Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Assassin of Ultron!

The character of the Vision, the creation of Roy Thomas and John Buscema and the second comics character to carry the name, may have long ago lost his original appeal as his evolution and handling spun wildly out of control; but there's little argument that the classic cover of his first appearance stands out to this day, almost 50 years later. It's a memorable image that takes its cue from the introduction of the original Vision from 1940--"Aarkus, Destroyer of Evil."

Unlike his earlier other-dimensional namesake who depended on smoke for his entrances and exits, the Vision from 1968 was the creation of a sadistic mechanoid that held enmity toward the Avengers (and one Avenger in particular)--a being who first appeared as the Crimson Cowl but has now moved on to another phase of his plans for the team while embracing the identity of Ultron-5. And it appears that phase involves the use of a formidable and deadly assassin.

While the story by Thomas obviously revolves around its colorful and mysterious new character, the Avengers themselves are still given due attention. Their current lineup is as interesting as other groupings that have sought to bring a balance to their combined abilities, though these were the days when there was no set number of members required for active duty. The Wasp and Goliath brought their advantages of size-changing, as they did as charter members; Hawkeye, his marksmanship and customized array of arrows; and the Black Panther his agility, as well as his other resources. As the Wasp deals with the Vision (or, more accurately, vice versa), it's admittedly difficult to see what she brings to the table as a member of the Avengers; after all, there's a strategic withdrawal, and there's shrieking in terror, only one of which would be acceptable as an option for an Avenger to exercise.

Thomas takes another approach with the Panther, who is more than a match for his own foes but who doesn't hesitate to take the initiative. The character also holds our interest due to the fact that he's a relatively new addition to the team and is still adapting to a role very different from the one he once embraced.

Regardless, the Wasp's dignity is salvaged when the Vision proceeds to attack but inexplicably collapses, and Goliath arrives to transfer the Vision to the Avengers' lab.

It's here the term "synthozoid" is coined to perhaps apply to the Vision, given the similarity of his makeup to a concept which Henry Pym had taken only the earliest steps toward developing--a train of thought which would tie in with both Pym and the Vision more than anyone would suspect. For now, though, Henry Gyrich would be appalled at the lack of security preparations by the Avengers in bringing this threat to the mansion, when no one even knows why he ceased his attack and collapsed. Wouldn't that imply that he could wake up again without warning?

Granted, the Avengers are in effect their own security--but as they've been known to prove, that's no guarantee that they'll be prepared to handle the power of an unknown foe. And when the Vision wakes, that very nearly occurs, as he seems bent on resuming his mission to destroy them. Yet even in the Vision's rampage, the Avengers see indications that his "heart" isn't really in this attack, despite appearances to the contrary.

As in his other work at Marvel during this time (notably in the Silver Surfer large format book), there are frequent examples in this story of Buscema stepping outside panel boundaries and at times even omitting them as he takes us through the introduction of the Vision. Buscema's depiction of this character has always been my favorite, as he seems to bring just the right mix of human and inhuman to his appearance and mannerisms; in other words, the Vision can at the same time appear as any other Avenger, and yet appear distinctly apart from them and unique, something that we could only really see in Thor up to this point (though obviously leaving out the inhuman element).

Now willing to reflect on his circumstances, the Vision is able to probe his thoughts to reveal the true villain in this encounter. A villain who is already well aware of his possible discovery.

The one thing that even Ultron seems unaware of, however, is that the Vision's failure to destroy the Avengers is due in part to his own volition. And while that may not be of much help to the Avengers when they succumb to Ultron's preparations for them, it paves the way for the Vision to come into his own, and thus turn the tables on the sadistic being that created him.

(Good lord--the Avengers stopped by the old "walls closing in on us" trap. I may scream.)

It would be some time before the Vision would get his wish and learn the full details of his creation--but in this story's follow-up, where the Avengers investigate the Vision further in order to address his petition for Avengers membership, he at least discovers that his mind is based on the brain patterns of the dead Wonder Man, while Pym discovers buried memories of his own regarding the deadly Ultron.

If you've read the sonnet "Ozymandias" by Percy Shelley, you might appreciate how Thomas ends this story, as a young boy discovers the intact head of Ultron and unknowingly ends (at least for now) his still-existing threat--with Shelley's poem serving as the scene's narrative which Thomas adapts to indicate the evil nature and aspirations of Ultron that have come to naught. Ultron would return in less than a year (our time) to menace the Avengers anew, which renders Thomas's "ode" to him at this story's close superfluous; perhaps a brighter spotlight on the Vision in its place might have been more appropriate.

The Avengers #57

Script: Roy Thomas
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: George Klein
Letterer: Sam Rosen


Anonymous said...

If I was 10 years old and found a cool-looking robot head I'd keep it. Whenever I hear the famous quote from Ozymandias ("Look on my works.."etc) I think of this story because this is where I first heard it. But really it applies to how the high and mighty will ultimately be forgotten as the ages pass which is not the case with Ultron as he's always popping up. :)

david_b said...

Honestly, I never liked the cover being all red (including the corner box.....), but this is probably my FAVORITE origin issue every.

That slow, silent opening stroll was foreboding and maaaaag-nificent.........

Comicsfan said...

Well, Colin, I can honestly say that your thoughts on Ozymandias vis-a-vis Ultron took the words right out of my mouth. :D

david, your observation about the coloring of the corner box has me wondering what the thinking was on it. I can't see that shading it red along with everything else adds any impact to the overall image. I've never really given the box coloring much thought, one way or the other--but now I'm tempted to substitute a regular box in its place and see what kind of difference it makes.

david_b said...

In all honesty, as minor as it sounds, I've always thought a normal colored corner box would have made it SO MUCH better, dunno why.

Somehow the complete red saturation just didn't work for me. If it had all normal coloring (like the later WCA cover depicting the new 'white Vision'...), I venture it would have been a far more memorable cover.