With both Halloween and the season premier of The Mandalorian but a scant few days from my current position in spacetime, it was difficult for me to fathom that there is still so much to be excited for in 2020. Not only will we (FINALLY!) get to see Wonder Woman 1984 in December, we’ll also be given WandaVision in the same month – another boon from Disney Plus.
The new television series will follow heroes Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and The Vision (Paul Bettany) and it looks as if it’s going to plant us along a timeline somewhere after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Judging from the trailer, it appears that we’re going to get a unique glimpse into the unorthodox marriage of Wanda and her Mind Stone-powered synthezoid husband. No doubt there will be plenty of magic and mayhem afoot (I’m looking at you, Evan Peters), though the preview we’ve been given also gives off some rather sinister vibes. Therefore, the only sensible thing to do to prepare for this new series was to dive into the Vision’s solo book from a few years back. After all, there is a peculiar domestic similarity between what’s coming to our television screens, and what was printed on the page.
Cracking open the first pages of Tom King’s The Vision, I had been ill-prepared for the next several minutes of reading. I’d expected a fun (though perhaps semi-serious) comic book ride, and what I got was a serving of heavy philosophical discourse, with a lovely garnish of existential angst.
While the Scarlet Witch is separated from Vision at this point in Marvel continuity, nevertheless a spell had been cast, and I was ensorceled.
Originally published in 2015, the first issue of The Vision sets the stage for our titular hero’s quest to find a sense of normality outside of the Avengers. Having purchased a suburban home, and created a synthezoid family unit – a pair of twins and a wife with a set of mysterious, pre-loaded core memories – the Vision soon finds that normality is a thing rarely found in human nature.
From the first page there is an air of cookie-cutter, middle-class homogeneity around the Vision’s new life. Here, the writer uses to his advantage many societal cliches to present an image of Rockwellian domesticity – from white box houses nestled within meticulously planted rows of Autumn-tinged trees and well manicured lawns, all the way down to the offering plate of baked treats the Vision’s neighbors present to them as an official welcome. King shows us that beneath that veneer of cordial suburban hospitality, there is a whiff of simmering tension. The Visions are not human, and while societal norms demand a degree of warmth – they are not welcome.
Still, the neighbors seemed nice.
It’s on this point that The Vision takes its first swing at being less a super-powered romp and more of an intellectual expedition into the Human Condition. The Vision’s dialogue with his wife, Virginia, is especially demonstrative of this; in the discussing of semantic differences behind the words “nice” and “kind” to describe Virginia’s perceptions of the neighbors, not only do we get a glimpse into the Vision’s worldview, but also a core theme of the book itself. When Virginia highlights the potential meaningless of language when broken down to pure abstraction, the Vision responds, “to assert as truth that which has no meaning is the core mission of humanity.”
It is entirely possible that the Vision groks human existence on a level totally separate from our individual egos; and yet he desires for his family to live that experience all the same.
Within the context of this story’s first issue, it’s clear that King is laying the groundwork for an arc that will present the Visions with life events that run profoundly counter to the Vision’s expectations. After all, one of the most unfortunate aspects of parenthood is discovering that no matter how capable and prepared your children may be, you 100% cannot predict or control how the rest of the world will react to them. Naturally, this plays out in his children’s first day of public education, with a drama all too familiar to those of us who survived high school. It is the unforeseen and seemingly random variables that the Vision does not consider for his family, and it is these that begin to unravel the thread of his best laid plans.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t call to attention how much I love the art of ‘The Vision.’ Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s work is minimalist, and utilizes a soft, muted palette which adds an emotional warmth to compliment the intellectual rigidity of the script. Both artist and writer work well together, with Walta executing King’s direction exquisitely in the issue’s brutal climax.
Admittedly, I don’t look to Marvel comics when I want to have my intellectual pickle tickled, so I was taken aback by what I’d found in the pages of The Vision. The book reads smoothly, though it does ask for its reader’s patience and willingness to consider the concepts presented within its pages. For this reason, it may not be for everyone; however, the story doesn’t rely too heavily on preceding Marvel lore to be accessible to new readers. The Vision No. 1 is a solid entry into a 12-issue limited series, and I’d recommend it to anyone who appreciates a well-told, provocative, and self-contained tale.
Of more importance, I would recommend this book to anyone who’s ever asked the question: Am I normal? And if not, is normality a thing to be desired or abhorred?