The Vision is a story of broken people. This is not an innovative take, that’s just what it is. Over the course of twelve expertly-crafted and heartbreaking issues, the creative team of Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire, Clayton Cowles, and Michael Walsh tell the tale of the Visions of Virginia, exploring the meaning of humanity and the ways we cope with trauma in a world that seems determined to bring us down.
The focus of this tale of mental illness and emotional struggle opens as the Vision and his family move to Arlington, Virginia. Conjuring (and simultaneously subverting) the ideas of the classic American Dream, the comic sets up the perfect life for the Visions. Their struggle to be accepted in a world that fears them acts as the centerpiece of their story, along with their tangible efforts to secure that future for themselves. There are obvious comparisons to be drawn to racial tensions in America in the family’s hardships, highlighted by the neighborhood’s propensity to hate the Visions merely because they look different, but there is another, more primally understandable interpretation that stood out to me on reread of The Vision: more than anything, the Visions just want to be normal.
Again, this isn’t a groundbreaking new lens to view the comic through; it’s there at the forefront of every interaction and every choice that the characters make. Being that Tom King tends to write very personal stories reflecting his own life and experiences, this probably has to do with his experience of coming home after serving in the military. I think this comic transcends his own personal experience, however, and hints at that primal need everyone has to feel comfortable in life. It’s a very common desire to want to build a family, to settle down, to create a comfortable life. Every form of media, whether it be music, film, comics, or television, touches on this desire. If I wanted to be provocative, I could even go so far as to say The Vision is a masterpiece in the style of the past decade’s pop-punk and emo music.
For reference, (i.e. if you’re for some reason not as obsessed with an incredibly niche style of a niche genre as I am) this subculture of music has undergone a strong revival within the past decade. Moving away from the loud and boisterous trends of the 2000s, punk and emo music diverged into a new style of alt rock, fronted by introspective and emotionally heavy lyrics. Led by such acts as The Wonder Years, Real Friends, Tiny Moving Parts, Foxing, and countless others whose contributions all add to the greater narrative of punk and emo in incredible ways, this new style redefined what the genres could do, inducing a more somber and retrospective sound in the industry. These acts speak of the shared hardships of being human and our attempts to both surmount them and hold ourselves together through the process. The Vision mirrors these sentiments perfectly, lamenting the life Vision feels he has lost, detailing his best-strength efforts to hold on to what he has, and exploring his shockingly human resolve to stand back up after every blow. This exploration takes the reader on an eye-opening journey into the minds of the synthezoids, as they discover what it means to be human, culminating in a heartbreaking prayer shared by Vision and Viv. Nothing about Vision’s wish to be normal is foreign to the shared human spirit in our society; the only difference here is that Vision could literally build his dream life.
In a world of superheroics and futurism, there’s a very interesting and profound conversation to be had about how these larger-than-life characters reflect our own experiences and ultimately have the same desires we do. I believe that the real success with The Vision lies there, in the reflections of our own humanity on the page. The comic has been universally praised for its depictions of real emotion and mental illness, and I’ll admit that those profound stories are what stand out to me the most while reading, but the universe-building that is accomplished in twelve issues is outstanding. The reader is drawn into the story of Vision as he struggles with free will after being created for evil, and the impact that he had on the universe as a whole is presented in an incredibly compelling and engaging way. As his story unfolds, the entire universe is drawn in and the spotlight is shone on the superhero culture, their interpersonal relationships examined through Vision’s eyes of logic and reason. The story is framed by the history of the Avengers’ exploits in protecting the universe, and being so closely tied to the Avengers, Vision is thusly impacted by these events as a character. As such, his story is the story of Scarlet Witch, the story of Ultron, the story of seemingly everyone but himself. Rolling in the story of, as well as later being impacted by, the Avengers, the story rests comfortably in the shared canon of the universe. Again and again, Vision recollects the thirty-seven times he has demonstrably saved the earth, fueling his desires to create a meaningful place to reside in the world.
Ordinarily when I review a comic, I try to view the whole product as a whole. I don’t like to fall into the trap of attributing the story to a writer and setting the artists up as a support system, slaving away with what scraps the writer throws them. Every comic, by design of the medium, is an entirely collaborative effort between every writer, artist, letterer, designer, and editor involved. There is, however, the occasional book that doesn’t present itself as such, and The Vision is, unfortunately, one such book. By virtue of being so introspective and dialogue focused, the comic drives most of the reader’s attention to King’s narration and dialogue.
This is not to say any aspect of The Vision is subpar; every piece of the art, from Walta’s soft and expressive facial acting to Bellaire’s keen eye for matching color palettes with emotional segments, is worthy of its own write-up and should not be overlooked. The atmosphere they, along with letter Cowles and flashback-interlude artist Walsh, create excels at setting the melodramatic tone the book’s theses revel in. Their eye for design and emotion extend to the kinetic as well, with every fight scene and action segment astoundingly well-composed, moreso than the majority of superhero comics in fact. However, this masterful use of atmospheric tension and thoughtful visual production feels as if it’s secondary to King’s narrative. The mental disconnect between introspection and appreciation of the art is one of the largest problems with the comic as a whole. Being a collaborative medium, comics should never feel as though there are separate entities inhabiting the same place on the page.
Vision’s desire for a normal life is incredibly relatable and feels tailor-made to somehow resonate with a wide range of readers. Whether it be disenfranchised youth struggling to find their place in a world that feels ever more hostile or the older generation of the world, already settled into their niche, desperately clinging to what they have through a tumultuous life, The Vision finds a way to connect with each and every reader in a different way. These connections make the comic a must-read, finding a way to hook everyone regardless of their walk of life. Though the construction of the comic feels a bit disjointed, the emotional impact it generates is timeless.
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