Comic Book Classics Revisited has returned… And so has Ultron! Our Ultron Handbook rolls on as we’ve come to The Avengers #67. In the previous issue, we saw the Vision betray his Avengers brethren and assists in the creation of Ultron-6, now clad in indestructible adamantium!
Ultron-6 has barely been active for mere minutes before getting right down to trying to destroy the Avengers. His attacks are seen from outside the mansion as continual explosions rock New York City. Passerby witnesses also claim to hear cold, maniacal laughter inside as well. This Ultron is part robot similar to his previous incarnation, and part flying machine, but he’s all adamantium which gives the Avengers fits early in the battle. Elsewhere, the Vision broods alone while hearing the battle rage on. He reveals that he collected Ultron’s head from the previous battle and connected Ultron’s brain to the mansion’s computer system thus allowing the evil automaton to rebuild himself. Vision also realizes that this desire to assist in the rebuilding of his former master must have been programmed into him upon his own creation. We also learn that when the Vision plugged Ultron’s head into the computers, it caused the problem in the previous issue that nearly killed Iron Man.
Speaking of, Iron Man and Wasp join the battle against Ultron, but when they find Yellowjacket, Hank tells them that they are in deep poo this time around as Ultron has been recreated out of adamantium. To make matters worse, the Achilles’ heel of the previous Ultron, the antennae on either side of his head, are no longer all that much of a weak spot since they too are made from the indestructible metal. Once the main threats to Ultron have been defeated, the killer robot breaks out of the mansion and into the city, followed by a vengeful Vision.
Following the battle with Ultron, Yellowjacket is on a tear wanting to chase after the killer robot immediately, but the Avengers will be grounded until they can clear some debris and get to the quinjets. While Goliath tries clearing the debris, Thor reiterates his concern over the Vision’s betrayal of the group. However, both Hank and Jan believe that maybe Vision wasn’t acting as willfully as Thor believes. He was crazed and nearly unstoppable previously, but once Ultron entered the fray, Vision wandered away clumsily and absent-minded as if he was confused or dazed.
Once the quinjets are free, the Avengers head off for Ultron’s original hideout. However, the Vision is already there and continuing his moody self-loathing and musing about how appropriate it is that he brought Ultron back to life, and now he must destroy him. We get a brief appearance by Dum Dum Dugan and his “Suicide Squad” as they get a reading from the stolen adamantium. Some of them are going to go retrieve the alloy while others will be off to find Nick Fury and capture him (as is seen in the Shield series of the late 60s). Back in Ultron’s lair, Vision watches as Ultron reveals his plan in a monologue. He plans to set off every nuclear device to destroy New York City and leave only himself (since he cannot be destroyed).
Outside, the Avengers arrive. They see the Shield jets flying overhead to reclaim their adamantium. The Avengers decide maybe it’s a good idea to warn them off because they are not aware that the adamantium has been turned into a murder-bot. Just then, Yellowjacket discovers the radiation around them is climbing at a maddening pace. Inside, Ultron gleefully watches the atomic fire display overhead. As he claims none would dare oppose him, Vision makes his presence known. Vision uses all the density shifting powers at his command to wail on Ultron, but it’s no good. Ultron is able to control the atomic power he’s amassing and uses it as an ionic strike against Vision. To add salt to his wounds, Vision encounters the invading Shield agents and is attacked by Dum Dum Dugan’s vibro-gun.
Just a few feet away, the Avengers are horrified to see that Ultron has started a chain reaction that just a pull of the final switch will cause New York City to disappear from the face of the Earth!
So we’ve come to the end of another thrilling classic. This issue was almost entirely action as a middle issue of a three-part story. Let’s talk about that for a moment. The first two stories of my “Ultron Handbook” were completed in only two issues each. There was a part one and a part two and that was that. Time to move onto the next story in the series. This one, a three-parter, must have felt like an epic. My point is that these days stories are almost told in a cookie-cutter format of six parts. Maybe you’ll have two six-part stories that are connected to one another, but they are still separated into two, near distinct, six-part stories. Stories aren’t so much told in a natural way anymore. The biggest complaint for many longtime comic readers is that there are so many issues in a story arc that seem to do pretty much nothing – no advancement of the story, no action, no anything crucial whatsoever. The industry has shifted from month-to-month sales, thus allowing stories to be told at a pace appropriate for the story’s subject, to something driven by sales of trade paperbacks and collections. Editors are now asking of a story can be stretched to six parts in order to combine it and sell it for anywhere from $15 to $25, and even more if they can get people to buy the nicer hardbound version.
Now, allow me to pull out my trusty soapbox for a moment so I can say the following…
It sucks to be a longtime comic collector/reader. I have to sit back and read piles of Avengers comics by Jonathan Hickman that are hopelessly convoluted and weird and way, way, way over the top in high brow concept. I remember getting three issues in one week of three different Avengers series that were all written (or at least co-written) by Hickman and all three of them were issues where characters were just talking about what’s going on. No punches thrown. No forward movement toward a resolution of problem. Just people standing around some enclosed area talking. Just. Talking.
“But Geoff… The stories are so much better when you read six or seven or eight or 42 of these issues in one sitting.” No. Just no. This is why I bring you back to these classics, dear readers. They get to the damn point. It may be overly dramatic or, at times, silly, but at least every issue counts. Every issue has something going on within its pages. Even in this issue, it was mostly action and chasing and accusations flying toward Vision, who was, himself, beating himself up over what happened, but dammit, it was going somewhere!
Soapbox is now placed back into my closet to be used another time.
Let’s talk about Vision again. Last time, I talked about that really trippy thing he did to people by forcing them into the same space that he occupied, which basically sent them into a strange state of mind and stunned them for several minutes. This issue he plays his density card again with great effort toward trying to stop Ultron, but that’s not what I wanted bring up in this installment. No, this time, I want to approach a topic that is pretty clearly needing to be discussed – Vision’s emo personality.
Vision spends a lot of time beating himself up over his own existence. Sure, it’s heavy-handed and just makes you want to slap that red face of his and scream at him to get over himself, but it’s actually a very important part of Vision’s history and personality. Over time, he does get with it and comes to a certain understanding about who and what he is. But let’s look at this from another angle. Vision represents Marvel’s most original version of the story of Frankenstein. While you could make an argument that it’s really the Hank Pym/Ultron relationship that is a little more of a literal representation of the Dr. Frankenstein/Creature thing, you’re wrong.
Vision is the one who is most like the monster than Ultron. Ultron is much more like Frankenstein than Pym. Pym was a scientist who wanted to create artificial intelligence. That’s not really playing god. Ultron thinks of himself as a god who wants to control life and death. He creates Vision without the thought of, or care when, the creation becoming self aware. Vision is left with knowing that he has feelings and ideas and questions despite being entirely created to be a tool of a madman. He’s allowed to become a member of the Avengers, but is still talked about as being some sort of weirdo monster. He’s truly alone in the world. There’s no one else like him out there. So you can kinda give the guy a pass on his emo ramblings. Meanwhile, Ultron prances about like Dr. Frankenstein exclaiming after seeing his monster’s hand twitch to life…
Come back on Monday as we wrap up this story! Until then, keep your Visions moody and your robot creations maniacal and murderous.