This post was originally published on February 17 2010
Doug: The New Year brings with it some new features here on the BAB blog. Today we'll begin a semi-regular series called "versus", where we'll pit two opposing yet similar entities against each other -- not in some faux battle, but more along the lines of who we've liked better, why one is better than the other at "X", and so on. Today it's the two greatest nemeses of the Avengers, but who knows? Next time it could be Elton John versus Billy Joel! Maybe later it'll be Karen's favorite baseball player versus my nominee. So let's get on with the debate.
Doug: I guess any discussion like this can't help but start with one's personal preferences -- hey, throw objectivity out the window! So I'll begin by saying that I like the "Celestial Madonna" storyline better than I like the "Bride of Ultron" (but close -- how does one choose between two masterpieces?) -- those would be my favorite Avengers stories involving these two do-badders.
Karen: Well, you already know I'm biased! I mean I did write a whole article on Ultron for Back Issue! (on the shelves now! -Doug). Both Ultron and Kang are great adversaries for the Avengers, but I give the edge to the mad robot because of the emotional response he always evokes from the team. He's definitely the black sheep that no one wants to talk about. The son of Hank Pym, father of the Vision, and he's tried to make wives out of both the Wasp and Mockingbird. There's a lot of twisted history there! On top of that, throw in indestructible adamantium skin, and you've got a heck of a threat.
Doug: Yeah, I wouldn't discount any of that, and I would never say that I don't like Ultron. I don't know... there's just something about Kang, time travel, and the possibilities. I will admit that I've read some bad Kang stories -- the "Council of Cross-Time Kangs" that ran in the Avengers #290's didn't do much for me. I think the intent was good, and there were some good elements, but overall I didn't like it.
Doug: I really like "Celestial Madonna" 1) for the scope of it and 2) for the little extras: the Legion of the Unliving (good Kang add-on), the origin of the Vision, as well as the origin of Mantis. Kang's certifiably maniacal, he has an interesting goal, and scribe Steve Englehart executes a grand tale. I'll admit that the story ends on a clunker in GS Avengers #4 when Kang is ridiculously shoe-horned back into the story, but there's redemption in the pages of the "Serpent Crown Affair" that ran shortly thereafter. Kang's the star of the substory involving the Wild West heroes and Hawkeye, Thor and Moondragon, and meets a memorable end in combat against Thor. Really good stuff, with art by a young George Perez.
Doug: I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout-out to two fine Kurt Busiek stories -- the "Kang Dynasty" and Avengers Forever. Although Perez was not along for either ride, the art in both stories was ably handled by Ivan Reis, Brent Anderson and Keiron Dwyer and Carlos Pacheco (respectively). While "Kang Dynasty" is a bit long (I believe 16 issues total), either would be recommended as two latter-day Kang classics.
Karen: Kang has given Earth's Mightiest a huge heaping of trouble time and again (no pun intended). Doug, you know I am also a fan of the "Celestial Madonna" saga, and it was fascinating how Englehart explored the different identities of Kang -how he connected Kang, Rama Tut, and Immortus. That's one of the cool things about time travel stories: you have endless possibilities to play with.
Karen: That being, said, I think I can toss out some of Ultron's greatest moments here and find that they measure up nicely. I think his rebirth as an adamantium-coated nightmare in Avengers 66-68 is a great early example of just how devastating he could be. The "Bride of Ultron" storyline upped the ante quite a bit; now, instead of just wanting to kill Pym, we saw Ultron also wants to supplant him and take what is his - his wife! Disturbing on a lot of levels, and it certainly left the Avengers shaken.
Karen: But Kurt Busiek -funny how that name has popped up again, isn't it? - came up with the most dangerous and devastating Ultron story yet, "Ultron Unlimited", in the third volume of Avengers. Not only does the maniac take over an entire nation, slaughter its people and turn them into cyber-zombies, he kidnaps five Avengers with plans to use their brain patterns to create an entire android race under his dominion! The remaining Avengers have to battle their way through hundreds of Ultrons to get to the true villain, giving Thor a chance to utter the famous line, "Ultron, we would have words with thee." Besides the thrilling battles, we also learn a startling fact, one that makes absolute sense, of the kind where you slap yourself in the head and say, "Of course! Why didn't I see that before?" It is revealed that Pym used his own brain patterns when he created Ultron - in effect, Ultron really is Pym's son, he has a piece of him inside him. No wonder these encounters always weighed so heavily on Pym - Ultron's actions were reflecting something inside of Pym!
Doug: That Thor line you cited is one of the all-time greats! You're making a great argument here -- were you a lawyer in a former life?? But seriously, let's evaluate: both characters have evolved through different incarnations involving technology as well as personality, both have taken on Avengers teams showcasing line-ups that could truly be called Earth's Mightiest Heroes, both have raised some serious Cain on the Earth in terms of destruction, human casualties, etc., and both seem to keep popping up every few years. You could argue, too, that Kang's constant pining after Ravonna creates a love interest somewhat akin to Ultron's quest to make himself a complete man/robot by fulfilling that need with Jocasta, etc. Kang and Ultron are head and shoulders above any other nemesis the Avengers have faced, based on longevity alone!
Doug: So if our faithful followers determine that your argument was stronger, should I feel badly? Negative -- because in this "versus", could one really go wrong on a rainy day with a stack of comics featuring either super-baddie?