Review – Tom King’s Vision
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Tom King
Coloring: Jordie Bellaire
Lettering: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Dates: January 2018 (Complete Collection)
Tom King doesn’t generally write happy stories with happy endings. If you’ve read any of his work on Batman, Heroes in Crisis, or his celebrated Mister Miracle miniseries, you already sort of know this. King likes to write heroes who are really dealing with their traumas and their darker sides, which doesn’t always work (again; see Batman, maybe his most divisive work), but when it does, it does to tremendous effect. So it is with Tom King’s take on The Vision, a character who has gone from one of the most obscure Marvel heroes only a few years ago, to a dining room table name thanks to the MCU movies and the extremely successful WandaVision streaming series.
Vision is a series that deals with a multitude of heavy topics, all weaved together in a complex story line that feels longer than the twelve issues that it occupies. It poses questions about what it means to be human and how we all deal with trauma in a few different, yet equally relatable ways. In our review of Tom King’s Vision, we’ll take a look at how effectively King broaches these subjects, and maybe answer one other question: How far would you go for your family?
The premise of Vision is simple: In his ongoing quest to understand humanity and distance himself from the cold, genocidal machinations of his ‘father’ Ultron, Vision has built himself a family. A traditional, white picket fence, all American nuclear family with a wife and two teenage children, a son and a daughter. Vision and his family have recently moved to Virginia to accommodate for a job that Vision has taken up as the Avengers liaison to the White House.
All Vision wants to do is have a normal, unassuming, suburban life. He has ‘dinner’ at the table with his family every night (they don’t eat, as we learn within the first few pages, but they all sit around a table and beam recorded experiences of their day to each other). Vision leaves for work every morning and waves to his neighbors (while floating through the air), and sends his kids to school every morning (where they’re dogged by the other children for being what they are). Alright, so his life isn’t quite normal. It’s an approximation of a human family life, and if these almost-human activities make you feel a little uncomfortable, that’s somewhat intentional.
Very quickly within the story, an event occurs that sends things spiraling nightmarishly out of control. I don’t want to spoil anything too deeply, but this traumatic event is the catalyst that Tom King uses to really explore the humanity of these characters, and somehow manage to effectively portray PTSD in artificial life forms that barely understand their own feelings. Vision’s son, Vin, noticeably develops a sort of obsessive compulsive trait. He becomes enamored with Shakespeare and spends almost all his waking time at home loudly acting out his favorite passages in what I can only imagine as a Patrick Stewart like manner. Virginia, Vision’s wife, begins to become stuck on some words, repeating them two or three times, and finds herself lying multiple times to protect her family.
These personality quirks that emerge in these synthetic humans work as a fantastic contrast to their otherwise very robotic behavior. In one very early scene, Vision and Virginia debate the meaning of ‘kind’ vs ‘nice’, and somehow King manages to make their dialog seem both cold and logical, and compelling and loving. His ability to write these characters as both chillingly robotic and charmingly human is maybe his greatest strength in this book. You want to root for the Visions, even as you become slowly more horrified by them.
All of this is put together in a way that asks the question of what it really means to be human. Vision isn’t human, technically speaking, but he understands the idiosyncrasies of humans and attempts to mimic them. Virginia isn’t human, yet she lies to protect her family like any human mother would, and she cries over memories that aren’t hers (read the book for the backstory on that particular nightmare). Viv, Vision’s daughter, isn’t human, but he develops a crush on a human boy and replays the memory of the one conversation she has with him over and over to herself, even though she doesn’t fully understand the feelings she’s expressing.
So do you really have to be flesh and blood to be human? Do you have to have a soul? I don’t have the answers to those questions, but what I can tell you is The Visions are one of the most human comic book families I’ve ever read.
The style of the story is very much echoed in the later work King did on Mister Miracle, juxtaposing banal family life against life or death comic book shenanigans. If you read that book, and liked it, this will absolutely be right up your alley. You’ll feel for this family, you’ll fear for the family, and at points you will fear the family. Upon review, Tom King’s Vision is his work at its best, and it’s a narrative not to be missed.
Gabriel Walta’s artwork in Vision is a perfect visual style for Tom King’s domesticated drama. His panels are clear, big, and colorful. His characters are emotive, full of vibrant facial expressions and body language that clearly and effectively evoke the emotions running high through the book. Just as well, when the story moved in to darker or more disturbing territory, the art changes to match this as well.
This is most noticeable in the coloring, performed by Jordie Bellaire. The hues are warm and inviting when we’re following the Visions through their every day life, and switch to a cold, desolate hue when things get morbid. The change in tone serves to highlight the feeling of loneliness and starts to pervade these characters and it really helps you feel where they’re at emotionally in conjunction with Walta’s art and King’s writing.
The artwork is consistent throughout with the notable exception of Michael Walsh taking over art duties in issue seven. Normally, I find it a bit jarring when artists change in the middle of a story, but in this case it works. Issue seven is largely a flashback/exposition issue that takes us back to a time when Vision and Wanda were together, and so the change in art style fits in portraying an earlier time period. The coloring is still done by Bellaire, so the tone doesn’t really change, and Walsh’s art has a similar sketchy, cartoon style to Walta, so it’s much less jarring than it would be if you brought a Jim Lee or a Gary Frank in.
Our review of Tom King’s Vision took a while to write, because it really is a dense book with a lot of meaning. I had to reread it twice just to really kind of put my finger on how it made me feel. Sad? Hopeful? Was I relating to this characters, or did I find them terrifying? In the end, all I can really say is that you need to read this book, and that goes double if you’re a fan of the character from the MCU movies and the recent WandaVision TV show. This isn’t the same Vision that you’ve seen on the big (and small) screen. He’s more robotic, less empathetic, but all the same, you will see where a lot of the inspiration for the cinematic version of the character comes from. all in all, I give Vision full marks and recommend it a spot on anyone’s book shelf.
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