West Coast Avengers #2
Issue(s): West Coast Avengers #2
We're reminded that since the Vision has pulled the control crystal out of his head, he's talking like a normal person, something that Iron Man says will take some getting used to.
The combined heroes decide to head up to Paterson, New Jersey to investigate an Williams Manufacturing plant owned by Simon Williams in his pre-Wonder Man days. Tigra is shocked to learn that Wonder Man used to be a business man, or, as Iron Man says, "An inventor's more like it, Tigra! He was pretty much a failure when it came to running things!". And i imagine most readers would be shocked as well. Wonder Man's character arcs have generally been about being a reluctant super-hero that would rather be acting in Hollywood, or hanging out with the Beast. There's been almost nothing since his resurrection to show us that Simon has anything of the scientific curiosity or business acumen that he supposedly had in the early days. I think Iron Man's correction to Tigra was misguided on Englehart's part; it would have made more sense to say that Simon was a businessman first and not a scientist himself. Maybe he went into business because he didn't know what else to do with himself, and that's why he didn't do well before he died and why he never went back to it after his resurrection. It also would have been more in character for Tony Stark to downplay Simon's scientific abilities rather than his business sense. Granted Stark is both scientist and businessman, but i'm sure from his perspective the science comes first, and it's his top notch ideas that make his business so successful.
I also thought Stark Industries had bought up Williams Manufacturing after it went under, so i'm surprised there would still be an abandoned factory sitting out here.
Anyway, the net results of the Avengers' investigation are 1) they determine that Simon's brother Eric (the Grim Reaper) was actually responsible for the corruption that went on at Williams Manufacturing, not Simon (or think they do; it'll turn out in the next part of the crossover that the original version of the story is actually correct). And 2) The Vision gets to meet his "mother"; actually Simon Williams' mother, but the Vision and Simon share the same brain patterns.
I'm amazed Mrs. Williams is so accepting; it's pretty weird to learn that a copy of your son's brain has been put into a robot body.
Back at the villains' base, we learn that the scheme is to merge the combined brainwaves of Simon Williams and the Vision into a distinct set, and then put them into the zombie that's been molded to look like Simon. There's also some taunting of the captives and recriminations over the Talon's failure to capture the Vision. Ultron volunteers to pick up the slack.
Ultron is calling himself Ultron-12 during this storyline. I haven't been keeping specific track of the various re-versionings since it's ultimately the same character (so far, anyway). But i thought it was a significant (and not necessarily positive) development that Ultron was so willing to work with the Grim Reaper here. However, serendipitously, commenter James pointed me to this entry at the Marvel Appendix (scroll down to the note from Kurt Busiek) that describes how a story about Ultron forming an alliance with the Grim Reaper during Wonder Man's resurrection got lost in the shuffle during a hand-off between Englehart, Shooter, and Conway. Having read all that and looked at the issues again, i find this very credible, but i'm surprised that Englehart doesn't take the opportunity in this issue to spell it all out more clearly. There's even a montage page that covers those issues, but nothing is done to say that Ultron was involved.
Either way, i still find Ultron whispering to himself, "Just watch me, dad!" out of character. Ultron's Oedipal complex is supposed to be subtext.
Here's some actual subtext, though. After having what i imagine must have been some pretty wild sex (even beyond the fact that he's got a sickle for a hand and she gets turned on by hatred, i see a manacle and a huge feather on the floor there)...
...Nekra compares the Grim Reaper to "the savage mandrills of my jungle". I wonder if Reaper has any idea he's actually being compared to Nekra's old boyfriend.
Nekra wants to know why the Grim Reaper is willing to ally himself with Ultron, since Ultron created the Vision. Reaper doesn't give a satisfactory answer, but the way she asks either seems to imply that she's counter-scheming or it's just badly written exposition. Not sure. Anyway, the Man-Ape interrupts before Nekra can follow up, and that's when we learn that the Grim Reaper is a racist.
It's an interesting development; something that you'd think would actually happen more often amongst super-villains. But i wonder where the Reaper "got" his racism from. Simon has never shown any inkling of racism, and his mother seemed fairly tolerant! Not suggesting racism is hereditary, but there seems to be something more going on here. Especially when Nekra reminds him that she's actually black, too; she's just albino. Eric responds that she's actually "the purest white I've ever known--!". Weird. He must be a really good kisser, too, because Nekra seems to accept that.
The Man-Ape, on the other hand, heads over to the Black Talon and informs him that he's had enough of the Reaper's racism, and the Talon doesn't seem to need much convincing.
Ultron attacks the Avengers on their way back from Wonder Man's mom's place. It's the teaser for the next part of the crossover.
So much has been done over the years to establish that the Vision is a unique individual that i really hate the fact that Englehart has revived the Grim Reaper storyline again, which just reminds us that his brain is a copy of Wonder Man's. And while we've always been told that, we rarely see any evidence of it; no two characters could be more different than the taciturn and strategic Vision and Simon Williams, Hollywood actor and Beast's drinking buddy. Having Vision connect with, want to connect with, Simon's mom changes that and suggests the Vision really is just a copy.
Beyond that, this continues to be "serviceable". There's a lot of characters, and Englehart handles them well enough, giving plenty of air time to the villains. I think he handles them clunkily, but i appreciate the attention. The racism angle could have went poorly but while it's not exactly handled with grace, it works well enough. I still think Ultron is acting weirdly, though.
Still a lot of backstory being referenced, too. The thing about continually bringing up the Vision/Wonder Man/Grim Reaper plot is every time you do it, there's that much more history to refer back to next time. I'm not against it at all as long as it doesn't get in the way of the story. About four pages here are devoted to detailing Wonder Man's history, and that's on top of all the recapping in the first two parts of this crossover. It's still readable, but pushing it.
The art continues to be less than great, even with my personal favorite Kim DeMulder helping Milgrom out. Pym continues to show demonic tendencies.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Continues from Vision and the Scarlet Witch #1, and continues directly in Vision and the Scarlet Witch #2.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): show
Englehart seems to have a problem with needing to constantly revisit the same themes/plots in all of his books. At the time, I didn't know of his earlier Avengers run and it was all new to me. Now having read those issues, it just seems unoriginal and tiresome to see him dredge them out again.
Posted by: Chris | July 2, 2012 9:46 PM
It's weird that Englehart couldn't seem to make up his mind whether or not Wanda and the Vision knew Tony's identity. At one point Vision refers to Iron Man as "Tony" in front of Wanda but a few pages later Iron Man speaks of Tony as his employer in front of Vision and Wanda.
Posted by: Michael | July 2, 2012 11:20 PM
I found the grim reaper bigotry interesting too when i read it originally. It wasn't something you saw often. the reaper is the only villain i can think of who is racist, but without that being his defining characteristic (ala, say, skinhead the white redeamer, one of conway's worst creations). it also made his attraction to the "pure white" of Nekra really interesting psychologically.
In general, marvel villains are some of the least bigoted people out there. how many bronze age street gangs have you seen that were completely multi-racial. just about all of them.
Posted by: kveto from prague | July 3, 2012 3:47 PM
Maybe the old Williams factory got emptied during the Stane takeover and nobody's gotten around to refilling it yet?
Not sure why that guy's dropping the ice bucket on the splash page. Is Tigra wiggling her tail at him?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 14, 2012 6:57 PM
Tigra didn't have a tail yet so i think that guy's just supposed to be shocked to see the Avengers.
When i first opened the book i thought it was supposed to be Henry Pym being a klutz.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 14, 2012 8:02 PM
The Grim Reaper's racism was established in Avengers 160, when he says "My brother would never marry a stinking mutant!" (and the Panther replies, "So, you're a bigot as well as a fool.")
Posted by: Andrew | May 7, 2015 10:08 PM
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