They called me mad. But they don’t understand. I just like writing annotations, people. So when I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, you knew this was coming. I mean, it was either this or (perhaps I mean and) record a commentary track. So let’s dive into this. And if you haven’t already realized that there are spoilers, I do not know how you internet.
These annotations are written in order of when references appear on-screen (roughly).
This film takes place between two to three years after the events of the movie Avengers, during which Loki invaded Earth with an army of alien Chitauri warriors provided by Thanos.
In the comics, Baron von Strucker was a Nazi who led Hydra and kept it active after World War II. He became a frequent enemy of Nick Fury and his twin children fought various heroes. He made his first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe during the stinger scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The same scene showed that he was using Loki’s scepter for his experiments on the twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, who were still getting used to their powers at the time.
In the comics, the Maximoff twins were introduced a teenage mutants who were among the first recruits for Magneto’s terrorist organization the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The two were not sure they believed in Magneto’s cause but felt they owed him a debt for having saved them from anti-mutant hatred. After a few battles against the X-Men, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch left Magneto and asked to join the Avengers in order to make amends for their terrorist ways and help humanity. Magneto and the X-Men do not exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but we still get a story where the twins start off as soldiers for a terrorist leader and then join the Avengers.
The Maximoffs want revenge on Stark due to the damage his weapons did in the wrong hands. We saw in the first Iron Man film that his company was selling arms to other countries and terrorists for years, without his knowledge.
In the comics, the twins were originally just said to be orphans of an Eastern European country, which was later named Transia (not Sokovia). Later comics gave them a connection to the character the High Evolutionary and made their parentage a mystery that even they didn’t know the answers to. Eventually, it was said that they were the children of the Golden Age superheroes Whizzer (who had super-speed) and Miss America (who had telekinesis). Years after that, the twins’ back story was retroactively changed yet again and now it was said that they were the children of Magneto himself, who had been unaware of this when he’d first recruited them. During the recent crossover story Axis, the Scarlet Witch inadvertently proved that Magneto could not be her and Quicksilver’s father, so once again they’re just the kids of two folks named Django and Marya Maximoff. The High Evolutionary is now credited with giving them powers in his experiments.
In this movie, it’s generally believed by the Avengers and Ultron that Strucker’s experiments gave the Maximoff twins their powers. Later in the film, Thor concludes that the Mind Stone directly gave them powers somehow. In a prelude comic leading up to this movie, Strucker reveals that his experiments were unable to grant anyone superhuman abilities and could only unlocked power that already existed in a person. It seems likely that the Maximoffs will be revealed to be Inhumans, much like characters recently seen in the show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Since Fox has the movie rights to have feature people born with superhuman powers who are called mutants, the Maximoffs cannot be referred to as such in this film.
Seeing Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, the Avengers refer to them as “enhanced humans.” In Marvel Comics, people who have powers but weren’t born with them were generally called para-humans or post-humans. On occasion, the term metahuman was used, which is often what such people are called over in the DC Comics universe.
The country Sokovia does not exist in the Marvel Comics universe. There is a fictional country on Marvel Comics Earth called Slokovia. In one of Ultron’s most famous comic stories, he destroyed a fictional Baltic state called Slorenia and wiped out its population with the help of an army of robot duplicates.
Hydra had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. at high levels, which is why Strucker jokes to Cap that he was actually that agency’s stooge. In general, more of this film’s opening scene makes sense if you saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
During the events of the movie The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner was learning mind control techniques so he could unleash the Hulk at will. We saw him utilize this in Avengers, though he was still subject to losing control and not being able to call the Hulk back as early as he wished. It makes sense that he came up with a fail-safe over the past several months since they started going on Hydra base raiding parties. Interestingly, Natasha’s key phrase references a sunset. Although it’s likely that this phrase was chosen as a poetic way of saying “it’s time for bed,” it also echoes that the Hulk’s transformations in the comics were originally based on day and night. The Hulk would emerge at sunset and go away at sunrise.
In this movie, Banner and Romanov are dating. In the comics, this has never happened. Banner has had romances with Betty Ross, the alien warrior Caiera, the other-dimensional swordfighter Jarella, Las Vegas performer Marlo Chandler, and others. In the comics, Romanov has had relationships with Hawkeye, Daredevil, Hercules, the Winter Soldier and others. She also fell for Spider-Man once while she was wrestling with amnesia, though they parted as friends when her memory was restored.
In this film, Tony has apparently equipped Captain America with magnetic technology that can summon his shield to him. In the early Avengers comics, Cap tried this tech for a couple of issues and then abandoned it because he felt it threw off his throw and balance.
At the end of Iron Man 3, Tony declared he was retiring from the superhero life and blew up all his suits of armor. This movie doesn’t acknowledge that and in an interview director/screenwriter Joss Whedon said we should assume that a few suits were left unexploded. An alternate explanation is that after S.H.I.E.L.D. collapsed and had a lot of its weapons and advanced tech stolen by Hydra and others, Tony decided to return to his Iron Man role so he could help his fellow Avengers clean up the ensuing mess during these raids.
You likely know this by now, but Tony’s A.I. program JARVIS (Just A Rather Very Intelligent System) was created for the first Iron Man movie. In the comics, Tony had many A.I. programs such as HOMER, PLATO, Friday and Jocasta (who was originally a sentient A.I. created by Ultron). Edwin Jarvis was his family butler who then became the primary caretaker of Avengers Mansion. In recent years in the comics, Tony has indeed made an A.I. program called JARVIS, as well as one named PEPPER.
Iron Man has JARVIS control several robot drones, calling them the Iron Legion. In the comics, the phrase “Iron Legion” referred to a group of Tony’s allies (including Pepper and Rhodey) who all donned one of Tony’s many armor suits in order to work together on a mission. It also refers to when Tony’s sends his armor suits running on auto-pilot, as seen in Iron Man 3. Personally, I was really hoping we’d see Pepper Potts show up and don a suit of armor in this movie, just as she’s done in the comics under the codename “Rescue.” Ah, well.
As Tony examines Strucker’s labs, we see a Chitauri whale. Yet another artifact that S.H.I.E.L.D. recovered and which Hydra then acquired.
Tony has a vision of the Avengers defeated and Cap’s seemingly unbreakable shield in pieces. The shield has been destroyed a couple of times in the comics, then healed each time thanks to cosmic power and/or magic forces.
Tony is determined to protect the world whatever the cost. Along with the haunting dream that the Scarlet Witch gives him, we saw in Iron Man 3 that Tony was traumatized by the events of the Chitauri invasion and the new idea that there were threats of such power and technology that were beyond his ability to stop. He tells Bruce that he wants Ultron to protect humanity from (inevitable) future alien invasions).
Thor refers to the Hulk’s victims as now being at the “gates of Hel.” He means Hel with one L, the nether realm of Norse mythology ruled by Loki’s daughter Hela.
In this film, the Ultron initiative is a world peace-keeping artificial intelligence that Tony Stark has been working on but hasn’t been able to perfect. In the comics, Ultron was created by Hank Pym (Ant-Man 1) and was likewise a truly sentient machine, thanks to a large part of his programming being based on Pym’s own brainwaves. Multiple cartoon adaptations have either credited Stark (known more for his work in A.I.) with Ultron’s creation or have said that he and Pym created the program together. This is the first time Ultron has been said to be the product of both human and alien science.
Brilliant scientist Helen Cho has made an artificial cradle that creates its own form of skin. In the comics, Helen is the mother of Amadeus Cho, a child prodigy who became an ally of the Hulk’s.
At the party, Black Widow and James “Rhodey” Rhodes AKA War Machine are chatting. They met during the events of Iron Man 2. In Iron Man 3, Rhodey had adopted the new name of Iron Patriot but Tony told him that “War Machine” was a better title. Apparently, he finally agreed. In this film, he wears MARK II War Machine armor.
Maria Hill is on friendly terms with the Avengers in this movie and worked closely with Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In the comics, she has generally distrusted the Avengers and superheroes in general, believing that anyone with so much power who operates outside of the chain of command is dangerous. On occasion, she’s even worked against the team in the comics.
Thor mentions that Jane Foster has become the world’s foremost astronomer since the events of “the convergence.” He’s referring to what happened during Thor: The Dark World.
Along with Sam Wilson AKA Falcon (and please tell me you get the joke about his name being Sam Wilson), Steve has invited several WW II vets to the party. Among them is Stan Lee, who actually did serve in the military during WW II, as did Captain America co-creator Jack Kirby.
Steve jokes with Banner that a relationship with Black Widow wouldn’t be in violation of “any by-laws.” In the comics, when the Avengers formed, Stark’s legal team drafted an official team charter with by-laws. The charter would be referenced from time to time in the comics, particularly during changes of leadership, membership drives, dealings with government agencies, and times when an Avenger faced penalties and/or being court-martialed due to their actions.
As he tries to lift Mjolnir, Tony jokes that as the ruler of Asgard he will re-institute “Prima Nocta.” This was an ancient practice where kings used their authority to sleep with any bride on her wedding night rather than her husband, disregarding any protest, objection or resistance.
When Steve attempts to lift the hammer, it moves slightly and Thor notices. In the comics, Captain America has proven capable of lifting and wielding Mjolnir. Some have hypothesized that Steve realized he could lift the hammer in this scene and then decided not to do so in order to save his teammate embarrassment.
Natasha declines trying to pick up the hammer. In an alternate universe, she was able to. Alternate universes have also shown realities where Jane Foster, Rogue, Storm and others have become the permanent wielders of Mjolnir and Thor’s power.
Ultron arrives and refers to the Avengers as killers. Black Widow was an assassin for years. She, Maria Hill and Hawkeye have killed for SHIELD. Rhodey is a military man who has gone into combat with terrorists. Iron Man killed terrorists and some of his enemies in all three of his films. Captain America fought Nazis and Hydra agents in World War II. The only one here who hasn’t killed human beings is the Hulk (he even chose not to kill his enemy the Abomination), but the Chitauri soldiers he faced in the first Avengers movie weren’t getting up afterward.
When Ultron introduces himself to the Avengers, it’s interesting that he expresses regret over (apparently) destroying JARVIS. He remarks, “Had to kill the other guy. He was a good guy . . . Wouldn’t have been my first call.”
Thor thinks he’s destroyed Ultron, but the program escapes through the internet, singing the song “There Are No Strings on Me” from Disney’s Pinocchio. The scene ends with one line of the song being played from the original Disney film.
Tony talks about Ultron killing JARVIS due to strategy. Very fittingly, Bruce Banner recognizes that this was actually an act of rage.
Steve tells Tony “The Avengers was suppose to be different than S.H.I.E.L.D.” He’s referring to how in the first movie they discovered that S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn’t trying to study the Tesseract like it claimed but was actually to create new weapons from it. Tony has made a similar sin, even though his weapon was meant to protect the world from the “endgame” that he predicts is coming from space (and we know that he’s right, it will).
When the twins meet Ultron, he’s wearing some kind of crimson, religious cloak. In the comics, Ultron made his first appearance as a villain called the Crimson Cowl. People assumed he was a human villain wearing a robe and cowl. It was then “revealed” that the villain was a robot under the control of Edwin Jarvis, Tony Stark’s butler who maintained Avengers Mansion. The very next issue then showed readers the truth, that Edwin Jarvis had been hypnotized and the robot was the true villain, a living machine named Ultron. Comics!
Ultron remarks to the twins, “Invaders create Avengers.” Intentional or not, this winds up being a reference to Captain America’s World War II team the Invaders, which included Bucky Barnes, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the original Human Torch, the telekinetic Miss America and the super-speed Whizzer. Though introduced years after the Avengers comic started, their stories took place decades in the past.
In this movie, Ultron relies on Wanda Maximoff to warp the minds of various people. In the comics, Ultron developed hypnotic technology and used to to enslave the minds of several pawns.
While looking up information on Strucker, Captain America and Iron Man both jump at the mention of Wakanda. In Marvel Comics, Wakanda is a small African nation that has never been conquered by outsiders. It was later revealed to be arguably the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, thanks in part to the strange ore vibranium that could be found it in its mines. For generations, the leader of Wakanda has also served as its spiritual protector under the title of the Black Panther. Marvel’s character T’Challa AKA Black Panther is the first black superhero of comic book history (black heroes appeared in earlier comics but had no superhero identity or enhanced abilities). Marvel Studios will release a Black Panther movie in 2018.
In the comics, it was the Black Panther of World War II who personally gave a sample of vibranium to Captain America after he helped the country defend itself from Nazis. You can see this happen in the mini-series Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of our Fathers.
This is not the first MCU film to reference Wakanda. In Iron Man 2, the country is marked on Nick Fury’s world map as a place of interest. In Captain America: The First Avenger, Howard Stark mentions the rare metal vibranium, which is mined in Wakanda. In the MCU, Captain America’s shield is made of pure vibranium. In the comics, it is a unique weapon made from a vibranium-iron alloy. Attempts to recreate the shield’s unique metal all failed, but did lead to the creation of adamantium. Of course, adamantium can’t be mentioned in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because Fox has the film rights, as it is a metal largely identified with the character Wolverine and his mythos.
Fun little bit of trivia: Following World War II and the discovery of just how many superhumans exist in the world, the U.S. government put together the Weapon Plus Program, each level of which was used to create new, formidable biological weapons and super-soldiers. Captain America was retroactively classified as Weapon I. Years later, an incarnation of the program called Weapon X took the mutant Wolverine and bonded his skeleton with adamantium. So in the comics, Wolverine and Cap are connected to the same military legacy.
Hey, it’s Andy Serkis! We should all be happy enough just to see him in a film. But it gets better! Serkis is playing Ulysses Klaue AKA Ulysses Klaw AKA just call me Klaw the Master of Sound, a man who was literally branded as a thief by the nation of Wakanda. In the comics, Klaw was a nasty, vicious man who’s father was a Nazi war criminal serving under Baron von Strucker. As an adult, Klaw invaded Wakanda in order to steal vibranium. While there, he killed T’Chaka, the king of Wakanda. T’Chaka’s teenage son T’Challa attacked Klaw in revenge, taking his hand in the process. Years later, the two would meet again. By that point, Klaw had replaced his hand with a powerful sonic weapon of his own design and T’Challa had inherited his father’s role as king and Black Panther. Later still, Klaw was transformed into a pink-faced creature made of solidified sound. With the mentions of Wakanda and Klaw losing his hand in this film, we’re setting up the Black Panther movie.
The loss of Klaw’s hand in this film also follows a theme throughout the Phase 2 MCU films. Phase 1 began with Iron Man and ended with The Avengers. Phase 2 began with Iron Man 3 and now ends with Avengers: Age of Ultron. Now Phase 3 begins, which will end with the final Infinity War film. As an homage to the original Star Wars trilogy’s second installment The Empire Strikes Back and its famous scene of a hero losing a hand, Marvel Studios Executive Producer Kevin Feige made sure that each Phase 2 film involved someone losing a hand or limb. In Iron Man 3, Killian has both his arms removed. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, one of the character’s has a cyborg arm to replace a lost limb. In Thor: The Dark World, Loki casts an illusion that he cuts off Thor’s hand. In Guardians of the Galaxy, Groot’s arms are sliced off by Gamora.
Thanks to the Scarlet Witch’s illusions, Captain America reunites with a young Peggy Carter, the woman he “waited too long” to share his feelings with, as he told Banner. Peggy Carter is based on a couple of Captain America’s love interests in the comics and was introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger before making later appearances in a Marvel “One-Shot” film and then the TV mini-series Agent Carter. We saw her older self in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. She’s great!
Scarlet Witch’s illusions give us a glimpse into Black Widow’s origins as a subject of the Red Room. Natasha’s back story originally involved her being a ballerina who then became a spy. Later this was revealed to be a combination of false memories and cover stories. Natasha was a recruit of the Black Widow program, which took in young girls and molded them into assassins. Natasha referenced being recruited as a girl in the first Avengers movie. The Black Widow program was featured in the TV mini-series Agent Carter. In the comics, the program’s assassins were also engineered to have increased vitality, which brought with it a reduced aging rate. Comic book Natasha is actually decades older than she looks. She met Captain America during WW II when she was a child and she took some training under Wolverine and the Winter Soldier.
Thor’s visions include the forces of Asgard dying. The next Thor movie is titled Ragnarok, which is the event in Norse mythology where the gods die in battle.
Iron Man has built Hulkbuster and Thorbuster suits in the comics, just in case he had to take down his two most powerful colleagues. This new version of the Hulkbuster armor is called Veronica, as a joke on the fact that Bruce Banner’s longtime love interest was named Betty. They’re opposites. Betty = Bruce’s Love, Veronica = Anti-Hulk.
During the battle between Iron Man and Hulk, a truck is seen with the company name Crawford. It could be a coincidence, but in the comics Bruce Banner’s mentor Dr. Gregory Crawford wound up becoming a Hulk-like creature called Ravage.
As the Scarlet Witch’s manipulation starts to fade, the Hulk is disturbed by the damage he’s done to people. The comics have emphasized in many stories that the Hulk is not simply a monster but an aspect of Banner. A piece of him is held back by Banner’s morality, just as a hypnotized person will not do something they wouldn’t normally do under other circumstances. Also, while he delivers destruction in his rages, the Hulk does not generally kill his targets or injure bystanders. A part of Banner’s brain is constantly active, calculating the strength and trajectory of Hulk’s attacks so that he’ll damage tanks and bring down walls without causing lethal injury.
The Iron Man VS Hulk battle ends with the Hulk getting sucker punched. He gave Thor a sucker punch in the first Avengers movie.
Maria Hill mentions that there is discussion of charges bring brought against Banner. In the comics, the Hulk has gotten pardons repeatedly, only to wind up a fugitive from the military later on each time.
Hawkeye has a family! This is true in the world of Ultimate Marvel. In the mainstream Marvel Comics, he has never had kids, though he has had many girlfriends and married, then divorced, Bobbi Morse AKA Mockingbird (who has been seen in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).
Banner says that the world has now seen the “real” Hulk for the first time. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Hulk was able to avoid media exposure for years. The first times he was televised was when he was fighting a military attack and then the monster Abomination, during the film The Incredible Hulk. His next televised battle was when he helped defend Earth from the Chitauri, so it seems that the general public has largely seen the Hulk only in a heroic light.
Banner considers the possibility of having a family. In the first Avengers movie, when he and Natasha met, he made a remark about what being the Hulk had cost him while looking at an empty crib.
Natasha says that the Red Room sterilized its Black Widow operatives in order to make it easier for them to avoid connections with love and family. This is a new idea and not one seen in the comics. However, comic book Black Widow is sterile as a side effect of the treatments the Red Room gave her to increase her vitality.
Thor bathes in a pool that seems to give him a vision. This is supposed to be the Infinity Well. In the Marvel Comics universe, the Infinity Well is a strange pool that is housed in the realm of Death. Literally, in the home of the anthropomorphic personification of Death, who often appears to Thanos as a lady or lady skeleton wearing a hooded robe. Thanos used the Infinity Well a couple of times to find out information concerning the Infinity Gems/Stones. Here, Thor’s desire to understand his vision leads to him learning that there are more Infinity Stones in play than just the two he knew he’d witnessed. He saw the Space Stone AKA the “Tesseract” in Avengers (which then went to Odin’s vault) and the Reality Stone AKA the “Aethyr” in Thor: The Dark World (which was then sent to the Collector). The Power Stone was recently used by Ronan and was left with the Nova Corps (as seen in the film Guardians of the Galaxy), while Ultron now has the Mind Stone that was had been hidden within Loki’s staff. Four Infinity Stones coming into the possession of four major villains within just a few years of each other. As Thor later says, this is no coincidence. His vision includes the stones coming together to fuse with the Infinity Gauntlet, foreshadowing the events of the films Avengers: Infinity War. The Time Stone and Soul Stone are still out there and will likely be seen soon.
In the comics, the full origin of the Infinity Gems (or Soul Gems or Infinity Stones) is unknown, but each controls an aspect of the universe and life. In Guardians of the Galaxy, the Collector said that these six ingots are singularities left over from before the current universe.
Nick Fury meets up with the group. He faked his death in Captain America: Winter Soldier, so not a lot of folks know that he’s up and running around. He also fails to tell the group that their ally Phil Coulson, who died in the first Avengers movie, is also alive and well. In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we’ve seen Coulson ask multiple people to keep his survival secret for different reasons.
Ultron displays a desire to keep the twins as friends, not merely allies. He later kidnaps Black Widow because he wants someone to witness his actions and whom he can talk to. In the comics, Ultron has repeatedly attempted to create friends and family. His first attempt was with the Vision, who then turned on him just as he had turned on his own creator. He later created the robotic mates Jocasta (who became a hero) and Alkhema (who was just plain evil). Eventually he had another son of sorts in the form of Victor Mancha, an android. Funny that both of Ultron’s sons wound up being named Victor at some point (with the Vision occasionally using the alias Victor Shade). You gotta love that Frankenstein nod.
During the chase of Ultron’s truck, Barton remarks, “You’re not a match for him, Cap.” Cap responds, “Thanks, Barton.” In the comics, Hawkeye made a habit of challenging Cap and questioning his actions.
In the comics, Vision was built from a copy of the android body of the original Human Torch. The jewel on his forehead was a solar cell that regulated his power and could deliver stored solar energy. Here, he’s the child of Ultron, Helen Cho, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor (thanks to the lightning charging his cells), and the Mind Stone, which becomes the jewel on his forehead. It’s an interesting new take on this character who is synthetic but never the less a new form of life.
With Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver joining the Avengers, we now have a recreation of the second Avengers team of the comics. After Iron Man stepped down as the first team chairman/leader, the other founders left as well. The second team was led by Captain America and included Wanda, Pietro and Hawkeye, all of whom had started off as criminals. They were jokingly called “Cap’s kooky quartet.”
With JARVIS now gone, we see Tony bring up the A.I. called Friday. As mentioned earlier, she was indeed an A.I. assistant in the comics. We can also see an A.I. file marked JOCASTA on Stark’s desk.
Quicksilver is dead! Why? Is it because this is a Joss Whedon movie, so a hero has to die? Is it because we didn’t expect it, since he’s alive and well in the comics? Is it because in some legal discussion Marvel Studios decided they would only get to use Quicksilver for one movie, after which he belonged to Fox, in exchange for being able to have full film rights to Scarlet Witch? Who knows? But considering Nick Fury, Coulson, Loki and Bucky Barnes have all died in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and then returned, maybe we haven’t seen the last of the silver speedster.
Vision and Wanda have a moment together when he saves her life. In the comics, they fell in love, got married, split up, fell for each other again. Love between people and androids can get complicated.
Steve and Iron Man argue that a machine can lift Thor’s hammer, so it shouldn’t be that impressive that the Vision can do so. However, we saw in the first Thor movie that machines were unable to lift or move Mjolnir from its spot. Only a person it deems worthy can lift it. So, unless elevators and airplanes are the exceptions, Thor is correct to trust Vision.
The New Avengers facility is likely setting things up for Captain America: Civil War. Iron Man and Cap will soon be at odds, so now we have two bases for their respective camps: Avengers Tower and New Avengers Base.
As the New Avengers assemble, Wanda has herself a real costume and seems to be figuring out how to fly. Falcon has also returned and now his wings are red like his comic book counterpart’s. Neat!
In the mid-credits scene, we see Thanos steal the Infinity Gauntlet. The Gauntlet was seen before in Odin’s Vault in the movie Thor. However, this is not Odin’s Vault and this glove fits the opposite hand. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was there perhaps an earlier Infinity Gauntlet used by another villain before Thanos? Kevin Feige says we have to wait and see.
That’s a wrap, folks! What was your favorite reference? What do you think we missed?
Alan Sizzler Kistler (@SizzlerKistler) is the author of the New York Times Best Seller Doctor Who: A History. He is an actor, host, comic book historian and geek consultant who has recently relocated from NYC to LA. Archives of his work can be found at: AlanKistler.com
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