Monday, February 27, 2017

Crabs, Assemble!, Part Twenty-Seven: Avengers West Coast: Vision Quest

The downfall of The Scarlet Witch begins here. (And would continue for nearly two decades....)

 The legendary John Byrne returned to The Avengers big-time in 1989, taking over both monthly AVENGERS titles. Byrne wrote THE AVENGERS, and wrote and illustrated WEST COAST AVENGERS, which he promptly changed to AVENGERS WEST COAST. AVENGERS WEST COAST: VISION QUEST collects WEST COAST AVENGERS #'s 42-46 and AVENGERS WEST COAST #'s 47-50, and finds Byrne struggling to make the team his own, by engaging in that old classic "Everything that you thought you knew about (fill-in-the-blank) was wrong!", shaking up the team roster, and introducing a whole new team.

 I'm not much of a fan of Steve Englehart, but he did invest a lot of time and effort into making the Marvel power-couple of The Vision and The Scarlet Witch more interesting, by solidifying their marriage, giving them a family, and imbuing them with a little bit of personality. I can't imagine why a writer would want to make a character that had just become interesting into an emotionless blank slate, but that's just what Byrne does here with The Vision. Byrne makes a lot of odd choices in this collection, which is more a curiosity of continuity porn than an actual story.

 Byrne digs deep into Marvel history, retconning a lot of what we knew about the already-turgid origin of The Vision, and making it even more lifeless and cold. I consider myself very well-versed in Marvel continuity, but Bryne's endless pages of slightly tweaked flashbacks had my eyes glazing over. Most fans already had close to no interest in The Vision; I doubt that he picked up any new fans after this.

 The story here is that The Vision is abducted and dismantled by a coalition of spy agencies, still smarting from his misguided attempt to conquer the world via I.S.A.A.C. all those years ago, and The Scarlet Witch struggles to help her husband regain the one aspect of his life that seems beyond repair: His  eradicated personality.

 As The Scarlet Witch attempts to restore her blank-slate of a husband, Byrne peppers the book with various other odd subplots:

 The Children of The Vision and The Scarlet Witch keep disappearing. (Literally disappearing.)

 Tigra is regressing into an actual cat.

 Mockingbird and Hawkeye kinda-sorta work on their marriage.

 A mysterious group seeks to enslave The Scarlet Witch to aid their overly-complex agenda. (This is probably one of Byrne's most ambitious "evil plot" storylines, and I could sort of see where he was going with it, but it was way too ill-defined and rushed to have any kind of impact.)

 Wonder man realizes that he's in love with the Scarlet Witch, and dickishly refuses to let Hank Pym copy his brain patterns again, which is all that is needed to make The Vision whole again. This startlingly selfish and prickish move is completely supported by The Wasp, who seems delighted to play matchmaker for her friend, who has, essentially, had her whole world completely turned upside-down almost overnight. In fact, NONE of The Avengers seem to give half-a-fuck that their longtime teammate has been kidnapped, taken apart, and wiped from existence.

 The Government send The USAgent to take over leadership of the team, but Byrne never bothers to namedrop the character or say who he is, why he's there, and what he represents. You're just supposed to know. (I know, but newer readers might not, which makes this whole subplot just feel sloppy and hamfisted. I suspect that Byrne was forced to use the character.)

 A new team of misfits declares themselves "The Great Lakes Avengers".

 Byrne brings back the original Human Torch, via more continuity porn. Was anyone crying out for the return of this dud of a character?

 Immortus lurks around Limbo. (Too much like Kang, the enemy of good storytelling.....)

 Byrne does a decent job of moving things along, despite the HUGE stretches of flashbacks and massive blocks of exposition necessary to aid in his retcons, but there were sequences that had my eyes glazing over as I frantically scanned ahead to see when this latest chunk of exposition would be over.

 As I said above, this is mainly Byrne getting all of his pieces where he wants them on the board, but, unfortunately, Byrne would (As usual...) end up storming off before the game was anywhere near complete, leaving others to clear the board and tidy things up. Not a bad collection, but far from Byrne's best

 Seven out of ten devil heads.

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