Avengers West Coast #89-91
Issue(s): Avengers West Coast #89, Avengers West Coast #90, Avengers West Coast #91
But the self-narrating idiot currently on guard duty has been subconsciously manipulated by Ultron into bringing a handheld video game into the room.
And it's full of miniature robots. The self-narrating idiot has snuck a gun into the room, too, but it's no use against a swarm of tiny robots.
Ultron is not above making horrible, horrible puns, and he really does call these things his robo-ticks throughout the story.
It was noted above that Ultron managed to remain silent the whole time he was in his cell, but now he just can not shut up.
I always figured Ultron had a menacing metallic voice, but now i think he must sound like a tape-reel being played at high speed. How else could he get that many words into every panel?
Note that he's calling himself Ultimate Ultron now, and he has a goofy misshapen body.
Meanwhile, the West Coast Avengers are chewing out USAgent over his extracurricular mission last arc when James Rhodes shows up in the Iron Man suit. He's offering to join the team, although he's not exactly enthusiastic about it.
That rubs Hawkeye the wrong way, and, after a quick check to make sure Hawkeye is speaking for the group (since they don't have an active chairperson after the death of Iron Man), he tells Rhodey that he's going to have to unmask to be a member. Rhodey refuses.
As Rhodey pointed out, the Avengers tolerated secret IDs for a long time, so i don't know why Rhodey would have to unmask, especially in front of the whole group. I could definitely see him lifting the mask just in front of Hawkeye and Mockingbird, since he revealed his ID to them previously. Then there's Hawkeye's comment as Rhodey is leaving. First of all, who talks like that, Roy Thomas? And why is Hawkeye blabbing Iron Man's probable ID when Rhodey clearly didn't want to reveal it, in front of the untrustworthy USAgent and the newcomer Living Lightning?
Sticking with "who talks like that?", the Avengers next get a call from Dr. Myron Maclain, yes that Myron Maclain -- the man who invented adamantium.
Then we have Hawkeye helpfully repeating everything that Maclain says out loud.
Roy Thomas drives me crazy.
Anyway, Living Lightning flies off because orientation at USC is starting tomorrow, so he's not going to be around. Hawkeye sends most of the team to meet with Maclain, but he and Scarlet Witch stay behind.
When the Avengers arrive at Maclain's place, he's suddenly acting differently.
Yes, Wonder Man, we can all see that he's repeating himself in fragments.
Anyway, Maclain has been replaced by a robot, and the Avengers guess correctly that Ultron is responsible. Meanwhile, Ultron attacks the Avengers compound.
He looks ridiculous.
Scarlet Witch's hex powers have been useful in stopping Ultron in the past, but due to events in the Darkhold series, she finds that her powers aren't working.
Ultron kills the Avengers' groundskeeper, Carlos, when he jumps in the way to try to save Scarlet Witch and Spider-Woman's daughter Rachel. Hawkeye then briefly stops Ultron with an "electro-arrow", but Ultron recovers and releases his "robo-ticks". Luckily, the Vision arrives.
Ultron nonetheless manages to blast the three Avengers, incapacitating them long enough to get what he came for: his previous bodies.
The rest of the Avengers arrive as Ultron is leaving with his old bodies. They also fail to stop him, and Ultron grabs Mockingbird on the off chance that he needs a hostage. But then he decides he has another use for Mockingbird, so he goes to Henry Pym, who had isolated himself in Death Valley to do some research, and he kidnaps him too.
The Avengers head to Death Valley. Weirdly, Living Lightning calls in to see how things are going before they leave, but he doesn't join them. I would have liked to see how an electricity-powered hero did against Ultron.
To give a hint as to what Ultron plans to do with Mockingbird, he calls her Jocasta.
That is in fact the only reference to Jocasta. Given the fact that Ultron has at least twice now created robots that rebelled against him, you'd think he'd talk more about how he's taking precautions this time (especially given how verbose he is in this incarnation). I don't fault Roy Thomas for having Ultron get distracted by this scheme, but Ultron's personal ambitions have always been more Oedipal in the past (hence Jocasta); it's not clear how Mockingbird fits into that.
Ultron's old bodies prove to not be much of a challenge.
But USAgent and Wonder Man give Hawkeye feelings of inadequacy...
...and inadequacy and Pym particles have always gone hand in hand.
In the lettercol for issue #92, the color scheme for Hawkeye's Goliath costume is acknowledged as an coloring error. It sort of hints that the problem might be related to the fact that Erik Josten - also a Goliath, and with a brown and tan color scheme although without the harness and belly window - was scheduled for #92.
After the spare bodies are dealt with, Ultron debuts Alkhema, also "known" (already? to who?) as War Toy.
Ultron says that she prefers to be called Alkhema, but if we are hopelessly addicted to more descriptive epithets, we should call her War Toy.
Are we addicted to descriptive epithets? I'm not sure. I'm tagging her as Alkhema, though. I find the whole Alkhema/War Toy thing to be more indulgent weirdness from Roy Thomas. I did find this quote on Wikipedia (from an issue of Back Issue).
I wasn't wild about the first [bride of Ultron, Jocasta] ... so I came up with Alkhema (from alchemy, of course)... and used the name War Toy which I'd used for a robot in a story I had Tony Isabella write for Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction years ago.
So "War Toy" just does seem like some self-referential bullshit and there's no reason for her to have two names. I also think it's ironic that Thomas didn't like the first bride of Ultron story but he's doing practically the same story here, albeit with a 90s attitude and Silver Age scripting.
Note also that Ultron is trying to imply that Mockingbird has been turned into Alkhema. He's lying. Alkhema is just based on her personality, seemingly more strongly than Jocasta was based on the Wasp.
Anyway, most of the Avengers fight Ultron and Alkhema while Hawkeye-Goliath slips into the lab and rescues Mockingbird, Henry Pym, and Myron Maclain, and finds a case of adamantium to bash Ultron with.
Ultron and Alkhema flee. Hawkeye and Mockingbird then reconcile, deciding not to go through with their divorce.
Sadly, Secret Invasion will reveal that Mockingbird was replaced by a Skrull shortly before this. So when the real Mockingbird returns (after the Skrull dies in an upcoming story), she'll have no idea that she and Hawkeye are supposedly back together.
I'd also like to use the Skrull as an explanation for Ultron's actions in this arc. Maybe he detected that she was a Skrull, and that's why he kidnapped her and decided to use her as the template for Alkhema. I don't have an exact idea of why that would be the case. Maybe just for general mischief, or maybe because he thought a Skrull's personality would fit Alkhema well.
Anyway, Ultron's original plan before getting distracted by Mockingbird was to raid a US military site that houses "black" weapons - biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons - and use them to wipe out all life from Earth. This is a change from past plans in that he's not just focused on killing humans; he feels that other forms of life may eventually evolve to be as annoying as humans, so he might as well wipe everything out.
Alkhema objects, on the grounds that she'd rather kill everything on a more individual basis. So they get to fighting for a while.
Then the Avengers show up and get rid of both evil robots by strapping the Vision to an ICBM, magnetizing him, and then launching the ICBM into space. Ultron and Alkhema are bonded with the Vision, but he manages to phase off the missile in time. It's kind of like Sentry throwing all his enemies into the sun, but it makes sense for dealing with indestructible robots.
Interacting with the Vision during this story, Scarlet Witch finally comes to grips with the fact that the Vision she was married to is gone. Wonder Man thinks to himself that this should be good news for him, but he's decided that he's also no longer human and therefore not able to romantically pursue Wanda.
I like Ultron, and i like Alkhema's independent attitude and i'm not totally against basic plotlines repeating themselves decades apart, and the basic plot outline here is fine. But Thomas' scripting has gotten so cutesy and self-indulgent it's impossible for me to enjoy these issues.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Scarlet Witch's powers are failing throughout this arc, and we're pointed to the Darkhold series for the reason why. At the end of the arc, a footnote tells us that "the events of Wonder Man #16-18 and Darkhold #1-7 follow this issue's titanic tale". Darkhold #1 can't take place after this for reasons related to Ghost Rider and Infinity War. But Scarlet Witch doesn't actually start appearing in Darkhold until issue #3, so the placement of issue #1 isn't directly relevant. There are still complications, but i'll discuss it further on the entry for Darkhold #2-4.
This takes place after Rhodey gets the War Machine suit in Iron Man #286.
Somewhere during this arc, possibly before it starts and definitely before Hawkeye and Mockingbird decide not to get divorced, Mockingbird is replaced by a Skrull. I've listed both Mockingbird and the Skrull as characters.
A note about Ultron (mostly repeated from the Considerations for Deathlok #2-5): When Ultron appeared in Avengers West Coast #65-68, he was Ultron-13, and that same Ultron subsequently appeared in the Vibranium Vendetta annuals. But in Deathlok #2-5, he was Ultron-11. Ultron-12 was "Mark", the one that gained a separate sentience and reformed. I don't know if the Ultron appearing in Deathlok was meant to be another divergence, or if Ultron-13 transferred his consciousness to that body temporarily or reverted to the old numbering. I mention all this because at the beginning of this story, he's a prisoner of the Vault, despite having escaped capture in both Vibranium Vendetta (when he was definitely the same one that was captured in Avengers West Coast #65-68) and Deathlok (when he called himself 11). It feels like Roy Thomas was writing directly from the last Ultron appearance in this series, unaware of subsequent Ultron stories. But unless i run into anything that contradicts it, i'm going to assume that Ultron reverted to the old numbering for the Deathlok appearance and then got captured off panel somewhere and was sent to the Vault. Maybe Ultron himself got confused about the numbering, which is why he decided to forgo it and just call himself Ultimate Ultron from now on.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
Dear me. Those cone breasts on Alkhema.
Roy's basic misunderstanding of science gets to me sometimes. Smacking adamantium ultron with an adamantium box should have the same effect as smacking two hammers together. Shouldn't damage either.
Posted by: kveto | May 9, 2016 4:41 PM
Ultron's question to the Scarlet Witch about her once having been imprisoned in the Vault might be a reference to Avengers Annual #15/West Coast Avengers Annual #1, a storyline in which some of the Avengers were imprisoned there after a traitor (Quicksilver) told the U.S. government some lies about them. However, Wanda wasn't among the Avengers who were jailed at that time so either Ultron and Roy Thomas got their facts wrong or the mad robot is actually referring to some other story.
Posted by: Don Campbell | May 9, 2016 6:06 PM
The title "Death Valley Daze" is probably a play off the Blue Oyster Cult Song "Death Valley Nights" on Spectres.
Posted by: Cecil | May 10, 2016 12:38 AM
I think this is probably the best story Roy Thomas writes on West Coast. Which doesn't say a lot since it's mostly a remake.
And I loathe that stupid Mockingbird retcon.
Surely the people who wanted Mockingbird to return, they mostly wanted her back so that she could continue her seemingly repaired relationship with Clint. But no, Marvel, the House of Hating Ideas You Might Like definitely didn't want that happening.
Posted by: AF | May 10, 2016 4:17 AM
@Cecil: It may also be a reference to the old TV western show, "Death Valley Days."
Posted by: Thanos6 | May 10, 2016 5:48 AM
I agree with Thanos6. It's almost certainly a reference to the old show. Hawkeye even mentioned the show in an early issue of Solo Avengers, talking about he watched Reagan in the show getting water from a cactus.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 10, 2016 7:14 AM
@AF - hey, don't badmouth Mockinbird being alive! A friend's friend is the artist on the new Mockingbird ongoing, so I have to defend the validity of her work! :)
Posted by: Piotr W | May 10, 2016 9:58 AM
I met inker Tim Dzon a few years ago when he was at a local comic store on FCBD--apparently he lives locally. He was doing a sketch for me and I was chatting about his WCA work, as he had the issues for sale at his table. He mentioned the "cone breasts" on Alkhema were his idea--he was joking to David Ross that Alkhema should have missile launchers hidden in her breasts, and Ross drew them in.
Posted by: Thelonious_Nick | May 13, 2016 8:10 AM
So, Clint knew he would have feelings of inadequacy and wore a Goliath costume made with unstable molecules under his regular costume?
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 20, 2016 7:34 AM
I like that Hawkeye had the foresight to wear his Goliath chest straps under his costume all that time LOL
Posted by: The Goblin | May 21, 2016 7:31 PM
The guardsmen are the most incompetent people ever.
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | August 27, 2016 12:15 AM
@The Goblin & Jay,
Yes, Clint knew he was about to turn back into Goliath II. That was the reason he stayed behind in the previous mission. He was preparing it.
Posted by: Urban Commando | October 19, 2017 6:50 AM
Alkhema is an odd character, even disregarding Roy Thomas's frustrating inability to just pick a damn name for her. On the one hand, an independent female psychotic robot was a good direction to go with Ultron (if anything it's surprising that Ultron waited so long to fix his "mistake" with Jocasta), but on the other hand, the whole "toxic relationship with a pre-existing, psychopathic male who abuses her" thing was WAY overdone in the early 1990s -- it's exactly what was done with Harley Quinn and the Joker (in BTAS in 1992) and Shriek and Carnage (in 1993). Female psychos apparently can't just be female psychos, they need a sugar-daddy to unleash their full murderous potential. But also, strangely, in AWC Annual #8 Ultron will specifically deny that Alkhema was supposed to be his "lover," and he seems bitter that he "was forced to use Mockingbird" (forced by whom?) for her brain patterns. So why exactly was Alkhema made? It's unfortunate that the Oedipal angle got lost here; I think it would have been better if Ultron envisioned her as a daughter (she could still have the same requisite rebellious streak).
Posted by: Lyde1848 | February 4, 2018 8:42 PM
And visually she's just an ugly mess, with the Wolverine ears, the Voltron face, the pyramid boobs, the T2-style joints and the random eXXtREme wrist spikes (which are absolutely pointless because she inexplicably retracts them before attacking people). Later creators did much better work with her visually and story-wise in the Ultron Unlimited and Ultron Imperative arcs.
Posted by: Lyde1848 | February 4, 2018 8:44 PM
This is the first Ultron story I read. Since I couldn't know it was a retreading the ground of an older one, I was just impressed by the awesome killer robot.
Back then, I assumed that alkhema was a word in another language that translated to war toy in English. Now, I realize it's unlikely any people would say war toy often enough (or, like, ever) to have a unique word for it.
There seems to be a limitation of the Pym method for creating self-aware robots such that a human's brain patterns are needed to form a sort of template for the AI. So, it's not that someone is forcing Ultron to use Mockingbird's, but that Ultron is forced by the limitations of the process he inherited to use someone's.
Posted by: Mortificator | February 5, 2018 12:49 AM
Yeah, I see that and I think there's something really profound about it -- that Ultron has an inescapable desire to make robots (because Pym did) but is foredoomed to be disappointed by them (either because they rebel or because their own distinctive brainwaves make them unpredictable). This is basically what having kids is, and the fact that Ultron is trapped in this sickeningly *human* cycle is what makes him more interesting than the average killer robot. I wish Roy Thomas had explored this more with Alkhema here -- but in his defense, he did have a hand in Ultron Imperative, where Alkhema's maternal side kicks in and she begins to make more sense to me as a character.
Posted by: Lyde1848 | February 5, 2018 6:03 PM
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