With the second installment of The Avengers less than a month away, and with it clearly the favorite to be the summer blockbuster of 2015, it behooves us to be aware of that which came before — or, at least, from where the new characters to which we’ll be introduced come, as well as various needed plot elements.
Print comics is a dying medium, yes, but naturally, without ’em, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our heroes on the silver screen.
THE VILLAIN Ultron was created by Hank Pym, aka Giant Man as shown in Avengers #58. The robot quickly “evolves,” going from monosyllabic to complex speech in mere moments. He quickly frees himself from any concept of robotic servitude, immobilizing and then brain-wiping Pym, and escaping into the night.
Soon disguised as the Crimson Cowl, Ultron recruits a new Masters of Evil to assist him against the Avengers, and follows this with the creation of the Vision (Avengers #57), whom he also sends against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
The Vision, however, betrays Ultron and helps the Avengers to defeat the mechanoid. But unknown to all, the robot’s “braincase” remains intact.
In Avengers #66, we see the first instance of the “Ultron Imperative” — a computerized compulsion which leads to the rebirth of the evil robot. Here, the Vision is compelled to steal a batch of adamantium (this is the fictional metal’s first appearance, by the way) from SHIELD, and recreate Ultron — this time virtually indestructible.
(That’s right Marvel movie-only fans — adamantium has its origins in the pages of The Avengers, not Wolverine or the X-Men.)
The Avengers, with the help of a now-mentally free Vision, and a vibranium gift from the Black Panther, manage to defeat this latest incarnation, Ultron-6.
Ultron continues to evolve through the years, and in the late 1970s creates a “mate,” Jocasta, based on Hank Pym’s wife’s — the Wasp’s — brain patterns. Ultron creates another “female” companion, Alkhema, in the 1990s. Both Jocasta and Alkhema eventually rebel against Ultron, with the former actually joining the Avengers.
In the late 1990s, writer Kurt Busiek ups the ante still further by having the latest incarnation of Ultron slaughter an entire country, and manufactures a robotic army to assist him. This premise looks to figure large in the film.
The early 2000s sees Ultron incorporated into one of Iron Man’s suits of armor, but the former Jocasta, now Tony Stark’s sentient A.I., helps Stark defeat him.
In 2007 the robot takes over Stark’s armor again, this time the “Extremis” version which is actually part of Stark. A Skrull computer virus saves the billionaire, and world, thankfully.
Most recently, in the “Age of Ultron” storyline, the robot attempts to utilize the Avengers’ Infinite Mansion to conquer the universe. His defeat draws directly from his second attempt to crush humanity: Starfox uses his power to make Ultron love himself, just as Hank Pym (disguised as adamantium inventor Myron MacLain) used the thought “Thou shall not kill” to defeat the robot back in Avengers #68.
In the upcoming film, being as there is no (movie) basis (yet) for Hank Pym developing Ultron, it will be Tony Stark activating a “peacekeeping” program that goes awry when it decides the best method to “keep” the peace is by … annihilating all humans. (Sound familiar?)
THE REBEL As noted, the Vision was created by Ultron for use against the Avengers, but the android (he’s actually a “synthozoid,” an artificial human) quickly turns on his creator.
The Vision’s powers include the ability to fire solar blasts from his eyes, but more impressively he can control his density at will — become as intangible as a ghost (hence his name), or massively heavy and as hard as a diamond.
From the classic Avengers #58, after Vision is accepted into the team.
It appears the movie will maintain Vision’s Ultron origin; however, it will be Tony Stark and Bruce Banner who reprogram him with Stark’s AI, JARVIS, to fight alongside the Avengers.
Vision marries the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) for a time, beginning in Giant-Size Avengers #4. However, after the android takes over all of the planet’s computers (Avengers #254), many of the world’s governments hatch a plan to capture and disassemble him. This they do shortly thereafter in the pages of West Coast Avengers.
Hank Pym eventually manages to reassemble the Vision; however, he is now without the brain patterns of Wonder Man, which Ultron had utilized originally in his construction. This leads to a loss of all emotion within the android, and the now-living Wonder Man refuses to allow his brain patterns to be used again. As a result, Vision and Wanda drift apart.
Vision eventually reacquires the ability to feel emotions, but he and Wanda never get back together, despite flickers of renewed affection.
The Vision is thoroughly destroyed by the She-Hulk years later after Ultron — yet again — unwittingly uses his creation in an attack against the Avengers. He is later reconstructed by Tony Stark and once again serves among the Earth’s Mightiest.
THE TWINS Also joining the team in the film will be the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the mutant twins first seen in the pages of the X-Men (#4). The latter was seen recently in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but not by his name due to a usage rights issue.
Members of the Avengers since their earliest days (Avengers #16) — in “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” (including Capt. America and Hawkeye) — Wanda and Pietro Maximoff have returned to the ranks of team many times. Wanda, in particular, has been one of the team’s most stalwart associates.
Wanda and Pietro from the cover of Avengers #185.
As noted, Wanda ends up marrying the Vision, but this does not sit well with he brother. Ironically, Pietro, the subject of much fear and prejudice due to his being a mutant, is one of the most intolerant of Avengers. In fact, the ephemeral Avenger Moondragon ends up brain-zapping him (Avengers #176) in an effort to purge him of his bigotry.
The mutant twins’ history is a very convoluted one, given their actions in the ranks of the Avengers as well as that in the pages of various X-Men titles. Once thought to be the abandoned children of the 1940s-50s heroes the Whizzer and Miss America, it is eventually shown that the X-Men’s perennial nemesis, Magneto, is their true father.
In terms of powers, the Scarlet Witch is one of the most powerful characters in all the Marvel Universe. Able to alter probabilities and even warp reality, she alone is responsible for one of Ultron’s defeats (Avengers #171), and at one time actually creates her own (alternate) reality.
Quicksilver’s unnamed appearance in the last X-film hopefully will be reprised in some manner as it was possibly the best segment in Days of Future Past. In the slim chance you haven’t yet seen it, Pietro can move so fast that you’ll never know what he has done until he finally decides to slow down.
Avengers: Age of Ultron opens in American theaters May 1.
(Image credits: Write-ups.org, CBR Community, MTV)]]>