Monday, 23 April 2012

Avengers #57. Behold the Vision!

Avengers #57, shrouded in smoke, the Vision makes his first appearance as his giant figure towers over the shocked and helpless Avengers, John Buscema cover
As I roam the streets of Sheffield, people often say to me, "Steve, I saw what you just did to that bunch of visiting snooker players. Just how do you do that thing where you fire devastating heat beams from your eyeballs?"

And I say, "It doesn't come easy. It's a very complicated process, involving solar power and decades of baffling continuity."

Fortunately for me, I'm not alone in this, as one of Marvel's finest super-teams possesses a character in the exact same mould.

And Avengers #57 is where we get to meet him.

The Avengers're minding their own business, lost in their domestic troubles, when a strange being called the Vision shows up and tries to kill them all.

Then he decides he doesn't want to kill them all.

Instead he wants to lead them to the lair of his creator - the rapacious robot Ultron.

There, the Avengers quickly find themselves trapped like the dozy lumps they are, leaving the Vision to prove he can be trusted, by setting off on his own to bump off Ultron.

Reading the story now, there're two things that most strike you about it.

One is that the Vision, who we tend to see as Marvel's answer to Mr Spock, seems to be a veritable ball of emotions in the tale. He's tormented, he's tortured, he's angry, he's confused. It's a far cry from the impassive creature we expect him to be at this stage of his existence.

The other is what a complete and utter dolt Ultron is.

First, his plan involves letting the Avengers know exactly where to find him.

Second, he traps them in a chamber with moving walls, but those walls move at a snail's pace, giving them every chance to escape.

Third, despite having created him, Ultron totally forgets the Vision can change his density - not once but twice - leading to his own destruction.

And fourth, he actually tells the Vision what his only weakness is (the electrodes on his head), giving his foe the chance to discombobulate him that he would never otherwise have had. If you didn't know better, you'd think the rancid robot wanted to be defeated.

However, the charm of the tale is three-fold.

One, there's John Buscema's beautifully elegant artwork, exemplified by the classic cover above. For me, this was the period when Buscema had just entered the very peak of his career.

Two is that we get to see something of the Avengers' private life; Hank standing Jan up to spend an evening in his lab, the disintegration of Hawkeye and the Black Widow's relationship, and the Black Panther deciding he needs to find a new role for himself besides that of costumed crime-fighter.

Interesting that, in Hank's early exchanges with Jan, Thomas seems to be laying the groundwork for the arrival of Hank's Yellowjacket persona a few issues later. Apparently, once his work in the lab's done, he has something to do with private matters that he wants to discuss with her. If only Jan had known then what a total nut-job he was.

The third charm is of course that we get a great new character added to the Avengers' roster. As far as I can remember, the Vision was the first character created specifically to be in the team, instead of being imported from another book. In a sense, you could argue this was a betrayal of the strip's original purpose but, as Ultron couldn't tell you - because his head's just flown off - sometimes in life, betrayal can be a good thing.


bliss_infinte said...

Vision has always been one of my favorite Avengers but I never read this story until just a couple of months ago. It is a little topsy-turvey but this and the next issue were a great introduction to a great addition to the cast.

Dougie said...

Obviously, Vizh was the star of the Avengers for about a dozen years. This, of course, was followed by nearly 30 years of mishandling and semi-obscurity (and the ascent of Wolverine. I don't know why being short and all...slicey was so interesting..) Hopefully, his recent revival signals the beginning of the Vision's return to glory.

Kid said...

I've lost track over the the Vision still NOT the Human Torch, or has John Byrne's revelation been turned on its head?

Boston Bill said...

As I recall, this is when Thomas was forbidden to use the big three (Cap, Thor, & Shell-head) in the Avengers; so they were pretty low on muscle.

Golden-Age-obsessed Roy wanted to bring back the original Vision, but Stan wanted the new character to be an Android, so they compromised and came up with a new character.

Steve W. said...

Yep, that's how I heard it too, Bill.

@Kid, I believe they've now revealed that the Vision is actually Galactus, that Galactus is Willie Lumpkin, and that Willie Lumpkin is the robot Bucky who fought crime in the 1950s before becoming Fred Foswell.

Kid said...

Ha! Suspected as much all along.

Simayl said...

Vision is my favourite Avenger and one of my prized possesions is Avengers #57. What Marvel and Bendis did to Vision was unforgivable...rant, rant, rant!

Steve W. said...

It almost makes me glad that I'm so out of touch that I don't know what they did to him.

MikeD said...

My favourite (with #58) issue of my favourite book. Before I saw the uk version of this cover, I had picked up a few individual issues of various US and UK titles but after buying this (UK) issue I was hooked. The Roy Thomas / John Buscema partnership really was the Golden Age for the Avengers.

Steve W. said...

It's my favourite era too, Mike.

Funnily enough, I was originally going to post the UK version of the cover rather than the American one.

Anonymous said...

Red Tornado premiered in Justice League of America at about the same time that the Vision started in the Avengers. He was a red-skinned android and had the same name as a Golden Age character. Like the X Men and the Doom Patrol premiered the same year. Both teams of outcast heroes mentored by wheelchair-bound scientists. All sheer coincidence, of course.

Steve W. said...

It is strange how often such things happen, like those two movies about the Earth being hit by asteroids, that came out at the same time; and Antz and A Bug's Life appearing simultaneously.