Lets get it out of the way. Tom King’s The Vision is something special. And The Vision #7 is a special issue of this series.
Pausing to give some context to the tragedy he’s crafting, King gives us a look at the history of Vision and the Scarlet Witch. It could be said that this issue is an examination of love’s place in an artificial life. King effortlessly convinces that V and Wanda are one of comics’ great romances, despite and, in this case, because of the complex web of differing interpretations their relationship has endured. Unified by King’s current take on the character, these differing views become something as complex and hard-fought as a real relationship. Admittedly this does take a different view of the halcyon days that might rightly rankle some fans of the couple, but, in comics, history only lasts so long as it’s the strongest idea and one suspects that this conception is and will be viewed as the strongest version in a long time.
A lot of details about the complicated courtship are left out of this issue. Some, like Wonder Man’s jealousy of Vision, are seemingly attempts to make the issue more friendly to readers who haven’t closely followed the last fifty years of Avengers continuity, however, others, like the nature of Wanda’s children, may feel alienating to readers unfamiliar with the intricacies of continuity. It certainly says something that King’s writing is confident enough to pull this off, giving readers a highly focused look at the past, suggesting what memories are and were important to the Vision.
The writing is as layered and literary as ever, using repeated motifs and lines to build a sense of connection to the characters. Wonder Man’s toast stands out as a particularly lovely bit of writing, as does the couple’s saccharine conversation beside a battle, but there’s no denying that the most forceful writing is saved for Wanda Maximoff. As much as this remains Vision’s book, there’s a conscious sense of, if not apologizing for, then balancing Wanda’s mental illness.
Wanda, while decidedly unsteady at times, is seriously humanized by the troubles of dating the Vision. It seems impossible that there wouldn’t be some strife between the two opposites attracted. In many ways it seems that this series is effectively the Vision’s turn to break down. But, despite it all, it never goes so far that the reader feels like the Vision was beyond the capacity for love or Wanda was foolish for trying. Instead, even the most problematic moments feel real, like that couple you know who could have been brilliant or terrible and, sadly, opted for the later. This is the kind of writing that makes favorite characters for life.
Through it all, King continues his explorations of truth vs. happiness and the way that the pull between the two causes the Vision to manipulate his world and his loved ones. Everyone is a victim here and, with the context this issue allows, it’s clear that this is a much more sweeping drama than it at first seemed.
It’s no enviable thing to follow Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Fill-in artists were a definite problem for Magneto, Walta’s previous series. But despite this, Michael Walsh is an admirable replacement. Much of this can be laid at the feet of Jordie Bellaire, whose distinctive colors give the book a feeling of continuity, but Walsh’s style is decidedly appropriate for this issue.
At its worst, Walsh’s art is intriguing but awkward, slipping ever so slightly into the uncanny valley. One has to expect that this was at least partially intentional, because it fits the themes of the story wonderfully. Walsh’s Vision can be charming and relatable, but he can also be a gaunt, haunting specter. The white Vision design, besides being generally weaker, highlights the weaknesses of Walsh’s art, as do the darker, grimmer moments of the story. There are also some moments when human faces are inelegant, with too big eyes being a frequent symptom, but these moments are more than balanced.
At its best, Walsh’s contribution has remarkable emotive force. The care in the minuscule shading is beautiful and the intensity of light and shadow draw the stakes of the story into clear yet never intrusive focus. Walsh’s renderings of Wanda can be especially gorgeous, giving her a personality and humanity that is essential to this tale.
There’s something potent in the mundanity of the artwork. Little moments of humanity come alive, a smile or a laugh or a look of contentment. And that’s the key to this issue’s visuals. While no one could mistake it for realism, the art supports King’s depiction of a truthful relationship, the good and the bad. The Vision and Wanda’s argument is one of the strongest pages and it proves that Walsh can handle far more than happy moments.
The art may take getting used to and its relationship with continuity is a tangled one, but The Vision #7 is another breathtaking installment in a masterful series. Tom King has already secured his place as one of the mainstream industry’s most talented new voices, but The Vision remains some of his best and most personal work.
With this issue The Vision reaches out for Marvel’s past, a love letter as tricky and multifaceted as the troubled relationship it depicts. Despite some imperfections, this is a beautiful comic at every level and it helps to cement this run as a defining interpretation of its protagonist(?) alongside Fraction & Aja’s Hawkeye, Brubaker & Cooke’s Catwoman, or Miller & Janson’s Dark Knight.