West Coast Avengers #42-45
Issue(s): West Coast Avengers #42, West Coast Avengers #43, West Coast Avengers #44, West Coast Avengers #45
I've seen people say that they think Byrne's art has declined at this point, but his style still looks "right" to me, and in some ways i think it's improved when it comes to depth and close-up character expression (and it could very well be that inker Mike Machlan is a part of that). But i also love the way Byrne makes use of a page layout, the way he choreographs fights, and just his general sense of pacing. And his writing is great, too. I find the scripting natural and i love that he can handle character moments while still delving deep into Marvel continuity, and doing that without it feeling like a history lesson.
If i'm gushing a bit, it's just to set up the "but". Before i do that, though, let me also acknowledge that this could be me indulging in my own nostalgia. 1989 is ripe with nostalgia for the Silver Age period, but my formative comic years were the period where John Byrne was on the Fantastic Four, so it's hard for me to divorce myself from the notion that his style is the "right" way to do it. But that's exactly why i bring all this up, to show the lure that this run has for me. Because while i love everything about the craft of this run, the problem is that it works to destroy several characters. And just watching the (literal) breakdown of the Vision, the psychological breakdown of the Scarlet Witch, and another turn at messing with Tigra that occurs within these issues creates a kind of cognitive dissonance for me. It's great! No, it's yet another deconstruction and it's exhausting! I can't decide!
Byrne begins his run on this series with a four part "Vision Quest" storyline, complete with Nabisco corners on the covers. From this ad, it seems like the story was originally going to be five parts, and if you were just looking at these covers, you might guess that Byrne was reverting the Vision to his prior form as the original Human Torch.
Instead, issue #46 will introduce a very different set of characters, and when the Human Torch stuff comes in later, it's definitely not about turning the Vision into the Torch. (The cover for issue #43 was also changed to something more dynamic.)
Oh, one more thing before i begin the synopsis. In addition to the regular credits, there are additional notes on 3 of the 4 issues here. In issue #42 it says "Certain art and dialogue freely adapted from the works of Sal Buscema, Steve Englehart, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, George Tuska, and Carl Burgos". In #43, it's "With a grateful acknowledgement to the works of John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Steve Enghlehart, Don Heck, Rich Howell, and Roy Thomas". Nothing on #44. And then on #45, something a little different: "W.C. Avengers created by Roger Stern & Bob Hall". A quick look at the credits of the next few issues doesn't show anything more like that. It's not entirely unusual for books at this point to have a credit to the creators; New Mutants consistently has a "Created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod" line in the credits, for example. But it's odd for the Stern/Hall credit to just pop up in that one issue. The other acknowledgements are because in those issues Byrne does a lot of recapping of the histories of the Scarlet Witch and the Vision, so he is acknowledging who originally drew and wrote those scenes (and apparently in lieu of footnotes, annoyingly). It's just not something i've seen before or since.
Ok, enough set up. Scarlet Witch wakes up to find the Vision not in the bed next to her, which is odd because although he doesn't sleep, "the presence of her husband at her side has been a great comfort to one who has known little peace in her life".
God, that sounds awful, doesn't it. Does he lay there bored all night? Or does he balance their checkbooks? The idea that he lays there just for her makes him sound kind of like an appliance more than a person, which may be exactly what Byrne intends. I always thought he did sleep, and dreamt of electric sheep, or at least of making the Hulk play Simon says.
Wanda goes searching for the Vision and hears Hawkeye getting in some early morning practice in an impossibly awesome gadget...
...and when he accidentally shoots at her, Byrne provides a very clearly defined explanation of her powers.
Then, Ultron shows up out of the blue.
Meanwhile, someone that John Byrne does allow to dream is Tigra, although her dreams aren't very pleasant. She dreams of being a cat.
Eventually she, Wonder Man, and the Wasp hear the battle going on outside and respond. Tigra notes that the Wasp is arriving from the direction of Henry Pym's bungalow. Pym was already awake and not in his quarters.
A recurring theme throughout these issues is Hawkeye's authority being undermined, and here's a precursor to that, which shows the Wasp reverting to her role as a chairperson (and i definitely like seeing that part of her character emphasized).
When Pym gets to the fight, he notices that something isn't right about Ultron, so he shrinks down Wonder Man...
...and tells him to jump into Ultron's mouth. No time for an explanation, i guess! Once the shrink particles wear off, Wonder Man destroys "Ultron" from the inside.
He turns out to be a fake. Pym suggests that the Avengers disassemble (not again!) and search the compound to see who might have taken the Vision and sent this fake Ultron.
But instead they find that a computer virus has wiped out all references to the Vision in their computer and in their connected systems: the East Coast headquarters, the Fantastic Four, the Pentagon, and, er, SHIELD (which should be defunct at this point, but more on that soon).
As to who did it, well, that's when Mockingbird shows up.
Mockingbird is obviously looking quite pleased with herself, but that changes immediately with the next issue.
I don't know if the change was just to allow for a dramatic cliffhanger or if the story was changed, but Byrne does give an in-story explanation for the change.
Mockingbird's story is that she was approached by people claiming to be SHIELD agents, and they asked her to help with a contingency plan. With the Vision now returning to the Avengers, they were worried that the Vision might try to take over the world again, so Mockingbird helped them figure out how to invade the Avengers compound and capture him if he ever did that.
What she didn't realize is that it wasn't really a contingency plan, it was something they intended to do immediately. When she found out, and especially after learning that they were hitting the Scarlet Witch with a post-hypnotic suggestion to prevent her from attacking the fake Ultron, she protested...
...and was locked up. She eventually found that her captors weren't SHIELD, they were KGB (and note the Tigra moment).
So she's just now escaped. Her comment about having "let in the computer boys" must not mean that she literally opened the doors for them.
The problem with all of this is that at time of publication, SHIELD was defunct. There's no way this story (with a Mar-Jun cover date) could have been intended to take place after the return of SHIELD (Nick Fury #1 has a Sep cover date). It's possible that when Mockingbird was dealing with her Phantom Rider problems and then leading her splinter faction of the West Coast Avengers she was just totally out of the loop and never found out about SHIELD's dissolution, or it's possible that the people that contacted Mockingbird were very good about convincing her that SHIELD had been reinstated or was operating below the radar. But considering how meticulous Byrne is in his plotting of all other aspects of this story, those explanations may work but they probably weren't intentional. Byrne was just back to Marvel proper (i.e., not the New Universe), so i don't entirely blame him for missing this, but i'm surprised it also got past editor Howard Mackie and presumably Mark Gruenwald. And it's too bad because just swapping out SHIELD with the CIA would have worked just as well. Instead, Mockingbird looks extra gullible.
But at least she knows where she was being held, so she leads the Avengers there. Here's more of the Wasp falling into the leadership role.
Byrne also reminds us that Steve Englehart recently brought back the Wasp's antennae.
The Avengers infiltrate the building (here's Hawkeye's leadership slipping away again, and it's not the Wasp this time)...
...and fight their way to where the Vision is. It's not a challenge; aside from the fake Ultron, the only super-powered threats in this arc are internal, like when Tigra loses control and attacks Hawkeye during this search, and even that happens mostly off panel.
Mockingbird and the Scarlet Witch are the first to reach the Vision.
In my early days on the internet, at a time when i just loved my John Byrne comics uncritically, i read a critique of these issues somewhere, i think possibly on a now defunct Geocities site, and the writer, criticizing Byrne's handling of Scarlet Witch from a feminist perspective, said that the purpose of this scene was to show without a doubt that the Vision did not have a penis, demonstrating that Wanda has been crazy all along and certainly could never have been impregnated by him, no matter how much probability warping (or magic) she used, and also that she's been living in a sexless marriage (maybe even preserving her virginity). I think the larger critique was on track, but i don't know if that's really what this scene was meant to represent. First of all, it's a code book. Second, to get probably a little too graphic, that red skin is obviously stretchy. So it's not like one of the metal bits or some of the organic material couldn't, like, poke out when necessary. And in any event, when the subject of the Silver Surfer or the Thing's possible lack of genitals has come up, female friends have reminded me that there are other ways (in fact, possibly more preferred ways) to please a lady, so there's no need to infer from this that the Scarlet Witch and the Vision's marriage was platonic.
If you are inclined to think along these lines, this opening splash saying that the Vision "once" shed a tear might be interpreted to mean that it's the only time he's issued bodily fluid, i.e., it was a fluke.
I think it's just that Byrne is a guy that likes to reference old stories, and so he's referencing the memorable end of Avengers #58 in a way to be sure that we'll know that's what he's talking about. But Byrne will establish/declare that Wanda's pregnancy was impossible, whether or not he was intentionally building up to it with the graphic clues.
We see the start of another thread of the impossible pregnancy with this scene of Thomas and William's nanny watching the boys disappear.
It turns out that Mockingbird was doubly wrong about her misleading captors. They weren't entirely SHIELD, and they weren't entirely KGB. They're a collection of every government security agency on Earth: the Canadian Secret Service, the Australians, the British MI-7, the French Deuxieme Bureau (and based on that, having the group that contacted Mockingbird be the CIA instead of SHIELD might have made more sense). It is interesting that the American government is allowing this attack on the Vision. Even if they can't bring themselves to see the Vision as a person, it's still an assault on the Avengers' property, and do they really want to risk such poor relations with the Avengers, a super-team that has protected American interests on many occasions? i don't think it's implausible that the answer to that question is "Yes", though. The Vision's attempted takeover of the world's computer systems was obviously a big deal, resulting in the revocation of the Avengers' Security Clearance, which still hasn't been restored. In the meantime, the US government has been taking measures to get super-powered forces more directly under its own control, as we've seen with Freedom Force and the efforts with Captain America (and more on that soon, and directly related to this). So i guess the answer is that the US government is willing to piss off the Avengers.
They don't, however, provide any resistance to the Avengers reclaiming the Vision's body parts now. But while repairing him physically is hard enough, the real problem is that the Vision's mind and memories and personality were wiped out. The Scarlet Witch reminds everyone that the Vision keeps backups of his memories on disc, but that computer virus that we heard about earlier has already taken care of that.
A sidebar on the backup memories, which is actually relevant to the upcoming dilemma for Wonder Man as well. A consistent problem i have with a lot of sci-fi (especially less thoughtful cyberpunk) stories is the idea that you can back up or transfer your mind to a computer system. You can't. You can copy your mind, but it's only a copy. If i have a file on my computer and i copy it to another folder, it's a copy. Both can exist at the same time, but only one is the original. And if i delete the original, it's gone. Now, if i'm working on a document and i lost my original, i'm happy to have the backup. But that document isn't a person. The Scarlet Witch, before we find out that the backups are destroyed, says "But the Vision kept a backup memory file stored in the Avengers' computers! That would only be complete up to the last time he updated it, but...". I wonder if that would really be acceptable to her, and what it would say about her if it was. If Vision had a RAID-like system of redundancies, where he was equally alive on multiple computers or hard drives and it was all simultaneously getting updated, i could see the loss of one hard drive as not being a problem. But restoring his memory from an archive, and an incomplete memory at that, basically means it's not the same person anymore. If we got into the mystical realm (entirely possible in the Marvel universe) and said that the Vision had a soul and the Avengers found a way to restore that, i could easily agree that his partially restored memories weren't a long term problem. But Wanda's comment here makes it sound more like she's trying to restore an appliance rather than get a person back. That doesn't make her bad or stupid - she's grieving and grasping at straws - but the reality seems to be that the Vision as we know him is dead and the Avengers will now be working towards creating a duplicate.
Even putting him back together physically is going to be a challenge, and Pym wishes they could contact the supposedly deceased Professor Horton. And that's when the Wasp enters the room with an almost She-Hulkian metacommentary about dramatic entrances (which, in-story, seems a little flippant in the face the of the tragedy the Scarlet Witch is facing).
It turns out Professor Horton has been located by the united secret service agencies, and he declares, "This is not my work".
By the way, we are now into a storyline that will get retconned in Kurt Busiek's Avengers Forever, so if you check the Characters Appearing you will see that this is really a Space Phantom posing as Horton.
I do like Byrne's depiction of Scarlet Witch's power. At the same time he's tearing down her emotional state, he's not turning her into a flake powerwise.
And i wouldn't necessarily put this in the same category as, say, Dark Phoenix or Invisible Malice, i.e., putting characters through an emotional wringer to increase their powers. As far as i can see, Byrne is showing that she's always been this powerful.
But emotionally.... well, when she gets home, she fires her nanny for reporting that the kids disappeared, without at all considering the possibility that something might have happened (it's not like the Avengers don't have enemies, and their Compound had already been raided once this storyline). And she's also not accepting that Professor Horton was genuine (of course, in light of the Avengers Forever retcon, she's actually right about that).
Wonder Man raises the possibility that Immortus is a lying wump, which is also true.
Our action for issue #44 is really just a false alarm, as the Vision is re-activated too early.
In the subsequent angry call to Raymond Sikorski, you can see Pym making the same point i made about the Vision being dead. And that Sikorski, the most sympathetic of the Avengers' government contacts, isn't too broken up about it.
Sikorski has additional news for them. If the Avengers want to avoid additional government raids, they have to accept a new member onto their team.
The Avengers initially think it's Captain America.
But it's not.
I know some people don't like USAgent in any capacity, but i think he works perfectly here as an unwanted agent of the government forced onto the group. Byrne may have been able to draw on the fact that the character was pushed here at Marvel editorial's request.
It's worth realizing that Hawkeye might have approached USAgent as if he were equal to Captain America in strength, but John Walker in fact has super-strength. But regardless of why he got tossed so easily, it's the final straw on top of the challenges to his leadership and the return of Mockingbird (without them reconciling).
USAgent's restatement of the fact that he's been sent here by a government to keep track of a team that once allowed the Vision to try to take over the world i think is a cool bit of realism. USAgent is basically a super-powered Henry Gyrich, and an attempt to bring the Avengers to heel. (Why the West Coast? Well, because the Vision is here, and maybe because they think this team will be easier to control. Or they still trust and/or don't want conflict with the real Captain America on the East Coast team.) He's not a character we have to, or are even supposed to like.
Frankly, i'd prefer if USAgent's character was left there, but there's no getting around the fact that he ended his appearances in the Captain America series as full-on crazy, and Byrne introduces him here as someone whose "Jaw is perhaps a fraction too square, the iron sinewed neck a bit too thick. And in the fervor, the fierce pride of place and patriotism which burns in his piercing eyes, might we not detect a hint of... madness?" And indeed by the end of this issue, that's confirmed.
Of course, he's not the only one. Here's Scarlet Witch letting her new nanny candidate go up to see her babies unsupervised (i'm sure a security check was done on her, but still), and they are nowhere to be seen.
And, well, i guess it's not madness, but here goes Tigra:
But the biggest news is the newly rebuilt (and still junk-less) Vision.
What's still missing is his "soul". For that, Wonder Man has to allow the duplication of his personality again. But this time he has a choice in the matter and (after an unnecessary recitation of his own history) he declines to do so.
Scarlet Witch obviously doesn't take it well.
Wonder Man survives that, of course, but we see that he's holding back some emotions.
It's not stated yet, but the obvious conclusion when talking about the fact that the Vision's personality is just a duplicate of Wonder Man's is that Simon actually has feelings for Wanda himself. It's been a weird point ever since Wonder Man was first reintroduced, but it's been mitigated by the fact that the Vision has never acted anything like Wonder Man, so you could easily assume that Wonder Man's personality matrix or whatever was just a starting point and one of many variables that went into the Vision's character. But Byrne seems to be looking at the Vision as literally a sum of his parts.
In the meantime, the Vision doesn't want to wear clothes.
But he sort-of acquiesces. I wouldn't have minded some shoes, too.
However, the lack of color will remain. It's only logical for a "Vision" to look "spectral... unearthly".
Another thing that Byrne comes into criticism for is claiming to restore everything to their creators' intentions while actually just doing his own interpretation. This is probably a prime case of that. In any event, the monochrome Vision is a little too dull for me, but it's a good way to represent his vastly changed character.
And that's it for the main story. To reiterate what i said at the top, i enjoyed every minute of this at the same time i was appalled at what was happening to the characters, especially knowing how it affects the Scarlet Witch in the long term.
While all of this is going on, we see that there is more in store for the Scarlet Witch. A group of mystery people at Absolom College in Texas are reviewing a list of mutants for some purpose, and have settled on Scarlet Witch.
Hey, at least she's not "too unstable".
I can't figure out who the red-headed lady at A3 is. I also wondered why Firestar was at both G2 and I3 until i realized I3 was Jean Grey.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 178,125. Single issue closest to filing date = 160,100.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: More than two days pass during the course of this story. USAgent appears here after Captain America #354. The comment that Captain America has just been appointed East Coast chairman is probably a reference to the start of Byrne's run on Avengers, but Cap has been acting as chairman since Inferno so i'm not sure it matters for placement purposes.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (21): show
Oh boy, i was waiting for you to get to these.
the bad: Where to start? Ok, Bryne doesn't like Hawk-eye so he turns him into an incompetent leader, in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary. Even the scene where the Agent tosses him to the ground is moronic. Its been clearly shown repeatedly and in the handbooks that Hawk-eyes arrows are secured in his quiver, not to fall out if he's knocked over. But since Bryne doesn't like him all that goes out the window.
The sad thing is, the only reason JB came to WCA was to mess with the Scarlet Witch and get her together with Wonder man. He just doesnt like the idea of beautiful women with "odd" men. Exact same reason he put Alicia with the Torch. He's rather the hot Witch is with the hunky Wonder man. So he undoes one of the stablest marriages at Marvel. I know marvel hates marriage but its annoying the lengths JB goes to.
the Tigra thing has been done before and is boring.
And the idea of erasing the Witch's children. Any parent hates the idea of harm to their children. but to erase them, even in fiction, is just awful.
the treatment and reinterpretation of established characters according to JB is the biggest sin. My only consolation is that JB leaves before he gets Wanda and Simon together and nobody else thought it was a good idea (or remotely interesting)
Posted by: kveto from prague | September 25, 2014 3:23 PM
I enjoyed this story and run. I get the complaints people have but I guess I just don't feel as passionately about them. Kind of like the complaints with the Madeline Pryor stuff the last few years. I liked Walker here for the first time and felt Byrne did a great job giving the character a reason to be there. This, along with She-Hulk, was the beginning of the last era that I was exited to see Byrne's work.
Posted by: Robert | September 25, 2014 3:41 PM
"some people don't like USAgent in any capacity"
That was pretty much the end of the WCA far as I am concerned.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 25, 2014 4:48 PM
Who is at D3?
Also, why would anyone assume the Vision has a soul?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 25, 2014 5:03 PM
D3 is Magik, "no longer viable" because she's been regressed to childhood.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 25, 2014 5:12 PM
The mystery redhead at A3 is Maddy Pryor, I had always assumed, due to the hair style.
I was really getting into collecting comics hardcore at the time of these issues coming out and I devoured them! Lots of interesting things going on here and it's a shame Byrne wouldn't get the chance to finish off his run on the title, as his "long game" would have put most of the toys back on the shelf when he was done. Also, it was a fun sounding storyline he had worked out!
And JB draws a beautiful Scarlet Witch.
Posted by: Bill | September 25, 2014 6:53 PM
Bill, agree 100% about Byrne's Scarlet Witch. His Mockingbird is nice, too.
Posted by: Robert | September 25, 2014 8:01 PM
When the Vision was introduced in '68 he showed some influence from the relatively new Mr. Spock in his character -- cool and logical, but capable of feeling. Here Byrne decides to remake him to be like Data - completely devoid of emotion. Its a derivative and ultimately unsuccessful approach; various future writers will be compelled to undo this change by various means because removing *all* emotion from Viz undermines everything that defined him up to now.
Posted by: Gary Himes | September 25, 2014 8:27 PM
Who's the "unverified" woman next to Sabertooth?
The Vision's "memory backup" involves the same philosophical question as the Carol Danvers/Rogue situation. Rogue possesses the only "copy" of Carol's mind, and it could arguably be the original. In each case, there's a "living" body that loses its old mind and gets a new one. Carol's is an attempted reconstruction of her original mind, but Claremont makes a point of telling us its like a xerox, the emotional resonances aren't there. But they very much are there for the Carol Danvers who exists in Rogue's mind, as we know from when she attacked the Helicarrier and rescued Rossi. So which is the "real" Carol--the body or the mind, both of which are in some sense alive?
The Vizh, there's the added twist that his mind is supposedly a copy of Simon's to begin with.
I think Byrne really is revisiting "Dark Phoenix" here and doing the story his way, maybe to prove he can do it better than Claremont, or just better the second time. Wanda will become uber-powerful, even if Byrne argues she should have been uber-powerful all along: heck, she one-ups Phoenix not by consuming a star but by wiping out whole realities. And she's nuts and evil. She's being manipulated by Immortus, who is also a step up from Mastermind.
From what Byrne has said about his aborted second half of his run, it would have been a riff on DoFP, with Wanda creating an alternate present in which the heroes were on the run from a victorious, world-conquering Kang, and only the time-displaced Black Knight--shielded in that dimensional vortex Thor placed him in--would have known that history had been changed.
Note that while this is thematically similar to DoFP--dystopian world where the heroes' old enemy has won--it's even more similar in the particulars to Age of Apocalypse, but with Apocalypse in Kang's role and Bishop in the Black Knight's. I don't think its a coincidence.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | September 25, 2014 9:22 PM
Walter I believe that's Sabra from Contest of Champions and Hulk 'fame.'
Posted by: Robert | September 25, 2014 9:37 PM
"There's no way this story (with a Mar-Jun cover date) could have been intended to take place after the return of SHIELD (Nick Fury #1 has a Sep cover date)"
Posted by: Michael | September 25, 2014 9:41 PM
Ah, so that's Sabra next to Sabretooth. Dunno who's between Iceman and Legion.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | September 25, 2014 9:56 PM
I'm going to guess it's Karma, suffering the usual comics heroine fate of having her hair miscolored.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | September 25, 2014 10:03 PM
I didn't realize the mutants they are looking thru is alphabetical. Duh!
In that case, flipping thru the Marvel Universe Handbook from back then, the only character who would make sense, being between Iceman and Legion, would be Karma. Is it possible that's Karma up there with mis-colored hair?
Posted by: Bill | September 25, 2014 10:09 PM
Blast! Walter beat me to it. LOL
Posted by: Bill | September 25, 2014 10:10 PM
@Walter- Wanda doesn't wipe out entire realities under Byrne- Immortus does.
Posted by: Michael | September 25, 2014 10:35 PM
Thanks. It must be Karma indeed. But then who is between Pyro and Rogue?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 25, 2014 10:46 PM
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | September 25, 2014 10:50 PM
Who's the weird baboon faced creature between Malice & Marvel Girl?!
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | September 25, 2014 10:51 PM
Mandrill, Nekra's partner.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 25, 2014 10:55 PM
Interesting... Jammie Madrox, unlike most, is positioned by his surname instead of by his codename. In fact, I think he is the only one not placed by codename.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 25, 2014 10:59 PM
Interesting to note who's missing: the Hellfire Club members & the Hellions, the Mutant Force members... and Mirage. Hm...
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | September 25, 2014 11:10 PM
Which brings me to Jan and Hank. Pym catches himself using a pet-name, but Wasp is all "lover" this and "sure you don't wanna hang out?" that. I guess she's always been a flirt, but there's more going on, right? Didn't see you discuss that.
Some of Byrne's work here is pretty amazing. I was also really drawn to him during my formative years of fandom (ages 9-15 or so) and was very stoked at this run. But I also think this series was where I first really noticed Byrne was increasingly foregoing backgrounds. It gets worse.
USAgent's portrayal here isn't anything approaching sympathetic; I greatly dislike Walker, but don't really see the problem with him here. It's not like he's being played as a Gets Results wimp-buster. He's an arrogant jock hardhead who loves giving (AND taking) orders.
Posted by: Cullen | September 26, 2014 1:53 AM
I have very mixed feelings about these issues. I love them and also hate them.
Posted by: Steven | September 26, 2014 2:18 AM
Oh, the problem isn't so much with USAgent's portrayal here (although it gets very, so very worse further on) as with his presence. While it may be realistic to have the government push him in, it is unrealistic to see the WCAers so accepting of him.
Yes, I know they tell him to get lost. It is still way too little. Of course, it is worse still that Captain America accepted to have his identity usurped by the psycho a second time.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 26, 2014 3:20 AM
@Steven: Roy Thomas has however written some of the worst issues ever when it comes to treatment of USAgent. I don't know how much choice he had, but it was cringeworthy. I fear the WCA were permanently sullied by the association with the... gent. It gets especially bad with Spider-Woman (circa #75) and Hawkeye himself.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 26, 2014 3:49 AM
It's possible Byrne was riffing on and was inspired by the Next Generation character Data? The yellowish complexion, the pattern of repeating words like a thesaurus, and so forth. Possibly Byrne thought he could do something with a character like that.
I always found the disassembled Vision disturbing. I remember Byrne did a similar thing to Dorma's corpse in the Namor series. I don't know what his deal is. I don't think John Byrne gets laid much.
Posted by: George Gordon | September 26, 2014 5:11 AM
On the listing to these issue, fnord, you have Hawkeye as "QUIT" and USAgent and Mockingbird as "JOINED." There are a couple of problems with that listing (which in turn points out some the problems with Byrne's run in general.) For one, this is where Mockingbird QUITS the WCA so she can engage in an "estranged wife" subplot. Bobbi then spends just about the remainder of the book's run as a grouchy supporting character who only pops up when Hawkeye needs someone to yell at. (Actually there relationship is even worse than that and they become one of those obnoxious make-up-break-up couples.) Secondly, no where is it mentioned that Wasp, Dr. Pym and Tigra rejoined the team as of these issues (of course Byrne doesn't mention that little fact either, so I can't blame anyone else for not pointing that out.) There is NO explanation for why all these people rejoined the WCA, especially since Mockingbird is still "estranged" from the team (outside of pure IITS reasons.) Again keep in mind that Tigra and Mockingbird left the team for ethical reasons and Jan was all "Divorced means divorced" just an arc ago. Now everyone's back without any of these issues being resolved or even refered too (except Mockingbird's split from Clint.) It's all erratic and inconsistent.
I think the "A3" woman could also be a miscolored Infectia.
Also, this is what I'm talking about when I wonder about writers "redeeming" USAgent. He clearly isn't presented as all that heroic here, and instead occupies what I would call the "Guy Gardner role" of the team. I think that kind of archetype can work for a team in certain doses, especially when contrast with someone as Hawkeye.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | September 26, 2014 5:15 AM
Tigra said she was going to rejoin the main WCA team in West Coast Avengers #41. Henry Pym seems to have remained with Hawkeye after Solo Avengers #16 which makes sense since he left to take care of "Maria". Both Tigra and Pym are shown with the WCA in Avengers #302-303 which i assume takes place prior to this arc (it was published at the same time). I'll bet Byrne was told that Wasp similarly was getting added back to the team in one of the editorial clean-up arcs and that's why he didn't explicitly show her returning, but i've added her to the "Join" category for this issue.
Cullen, i did mention that Tigra observed Wasp leaving Pym's bungalow during the early morning "Ultron" attack but you're right that i didn't follow up with the very familiar and flirty dialogue from the Wasp.
Michael pointed out that the grid of mutants is in alphabetical order so A3 probably isn't Infectia. Karma seems like the best guess so far. I think Madrox's superhero name is Madrox the Multiple Man which is why he's before Magik.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 26, 2014 7:52 AM
Yes, the USAgent role is the Guy Gardner Role, which is almost the Punisher role in my eyes. Nuff said. Or to be clear, it is not something that works IMO.
Infectia fits alphabetically, between Iceman and Legion. So does Karma.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 26, 2014 8:29 AM
Oh, der. Thanks, Luis. Good thing i wasn't in charge of putting those slides in order.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 26, 2014 8:42 AM
@Cullen- I think the way it's supposed to work is USAgent has been brainwashed into thinking his parents are alive, so his mind creates "phone conversations",etc. with them to fill in the gaps in the illusion. USAgent doesn't have any more hallucinations after the brainwashing is removed.
Posted by: Michael | September 26, 2014 8:58 AM
Does John Byrne think that Hank hitting Jan was okay?
Posted by: Steven | September 26, 2014 9:13 AM
Steven, the better question to ask would be if Byrne (or anyone) thinks a man should go back to a woman who took advantage of his mental unstability to marry him. Yeah, let's not all pretend Jan's hands are perfectly clean in all that...
In all seriousness though, I've always been bothered by the coloring of the Wasp's gloves and boots in these issues. It looks like they've been left uncolored to my eyes.
Posted by: Bill | September 26, 2014 11:08 AM
That "Nixon Resigns" headline around Sikorski's desk is strange; he committed suicide in Captain America #175.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 27, 2014 6:25 PM
It was a very definitive resignation. Tricky Dick wasn't known for half-measures.
Posted by: cullen | September 27, 2014 6:29 PM
Thanks to the sliding timeline that wasn't Nixon that killed himself but a "high ranking government official". (And Byrne is a big fan of the sliding timeline.)
Posted by: Michael | September 27, 2014 6:38 PM
Why did it take so long for the babies to disappear? Did this also happen when Wanda was taking care of them?
Posted by: clyde | September 27, 2014 8:49 PM
At this point there's no explanation for the Scarlet Witch's babies disappearing. But we'll soon see that they disappear when she's not focusing on them, which is why they never disappeared in front of her.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 27, 2014 11:56 PM
MTU #130 showed that the Vision isn't "erased" when he is possessed by a ghost, and VSW V2 #9 showed that he has humanlike drives. None of that demonstrates souls - although to be fair, nothing in real life does, either.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 28, 2014 12:19 PM
In Marvel Team-Up 130, Wanda told Vision that the reason that he was able to resist Necrodamus was that he has a soul. In Vision and the Scarlet Witch 9, the Enchantress says that "One of my kisses will enslave any man-- even a synthetic man, if his soul is human!"
Posted by: Michael | September 28, 2014 12:44 PM
I enjoyed JB's run on West Coast Avengers. I think most of the criticism is misplaced. At the time when JB left the title, there were major changes for the Vision and Scarlet Witch. However, I think it is important to note that he was in the middle of his storyline.
If JB had been allowed to complete it, I think we would have seen a return to the status quo to the Vision and Scarlet Witch (except for one thing which I won't mention until the relevant issue). It's fairly common for a long term creative stint (which was clearly the intention) to include temporary changes. I don't see why anyone should think the Vision's state at the end of this to be permanent. JB had the Thing revert to his lumpy form for 7 issues or so. This state of the Vision might have lasted longer, but by the time JB wrapped things up, I'm sure the Vision would be back to where he was. Perhaps not perfectly so. Instead of the more human Vision since his removal of the Control Crystal in Avg # 254, perhaps it would be the yellow word balloon version.
I think there are some mis-steps. JB wanted Hawkeye back to his roots as the resident malcontent of the Avengers, so he removed him from leadership. I think he did it very clumsily, and Hawkeye doesn't seem like the guy we've known for the past six years. I think it would have been better for Hawkeye to step down as chairman for personal reasons, but stay on as an Avenger (until he quits in protest later). Without the responsibilities of chairman, and with his mind troubled over his relationship with Mockingbird, him slipping into his old habits would have made more sense. Since essentially Henry Pym had been rehabilitated by this point, Hawkeye stepping down so Hank could step up would have been a nice arc going back to WCA #1 when Hank offered to help Hawkeye out.
With the multiple stories under Englehart about Tigra, I agree that another one is probably not the best. She'd been through enough. Still, I think it would have been fine in and of itself.
I don't agree with how JB envisioned Scarlet Witch's powers. "Control probabilities" doesn't mean retroactive changes in time. I think the Uncertainty Principle is easier to invoke. However, it was all leading up the JB's Immortus storyline, so once again I think we would need to see how it played out.
I do like JB's use of USAgent even if it was forced on him. I think it added a lot of interpersonality conflict. My only complaint is that too often, he looks like JB's depiction of Steve Rogers. Kieron Dwyer did a much better job of distinguishing between the two.
Posted by: Chris | September 29, 2014 12:18 AM
Chris, Byrne wasn't fired off WCA- he was just told that he couldn't redefine Wanda's powers as changing the past. Then he quit. So if he was planning on fixing Vision and Wanda, then he could have found another way to do so before he quit.
Posted by: Michael | September 29, 2014 7:55 AM
I believe that The Vision had a soul, but he was murdered in this story. The reconstructed Vision has no soul. In 2014, I still think he has no soul and is still inferior to what he was.
Posted by: Steven | September 29, 2014 12:05 PM
"In 2014, I still think he has no soul and is still inferior to what he was."
Just like Marvel.
Posted by: Robert | September 29, 2014 12:38 PM
I was wondering whether it was Byrne's, Gruenwald's or DeFalco's decision to use the psycho in WCA.
According to Byrne, it was Gruenwalds:
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 29, 2014 7:55 PM
Michael, yes Byrne walked away when his story was vetoed in mid-progression. I don't think it matters whether he was fired or quit. We don't know how he intended to wind up the story although we do have clues.
I always thought it would be very easy to repair the Vision. If people are upset that the Vision didn't go back to what he was before, why not blame the writers who came AFTER Byrne? I think it was Roy Thomas. It would have been very easy for Roy to return the Vision, but for some reason it didn't happen until a very long time after.
I agree that there ended up being damage to the Vision long term, but it didn't have to be that way even with the VisionQuest storyline. There were lots of ways to set things back - certainly no more than a year if that is what Marvel wanted.
Let's go back to an actual quote where Byrne did describe the Vision as a toaster:
"The question becomes, I suppose, one of value. Knowing that the Vision's complete personality/memory/intelligence was downloaded into a computer in Titan (was it Titan? Memory blurs) allowed me to scrape his brain in my VisionQuest story, since everything could be restored with a literal flip of a switch. Should something that can be so easily copied and retrieved be treated as having the same intrinsic value as a human being? Should any of the human Avengers, for instance, ever risk their lives on behalf of the Vision? My vote would be no (as some of you have probably already guessed) -- but I would say that even if it were not possible to restore or "save" the Vision in any other way. He is a "toaster"."
Byrne is saying that as someone not truly biologically alive and can be copied and duplicated, that the Vision is disposable. You can disagree with that. It's fine. It's the old Data debate in ST: TNG, which I bet is the origin of "toaster". However, Byrne clearly stated that there was already planned a way to restore the Vision entirely to what was done prior. To me, this is pretty good evidence Byrne intended to do just that. Why none of the writers after him did that is a question for them.
Nor do I think there is much water in the argument about Wonder Man. That was established long before Byrne, and much was made by multiple writers of Wonder Man and Vision being "brothers". Even if Vision never acted like Wonder Man in the comics (and I never saw it either), Byrne was just riffing on that long established point.
Posted by: Chris | September 29, 2014 10:58 PM
Doing "significant" changes just to undo them immediately after is not particularly good writing, nor good editorial direction.
Also, Byrne is being a bit more flippant than I expected there (which is saying something): Vision did communicate with Isaac in Titan during Stern's run, but he did not actually create a substitute body or anything. He just got increased senses, the power of holographic projection, and perhaps additional storage and processing power. A major plot point of his arc in Stern's run was that he would lose his body when he took over the world's security systems.
Yet Byrne admits a "blur" in his memory even while presenting his supposedly solid out and misrepresenting it as a complete download into something he thinks involved Titan.
Jim Shooter, you should demand half of the payment Byrne received when you worked together. It is rather obvious that he badly needed your supervision, although he is unlikely to ever admit it.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 29, 2014 11:43 PM
Roy Thomas took over writing Avengers WEST COAST. Byrne had already moved Vision to the main title, which went from an 8-issue Nicieza run to an 8-issue Hama run before finally settling on Harras, who took 3 years to bring back the Vision. And yes, Harras does deserve some blame for taking so long to restore the Vision but he inherited Byrne's mess. More to the point, Byrne's story had convinced many readers that Vision wasn't human.
That's also ignoring the fact that Vision HAS NEVER BEEN copied and duplicated, and Byrne even admits that a copy of the Vision wouldn't be the genuine article. Oh, and the Vision OBJECTIVELY has a soul, unlike Data.
Posted by: Michael | September 30, 2014 7:51 AM
Luis, I have to wonder if Byrne was thinking about the Vision projecting his consciousness into Earth's computers at the climax of Stern's story. But that proves the OPPOSITE of what Byrne was suggesting- everyone was worried that Vision would be lost forever if they couldn't get his mind out of the computer systems. They weren't thinking, "No big deal. The Vision is backed up anyway." It's the same problem with Tigra- Byrne was arguing the Cat People would have made her cat soul dominant but that ignores the fact that that's what they TRIED to do. Byrne's "logic" only works if you don't interpret the comics the way a REASONABLE person would, but if we ignore reasonable interpretations, then we could conclude that Peter raped MJ.
Posted by: Michael | September 30, 2014 8:05 AM
"That's also ignoring the fact that Vision HAS NEVER BEEN copied and duplicated, and Byrne even admits that a copy of the Vision wouldn't be the genuine article."
I'm not disputing that, but would you have a source for the Byrne admission?
"Oh, and the Vision OBJECTIVELY has a soul, unlike Data."
Why do you say that?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 30, 2014 5:18 PM
Luis, I meant that in Avengers West Coast 53 Byrne has the Avengers decide not to copy Simon's brainwave patterns and use them to recreate the Vision because they realize the copy wouldn't be the original Vision.
Posted by: Michael | September 30, 2014 7:49 PM
"I was wondering whether it was Byrne's, Gruenwald's or DeFalco's decision to use the psycho in WCA."
Now I don't know if I'd go so far as to call USAgent a psycho. He's certainly an abrasive jerk, but in a world where Wolverine and Punisher exist (and Cable and Liefeldian brand of "heroism" is right around the corner) USAgent looks like a boy scout (albeit, a boy scout that drinks and gives the finger to old ladies as oppose o helping them across the street.) Plus ironically enough, he kind of fits in with the...darker direction that Byrne seems to be pushing the team though.
Ugh. That mockingbird panel really bothers me. It's just so contrived. It reminds me of the worse traits of the x-books of the 90s, when the plot would be twisted like a pretzel to have a "dramatic reveal" on the last page that would inevitably be deflated by the next issue.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | September 30, 2014 8:25 PM
"Luis, I meant that in Avengers West Coast 53 Byrne has the Avengers decide not to copy Simon's brainwave patterns and use them to recreate the Vision because they realize the copy wouldn't be the original Vision."
Of course it wouldn't. It would not have had the Vision's memories and experiences. That in no way implies that souls even exist, much less that the Vision (or Simon) have any.
We can never have objective proof of the existence of souls except in fantasy works - which, granted, VSW #9 arguably is. In any case, even there Enchantress is hardly beyond using figurative language.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 30, 2014 9:11 PM
Now I don't know if I'd go so far as to call USAgent a psycho.
It is not like there is any reason not to.
He's certainly an abrasive jerk, but in a world where Wolverine and Punisher exist (and Cable and Liefeldian brand of "heroism" is right around the corner) USAgent looks like a boy scout (albeit, a boy scout that drinks and gives the finger to old ladies as oppose o helping them across the street.) Plus ironically enough, he kind of fits in with the...darker direction that Byrne seems to be pushing the team though.
That he does.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 30, 2014 9:13 PM
Some say Bryne made this so horrible because he just did what he wanted to and how he liked it and didn't give shit about what ohters did, and someothers say that he did it to anatagonize Enaglehart as revenge for what he did after taking over the FF after Bryne
Posted by: Tock | January 19, 2015 1:00 PM
They didn't give Nekra a "No." They gave her a "No!" They felt she, and only she, deserved an exclamation point. Intriguing.
Is Black Tom listed as Cassidy in the mutant alphabetical grid? In that case it's not just Jamie Madrox who has been classified by his last name. And clearly those dopes are still referring to Archangel "Angel", simply. Come on, people, he's totally blue!
U.S. Agent is not simply a Wolverine-type hero, neither is he a Punisher. Much less a Guy Gardner, who is a jerk but in most cases quite effective. He's even more colorful when he saves people AND acts like a real jerk about it. Punisher is not your average madman, he is truly rational and calculating and can control his temper when he has to. He's is more of an extremist, willing to put himself above the law like Batman (or most superheroes, if tou think about it), except he puts himself above any moral conduct (save perhaps harming innocent civilians). Wolverine is a rogue, tough loner with a perpetual, sometimes tedious conflict between his wild persona prone to "berserker mode" and a heroic, noble calling who takes little pleasure in killing. And he is well liked and respected by his teammates. U.S. Agent, unlike Wolverine or Guy Gardner, never joined the West Coast Avengers, he was shoved down their throats by that meddlesome Comission. And at times he was outright incompetent. He thoroughly damaged the team's morale, he often ignored strategic issues and he argued over the pettiest things. He isn't a dick like Guy Gardner, who wasn't entirely outstanding in JLI with its quarrelsome crew of pranksters, lowlives and nitwits. He was a hypocritical, reactionary, self-righteous, humorless, grandstanding, unhinged and sometimes unreliable. Guy Gardner is also arrogant and pompous, he there is a human side to him: he has genuine love for Ice, going through weird lengths to please her (e.g., taking her to the freakin' ICE-CAPADES!) and he reveres General Glory in a sincere, childish way. Plus, he has a sense of humor, however coarse or crude. USAgent is detestable, but like Cullen I like the way Byrne uses him.
I don't agree with a LOT of what Byrne does. I agree with Kveto that he does have a problem with "pretty women getting it in with weird men". Scarlet Witch cannot be with Vision, only Wonder Man deserves her (and I DO like Wonder Man!). Alicia Masters cannot be with the Thing, only Human Torch deserves her (that was downright stupid, it harmed the Torch's potential as a less one-dimensional brat, more complex and anguished young man). And all the while he has Hank getting close to the woman who took advantage of his emotional state, and Jan getting close to the douchebag who beat her.
But his inclusion of Jack Daniels/John Walker in the team creates character-driven tension an allows further thematic exploration. USAgent is a great foil and also a great symbol of the government's attempt to keep superheroes in a tight leash through duplicity, fear-mongering and psychological manipulation, for the purposes of "National Security". His disruptive behavior brought out the difference between superheroes who function as government stooges and those who sacrifice health and happiness for entirley altruistic reasons, like the Scarlet Witch. If people kad kept this in mind we could've shut down Marvel before that ridiculous "Civil War" melee.
Chris, Kieron Dwyer indeed does a great job distinguishing Steve Rogers from John Walker, but under his Jack Daniels persona the U.S. Agent underwent extensive plastic surgery. Maybe they made him look a bit more like Steve (just in case that two-timin' pinko ever went AWOL 'coz o' his bleedin'-heart liberal agenda--and needed to be replaced by a psycho Reagan Conservative good ol' boy once more).
As for Nixon being alive, he probably cut a deal with Mephisto. Wouldn't be beneath him, that's. If anything, it might've been beneath MEPHISTO. Of course, being the Third Millenium and shit, even Spider-Man does his deals with Mephisto--him being the type of person that wouldn't ever live with the consequences of his action, nor take responsability for his life. Who'da thunk back then that one day Spider-Man would've become less likable than John Walker.
Posted by: The Transparent Fox | August 12, 2015 9:54 PM
Transparent Fox, according to Byrne -- link -- the reason that That Which Endures yells "No!" regarding Nekra is that she represents death, while That Which Endures apparently represents life.
Regarding Hank and Jan's relationship once Byrne started on the series, he mentions -- link -- that his intent was to eventually reveal that they had secretly married before the start of his run.
Byrne also reveals -- link -- that the reason he agreed to do the book was to do his Vision story -- which as has already been discussed -- was not resolved when he left the series. If he intended to restore the Vision, which I think he was close to doing, then his reaction to subsequent changes in Wanda, their children, and Wonder Man would have been quite interesting.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 22, 2015 8:35 PM
You can count me on the side of those who love this story. WCA, which I had always loved, had been slipping into the doldrums, and here comes Byrne with a shot of adrenalene, both in terms of story and art. I was okay with bringing aboard US Agent because Byrne makes good use of his personality as a foil. I was okay with Hawkeye leaving the leadership position because he isn't show to be ineffective as a leader (in spite of what some comments say), but that Jan, and especially Hank, kept stepping directly into the leadership position. Those two will basically co-lead the team for quite a while after these issues.
As for Wanda and Vision, I wasn't nearly as bothered by what happened here as so many of the other commenters clearly are. To my mind it actually made Wanda a much more interesting character.
I really wish he could have been able to finish his story. But, let's face it, part of the pain of being a Byrne fan is knowing that he butts heads with people, and as a result, often leaves stories unfinished.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 28, 2015 5:58 PM
Aaron, the last link does not work. It would be great if you can post again a working link. The first two links do work.
Posted by: Chris | August 31, 2015 8:27 PM
Chris, sorry about that. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. This link to Byrne's forum -- where he talks briefly about already having a storyline for the Vision -- should work.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | September 5, 2015 3:09 PM
It's Karma with miscolored hair (notice, they're all in alphabetical order, which is what gives it away)
Posted by: Scott | November 27, 2015 6:44 AM
"Another thing that Byrne comes into criticism for is claiming to restore everything to their creators' intentions while actually just doing his own interpretation."
For me, this storyline is the most blatant example of doing everything to IGNORE a creator's original intentions. Form the very first appearances of the Vision in Avengers #57, his creator Roy Thomas emphasized the fact that he was a human being. First we are told by Hank Pym that the Vision is "every inch a human being... except that all his bodily organs are constructed of synthetic materials."
Then, in #58, Pym tells the Vision "You're basically human in every way -- except that your body is made of synthetic parts!" One page later the Vision is admitted to the team, and his reaction is "You accept me -- though I'm not truly a human being?" Pym responds "Is a man any less human because he has an artificial leg... or a transplanted heart?"
When Byrne made his big claims that the Vision was only a "toaster" he was completely ignoring Thomas' intentions. Fine, if Byrne wanted to take the Vision in a completely different direction, completely revamp or retcon the nature of the character, well, I suppose that was his prerogative as the new writer. But he should not do all that and then claim that he was attempting to restore the creator's (i.e. Roy Thomas) original intentions when he was instead completely ignoring them.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 28, 2015 9:05 PM
byrne does as byrne wants. he ignores all the growth hawkeye made to send him back to the hothead he was in early avenger books. He postulates that the vision isn't human so he and wanda cant have kids so they have to go. He gives hank pym more leadership skills than he had as a avenger making him more like reed richards. And hawkeyes arrows dont fall out while swinging wildly training but one punch from the usagent sends them flying. seems pretty convenient mocking bird escapes just in time to explain everything but not stop the plan
Posted by: jason hargrove | February 25, 2016 10:18 AM
I thought that was Infectia between Iceman and Legion
Posted by: Bonez | August 31, 2016 11:27 PM
"You're basically human in every way -- except that your body is made of synthetic parts!"
So you're not human.
Thus Byrne IS going by the creator's intent.
Plus, Henry Pym went through a journey through the Vison's robotic body. As drawn by Neal Adams, it had wires and tubes etc.
Posted by: a.lloyd | February 28, 2017 1:18 PM
It had wires and tubes, but writers told us he also had organs and blood. Basically a human body made of synthetic materials (plus some wires, tubes and energy rays traveling through his spine).
About him not sleeping, even with Byrne's words and likely intent, we could say that he CAN sleep, he just does not REQUIRE it. Byrne does not explicitly say he cannot do it.
Posted by: Cesar Hernandez-Meraz | December 6, 2017 5:29 AM
I don't get all the USAgent hate. He's a great character and a great foil for the other members.
Posted by: OrangeDuke | December 25, 2017 5:46 PM
Comments are now closed.
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