There is good. There is evil. And if you’re unsure which side you stand on, then chances are it’s the wrong one.
Vic Sage, The Question, is a character that’s had a very well-regarded pedigree of creators. Between Steve Ditko, Denny O’Neil, and Greg Rucka, the character has been redefined over and over again, having gone through literal deaths and rebirths. Jeff Lemire has come up to the plate to add onto this legacy, using DC’s Black Label to distill the character’s storied history into a single book. Alongside legendary Question artists Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz, Lemire has delivered what may be the single most definitive Question story in The Deaths of Vic Sage.
Right from the start, Lemire shows he understands the core tenet of the Question: Victor Szasz is a jerk. Created by Steve Ditko, the Question is an objectivist who offers no sympathy for those who he believes have made the wrong decision. Rehabilitation is not even considered an option. Yet despite his hardline stances and lack of basic decency, Vic Sage’s frustration with his city’s leaders and people is something intensely relatable (especially in the current political landscape). While the world is certainly not black and white, Question’s approach to life is without nuance, and it feels refreshing — especially when the book itself shows the limits of his worldview.
Despite this portrayal of the Question, there’s no doubt at all that this issue is a labor of love. Lemire uses the character’s history to drive the intrigue and mystery of the ongoing plot. It also feels like a direct continuation of O’Neil’s run, with the brutal depiction of the horrors of the everyday world and the worst of society. Cowan and Sienkiewicz’s art on the book drives this feeling home — they’ve both grown tremendously as artists since O’Neil’s run, but there’s still the same style and atmosphere that feels almost like a throwback to the Question’s heyday. References to Richard Dragon and Victor’s training under him come as a warm return to a relationship that hasn’t been seen on page in years, and Vic’s biting commentary during his news segments feel like an updated version of his attitude in the ’80s. This book feels like a Question book, serving longtime fans well while also being an excellent showcase to newer readers of why this character is so resonant.
The mystery of the book is a fairly standard one, as secret societies orchestrating events tend to be, but Lemire is able to imbue it with atmosphere and make it feel important. The Hub City Elder Society is a cliched concept, but it’s one perfectly suited to the Question and his hunt for answers. There’s also a very strong web of intrigue being built, woven incredibly tightly by three concurrent scenes which the book alternates between each panel. Lemire’s pacing makes the suspense for the story feel almost like horror, a genre that he’s currently having great success with in Gideon Falls.
The art really gets to shine towards the end of the issue, when Vic finds something in his search that he was not expecting at all. Sienkiewicz’s influence on the book becomes incredibly apparent, as every time Vic looks at this object he sees a horrifying demonic face. It’s very clear that something is altering his perception as well, as random panels will cut to terrifying hellish imagery that sets a tense atmosphere. Cowan and Sienkiewicz bring such a perfect vibe to the issue that lasts until the very last page.
The issue ends on a scene that reads as distinctly Jeff Lemire for anyone who has read a decent amount of his work. It allows this story to move in a quite interesting direction, and promises to delve into the character of Vic Sage in a way that hasn’t been done in years. This book is a perfect entry point for readers unfamiliar to the question while also being a love letter to the character that his fans can completely enjoy.
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