Friday, March 6, 2009

Byrne Notice! West Coast Avengers #42

West Coast Avengers # 42 (March 1989)

“One of Our Androids is Missing!”

Writer/Penciler: John Byrne

Sharon: Confession time: I was a huge comic book fan as a kid but inexplicably, I stopped reading comics in 1972. My last comic back then was Avengers #105, in which a rather large obstacle to the Scarlet Witch and the Vision’s incipient romance was introduced—in this particular issue, he discovered that unlike humans, he was unaffected by love.

Sharon: Flash-forward 30-plus years later, when --just as inexplicably—I got back into comics. I had a lot of catching up to do and sought out back issues with a vengeance (helped immeasurably by online comics vendors such as Mile High Comics, New Kadia and Metropolis Comics). I was surprised to find that during my hiatus, Wanda and Vizh had overcome the odds and had gotten married at some point, but they were also the proud parents of two young boys! Ah, I guess the Vision had been capable of love, after all…

Doug: While I was away from comics during my high school years Marvel started doing mini-series. A nice thing after all – a great way to tell self-contained stories of characters who might otherwise only see the light of day in team or team-up books. So from 1980-85, apparently Wanda and Vizh found a way, so to speak. And I must say that whatever reasons were given then must be infinitely better than what Bendis cooked up a few years ago. Ugh… Incidentally, Wanda will give a recap of those circumstances in our next issue – WCA #43.

Sharon: So after I’d returned to comics I picked up West Coast Avengers #42, originally published in 1989. WCA #42 was John Byrne’s first issue on this particular title. I’d previously read—and enjoyed--many of his Fantastic Four issues, which collectively read like a sprawling novel…very rich and dense. So I was very eager to read his version of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, or at least the west coast branch of such.
Doug: I had been a Byrne junkie from his X-Men days. Byrne has a very distinct style, whether inked by himself as here, or by his frequent collaborator, Terry Austin. I’ll say this about him doing his own work – this is much more polished than what he would turn out later for Dark Horse with his creator-owned “John Byrne’s Next Men”. That work was very scratchy – it appeared to me to have been rushed. This work was nice, clean… Of course, his best work (arguably) would come shortly after this run when he moved to DC to revamp Superman in the Man of Steel limited series and the renumbered Superman magazine.

Karen: Well you guys have heard me say this before, but I don’t think anyone complemented Byrne’s pencils as well as Terry Austin. I really don’t care for Mike Machlan’s inks here – the line work just seems thin and without weight.

Sharon: Yes, I agree the inking didn’t really enhance the pencils. The result was rather delicate. When I opened WCA #42, I was greeted by a splash page featuring the Scarlet Witch’s face, beneath an ominous title—“One of Our Androids is Missing!” Uh oh, that did not augur well. I must say that Byrne drew an absolutely beautiful Wanda.

Sharon: Turn the page and immediately we’re plunged into a mystery: Wanda does not know where the Vision is. Apparently over the past years, the married couple has always slept in the same bed even though the Vision has no need of sleep. This fine morning, without warning, Wanda wakes up and –the Vision is gone! Byrne then adds the rest of the cast—Hawkeye, Hank Pym (this is during his non-costumed “Dr. Pym” phase), Tigra, Wonder Man (sporting his infamous mullet), the Wasp, and a seemingly traitorous Mockingbird. Archenemy Ultron also makes an appearance, and a battle rages. The heroes manage to beat Ultron but it turns out to be false Ultron—a diversion. Hank promises to get to the bottom of it (and facetiously utters the command “Avengers Disassemble!”) Wanda thinks of the missing Vision and his creation, his legacy as the original Human Torch; how the Torch “died” and was resurrected by Ultron as the Vision; Vizh’s first encounter with the Avengers and his subsequent membership (in Avengers #57-58, which was recently chronicled here!) Though these events are presented as the reverie of the understandably worried Wanda, the sequence really underscores the man-made aspect of the Vision.

Doug: Just a quick comment on Simon’s haircut – at about the same time Johnny Storm was sporting a very contemporary ‘do. Not attractive, then or now!

Doug: Although I am not a fan of Tigra, I smiled at the little subplot Byrne planted with her. He has always been a master of weaving several threads through a story. The concept of this particular thread seems somewhat tired however – an animal-based character losing control to a feral side. Wolverine had struggled with this for years in X-Men, so perhaps it’s no surprise that Byrne would bring said concept to WCA and Tigra.

Doug: Can I say that I just love the classic look of Ultron?? He was especially well-drawn by George Perez during the “Bride of Ultron” arc in Avengers #’s 161-162 and 170-171. Byrne gives a capable version here. And although the battle turned out to be for naught, what with “Ultron” revealed as a phony, there were still some great, typically-hopeless moments.

Karen: I thought Byrne handled the characters well enough, although I could do without Hawkeye referring to Wanda as “Wanj” – where the heck did that come from?

Sharon: I know! Maybe Hawk had “Wandjina” (from the Champions of Angor/the Assemblers) on his mind…

Sharon: Well, it turns out that while the Avengers were busy battling the faux Ultron, a computer virus was infecting the Avengers’ systems (Hank had earlier noticed a glitch, prior to the Ultron appearance). Hank delivers the unthinkable news: according to Hank, the “virus has erased all trace of the Vision from our files… the virus has been transmitted to every computer we link with…and in all those systems all trace of the Vision has been obliterated!”

Doug: Hank Pym was portrayed as the leader here that he should always be portrayed as.

Sharon: Yes, I agree, I like how Byrne depicted Hank during the WCA era: a born leader, capable and resourceful. Byrne also drew him in an attractive manner.

Doug: Question: Don’t you think, given the three hour time difference between California and New York that the East Coasters might have alerted the West Coasters first concerning the computer glitch?

Sharon: Wouldn’t it have happened at the same time, but given the time zones it would have been 8am on the West Coast, 11am in the East?

Doug: Ah, excellent point! What I was thinking centered on Byrne’s telling us multiple times how early in the day it was – that most of the crew were still sleeping. I was thinking that if it was, say 6:00 am in California, then it would have been almost mid-morning in the East and more likely that the East Coasters would have caught the virus’ dirty deeds before the West Coasters knew what was going on.

Sharon: Yes, you’re right. Good point. Okay, so Hank’s using words like “erased” and “files” and “links” and “computers” when talking about the missing Avenger. Suddenly, the Vision sounds less like a husband and father and teammate than — well, a system – a bunch of files. In the space of one issue, Byrne established his concept of the Vision.

Doug: One could argue that the very title of this tome established Byrne’s opinion – the Vision is not even a synthozoid as we’ve known him in the past – he has been reduced to an “android”. To me, the term “synthozoid” means synthesis – a bringing together in this case of life and unlife. That being said, however, I would argue that in many ways the Human Torch was much more a “man” than the Vision ever was. The Torch never spoke in cold tones, found human relationships to be more natural, and had empathy without explanation. But in the end, either was still composed of plastic, electrical wires, and motors.
Karen: I would strongly disagree with that last sentence, but I’ll save that for later in our discussion – once Byrne has gutted our hero.

Sharon: Glad you brought up the original Human Torch, Doug. According to Roy Thomas in TwoMorrow’s Justice League Companion (an excellent resource), the fact that the Torch was an android was rarely referred to and “forgotten” within a few issues of the Torch’s debut. Thomas has mentioned in various interviews that he didn’t even know the Torch was an android until the final issue of Marvel Mystery Comics (circa 1949), which contained a story retelling the Torch’s creation. I haven’t read many of the Torch’s Golden Age stories, and none of his 1950s stories, so I don’t know if Roy’s assessment is entirely accurate; but the Torch was usually shown to have functioned like a human being: he would eat, sleep and drink. I even think he had a girlfriend back then!
Sharon: Okay, so the Vision is missing and Hank deduces only an insider could have facilitated the infiltration of the Avengers’ network. As if on cue, Mockingbird (who’s estranged from Hawkeye) shows up.

To be continued…

Here it is! Your Marvel Bullpen Stamp for this post!

Collect 'em all!

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...