Oh, androids! Has there ever been a trope more thoroughly and fully beloved by humanity? In their most basic form they’re essentially just anything that looks human but isn’t, but wasn’t born. One suspects that the idea of a person that’s not a person has existed for almost as long as there have been corpses. And yet, in 2016, Marvel’s The Vision still feels fresh and wholly unique.
With Viv Vision out of Imminent danger, the plot is a little slower for most of the characters this month, for better and worse. For Viv and Vin it’s back to school and for the Vision its back to saving the world – you know, old hat. But Tom King has an entrancing and wonderful sense of these characters’ humanity, particularly as it contrasts with their utter disconnect from humanity. Though the little details are debatably true to life, King’s writing for the Vision siblings is spot on, displaying a rare ability to write children, particularly warring siblings, without awkward missteps or grating reality. Despite the similar manner of speaking shared by all of the Visions, you can always feel the youth in Viv and Vin’s voices.
The Vision, himself, is a similarly masterful character. Strange as it may sound, I think that the Vision’s mandroidsplaining may be one of my favorite parts of this series. A big part of that is the fact that Tom King and co. don’t play him as being in over his head, at least not more than any of us. The Vision has lived through much and seen plenty and he, rightly, sees it as his duty to guide his newly created family through the traps of life, it’s just that he’s kind of a dick about it.
The Vision is at once the hero, the protagonist, and the villain of this story. It’s nearly impossible not to cringe as he uses his infallible robot ‘logic’ to manipulate and gaslight his family, the same way that it’s nearly impossible not to see the self-made tragedy of his situation as he and his children awkwardly consider the most efficacious way to achieve their goal of normalcy, a goal you can’t help but notice that the Vision laid down upon them without consulting or even considering them. All of this has come to pass because the Vision doesn’t truly see his family, despite the potentially real love he has for them they’re merely tools in the pursuit of his mission, and, in turn, that mission seems to have been chosen because the Vision can’t accept himself. Particularly with this issue, it’s becoming clear just how fully and how far the consequences of these choices will reach.
But as easy as it is to pity or despise the Vision, King also presents an innate counterargument, the right of those different from us to pursue the same happiness and normalcy that we do. Is the Vision trying to assimilate and erase or to follow his own happiness? With nods to the Redskins ‘controversy’ and some clear but, thankfully, restrained racial – or perhaps racist – coding, the position of the new family in the neighborhood is perfectly clear.
The story navigates this delicate balance rather expertly. Particularly because the metaphor isn’t quite perfect, it’s very easy to understand the position that both sides find themselves in. King’s scripting really hammers home the presence of and difference between individual and structural power and his dialogue confronts us with the contradiction of polite and reasonable actions taken for vicious and unconsciously hateful reasons. “That’s what you do these days, right,” Virginia’s blackmailer muses, “you take a video.” The irony of that statement is a beautiful gut-punch in a moment that, on its face, seems banal.
As ever the beautiful, fairy tale narration proves fantastically effective. From making transitions seamless and natural to building tension to simply creating a powerful sense of tone, the narration is essential and beautiful, even with its relative sparsity. The airy writing is all the more striking for the matter of fact way of speaking that characterizes the rest of the issue.
Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire remain a force to be reckoned with. Though there are a couple of awkward images here and there, this issue drives home how essential Walta is to the series’ success. The facial work in this issue is superb and it is immediately legible and forceful.
Particularly in the final pages both Walta and Bellaire do some spectacular things with what is essentially just a dialogue scene. The emotion and building tension are spot on and it’s easy to lose yourself in the drama of the scene. It’s cinematic not only in its craft but in the experience of reading it. And it’s clear that there was real care put into this book. I mean, that’s clear just from looking at the beauty of the art, but there are little things, like a single panel’s borders breaking the uniformity of a layout, that suggest the level of thought that went into it.
Of course, we shouldn’t forget just how impressive this book is, purely on the level of aesthetics. Jordie Bellaire’s coloring meshes wonderfully with the detailed linework that Walta employs, creating an impressively nuanced visual landscape. Scenes as simple as two teenagers walking in the rain become lovely little set pieces through the combination of considered lines and careful coloring and shifting directly to a battle with Giganto only proves that this team can handle anything King throws at them.
Still it can’t be perfect, the twins definitely have some awkward panels, their wide-eyed designs not meshing as well with Walta’s style.
While this issue lacks the energy of some of its predecessors, the level of polish on display is staggering. Tom King’s characterization and thoughtful plotting seem destined to make this a treasured run and with Walta and Bellaire at his side and the point of no return well and truly crossed, it’s hard not to be excited about this series. This series is batting four for four and there’s no denying that The Vision is one of the most beautiful, memorable, and literary comics on shelves today.