Mike-Dell delves deep into the days of old to divulge the dynamic drama of a dupe and a diviner.
Vision and the Scarlet Witch #2 (1985)
Writer: Steve Englehart
Penciler: Richard Howell
Inker: Andy Mushynsky
Colorist: Janet Jackson
Letterer: L. Lois Buhalis
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Thirty years before being featured in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch starred in a pair of limited series. The first series ran four issues from November 1982 to February 1983, culminating with the dramatic reveal Magneto was the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s father. The second series, which ran from October 1985 to September 1986, also dealt with family issues. But before we get into all that, here’s the Stan Lee intro that ran atop each issue’s splash page:
He’s a synthetic man! She’s a mutant sorceress! Once they were outcasts, but now they have each other, and a love which can withstand every danger they face!
I have that same sort of love with my cat.
This second Vision and Scarlet Witch series focused on the two Avengers becoming parents. Yes, Scarlet Witch not only married a synthezoid, she also had his babies through “magical” means. And by that I’m pretty sure they just meant some cheap wine and a little Barry White.
When our issue opens, Vision and Scarlet Witch are too busy fighting for their lives to be thinking about starting a family. Ultron-12 has attacked the West Coast Avengers’ Quinjet in mid-flight, crashing through the windshield and wreaking havoc as only an evil robot hell-bent on world domination can. Ultron smacks Hawkeye and Tigra silly and trades punches with Iron Man, all the while stating his mission to capture Vision for his ally, the Grim Reaper. While the Avengers fight valiantly, Ultron and his robot minions still manage to damage the Quinjet enough to force a crash landing, leaving its stunned occupants easy prey.
When the Avengers regain consciousness, they discover they’re now prisoners within ball-shaped energy cages inside Grim Reaper’s cave lair. And if you’re ever in the market for an evil cave complex, make sure you go with the ball-shaped energy cages. They really bring a touch of class and sophistication.
Vision and Scarlet Witch are in one cage, with Iron Man and Tigra sharing a second and Hawkeye in a third. There’s also a fourth cage holding Hank Pym and Wonder Man, who must have been nabbed in issue 1. This Grim Reaper fella has been busy. To assist in his nefarious deeds, Grim Reaper has assembled his own villainous team, and, aside from Ultron, it’s like a who’s who of “Who’s that?” Nekra? Man-Ape? Black Talon? Goliath? Now we know what happened to all the rejected applicants for the Sinister Six.
Grim Reaper’s psychotic scheming is rooted in a deep love for his brother and his obsessive desire to force the creepiest family reunion this side of A Very Brady Christmas.
See, the Grim Reaper’s real name is Eric Williams, and his brother is Simon Williams, who became the aforementioned Wonder Man. But Grim Reaper doesn’t see Wonder Man as his brother, because Baron Zemo used ion energy to transform Simon Williams into a muscle-bound powerhouse in an effort to defeat the Avengers. Simon Williams, as Wonder Man, rebelled against Zemo and sacrificed himself to save the Avengers. In an effort to repay their new comatose chum, the Avengers managed to preserve Wonder Man’s brainwave patterns, hoping to one day resuscitate his body and replant his brainwaves because, well, that’s just what you do in these situations. Later, Ultron stole Simon Williams’s brainwaves and implanted them in his synthezoid creation, the Vision. Got all that? Good. Because it’s about to get weirder.
Grim Reaper wants to recreate his brother Eric from scratch. He got his voodoo pal Black Talon to procure a zombie who looks like his brother Simon, and then he’s going to have Ultron swipe the Vision and Wonder Man’s brainwaves and use the combined memories to rebuild Simon’s mind. Then once this new Simon zombie creation with the implanted brainwaves is up and running, Eric will take him to the zoo and build a soapbox racer and do all sorts of other swell stuff. Brothers!
Wonder Man is first up to have his brain zapped, but he breaks from the program and coldcocks Grim Reaper.
A few seconds later, Mockingbird arrives and frees the rest of the Avengers. A huge brawl ensues, with Vision and Wonder Man pursuing the escaping Grim Reaper deep into the cave’s underground labyrinth. The heroes confront their quasi-brother on a treacherous stone ledge and try to make amends. Grim Reaper rejects their offer and storms off, only to stumble and fall to his apparent death. Hey, at least that’s one less birthday present they have to worry about.
The issue ends with Vision and Scarlet Witch strolling together in the grassy fields outside the cave, reflecting on the emotional family stuff that just went down. That’s when Vision asks his wife if she’d like a baby in her. Good timing, robot dude. Because your “family” seems so stable.
Steve Englehart had a four-year, 47-issue run on the Avengers in the mid-1970s, but an editorial conflict with Gerry Conway led to his leaving Marvel in 1976 and spending several years at DC, where he wrote the Justice League of America and Detective Comics. He returned to Marvel in the mid-1980s, penning a bunch of titles, including Captain America and the West Coast Avengers.
Englehart’s work in Vision and Scarlet Witch #2 is super deluxe awkward.
First, the book is called Vision and Scarlet Witch, but we barely spend any time in the title characters’ points of view. We get inside everyone else’s head, even spending nearly two pages in Tigra’s POV as she struggles with self-doubt after being powerless to stop Ultron. We also get treated to blatant exposition out the wazoo, as Vision, Wonder Man, Grim Reaper, and Ultron take turns recapping their bizarre family tree. And when Black Talon and Man-Ape abandon Grim Reaper during the cave fight, Englehart has Hank Pym say, “I don’t think they liked your views on civil rights, Reaper.” Tough to tell if that line is just lame or lame and racist.
There are also crazy plot holes. Forget where Grim Reaper got the body he’s going to use to make his new Simon, the plan itself is absurd, with Black Talon and his voodoo wizardry expected to transfer the recovered brainwaves from Ultron’s computer into zombie Simon’s brain. Yeah, because I’m sure Ultron has the utmost respect for voodoo. Seems right up his alley.
Then, when it’s time to commence brain swapping, Ultron just opens Wonder Man’s energy cage and tells him to go along with the plan or else. Wait, what? Why didn’t they just strap Wonder Man and the Vision into the big ol’ brain machine before letting them regain consciousness? And Grim Reaper and Ultron can afford a fancy cave complex and brain-transfer technology, but they can’t invest in some handcuffs? If Mockingbird is going to show up anyway to save the day, why not just have her shut down the energy cages a few panels earlier? It would have spared the foolishness of letting an unshackled Wonder Man free to start punching things.
And Grim Reaper’s demise is also laughable. The big bad supervillain with the scythe for a hand makes a whoopsie and tumbles to his death. Or did he? Because Vision later states he came up empty when he searched the crevasse, which was “a mile deep and several miles long.” He even says, “Eric’s body may never be found.” You’d think a synthezoid would have a better understanding of gravity. You really don’t have to worry about the crevasse’s length. Just go a mile straight down, and I’m guessing you’d find him. He’d be the gooey splotch with the purple cape.
“The suction through the hole – Incredible!” – Tigra
“Count on it, Hawkypoo!” – Mockingbird
“You may come from the jungle, Nekra, but you’ve never met a cat like me!” – Tigra
“But God, I hope when they come, they chase me instead of Nekra! That woman – Wow!” – Grim Reaper
“You think you’re on a roll, don’t you? Well, laugh it up, freak…” – Grim Reaper
I wasn’t familiar with Richard Howell’s work, and nothing here will make me dig through the old comics looking for more. Have you ever read the book How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way? Because Howell’s stuff reminds me of the “What Not to Do” examples. Dull compositions. Lifeless action. No distinctive style. There isn’t one memorable panel. And his take on Grim Reaper’s skull and crossbones chest symbol looks like a warning label for suck.
The opening scrap with Ultron wasn’t too shabby. The highlight is Scarlet Witch using a hex bolt to weaken Ultron’s armor, enabling Vision to tear off Ultron’s right arm. Hawkeye then fires an arrow into the exposed circuits to send Ultron heading for the hills. But a subsequent collision with Iron Man breaks off the Quinjet’s damaged wing and leads to the crash landing. So despite taking a beating, Ultron earns a clear decision victory.
Most of the big cave brawl takes place off screen. We never do get to see the Avengers finish the fight with Ultron and Goliath. The story breaks away from the melee to show Vision and Wonder Man confronting Grim Reaper in the worst Dr. Phil episode ever. By the time Vision and Wonder Man return, the fight’s over, and Tigra is shown in the background tying up Goliath, apparently implying all’s well that ends well. I wanted more punching.
The last page features a Marvel ad pitching subscriptions. For a limited time, you could get 16 issues for the price of 12. Instead of paying $10.40 at the newsstand, you’d get the 16 issues for just $7.50; that’s a savings of $2.90 to you, the consumer. That’s right. Comic books retailed for 65 cents in 1985. Ah, memories. And dig some of the titles for sale back then: Cloak and Dagger, Dazzler, Indiana Jones, Micronauts, Power Pack, Red Sonja, Rom. That’s a lot of entertainment for $7.50.
But read the small print. You had to allow 10 weeks for delivery. Ten weeks! There are few things in this world for which I would be willing to wait 10 weeks, and Power Pack sure as hell ain’t one of them.
I had such high hopes. Vision. Scarlet Witch. Ultron. How could it go wrong? But it did. It went horribly wrong. And the rest of the limited series seems all over the place, with such guest stars as Spider-Man, the Inhumans, Magneto, Doctor Strange, and Luke Cage.
I reckon they’d do anything to distract us from realizing Scarlet Witch is making sweet, sweet love to a robot.
Mike-EL is a Co-Producer and Founder of the Comic Book Syndicate TV series. He is an independent filmmaker, professional videographer and holds a PhD in Superhero Fun.