The parade of old-school-Avengers guest stars continues. Two issues ago it was Thor, last issue it was Hawkeye, and this time out it's the Vision.
It's a Day (or rather a Night) in the Life of the Avengers: Storm and Wolverine are watching a thunderstorm, Bruce Banner and Giant-Girl are running some experiments on mass-density transfer, Iron Man is upgrading Stark Tower's computer system, and Cap and Spidey are running a training exercise against some robotic sparring partners. Everything is fine, until a massive bolt of lightning strikes Stark Tower.
It's not an accident, that lightning strike: Storm used her powers to channel it into herself, to spare Manhattan's power grid an overload. But as a consequence, it's Stark Tower's grid that overloads, and the lights go out throughout the building.
Down in the training labs, Cap and Spidey sense that something is in the room with them, something hostile. In the light of the web-slinger's Spider-Signal, the two heroes see a ghost, a spirit that demands they "get out of [the] house."
Okay, it's not really a spirit. It's the Vision, an android with the power to phase through walls, a character making his Marvel Adventures: Avengers debut. And a stylish debut too, starring as the malevolent phantom in a Gothic-style ghost story. The Vision's powers to phase through solid objects make the role a good fit.
The Vision's menu of powers—intangibility, laser blasts, and an incapacitating touch—make short work of Captain America. Spider-Man lasts only a little longer, because whatever forces are at work in Avengers Tower have sealed the doors throughout the complex, and Spidey, for all his agility, can't evade the Vision for long. Having dealt with these two, the Vision seeks out Iron Man, who's trapped elsewhere in the Tower. Tony Stark puts up a better fight, though, because for some reason the Vision's intangibility doesn't protect him against Iron Man's repulsor rays. That fact is very suggestive to Stark: it implies that whatever the Vision is, at root it is something Stark designed.
Stark is safe, for the moment, but the other Avengers have problems. Wolverine and Storm, sealed outside on the Tower's roof, are suddenly attacked by the Tower's defensive systems, preventing them from going to their colleagues' aid. Meanwhile, the Vision, fleeing Iron Man's repulsor rays, has tracked down Giant-Girl and Banner. Naturally, the Vision's assault prompts Banner's transformation into the Hulk, who is strong enough that even the Vision's paralyzing touch isn't immediately effective. The Hulk's fruitless attempts to punch his foe cause a great deal of damage to the area, if not to the Vision, but the confusion allows Iron Man and Giant-Girl a chance to slip away: Stark has an idea about how to proceed against the Vision, and needs Giant-Girl's help to carry out his plan.
The Hulk puts up a good fight, but eventually succumbs to the Vision's assault. So too does Wolverine. The Vision then turns to Storm, who tries to take to the air, but the Vision can fly also, and pursues her. Unfortunately for the android, he grasps at Storm just as another lightning bolt falls from the sky, and the discharge knocks both of them out.
In the aftermath of the battle, the whys and wherefores are all cleaned up: it seems the first lightning bolt mashed up one of the training robots, which had been programmed to defeat the Avengers, with both the Tower's AI system and Banner's mass-density experiments. The result? A single hostile entity, one with the power to alter its density so that it could phase through walls. That entity, the Vision, has been subdued, but as it's intangible Stark has no way of dismantling the robot. He can, however, imprison it in a cage of repulsor rays, so if it ever re-activates it will be unable to escape.
Cap isn't sure that leaving a hostile robot intact is a good plan, but Storm doesn't like the idea of destroying it. After all, it came to 'life' initially from a burst of artificial energy, but it has now received a burst of natural energy from the storm, and from Storm herself. (I don't know what "natural" means in this context, but never mind.) Perhaps the robot is now alive in a more robust sense than it was before...
You don't realize until you're halfway through, but this is a Gothic riff. All the tropes here are drawn from Gothic fiction: darkness, lightning, ghosts, nameless monsters, Bad Places, and even, in the Vision, a Frankenstein's Monster.
It's a clever idea, and it's executed well enough. Tally that up on the plus side. Now tally up the minus side. For starters, the tone is unrelentingly grim. This is a dark book: shadowy, violent, anxious. There's nothing wrong with that per se, but it's at odds with the tone this book has had since its inception: light, cartoony, witty. And the voices aren't right, either. Cap comes off as a martinet, Storm as girlish, and Wolverine, God save us, as a kid on his first date.
This book had an established tone and an established set of characterizations, and this issue sins against both. You can probably guess why that would be so: we've got a new writer on the book, and he's doing things his way. Too bad that his way is so different from what has come before, a status quo which was good, and was working out well.
It pains me to say this, but Ty Templeton, who wrote this issue, fumbled the ball. Templeton's a classy guy, and one of my favourite writers. Anyone unfamiliar with his run on Batman: Gotham Adventures missed the best run on any Batman book of the past twenty years. I'm sure that, from Marvel's perspective, putting Templeton on this book seemed like a slam dunk. Not this time, though.
Is Templeton's assignment to this book temporary, or permanent? I guess we'll find out next month. And much love to Templeton, but I hope that Jeff Parker returns. Templeton on this book isn't a good fit.