In a market flooded with mediocrity, you will find intermittent deltas of solid story-telling and, as my good friend Neil Hamburger would say, “They can’t all be zingers.”
Nevertheless, in a superhero sea of oft repeated tropes and plots, The Vision is an island paradise. The fourth and fifth issues of this series have brought me to a place emotionally that I don’t often reach within the pages of mainstream comic books, and if you haven’t realized by now, I like it.
I like it a lot.
Starting with just the cover of issue four, we’re once again given an amusing bit of Americana. We see Viv and Vin standing in front of a school blackboard, though the chalk lines and figures drawn behind them resemble those of a police lineup. In beautiful, handwritten cursive, a question reads: Who did it?
It’s that uncanny knack for juxtaposing such familiar imagery with the more sinister themes of the story that really drives these issues, and sets them apart from the other comics on the shelf. Even within the opening few panels, we’re shown Viv and Vin playing football outside of their home, in an Autumn scenario eerily reminiscent of the ongoing struggle between Peanuts characters Charlie Brown and Lucy. Viv holds the ball, Vin sets up the kick and phases through it, all the while the twins trade philosophical barbs. One could argue that it’s a bit deeper than Schultz’s classic strip, but is it really?
Any joy felt by Virginia as she watches her family learn and grow in is short-lived. Her blackmailer will not stop calling, and Virginia decides that she must confront her adversary, despite a desperation to place it out of sight and out of mind. This is the crux of issue four and by the end of it one thing is absolutely certain: The Visions will never again return as a family to where they are now.
These particular issues, while gorgeously illustrated as always, stand out to me as possessing a superior narrative. Every caption overlaying the action draws you further into the characters, and you experience their heartache and the depth of their desire to be accepted. It’s no wonder then that, by issue five, King uses Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice to set the tone of the tale. A little cliche, perhaps, but the excerpt of Shylock’s famed soliloquy is fitting, and lends itself to the issue’s title, The Villainy You Teach Me.
I say that it is cliche, but what is a cliche apart from a truth that has played itself out with such frequency that it becomes a kind of meta-trope? Far be it from me to wax philosophic, but I think that is at the heart of The Vision thus far. In trying to become more human, the Vision family play their individual parts with precision, and as such, they cannot help but move closer to humanity. At one point, after a lively English lit course, Vin asks his mother, “If you prick me, will I bleed?”
Will he, indeed? What is a mother to say?
And even if he does not, is that the most important aspect that defines one’s humanness? After all, hath not a synthezoid hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, and passions? It’s a frightening idea, to strip away the layers of humanity to uncover that thing, that nuance, that vitality that makes us more than bio-mechanized endoskeletons, covered in layers of subcutaneous tissues and flesh, powered by the tiniest of electrical impulses.
These are the questions that the creative team behind The Vision asks, and I dare say that I’m fully invested in exploring them. With the Vision having now lied to law enforcement concerning the whereabouts of Virginia on the night that Viv and Vin’s schoolmate was killed – a lie he finds so egregious that he reckons even having saved the world thirty-seven times over does not absolve him of it – I’m consumed by the need to know what he will do, and what he considers to be the most traditional way to address this mounting turmoil. Above all else, I desire to know what will become of Virginia now that she’s neck-deep in blood and false witness.
And now, I’ve got a question for you, the constant readers at home: when was the last time you received an education in existential philosophy from a Marvel publication?