This week marks the (US) release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the next chapter in the increasingly sprawling Marvel cinematic universe. It’s a continuation of the 2012 Avengers, but also picking up after the series of solo film sequels — Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier — and dealing with at least some of the events of those films (the most notable being the virtual destruction of SHIELD in The Winter Soldier).
More importantly, that there are a bevy of new characters coming into this universe. And so at the risk of some potentially mild spoilers, we’re going to give you a little primer on some of those new folks. Now, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to spoil the film itself, since I haven’t seen it yet (and you Europeans better shut your goddamn mouths or I’ll ban you faster than you can blink), but there will probably be some mild spoilers if you’re unfamiliar with the comic books. So be forewarned. Finally, keep in mind that these notes are based on the comic books, and Marvel Entertainment has at times played it fast and loose with character origins and backgrounds, so these won’t necessarily be canonical in terms of the films. Furthermore, the comics themselves have an unfortunate habit of retconning their stories, so in a simple paragraph it’s unlikely that I’ll hit every single part of their backstory.
With that said, here’s a look at who’s who and who’s new in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Ultron (voiced by James Spader): In the comics, Ultron is the creation of Hank Pym (also known as Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, and a couple of other names), and is designed to mimic Pym’s brain patterns and also eventually even developing a crush on Pym’s wife … not to mention a severe Oedipal complex. The latter part appears to be retained, as Ultron clearly has it in for Tony Stark (who is his creator in the film). Ultron is a robot who is constantly seeking to make himself stronger (often by using either the fictional metal vibranium or the element adamantium), and is a recurring foe of The Avengers. His goals are the usual - world domination, destruction and/or enslavement of humanity… you know how it is. He is incredibly powerful and dangerous, and often has an army of duplicate - if less powerful - robots operating out of a sort of hive-mind at his disposal.
Wanda Maximoff, aka The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen): The female half of the Maximoff twins. Canonically, Wanda and Pietro are the children of the mutant supervillain Magneto, and are both mutants themselves. However, due to the weird contractual issues between Marvel and FOX, Disney/Marvel can’t actually use the word “mutant” since the X-men and all subsequent mutant properties all belong to FOX, at least in the films. We’re not sure where the powers of the Maximoff twins come from in the films, although there is clearly a link - if you watched The Winter Soldier — between them and HYDRA, as well as Loki’s staff (which contains an Infinity Gem). In the comics, Wanda Maximoff has some of the most peculiar - and unbelievably dangerous - powers in the world. She can manipulate luck and reality, creating “hexes” that alter probability and futures. It has also been explained as a kind of “chaos magic” and in fact, in later comics she also wielded actual magic in addition to her mutant powers. At one point, she actually goes a little crazy and ends up changing the past completely, rewriting history and creating a massive ripple through the multiverse. That kind of power is a bit too far out for the films, and so for Age of Ultron, it appears that her powers are more related to telekinesis and mind control. In the comics, she has been both a friend and an enemy of groups like the X-Men and the Avengers (and does at one point join the Avengers).
Pietro Maximoff aka Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson): Pietro Maximoff is another character with daddy issues, harboring an eternal love/hate relationship with his father Magneto, as well as an often complicated relationship with his twin sister. Quicksilver’s mutant power - or however the film wants to deal with it - is essentially super speed, and a number of abilities that come with that. He can run up to Mach-10, can run across water, and even create mini-cyclones. Also in the comic, he eventually loses his powers, but they are restored (albeit in a different incarnation that is more akin to jumping forward in time) due to exposure to the Terrigen mist of the Inhumans (a superpowered humanoid race that lives on the Moon) . Given that the Terrigen mist, or at least something akin to it, has played a significant part in recent events of Agents of SHIELD, it is altogether possible that it’s another origin option for the Maximoff twins.
Ulysses Klaue aka Klaw (Andy Serkis): Ulysses Klaue - spelled Klaw in the comics - the genius son of a Nazi war criminal who is often at war with the Avengers (at one point teaming up with Ultron and others to form the wonderfully named “Masters of Evil” - gotta love old school comics), as well as a frequent foe of the Black Panther and his fictional nation of Wakanda. He eventually uses vibranium-based technology which converts his body into solid sound, giving his super strength and other abilities, including a weapon on one hand that can create all manner of effects. The Wakanda link is particularly interesting (Wakanda being incredibly wealthy due to its vibranium mines) given the recent announcement of Black Panther coming to the cinematic universe, and many have speculated that either the country or, even better, it’s leader T’Challa (to be played by Chadwick Boseman when film production begins) might have a cameo in Age of Ultron.
Vision (Paul Bettany): This one is… a bit of a mess. There have been a few incarnations of the android known as Vision. But the main one is actually a creation of Ultron’s, an android who is eventually recruited by the Avengers to fight his master. He is a manifestation of a sort of cosmic split from the original Human Torch (the original Torch wasn’t Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four, but rather also an android). Given that the Fantastic Four belongs to another studio, that’s not relevant in Age of Ultron. Vision is also a romantic interest of Wanda Maximoff in the comics, and at one point the two even marry and have children, but that’s a whole other thing involving interdimensional demons and, well, let’s not get into it. Anyway, Vision can fly, can shoot various energy beams, and can control his own density, able to become super-dense or phase through solid matter. He also has super strength, speed, and reflexes. It is unknown as to whether he will still be a creation of Ultron in the film, or if he is more closely linked with Tony Stark. Also, there has been speculation that the jewel in his forehead, called the “Solar Jewel” in the comics, is another Infinity Gem, which would provide another link to the intergalactic villain Thanos.
Dr. Helen Cho (Claudia Kim): I have no idea what part Dr. Cho is playing in Age of Ultron other than she is a renowned scientist, but in the comics she is a most well-known for being the mother of Amadeus Cho, a mutant whose gift is essentially super-genius level intelligence, and he is often referred to as having a mind like a sort of hyper-computer, putting him at the top of the smartest individuals on Earth. Amadeus is also known for befriending the Hulk. It does not appear, however, that Amadeus will be in this film.
Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann): In the comics, Baron Strucker is a former Nazi agent who works for HYDRA. He has no super powers (although he does develop some later in his story) in the comics, but is a frequent enemy of the Avengers due to his affiliation with HYDRA. In the film universe it appears that he is somehow affiliated with the Maximoff twins, holding them in captivity in the mid-credits scene in The Winter Soldier.