January 1985: Avengers 254 – Or, Vision, we are all here because we love you, but you have a problem.

Synopsis: Avengers 254 was written by Roger Stern with art by Bob Hall and Joe Delbeato and Josef Rubenstein and opens with Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Starfox and Hercules confronting the Vision in Avengers Mansion. Vision has taken over the computer networks of the world in an attempt to stabilise the world and prevent war. Along side him are Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau version) Thor and She-Hulk, or at least that’s what it looks like, til Captain America notices that no one has shadows, meaning it’s all holographic. Captain America summons the West Coast Avengers and then the team splits up to find the actual Vision and bring this to an end.

Wonder Man heads into the mansion too and Scarlet Witch, Starfox, Captain America and Wonder Man each find an altered version of Vision who tries to convince them that what he is doing is right. Hercules catches up  with Black Knight and they face another Vision. Here he is passionate and eloquent and explains that the control crystal in his head has caused a block in his emotional development and has allowed others including his ‘creator’ Ultron-5 to control him. When Starfox connected him to the computer ISAAC which runs the moon of Titan, occupied by the Eternals that live there, including Starfox. With the greater capacity that this connection afforded him he decided to use the influence of the Avengers to improve global stability and usher in a better age for mankind. He manipulated people and events to do this, but it wasn’t enough.

So then came the plan to take over the world’s computer systems to prevent there ever being a nuclear strike by any nation. Captain America points out that there aer missles in play in bombers and subs, out of his complete control, Scarlet Witch points out that humans are already irrational and prone to violence and control of systems won’t fix that. Starfox points out that ISAAC only assists a small population and it’s unrealistic to assume that Vision would be able to do the same. Slowly doubts start to creep in.

Finally he realises that the control crystal was damaged and it’s interfered with his ability to reason and the strain of spreading his personality across all the world’s computers is pulling his mind apart. But he can’t get out of the system, he’s too far in. The Avengers arrive at his location, then doing their thing, destroy the computers that link to Vision, but not before the computers at NORAD are affected by the Vision’s machinations. The Avengers free him from the machinery and the Vision pulls the defective crystal from his own head. Finally free, the Vision apologises for all his wrongs and walks away with his wife to their room. Captain America recognises that there will be repercussions from what the Vision tried to do, but is ok to wait and deal with it later. Back at Norad, the link to the Avengers’ computers have been discovered and the general in charge wants heads to roll.

Notes: For a comic series about heroes battling for peace and liberty, the Avengers do a hell of a lot of fighting. So when we have a discussion/reasoning end to a crisis, it’s a pleasant change of pace. The art is basic and workman-like with everyone looking as they should, but the story as a whole was the star of this book.

My favourite Avenger is the Vision, for me his search for identity as a person, he love for his wife and his desire to battle for people who at best couldn’t care less, but at worst wanted him destroyed and his wife dead. He is, when written well, a very human character, with all the flaws and foibles inherent to that. He isn’t Data from Star Trek, Red Tornado from Young Justice or Danger from the X-Men. They are robots or artificial intelligences, whilst Vision is a prosthetic person with the mind cloned from a human being. He is a person, just with synthesised parts. He cares about things and people, he loves his wife and values his membership in the Avengers, not very mechanical things. These flaws and desires are the basis of this story. He wanted world peace, stability and justice and saw the chance to do something about it. He made some mistakes, but ego and inexperience stopped him seeing it. Who can’t relate to that? This wasn’t a battle to defeat a foe, this was an intervention.

The art serves the story well and the Vision showing different versions to Hercules, Starfox, Captain America, Wonder Man and his wife all fit that dynamic. Hercules understands strength, so Vision is a fighter. Cap is a superhero, so Vision is in costume, Starfox lived with a computer doing the same thing, so Vision is a computer screen, Wonder Man is his brother, so Vision is dressed like a regular guy and Scarlet Witch is his wife, so he is dressed to be at home, showing a human face to the woman that makes him feel that way. That’s ideal for the story and whether it was the writer or artists that made that choice, it is fantastic to see. I could have done with more of the effects of Vision’s take-over, but the drama was realising that Vision was mistaken and needed help.

This was a story of aliens, men made of energy, mutants, gods and synthezoids, but this was really a human story and a great one at that. I’ve said before that Stern deserves more praise than he often gets, this is one of those issues that showcases his gift with writing comics. Stern’s Avengers is a great era and well worth checking out.

Next Time: Loonies, space blasters and a Raccoon. Time for Rocket.

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