Thursday, February 7, 2013

Featured Review: Avengers Assemble Annual #1

(w) Christos Gage
(a) Tomm Coker, Mike Mayhew, Mike Deodato, Luke Ross, and Valentine de Landro

The Vision hasn't really been around much recently. Eight years ago, Brian Michael Bendis killed the character off in the pages of Avengers: Disassembled along with Hawkeye, Scott Lang, and a zombified Jack of Hearts. While all the deaths had major weight and significance, the Vision's was especially haunting because the murderer, or course, was Wanda Maximoff, Vision's wife. It's taken years, and a lot of savvy storytelling, but all of the characters who bit the dust due to Wanda's reality-warping freak out have come back (sans Jack of Hearts, due to his kind of already being dead). 

And again, Vision's resurrection was unique in that his reconstitution came at the cost of his memory, meaning he was only a shadow of a friend the Avengers held dear for so long. Later on, Vision regained his memories and adult form, but that's kind of where the story ended until Avengers Assemble Annual #1Christos Gage has used the 'Annual' format in one of the best ways I've seen in recent memory: reintroducing an old character that hasn't been used in a while but who has major significance in the greater scheme of things. 

The plot of "Company Man" is seems pretty run-of-the-mill at first; Dr. Arthur Dearborn is dying because of experiments conducted on him by his employer, Roxxon Corporation, and now he wants revenge. The situation gets a big more complicated when Dearborn claims Roxxon is purposefully letting him die because they have replacement subjects for their ongoing gene-altering experiments. Unlike many disgruntled employees, Dearborn is dying because his body is composed of living energy and it's slowly degrading. Now, after forsaking him in his time of crisis, Dearborn simply wants to destroy Roxxon completely. 

Gage doesn't hide the fact that Dearborn's situation mirrors that of the Vision. Both are men solely invested in their respective organizations, only to be taken for granted by said organizations they've given their lives to serve. For Dearborn, that means being left to die. For the Vision, that means being forgotten by the only family he's ever known while the world went to hell a few times over (see Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Siege, etc.) Like the android he is, Vision logically understands why the Avengers couldn't reassemble him earlier, but that doesn't make the pain any less real for him.

The last work I read by Christos Gage was The First X-Men, a series I started reading and stopped after the second issue. I found the entire concept to be completely unnecessary. On the flip side, Gage's story in Avengers Assemble Annual #1 is a stunning example of how the writer can handle a story with a little more significance under its wings. The Vision is a fan-favorite character that's been absent for too long, and Gage brings him back in style while also forging an exciting new path for the android who has served everyone but himself since he was first switched on.


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