Thursday, 23 August 2012

Avengers #110-#114: The Ballad of Vizh and Wanda

A lot's been happening in the world of Avengers since we last checked in with them in issue #53. Back then, they consisted of Black Panther (T'Challa), Clint Barton (Hawkeye), Hank Pym (Giant-Man) and Janet Van Dyne (The Wasp). As my handy chart shows, by Avengers #110 (April 1973) they have added the Vision (who is a sentient robot type thingsynthezoid), regained Iron Man (Tony Stark), Captain America (Steve Rogers), Thor and the Scarlet Witch (Wanda). I'm not sure where Giant-Man and the Wasp have gone - possibly they remain very small for the entire story.

Anyhow, they get a communication coming through, from an anonymous sender, who shows them the X-Mansion. They don't recognise it, but do vaguely recognise the prone body of Xavier, from Reed and Sue's wedding. Thor remembers who he was from way back in Avengers #9, and identifies him as "Professor Charles Xavier, mentor to the long-hidden X-Men". But who's behind this all, but Magneto! He here calls the group he'd organised in X-Men #4 the "Brotherhood of Evil Mutants", possibly for the first time? The story treats the X-Men mostly as victims to be saved by the Avengers, but ends with both groups having learnt something about each other.

Since there's not much with the X-Men proper going on here, let's see what the mutants in the Avengers are doing. The Vision (who is a kind of android, who I think is at this point was supposed to be the body of the original Human Torch overlaid with the mind of Simon Williams) agreed that he reciprocated Wanda's love for him in #108, and the happy news was shared with Iron Man in #109. He doesn't say a word to their face, but privately he thinks that "society isn't going to go for this one", and he "hope[s they] know what [they]'re letting [themselves] in for". Pietro (who had been missing) turns up in #110, announcing his engagement to Crystal of the Inhumans. He's really not keen on finding out about Wanda and the Vision's relationship, going so far as to forbid it. One could perhaps read this queerly, but really it's not. It's about interracial marriage, in a United States that only saw Loving v. Virginia six years ago.

Going a little ahead, #113 has a vox pop about the issue, with one bigot saying "They aren't people. It makes me sick". They get a lot of hate mail, too:

only the lord Jehova can create life. androds are agents of the devil, and will bring hellfire and brimstone to america! wize up befor it's to late! androds have no soles! a friend."
It's enough to make you want to set up a Westboro Baptist Church parody site. We then get a hate group that conditionally accepts Wanda as a person, but draws the line at androids. They decide to kill the Vision to avoid setting a precedent, through the method of suicide bombs.

In #114 Wanda thinks back to why she was so naïve, and realises that she had passing privilege as a mutant. Her brother, Quicksilver, never had that, so was quicker to see how unpopular such a match-up would be. On the streets, she is met with sexually suggestive comments from builders (something I never would have credited 1970s comics as acknowledging as such a problem!) It's going to be a long way to go.

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