Mutants have waved the ‘hated & feared’ flag in the Marvel Universe pretty much since the introduction of the X-Men 50 years ago. But after the events of the publisher’s Age of Ultron event, humanity’s evolutionary offshoot will have some competition from the non-organic consciousnesses roaming in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s backyard.
A new series called Avengers A.I. focuses on the frontlines of mankind-vs-machine drama, with members hailing from the robots and androids community. The Vision? Yup, that makes sense. A Doombot? Uh, aren’t these supposed to be the good guys?
There are some humans on this new Avengers team, of course, chief amongst them Hank Pym. The super-scientist at the centre of Age of Ultron is tasked with cleaning up some of his mess, as ripples from the crossover appear to be connected to a new machine-intelligence threat. The cast of characters includes some new and old characters, too, in a take that mirrors some of what’s happening in Uncanny Avengers. I had a chance to send some questions to series writer Sam Humphries and in the answers below, he discusses the Vision’s emotions, Hank Pym’s craziness and what the coming Singularity will look like in the Marvel Universe.
Kotaku: There’s a distinct difference in tone from the Age of Ultron mini-series and the first issue of Avengers A.I. Does all the bickering and banter mean that this will be a more down-to-earth follow-up to that series’ grim time traveling?
Yeah, you can't do grim apocalyptic epics all the time, right? Avengers A.I. is an Avengers book. They are 110% bonafide Earth's Mightiest Heroes. They also have a mandate that will put them up against robot, android, and artificial intelligence threats. So, yeah — this book is going to have a much different tone than AOU. It's gonna be weird, crazy, and fun.
Kotaku: How long after the end of Age of Ultron does this new series start?
Time travel stories + fuzzy comic book maths = I don't want to fall in the trap of putting a number on it. But let me put it this way: AOU was recent enough that it still haunts Hank Pym, but distant enough that his actions at the end of that story now have irrevocable consequences for the Marvel Universe. The future is here, it is threatening to grind humanity into dust, and there's no turning back.
Kotaku: The Singularity is the looming threat in Avengers A.I. If you had to have your consciousness uploaded into any Marvel artificial being, who would it be?
Garret from Elektra: Assassin. Who wouldn't want to be drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz?
Kotaku: Are we going to see a more well-adjusted Hank Pym at this point? In terms of his fictional biography, it feels like he’s been unbalanced longer than he was ever sane. Is being functionally dysfunctional the norm for him at this point? Will we see manic highs and depressive lows?
In the past — not always, but definitely sometimes — Hank Pym's mental illness has been treated like a cold, or a super villian. He's crazy! Now he's sane again. Look out, the crazy is back! How's he going to escape this time?
I would argue that Hank's "dysfunctional" is actually more "functional" than "normal" people. Hank has a chronic condition. There is no cure, there is no endpoint, there is no end of the labyrinth where you can say, "I've escaped!" You focus on managing your condition, you work hard to live a life as normally as possible, and understand that it's not going to be as easy as it is for the people around you. This is a fact of life for hundreds of millions of people with chronic condition. I'm epileptic, I can never be cured, I can just focus on making every day better than the last. This gets really interesting when you put it in the day-to-day context of being an Avenger.
Kotaku: In the first issue, the Vision feels somewhere in between the pretty-much-human character he was in, say, The Vision & The Scarlet Witch mini-series and the more remote persona from his earliest appearances. What’s his relationship to humanity at this point? Does he care about having feelings anymore?
The Vision was dead for most of the past 10 years. Now that he's back, he's at a crossroads. He used to be, at best, a minority, and at worst, a novelty. But now there's been an explosion of artificial intelligence in the Marvel Universe. He's gone from being the one robot at the party to having millions of brothers and sisters. We'll see how that shifts the Vision's keel, how he finds a new role for himself in this brave new world.
Kotaku: Both Hank Pym and Bruce Banner are mad scientists both leading super-teams in the Marvel Universe now. Is there a rivalry between the characters or creative teams on Avengers A.I. and Indestructible Hulk? How do you make sure you’re staying out of each other’s way?
I make deliberate, factually incorrect statements about the Legion of Superheroes every day on Twitter — just to get in under Waid's skin. Shake him out of his zone, y'know? Ya gotta get in their heads, man. You think this is a game?!
There's more than enough room for one super genius in the Marvel Universe. But we're all in the loop together. Waid's a maestro with this stuff so I'll talk his ear off any chance I get, just to see what he says. He wrote the Hank Pym prelude one shot, so he's been in the mix on Avengers A.I. since the early stages and his input was invaluable. We just got back from the Marvel Summit in New York where we all compared notes on the next year or so of our books. Waid's run on Hulk has already been awesome but it's about to get even better.
Kotaku: Vision’s sporting some new abilities in the first issue. Can we expect similar upgrades for other characters?
Alexis is a brand new character and a bleeding edge artificial intelligence. We meet her briefly in issue 1 and her mystery spins out from there. I'd argue that she represents an upgrade for every robot, android, and A.I. in the Marvel Universe.