Sunday, August 14, 2011

While wishing androids did not dream : the Vision, Marvel 1972

This Marvel character probably needs and deserves an introduction. His costume design, in patterns of perfect order, symbolizes his logical nature, while his colors utilize all the primaries save blue, which is always present in the costume of some Avengers team mate, among whom he has lived his publishing life mostly, in ensemble.

He's probably the most iconic Avenger who's never had his own ongoing series or cartoon, which makes the Avengers comic title the home of most of his personal story.

His demeanor is frankly spooky for a superhero. He's very much the thinking person's character, though. You might be pleasantly surprised so outlandish an appearance masks a very human story, in a satisfying speculative fiction way.


Did an evil robot create the Vision? Well, I wouldn't call Roy Thomas or John Buscema malevolent mechanoids, but that is how they told the story of Ultron-5's son in Avengers #57. His strange origin is important for the reason that it poses his ongoing problem: what does a synthetic man do when his computer-precise intellect and human-patterned mind collide with emotion?

Why he is: Newly self-aware Ultron, an artificial intelligence project built by Dr. Henry Pym (the size-changing Avenger), creates its fifth generation self, then wants a son. The plans backfire, and this son becomes the heroic Vision in Avengers #57.

Who he is: over time we find out he is not created simply from synthetic materials, whole cloth as it were, but rather, his body was that of the original Human Torch, the 1939 Marvel Comics #1 super-hero: an android who could not stop the spontaneous combustion of his skin when exposed to air! But his brain patterns are a copy of yet another character, the ill-fated Simon Williams, a.k.a. Wonder Man, from AVENGERS #9. This gives him a rudimentary personality---but what more? He is not either of the men or androids from which he's been made. He initially has no memories about his body, and he never lived while Simon Williams lived.

what he is: In addition to this, the Vision controls his density, able to become an intangible wrath or nearly indestructibly super-dense. He also can utilize the solar power collecting gem he wears for a number of effects. In #93 artist Neal Adams takes us on a Fantastic Voyage, if you will, as a malfunction disconnects Vision's brain and leaves us with a motionless android. However, this is not death---adding to the strangeness of his existence. Dr. Pym, as Ant-Man, shrinks and enters the Vision, where he observes the equal but different functions of Vision's internal organs, a bizarre parallel to what we know of human anatomy.

how he is: Typically analytical and factual, the Vision has a cold voice and distant demeanor. Some of this is transformed in #91, when, as captives of a space-faring judge from the Kree galaxy, he and the Scarlet Witch find their polite parlay, under stress, becomes a kiss. Only: the emotion of guilt, or embarrassment, futility, restrains the Vision, who is shocked at his reaction. He is courageous, thoughtful, inquisitive, and has some emotional bond with the Avengers, who he thanks for their acceptance and friendship with steadfast loyalty and the type of combat skills that belie his intellectual tendency. This attraction, however, because of his questions about how he in any way fits with humanity, leaves him conflicted and melancholy---and in denial!

The Vision's damage two issues later leads to the Witch, her brother the speedster Quicksilver, and the Kree super soldier Captain Mar-Vell being taken hostage by the Super Skrull, whose people are at interplanetary war with all Kree. Vision must do the logical thing and turn back for Earth, as he cannot risk Wanda's life in an uncertain battle with the Super Skrull, and Earth must know the truth. This tells him more than he wants to know about his feelings. Despite his synthetic nature, we're told he's "every inch human in every other way"---it's hardly a surprise he should find himself attracted to the only female with whom he regularly interacts.
The sheltered nature, socially, of both of them helps throw them together.

When he's asked to logically split the teams for both this interstellar rescue and another concern (which turns out to tie everyone back together), Vision chooses the most powerful Avengers for his team, which makes him question if he has done this subconsciously, without regard for the success of the other mission (finding the lost king of the Inhumans, Black Bolt).

When the team's reunited to attempt to outfox the massive Skrull invasion fleet, he displays an outburst of temper he never thought possible, nearly killing a Skrull he needs for information, willfully and with extreme prejudice. Still, just what does a synthetic man have to offer a girl? Trust me, it's a topic of much debate, and no less so with Vihz himself. In AVENGERS #99, when things calm down for half a night, he has a heart-to-heart with the Avengers' butler Jarvis, who notes the interactions with Wanda, and suggests the troubled android betrays himself as all-too-human. Of course, then a battle breaks out.

When he is: Well, that's a weird question---he's in the contemporary adventures of his fellow Avengers, typically set topographically in the publishing present---but here it's a way to spin off this tidbit:
Vision will discover the truth about what he is when a time traveler named Immortus gives him a device to change when he is!

But that's some ways away.

He spends down time between action brooding about the Scarlet Witch, about whom he's showing a lot of protectiveness; in fact, he goes to her side at a moment when his strength could possibly keep the amnesiac Hercules from being kidnapped. That accusation's leveled by Hawkeye in the heat of the moment; he's hardly without a stake in this, though, as he begins making a play for Wanda during this period, himself!

The next adventure, with the mutant-hunting Sentinels of X-Men fame, separates Quicksilver from the group, taking her obsessive brother out of the picture a while. In her grief, the Vision at last offers a shoulder. Aw.

The Vision seems to get a crack at being human. It seems Simon Williams had an insane brother, who returns as the Grim Reaper, offering first the body of Simon Williams, which was transformed by ionic energies and has not deteriorated since his apparent death. Then, the Reaper makes an offer for a truly human body: Captain America's. The Vision stays true to his school---for not the first time, he plays a feint that makes his loyalties seem questionable---but the entire affair opens many questions about his existence. Still, he can't deny how he feels. Or thinks he feels.

You'll see.

Next: Season of the Witch


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