Staying “true” to the source material is always one of the biggest challenges for any adaptation. The extent to which one remains faithful to the source material must be balanced against changes necessary for a new story in a new medium. But no matter how good the new story is, adapations will always draw the ire of fans who argue that it deviates too much from the “real” version.
This is true across adaptions of all mediums – be it the television adaption of the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire books, the reinterpretation of any Shakespeare text or even translating an game such as Pokemon into a collectible card game. The debate will always be divisive amongst fans of the original material, but we comic book fans have the privilege of being some of the most nitpicky and vocal of the lot, particularly when it comes to big screen adaptations of our favorite characters.
For the most part, these debates don’t tend to have a lot of nuance. It’s either The Worst Thing Evar or a brilliant stroke of genius that absolute reinvigorates the original idea. The Mandarin is either an absolute travesty and a betrayal of an iconic character or a brilliant twist that both subverts audience expectations and does away with a problematic trope.
Sometimes, an element of adaptation is so successful that people forget the ways in which it deviates from the “original,” and indeed ends up heavily informing the comics portrayal of the character. And frequently fans rush to judgment before we can even make an informed opinion – Heath Ledger was infamously the worst possible casting before he was the greatest onscreen villain of all time. What is “true” to the material is subject to change.
We here at MCU Exchange like to embrace nuance and be aware of how adaptations of our beloved characters can be markedly different but still great, and in some cases even improve upon the original. With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at three new characters introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Avengers: Age of Ultron – namely, The Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver – and see how they fared in their translation from the printed page to the big screen. We look at how their origins, character portrayals, and powers differ from the comics to the film, rank them both in terms of pure faithfulness, and finally reflect on how effective they were in their adapted incarnations and their impact on the MCU.
The creation of Vision has always been one of the high points in the Marvel Silver Age. He was the most peculiar among a group of oddities; a powerful artificial being described as a synthezoid with the capacity to feel and think like any normal human. The introduction of an artificial intelligence designed on earth that was pseudo-human, originally an antagonist, and with powers unlike any previous Avenger provided a radical departure from the heroes the comic book readers were mostly familiar with.
The same was true for film goers – Vision represented a quantum leap in both power level and weirdness for an MCU character, which until then had been relatively grounded (even Thor is not in fact a Norse god, but rather part of a race of aliens that seem to have inspired those myths). ). Age of Ultron, and the origin of the Vision in particular, represented the first real leap into the realm of the fantastic, where superpowers are less grounded in pseudo-sceince and instead require simply a greater suspension of disbelief.
Originally intended to be a weapon against the Avengers, the Vision was created and programmed by Ultron, using the android body of the original Human Torch and the brainwaves and personality of the then-dead Wonder Man. Ultron’s creation – his vision of a superior being – is then tasked to infiltrate the Avengers Mansion. It is during this task that Vision feels a sense of humanity within himself and realizes that human life may be worth saving. Ultron sees this as a weakness, calling Vision his greatest failure, and the two would frequently come to blows both physically and psychologically.
There are a number of superficial changes to Vision’s origin in Age of Ultron, but it follows it quite closely in most respects. In the film, Ultron uses Helen Cho’s cradle to manufacture a body that seemingly melds vibration with artificial tissue (an andoird) and he uploads his own brain patterns into Vision, rather than Wonder Man’s. However, Ultron’s own brain patterns are themselves modeled on Tony Stark, and the Vision is also composed of the artificial intelligence program JARVIS. Like real life children, he is of his parents, but he is not them in replicate – as Vision himself says, “I am not Ultron. I am not Jarvis… I am.“
Despite these origin changes, the most central element of Vision’s origin in the comics is still identical to the comics – he is designed to be Ultron’s version – his vision – of a better form of life. Stroking the cradle as Vision’s body is being consctructed, he tells Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver that “We have to evolve. There’s no room for the weak.” And in his final confrontation with Vision, Ultron tells Vision “you were meant to be the last.” Ultron’s tone is almost mournful, and there’s a sense that it is as if a parent is speaking to their child – one who has both been let down by their offspring, and who has let them down in turn.
Amidst the faithfulness to the source, lies a difference so major, that it sets up a potential major role for Vision in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War; the Mind Stone on his forehead. For the uninitiated, the Mind Stone is one of the six Infinity Stones scattered all throughout the universe. According to our resident Infinity Relic expert Thor Odinson, these relics have preceded creation itself and carry an immense amount of power (which we will elaborate later on).
The Vision by all means is a puzzle that cannot be cracked wrapped in a very colorful Vibranium suit of armor. He is ethereal, profound, otherworldly and yet human, a characteristic that echoes in the comics and on screen. Paul Bettany masterfully delivers the character’s seemingly infallible wisdom with that JARVIS sass we’ve come to know and love.
The Vision is portrayed as having sympathy for Ultron that may or may not be considered as neutral. He goes on to say that he has an understanding of Ultron’s view with the world, believing that humanity will indeed orchestrate their own downfall yet also goes on to say that he wonderfully sees the beauty and grace with human error, stating that these characteristics make human life worth saving and protecting. It is in The Vision’s final moment with Ultron where he realizes that all the things leading to his birth and creation stemmed from the very thing Ultron sought out to get rid off.
These very moral characteristics all pay off when we learn that the Vision is capable of lifting Mjolnir, which no one else has ever done on screen before. It is a hilariously quiet and subtle moment showing off what the Vision really is all about.
All these traits aren’t too far off from the comic version of Vision, Mjolnir-lifting aside. The otherworldly wisdom is very much present in the character on the page, along with his deadpan demeanor. If a difference had to be pinpointed, its how flawed Vision is in the comics. Despite the power the synthezoid has in his grasps, he fails to understand and comprehend the humanity surrounding him.
In terms of looks, the design team just fucking nails it. From to the yellow, green, and red color scheme down to the gauntlets and cape. It’s amazing how they managed to translate one of the most ridiculous looking characters on the page into something that’s not only believable but also unique.
The Vision is fucking packed in this film. The amount of power he has in the world they’ve established is really unlike any other. Come to think of it, he may have the most firepower in any of the heroes introduced in the MCU and a lot of it may have to do with that doohickey on his forehead.
Now what that was is what you call an Infinity Gem, specifically the Mind Gem. That gem was first unknowingly seen in the first Avengers film, on top of a scepter given to Loki by Thanos. As the Infinity Relic expert Thor Odinson said, it is one of the 6 gems that embody the power of the cosmos and precedes creation itself. The full extent of its abilities isn’t specified nor is it elaborated. All we know is that its what keeps the Vision alive and it is what makes him beyond god-like in his abilities. Think of it as a power amplifier times infinity.
The comics on the other hand has a much simpler gem on the Vision’s head called the Solar Gem. It basically serves as a conduit for solar power which gives Vision the capacity to do all those cool stuff he does.
Other than his powers being amplified to levels of incomprehension, the Vision has feats of flight, indestructibility and my favorite density manipulation, which they showed in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in the third act.
OUR RATING: 8/10
Joss Whedon manages to toe the line between the silliness of the concept behind the Vision’s origin and the grounded logic behind the MCU. The Vision is a character so close to his comic book counterpart that sans the details of his origin, he’s practically straight out of the page. They nail the cape, color scheme, personality, powers and even manage to stay true to that yellow gem on his forehead. Who knew that the key to making one of the silliest looking characters on screen was to just embrace it?
It’s worth noting that as of this article’s publishing, Marvel Comics has officially retconned the origins and history of the Maximoffs. No longer are the Maximoffs the children of Magneto nor are they mutants anymore. But out of respect to the decades of Maximoff history that precede this big change, we’ve decided to ignore the retcon and use the original history as basis for the comparisons.
The inclusion of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in the Avengers comics signaled a new era for the team. It wasn’t about the goody-two-shoes anymore. Instead it meant that given the right circumstance, anyone could be an Avenger, even former villains. It was a bold move on Marvel’s part to do this back then and that same sentiment is carried onto the film.
The Maximoffs in the comics were introduced as mutants hailing from Eastern Europe. Coming from a life of instability, they are recruited by Magneto to join his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Magneto at this point had saved their lives so they felt indebted to his cause out of respect. Reluctant to begin with, they sought to atone for their mistakes and quickly bailed on Magneto as soon as they found out the Avengers were looking for new team members.
If your memory would serve you right, this similarly takes place in the film. The two Sokovians find themselves lost until they find commonality with Ultron’s cause. Seeking to have their revenge on Tony Stark for the death of their parents, the two quickly ally themselves with the mad robot. This alliance quickly turns sour when they learn the part in Ultron’s plan where he turns their homeland into a WMD to annihilate humanity. Seeking to atone for their mistakes, they decide to ally themselves with the Avengers.
Let’s get to the real question: how in the world do they have powers?
This is where it get’s tricky as the MCU does not have any of the rights to the much simpler explanation of being genetically born with enhanced abilities. You know, mutants. What we have instead is a pretty complex situation involving Loki’s cosmically powered scepter and genetic codes that allow humans to harness power. In a tie-in comic book, no definite explanation is given to the specifics regarding their acquisition of enhanced abilities other than them surviving experimentation with the scepter. We can only guess that the Mind Gem on the scepter perhaps unlocked some sort of genetic code within the Maximoffs.
We didn’t get much screentime and development for the two so we’re left with a bare interpretation on how these two really are in the MCU. What we de have though are two conflicted people whose world has been taken away from them through circumstances beyond their comprehension. Just as lost as they were when Magneto found them in the Wundagore mountains, lost they are again when HYDRA offers them the blessing of power.
The roles these two serve in the overall scheme of things are intended to represent an outsider’s perspective on the super powered world around them. Animosity towards the foreign power that is the Avengers is evident once the Iron Legion is sent to quell the ongoing riots in Sokovia. Just as the first film ended with the world adoring the Avengers, the second films opens with a realistic depiction of foreign hostility towards the Avengers, with the Maximoffs in the middle of all of it. As the film goes, we see the two standing by each other and protecting one another.
Individually, Joss stays true to their core personalities. Scarlet Witch is a compassionate but troubled woman. Within her lies a bomb just waiting to explode. You thought Hulk was terrifying? Wait until you see Wanda lose her shit. Quicksilver in the film is very much like his comic book version. He is brash, impatient, dickish and overtly protective of Wanda as glimpsed in several scenes. The two also seem to have an unusual sense of emotional intimacy with each other which may be a callback to their very controversial relationship in the Ultimates line.
The Maximoffs we get also stay substantially true to the way they look in the comics. Instead of the overflowing cape and wacky headgear, we have Wanda wearing a grounded version of her suit; leather red jacket for that flowing cape feel and Romani inspired accessories to compliment the European origins. The same grounded take goes for Pietro; a mesh blue top with those lightning-ish lines on it and plain old running shoes. No spiky haired Quicksilver wearing a one piece green/blue suit here. It’s makeshift apparel matched with comic book faithfulness.
“He’s fast and she’s weird,” is a line that pretty much encompasses all there is to say about what the those twins have up in their sleeve.
Seeing superheroes with superspeed come to life on screen is something our eyes have seen. We got a pretty cool taste of it in Man of Steel, CW’s The Flash and a depiction that will be forever compared to Age of Ultron, Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Its arguable that Days of Future Past’s Quicksilver portrayed the character’s abilities more faithfully by making him run as fast as he could in the comics; supersonic speeds that could reach Mach 10.
In the very popular prison break sequence, we saw Fox’s version of Quicksilver move speedily during an already slowed down sequence. Assuming that this scene happens in a real time span of one second, DOFP’s Quicksilver ran across the entire room, knocked all those guards, deflected those bullets and stole that cap in a second. He was too fast for the story’s own good that they had to exclude him from the narrative.
What Age of Ultron’s Quicksilver lacks in the actual extent of his abilities makes up for its visual flair. He runs fast, a surge of silver energy and blue misty streaks follow after him. Talk about running with style.
OUR VERDICT: 7/10
Despite the circumstances Quicksilver gets himself in at the end of the film, he stays true to the pages he comes from. He’s a dick and he’s super fast. It’s an adaptation that was simple to begin with, which Whedon and Johnson do masterfully.
Wanda on the other hand has an assortment of abilities that are pretty complex even in comic book context. She has these powers which are referred to as hexes, short blasts of energy which manipulate probability.
One of the highlights in Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers: Disassembled run is when Wanda totally goes apeshit on the Avengers by going insane and killing Vision, Hawkeye and Ant-Man all in very unusual circumstances that go beyond her abilities. The Avengers then consult Doctor Strange to make sense of what happened and even the most powerful sorcerer in existence can’t make sense of it. It is then revealed that Wanda’s never-before-seen reality altering abilities had manifested for the first time.
Abilities like those may never be fully portrayed on screen because of its capacity to easily derail a narrative and that’s a very good thing. Just like how they nerfed Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch we get in the MCU is vulnerable and far from her true potential. No overpowered Wanda here. Instead we have a Scarlet Witch with vague abilities of telekinesis and telepathy. The extent of these powers are clearly varied; lifting an object mentally, making force fields, manipulating/hypnotizing minds and obliterating a dozen Ultron Sentries in one energy wave.
Okay, she may not be as nerfed as we thought she’d be but it is still a big difference from her reality warping counterpart.
OUR VERDICT: 5/10
Among the three, Scarlet Witch is the least faithful to her comic counterpart. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. She also happens to be the most balanced character of the three. Whedon takes a lot of creative liberties with the origin, powers and appearance, all of which deviate from her counterpart on the page yet manages to pay respects to the source.
That’s pretty much it for our first edition of Comics Juxtaposed. Feel free to comment below on which characters you’d like to see next.