Friday, April 15, 2016

Avengers: Vision and The Scarlet Witch

True fact: The spine of this second edition says AVENGERS: VISION AND THE SCALET WITCH. Why will no one hire me to be a professional proofreader....?

 Aside from the massive lack of credibility a book suffers from when the first thing you see upon looking at it is a massive spelling error, there really wasn't much about this collection that stood out. This slim volume collects GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS #4 and VISION AND THE SCARLET WITCH #'s 1-4.

 The book opens with GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS #4, which I read, years and years ago, in THE AVENGERS: CELESTIAL MADONNA, which I reviewed here, and it has not become any more enjoyable since then. I consider a lot of early-to-mid-'70's Marvel books to be virtually unreadable, and this issue is a prime example of why I feel that way. As presented here, the already-impenetrable story, which ran for an ungodly number of issues, is rendered even more hard-to-follow by being printed out-of-context. It was written by one of "The Steves", as I unaffectionately call Steve Englehart and Steve Gerber. I can't tell them apart, and I consider them both to be overly verbose blowhards. This story is collected here to show the wedding of The Vision and The Scarlet Witch, but the wedding itself lasts one panel (Which is oddly silent...), and is over before you know it. What most modern-day readers will take away from this story is exactly what I took away from it over twelve years ago. I'll give you the bullet points:

Don Heck was a terrible fucking artist.
There has never been a good story involving Kang.
Everyone that wrote comics in the early-to-mid-'70's must have been high as fuck.
Steve Englehart must have been fucking with Marvel and the fans, because this is some CRAZY shit......

 The rundown:
The Vision is in another dimension, fighting Dormammu.
The Swordsman, his dead body possessed by a space tree (!!!) relates the origins of Moondragon and Mantis. Both were orphaned, and destined for greatness. Moondragon went to another planet and learned all kinds of neat shit. Mantis became an underage prostitute in Saigon and, presumably, also learned all kinds of neat shit, albeit neat shit of a VERY different kind. Like most foreign streetwalkers, she speaks in some weird, highfalootin' manner that involves calling herself "This one." It gets old really fast.
Thor, Iron Man, and Hawkeye excuse themselves from this exposition-fest to step out for a breath of fresh air, where they discover The Radioactive Man, The Crimson Dynamo, and The Titanium Man, who have all had their asses kicked by Kang. (Just the mention of Kang indicates that the story is about to get worse.)
The Vision fight Dormammu some more.
More underage streetwalking origin.
Thor fights Kang, and beats him.
The Vision is still fighting Dormammu. (I find it scary that I know how to spell "Dormammu" without having to consult the actual comic.)
Libra appears out of nowhere and sits in on the origin exposition. No one bats an eye at this odd development.
The Vision and The Scarlet Witch, with Agatha Harkness, fight Dormammu and Umar.
Hawkeye fights another Kang, and beats him, while exclaiming "Duck, you sucker!"
Mantis learns that it is her destiny TO MARRY A TREE. (This never, ever ceases to amaze me.)
Agatha Harkness kinda sorta gives The Scarlet Witch permission to have sex with a robot. The Vision tells The Scarlet Witch "Now I can be your man for all my synthetic flesh." (This is not a typo on my part...I have no idea what that means, but it sounds really dirty.) What woman wouldn't melt after hearing that?
Mantis agrees to marry the space tree! Yay! Quoth Mantis "Yes, she will marry him! YES!"
Iron Man fights still ANOTHER Kang, and defeats him.
Kang shows up! (!!!!???!!!)
We learn that the three defeated Kangs are all from different points in time, and were distractions meant to occupy The Avengers so THIS Kang could abduct Mantis.....so he could MATE WITH HER. "..and when Mantis mates with me, I shall become ruler of the heavens!"
In my favorite cock-block of all time, we learn that it wasn't Mantis that Kang just kidnapped and is getting ready to rape, but THE SPACE PHANTOM!!!! Yes, Kang was THIS...CLOSE...to getting it on with this guy:
Sexy! (As Kang wails and moans over this turn of events, The Space Phantom says "Believe me, Kang, I like it no better than you.")
Immortus (Another comic-book enjoyment killer...) presides over the double-wedding, as The Vision marries The Scarlet Witch, and Mantis marries a tree.
I mourn the lost time that my reading OCD has cost me.
Truly horrible, horrible stuff.

 From there, we get to the meat-and-potatoes of this collection: The 1982 VISION AND THE SCARLET WITCH mini-series by Bill Mantlo, Rick Leonardi, Ian Akin, and Brian Garvey. This episodic four-parter finds the couple living in Leonia, New Jersey, enjoying retirement from The Avengers. Of course, trouble is always on the horizon for any super-hero, retired or not, and the couple finds themselves visited by Samhain, "The eternal embodiment of All Hallows Eve". The frisky duo also find time to get busy, but stop because Jarvis is in the house, prompting The Scarlet Witch to say "Sigh. I suppose we can postpone our lovemaking until later tonight." That would probably be the dirtiest thing I ever read in a comic back in 1982. (Unasked question: Why would Ultron build an android with a weiner....?) The first issue ends with the defeat of Samhain, and the arrival of "The Whizzer" (Go ahead and laugh...I'll wait.), setting up the familial theme of the mini-series. (By the way, The Whizzer gained his speed powers as a result of a transfusion of mongoose blood. Stay away from that Doctor.)

 At this point in their lives, The Scarlet Witch and her brother, Quicksilver, had just learned that The Whizzer was not their birth father, but HE didn't know that, so he comes to Wanda and Pietro for help in gaining custody of his other son, a giant radioactive monster named Nuklo. Family drama ensues.

 Issue three finds an incapacitated Vision and his "brother" Wonder Man at the mercy of Wonder Man's REAL brother, The Grim Reaper.

 The mini-series ends with Wanda and Pietro finding out that their birth father is Magneto, setting the stage for a fight/reconciliation in Attilan, home of The Inhumans.

 The history and origin of The Vision, and the parentage of The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, are all incredibly convoluted, and make fertile ground for Bill Mantlo's stories of familial strife and redemption. I don't consider Mantlo to be a great writer, but he did some very good work from time to time, and this story holds up well. The art, by Rick Leonardi and inkers Ian Akin and Brian Garvey, really floored me back in 1982. Today, it's just OK. The book is rounded out by a two-page FOOM cartoon strip and a David Mack pin-up.

 I resisted buying this collection when it was first released, but picked it up, FOR FULL PRICE, NO LESS (!!!!) in a fit of Marvel-mania a few months back at Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida. The molasses-like check-out girl took so long to ring me up that I missed being with my kids when they had their picture taken with Captain America.
Don't pay $19.99 for this book.