Friday, May 19, 2017

Crystal Clear Vision

Following the shocking attempted takeover of the world's computers by the Vision, whose judgment was impaired by a damaged component in his skull as well as a link-up with an advanced and alien A.I., there was understandable concern about what the repercussions might be when the government began an investigation into the matter. Normally, that investigation would include other governments of the world whose systems were also compromised by the Vision's incursion; but for an incident that would typically be dominating the news cycle for more than a few days if not weeks to come, both the Vision and his wife, the Scarlet Witch, as well as the rest of the Avengers, will find this to be the most fast-tracked and surreptitious investigation of a world event ever (not) recorded, as well as one of the least consequential, thanks to writers Roger Stern and Steve Englehart who are presumably working in tandem to make sure the Vision and Wanda are freed up (in terms of both time and, it seems, federal custody) to return to their own affairs in their upcoming 1985 limited series.

Yet, immediately following the incident, there was a great deal of concern among the Avengers for their teammate, who was taking full responsibility for his actions and pledging his full cooperation to government authorities--particularly the National Security Council, which was responsible for granting the Avengers their priority clearance and was now in the hot seat due to the security breach that was made possible by such clearance. Thus we find Raymond Sikorski, the Avengers' most recent liaison to the N.S.C., meeting with one of the military's brass, who's furious at the fact that the Avengers haven't yet been held accountable for their illegal actions here.

Sikorsky of course is speaking of Henry Gyrich, who more often than not overstepped his authority with the Avengers and tended to make judgment calls for the procedures he felt they should follow. Sikorsky, in contrast, seems to understand how the Avengers' day-to-day operations would be atypical from standard government procedure--their powers and abilities, as well as the selfless character of their members, making them suited to act autonomously during a crisis while fully keeping the government in the loop. This incident would be a serious breach of the Avengers' authority, of course, with cause for a serious response from the feds; but to his credit, Sikorsky sees the need to proceed carefully until all the facts are known, and, even then, to work closely with the Avengers in resolving the situation.

Though you could probably hear a pin drop in the meeting in the Pentagon, once Sikorsky receives a reply to his inquiry to Avengers Mansion regarding the reports he's been given from the Cheyenne Mountain installation implicating the Avengers:

As for the Avengers, they have a few things to sort out in the aftermath of the Vision's scheme. There were mitigating circumstances regarding the Vision's actions, to be sure--and with the Vision insisting on assuming full responsibility and making every attempt to rectify the situation with the government, his comrades are sympathetic and are willing to give him their support. For the most part.

Yet there are those Avengers other than Captain America and Starfox (to say nothing of the Scarlet Witch) who were duped by the Vision's machinations who have yet to be told the truth--one of them being Captain Marvel, who was sent on a bogus mission to the outskirts of Pluto and who with this news might understandably feel betrayed by one she thought was a comrade.

Stern continues to have a genuine feel for the character of Cap, whose priority now is to stitch the Avengers back together and have them join ranks once more in order to put this situation behind them. Even while acknowledging it, how quickly he turns Captain Marvel's indignation to more productive channels, by appealing to her loyalty to the team and emphasizing the importance of the Avengers moving forward. It speaks a lot of C.M. in Cap's eyes, as to how confident he is in her ability to step up and focus on pitching in to maintain the integrity of the Avengers. It honestly doesn't seem that Cap feels she's capable of doing anything less.

There's also the returning Wasp, who was manipulated into stepping down as Chairwoman and nominating the Vision in her place. Her arrival coincides with that of two federal agents who will be escorting the Vision back to Washington to be debriefed.

At least for the moment, the Wasp has little more to say on the subject, as final goodbyes are said in the foyer and Wanda and the Vision prepare to depart. Yet it's at this point that Stern inexplicably seeks to discard all possible consequences of this incident by having the Vision plan to downplay the severity of what he's done, which will be accomplished by having him simply revise the oath of sworn testimony to omit the part that includes "...the whole truth...":

It's the one part of this story that Stern mishandles, even conveniently providing Cap with token dialog that serves to deprive us of hearing what in hell would make him sign off on this course of action. Further, is the Vision foolish enough to assume that the government isn't going to ask pointed questions regarding the scope of his scheme "accident"? And does he seriously think that his incursions into computers around the world, happening at the same time, are going to be disregarded or unreported? With this one panel, Stern turns this entire incident into a non-incident, whatever motivation he provides the Vision with to do what's best for all concerned. Wasn't it that kind of thinking that led the Vision down the path he took in the first place?

The panel's last-second twist to this story (a scene which I'm tempted to call "Foyergate") also gives one the impression that Stern wishes to smooth the path for Englehart's new series for the couple, a series where Englehart has other things in mind for their development and probably doesn't want to be hampered by a criminal investigation. Stern nevertheless goes through the motions in the closing scenes of his story, sending the Vision and Wanda off to Washington to face a "debriefing" that now amounts to only a formality.

As for the Wasp, she'll go on to reclaim her gavel; but Stern at least gives some nice closure to her lingering feelings on the Vision's actions, as well as to the Vision himself, a "human being" at last.

As for the Englehart series, it's unclear how closely he and Stern coordinated on the Vision's fate once Stern's story concluded, given the five-month gap between that story and Englehart's series launch. The Vision's computer scheme is hardly addressed at all in the new story, with most of its opening pages devoted to Wanda blowing off steam at how long her husband is undergoing questioning--and there are other details that differ from Stern's version, such as the couple's "debriefing" (if we can even still call it that) taking place at Project Pegasus in upstate New York, rather than in Washington. It's also apparent that the government realizes that the Vision's plans involved a takeover, not an accident limited to transmission lines, and that it encompassed the entire world.

Was the Vision caught in a lie? We don't know. Was the Vision handed over to Henry Gyrich in Washington for further investigation at the Pegasus facility? We don't know. All we're given by Englehart are irrelevant details, such as why the Vision now sounds more human (though no doubt quite relevant to the tone of the rest of the series): well as a scene meant for this series to wash its hands of the Vision's takeover attempt completely, and immediately, helped in no small part by the fact that we've already missed most of the investigation coming in.

For what it's worth, the Vision could indeed have told "the whole truth" and still walked away with a clear conscience, since the damaged control crystal was the source of his problem in either event--and the government more than likely would have let him, as it did here thanks to Sikorsky. It also seems that the Vision's worries about the government pursuing the technology to duplicate the Vision's computer incursions were groundless, unless government agents returned to Avengers Mansion with a search warrant intending to impound the equipment the Vision had used. In that event, we'd have to assume that Starfox had the foresight to dismantle everything and send it back to Titan.

On a more positive note, we did get to see the Vision and especially Wanda stick it to Gyrich, which always has its rewards.

No comments: