This review will be exceptional in that its subject is neither Canadian nor a book. At least part of what I plan to discuss is something I read, however, to which I say: good enough.
A dear friend sent both volumes of The Vision (2015) earlier this year. I have read almost no comic books in my lifetime, but this Eisner Award winning limited series was as good a place as any to start! The story follows the titular Vision, a synthetic human who wants to live a more normal, human life, despite being both robotic and a superhero. To pursue this end, he crafts for himself a nuclear family, and they all move into a quaint Virginian neighbourhood. The comic follows their efforts to be normal and human, and in doing so draws considerable pathos out of their near success. I won’t spoil any of twists and turns from the comic since anyone remotely interested in comics should consider reading it.
These days the most widely known version of Vision is the one portrayed by Paul Bettany in The Avengers movies. The character is introduced in a confusing sequence in the mess that is The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ultron’s creation of Vision is faithful to the comics, but his motivation for doing so is unclear in the movie, and adds nothing to the overall story. As a matter of necessity the MCU changes a number of things about Vision. In the comics Ultron was created by Hank Pym (the original Ant Man), not Tony Stark, and had nothing to do with the Mind Stone, which in the MCU was used by Stark to make Ultron’s artificial intelligence. In the movies the Mind Stone also became the thing which brought Vision to life, and is situated in his forehead, whereas in the comics the device in his forehead was some kind of microchip that contains a copy of Wonder Man’s brain waves. The changes, while separating Vision from anything to do with Ant Man, better integrated him into the overarching plot of The Avengers movies, which has to do with the Infinity Stones.
Today I watched the fourth Avengers movie, Infinity War, where the Infinity Stones story finally comes to a head. Curiously, Avengers: Infinity War is not really based on the comic Infinity War (1992), but on the earlier Infinity Gauntlet (1991). The Infinity Gauntlet is one of the other few comics I have read, and sadly most of my favourite aspects of the comics did not make it into the new movie. The most significant change for the movie is Thanos’, the lead villain, motivation. In The Infinity Gauntlet Thanos has some bizarre infatuation with the personification of Death itself, and his intention is the collect the Infinity Stones and achieve godhood so that he will be able to be with his beloved Death. The destroying of half of all life in the universe is something Thanos does with his power in his efforts to impress Death. The Infinity War (2018) movie changes Thanos motivation into something Malthusian: he believes killing half of the universe’s occupants is necessary to prevent it from running dry of its finite resources. I expected this aspect of the story to be changed, given Thanos’ original motivation, but it resulted in others which disappointed me more.
Arguably the main character of The Infinity Gauntlet is the character Adam Warlock, who simply does not exist in the Marvel movies. In the comics Adam possessed the Soul Stone, but in his absence Vision has the Mind Stone. I am perfectly content with this change for selfish reasons, in that I like the character of Vision and have no special interest in Adam Warlock. There are other characters absent from the movies which interest me more. For instance, the first half of The Infinity Gauntlet sees Thanos receive council from Mephisto, the allegory for the devil in Marvel comics. Although Mephisto pretends to be on Thanos’ side for part of the story, he does this to convince Thanos that to impress Death he has to give some heroes a chance of winning. Mephisto attempts to undermine Thanos since the latter’s godhood threats him just as much as anyone else in the universe. Another major omission from the MCU are Marvel’s cast of “cosmic” characters. After the normal heroes are defeated in their assault on Thanos, Marvel’s embodiment of things like Chaos, Time, and even the Universe itself arrive to combat Thanos. This is frankly my favourite part of the comic, since the battles are said to be “beyond words” and are rendered artistically.
Now, there is a remote possibility that the Marvel “cosmic” characters which I enjoyed in The Infinity Gauntlet could appear in the second part of the Infinity War movie, though I doubt it. The Marvel films have shied away from depicting most “cosmic” characters, and with good reason, they are bizarre. The changes and omissions in the MCU have had the benefit of giving Vision more screen time than I anticipated he would have. Although his relationship with the Scarlet Witch is rushed in Infinity War (2018), more was included in the film than I expected. If I have one disappointment about Vision’s portrayal, it relates to how easily he was kicked around throughout the movie. Despite participating in more fights than I expected—that is, more than one—he is soundly trounced in each. A beggar can’t be a chooser I suppose. Alas! If only he were as competent as in his own solo series.
The Vision (2015) comes highly recommended. Infinity War (2018) is alright if one has an interest in big, loud action movies with dialogue consisting primarily of heartless quips.