Ultron connections) was Punisher’s Cap suit. He looked weird without the wings on the side of his head. It’s a really miniscule thing, but that might be the only hang-up that I have with this book. Otherwise, I found Keatinge’s story to be rather enjoyable. It was a little crunched considering how much time was squeezed into this issue, but there was a lot of good stuff. Like I said, I wish we could spend more time in this alternate timeline.
Basically, I’ve given up on the whole ‘What If? Age of Ultron’ premise. I don’t know what the next issue is about, but it probably won’t be what I’m expecting. Although, if the story is as fun as the last two issues, then I think I’ll be okay with it.
WHAT IF? AGE OF ULTRON #4
Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Piotr Kowalski, Neil Edwards, Rick Magyar, & Guy Major
Cover by Christopher Stevens & Jean-Francois Beaulieu