Talk about a great Comiccon find: the out-of-print "Avengers West Coast" run with John Byrne as writer/artist for 30 bucks. I like ordering online, but there's something to be said about shelf-diving.
Byrne's time on "AWC" was not very well-received by die-hards. Just off of his noted run on "Superman," Byrne agreed to take over writing of this series only if he would be allowed to tell "his" Vision and Scarlet Witch story. Fans of the humanized Vizh, his wife and their happy family were about to have their love of the status quo shattered. Given that the Marvel Universe is STILL picking up the pieces from what happened here more than 20 years later, retrospect has shown that Byrne made the right call.
But that's not to say these books are amazing or anything like Byrne's time as co-plotter/artist on "X-Men" or as writer/artist on "Fantastic Four" and "Superman." This falls more in the category of "kinda neat." The pacing is a little off, Byrne's art isn't as great as it had been on previous series, or even as good as it was during the also-in-production-at-the-time "Sensational She-Hulk." But reading as he completely destroys Scarlet Witch's psyche piece-by-piece is intriguing.
First up in "Vision Quest," Byrne takes her husband away. Then her husband returns as a soulless shell of his former self. Then the man whose brain patterns her husband's were based upon (long story) refuses to aid the situation. Then Wanda is abducted by an ancient cult that turns her into a tool of evil. Then her children turn out to be demons (in a story with some WONDERFULLY messed-up art.) Scarlet Witch is a completely warn-out mess. And wouldn't you know it? That's just when her ol' dad Magneto shows up. I don't think I've ever seen a superhero as trodden on before on an issue-by-issue basis.
But about mid-way through "Darker Than Scarlet," Byrne's run starts to fall apart. When Scarlet Witch descends into full villainy, it's pretty awful. Pure stereotypical supervillain nonsense. The first issue after her transformation, Wanda's first words are "So THIS is POWER! What a PLEASING thing it is! How FOOLISH to have DENIED myself its PLEASURES!" That's just awful, and you'd think Byrne would have learned when it fell flat with the Invisible Woman years before. As great as Byrne's drawing of evil Wanda is, even that isn't enough to bail out the boat as it sinks in a sea of horrible dialogue.
And then things get worse. Byrne ditches the title over his most recent argument-du-jour (they happened a lot in his career) and the writing team of Roy and Dann Thomas takes over. By the early 90's, comic writing had passed the once-great Roy Thomas by. I can't help but laugh at the fact that the number of word bubbles DOUBLES in the transition. Where the hell is the editor?
In all, Byrne's run showed a lot of promise. Unfortunately, that promise wasn't kept. Still, as I noted off the top, the repercussions of his actions involving Vision and Scarlet Witch are felt to this day. And that's one hell of a mark to leave.
Rating(s): 7/10 ("Vision Quest"), 6/10 ("Darker Than Scarlet")