Monday, September 25, 2023

VISION #1 - #4

Writer: Bob Harras | Penciler: Manny Clark | Inker: Mike Machlan
Additional Inkers: Al Vey, Steve Alexandrov, Charles Barnett,
Johnny Greene, & Rich Perrotta | Plot Assist: Ben Raab
Letterer: Bill Oakley w/NJQ & Jeff Powell | Colorist: Linda Gilmore
Editor: Ralph Macchio | Editor-in-Chief: Mark Gruenwald

The Plot: (Issue 1) Vision dreams of his wife and children, then stops a mugging on a pier. Deathcry finds him there and the two speak of dreams before returning to Avengers Mansion. There, Vision confides in Jarvis that he started dreaming a week ago. The next morning, Vision undergoes tests conducted by Giant-Man, but abruptly leaves when his fellow Avenger raises the subject of his dreams. Homing in on a mysterious beacon, Vision arrives in New Orleans, where he finds Ultron drunk inside a local bar. Ultron tells Vision that he started dreaming as well, and then a skirmish breaks out between the two. Ultron defeats Vision and leaves. Later, Vision awakens in a motel room with the Gatherer version of Jocasta. She calls Vision Simon, and then the two embrace and kiss.

(Issue 2) Four weeks later, Crystal and Deathcry arrive in Chicago in search of the Vision. They enter the office of "Simon Williams, Private Detective", to find Vision playing the role of a 1930s P.I., with Jocasta as his gal Friday. A fight soon breaks out, but Vision falls unconscious. Briefly, he dreams again of his wife and sons, then awakens, back to normal. Vision tells Crystal that he believes someone has "infected" various synthetic beings with dreams and emotions. A moment later, Vision and Jocasta detect the same beacon that drew Vision to New Orleans, and then the Gatherer android, Tabula Rasa, arrives with Ultron his prisoner. Tabula kidnaps Deathcry and Jocasta and departs, while Vision flies into a rage and turns on Crystal.

(Issue 3) Laurie Lipton arrives at her beachhouse on Long Island, where Vision, in the persona of her late husband, Alex, is waiting. But Crystal and Giant-Man show up a moment later and try to convince Vision of who he is. Giant-Man stuns Vision with a stasis ray. Elsewhere, Deathcry, Ultron, and Jocasta sit in a cell. They are confronted by Tabula and his master -- the Anti-Vision; the Vision who once served Proctor and who now resides in the real Vision's white body. Meanwhile, Vision dreams again of his wife, an amalgamation of Wanda Maximoff and Laurie Lipton. He awakens and battles Crystal and Giant-Man. Back in the cell, Tabula changes to resemble the Kree warrior Dylon Cyr, and then begins to crush Deathcry. On Long Island, Vision takes out Giant-Man and then fights Crystal. But suddenly, he is called away by a signal from the Anti-Vision. Elsewhere, Tabula abruptly lets Deathcry go. She tries to convince Ultron and Jocasta to attempt escape, but suddenly Vision arrives, now apparently in the service of the Anti-Vision.

(Issue 4) Vision again dreams of his wife, while Anti-Vision brags to Deathcry, Jocasta, and Ultron that the "wife" is actually a Trojan Horse he planted in Vision's brain to erase his memories and personality, freeing up space for Anti-Vison to move in. Anti-Vision tested the program on Ultron, Jocasta, and Tabula, and has now placed the perfected version inside Vision. Meanwhile, Giant-Man, Crystal, and Laurie are searching for Vision when they detect Deathcry's life readings and set course toward her. In his hideout, Anti-Vision prepares to kill Deathcry. In his dream, Vision is confronted by the personifications of the two men who make up his mind -- Simon Williams and Alex Lipton -- and they convince him to turn away from his "wife" and save Deathcry. Vision reactivates, the Trojan Horse program disabled, and attacks Anti-Vison. Meanwhile, Ultron and Jocasta battle Tabula. Vision reveals that his emotions have returned, and nearly kills Anti-Vision until Giant-Man, Crystal, and Laurie arrive and stop him.

Vision leaves Anti-Vision and Tabula with the Avengers, then resigns from the team, taking Ultron and Jocasta with him so they can explore their newfound emotions together.

Continuity Notes: Deathcry tells Vision that she dreams mostly of home, but that she also has nightmares about her mother. Given this comment and considering her resemblance to Deathbird, I suddenly find myself wondering if that's who her mother is. I mean, why else would Lilandra choose a random teenager to go visit the Avengers? But if she's the royal niece, then it makes a tiny bit more sense. And I'm honestly a bit embarrassed that this didn't occur to me sooner!
Also in the Deathcry department: in issue 1, Vision's internal monologue classifies her as a "guest" of the Avengers, but in issue 2 she tells Jocasta that she and Crystal both are Avengers -- so she's either overstating her relationship to the team, or she got voted in during the four weeks between issues.

Footnotes in issue 2 (the only footnotes in the series) remind us that Jocasta joined the Gatherers in AVENGERS #373, while Tabula joined them in #360.
Chronological inconsistency: early in issue 3, Laurie thinks that her husband died "over a year" ago. Later in the issue, narration says that was killed "some years ago." And while "some years" is, by definition, "over a year," to my ear the two phrases have vastly different meanings. (Like, "over a year" would generally mean more than one year but fewer than two, while "some years ago" would usually mean something like five or more years.) In any case, narration also tells us that Laurie's father-in-law died six months ago, which sets this issue six months after AVENGERS #348.

Deathcry seemingly coins the name Anti-Vision for the villain of the piece -- at least, I don't remember anyone else calling him "Anti-Vison" -- but later, Giant-Man refers to him by that name as well, and there's no way he could've heard Deathcry use it, as she was imprisoned when she first said it. Perhaps the Avengers named him Anti-Vision in their after-action reports?

Assemble: No, but as this series is separate from the main AVENGERS title, we won't count it. ("Avengers Assemble!" count: 11 in 50 issues to date.)

My Thoughts: Given that it's entirely illustrated by one penciler, the artwork in this series is wildly inconsistent. And it's not just due to the small army of inkers -- literally, the competency of the layouts ranges anywhere from "decent by 1990s standards" to "dire". Not sure if Manny Clark was rushing to beat deadlines as the series moved along or if he had "ghost" assistance or what, but there's a definite degredation of quality here.

Also, the second-to-last page of issue 3 looks like it was cut apart and pasted back together for some reason. Roughly the top half of the page is blank, save for one big panel of Deathcry which A) does not look like it was meant to be there by itself, B) covers up some of the panels below it, and C) appears to have been blown up or redrawn or something -- look at the thickness of the inks compared with the other panels on the page! Beyond that, the panels below are all jumbled up and make little storytelling sense. My guess is that Clark drew something that didn't work with Bob Harras's plot, so Harras or the editors rearranged the panels in order to try and make sense of what needed to happen.

(The fact that issue 4 credits "Special Thanks to John Romita and the Raiders" -- meaning Marvel's art director and his crack team of correctionists -- would seem to lend some credence to my theory.)

It's too bad, too, because this is really a pretty good story. Harras has played a long game with Vision, first hinting that his emotions were returning in the afore-mentioned AVENGERS 348. Since then, Vision has remained a team mainstay, and has even had a few spotlight issues, but for the most part has remained in the background, overshadowed by the sagas of the Black Knight, Sersi, Crystal, and more recently, Quicksilver. But Harras makes up for that here, with a very nice four-issue story that modifies the Vision's status quo, at last returning his emotions and reassessing his relationship with Ultron -- though how long that will last, I have no idea. The next Ultron story I'm aware of is "Ultron Unlimited" during the Kurt Busiek George/Pérez AVENGERS run, and by that point Ultron is most definitively emotionless and evil again.
But, perhaps most importantly of all -- you're telling me that there's an evil alternate Version of Vision out there? The Vision's white body still exists, and it houses the brain of an angry, resentful, irredeemable Anti-Vision? He's not dead at the end of this story; merely captured. And as far as I can see, the Marvel Wiki says he never appeared again following this series. What a waste!! Anti-Vision would make a fantastic recurring villian for the Avengers. I'm honestly shocked nobody has ever picked him up again!


  1. Some lovely cover art. Less said about the interior art the better!


  2. I got the impression reading that “Anti-Vision” was one of those names the characters all suddenly knew because the writer did… but had forgotten to actually introduce its usage.

    // a Trojan Horse he planted in Vision's brain to erase his memories and personality, freeing up space for Anti-Vison to move in //

    Megabytes of it, he says, and I nearly laughed out loud.

    This miniseries isn’t just better than the Wundagore issues of Avengers in my opinion — for sure over the first two issues — but it also has more Avengers. I guess since Vision’s been missing for a month in #2 the story wouldn’t really have worked as part of the parent title unless Harras allowed the subplots to remain idle or progress “off-screen” for that long.

    Yeah, I noticed the art going down in quality over the four chapters and the inks not appearing to be the sole culprit, as you say. The figures and general detail were pretty good to start, making the generic faces in that whole Jim Lee / Whilce Portacio / Travis Charest style obviously a choice, if one not to my taste, rather than an inherent limitation of ability.