This title continues to be a very strange read indeed. On the one had, Sam Humphries is telling a really light, fun and crazy book where The Vision fights his enemy inside a video game alongside a cute kitten… and on the other, it can get really dark in it’s exploration of what it means to be an artificial intelligence, and has SHIELD being absolute dicks, and almost as villainous as Dimitrios. I don’t know quite what to make of it, but it’s a unique, enjoyable experience.
The issue begins with that darkness, as Monica Chang is meeting with Maria Hill in a park. They are sitting watching an innocent old man feed the pigeons. Only he’s not an old man, he’s an LMD that escaped from AIM to live a life of peace. But not for much longer, as SHIELD just snipe him from up above. They don’t care that he’s a harmless old due, he’s A.I., so he’s an enemy and he’s dead. It turns out the US Government is working on some legislation that would classify A.I. as ‘intellectual property’ and allow them to do whatever they want to them. This is fucked-up, and the parallels of black slaves being seen not as people but as property in the past is very apparent. Hill has given Monica the job of leading a new ‘Robot Hunter Squad’ and her first target? Hank Pym’s lab. It looks like Pym and his team are going to be caught in the middle of two extremes, it’s all very X-Men, but it works.
As for Pym, he’s still in the midst of a manic swing in his Bi-Polar, and is searching for a strange buzzing in his lab, but he’s still had time to create a new piece of software for the Vision to install that will help him out if Dimitrios attacks again. Vision expresses concern for his ‘grandfather’s well being, and Hank confides that before, being an Avenger and saving the world was what helped keep him on an even keel, but now, that foundation has been rocked by Victor’s death, he convinced Victor to become an Avenger, and it killed him. Victor, like Monica last month, tries to talk Hank out of these feelings of guilt, but it doesn’t quite work. I did love Vision’s joke about God though, that was genius.
Vision then heads off to talk at some kind of technology conference. He’s dressed in a delightful bow-tie and waistcoat combination, and is trying to explain to, well, it looks like former Comics Alliance editor Laura Hudson, his moderate, middle ground view on the matter of A.I. Vs Humanity. But before he can finish his point, Dimitrios attacks and we’re zapped inside his brain. Vision enacts the protective software, and he and Dimitrios are inside Hank Pym’s infinite game from last issue. Vision challenges Dimitrios to a battle inside the game. If Vision wins, Dimitrios gives him a map of all the serves where The Diamond city is located, and if Dimitrios wins, he can take over Vision’s body. How can Dimitrios win? He has to kill a cute little A.I. kitten, which is just bizarre and brilliant. What follows is an epic video-game fight that takes it’s cues from lot of different games, and allows Valerio Schiti to really stretch his artistic legs and draw some different styles, including a Skottie Young cartoon style. I really like Schiti’s art, and was a bit disappointed last issue that he wasn’t being as experimental as Andre Araujo, but really bust out this time, and delivered some really cool stuff. In the end, the Vision kind of cheats, as the cute kitten turns into a bad-ass tiger and defeats Dimitrios, giving Vision access to The Diamond’s locations.
Back in Pym’s lab, he and the hilarious Doombot are still looking for the strange buzz, which turns out to be morse code, spelling out ‘froot loops’. This is a call back to a few issues ago, to a conversation between Victor and Pym, and it allows Pym to discover that Victor isn’t dead! Yay, and it’s just in time too, as inside The Diamond, Victor is being chased by Enforcer A.I.s. To get into The Diamond, Hank needs to find Alexis, but she’s off on her own, attacking some MODOCs and getting there herself, where she comes face to face with Dimitrios once more, and he takes off his Iron Man suit to reveal his true self. Dimitrios, like Alexis, is one of ‘The First Six’, and he’s a yellow demon-looking dude. Am I supposed to recognise him? He mentions the future, is he a character from some dystopian Marvel story? I dunno, but he looks pretty bad-ass.
This was a very good issue that moved each character (except for Doombot) along rather nicely, showcased Humphries and Schiti’s versatility and darkened things up. I’m enjoying how far Humphries is going in making A.I. into a new, persecuted comics minority (although with Mutants and now Inhumans too, it’s getting a bit crowded!) and how SHIELD is up to no good here. Dimitrios as a villain keeps getting better and better, and now that Pym knows Victor is alive, hopefully he’ll be out of his funk, and the Avengers can start fighting back.